I Didn’t Hate It: A Review of Suicide Squad

In the age of social media, seeing a film with absolutely zero foreknowledge is impossible. While I hadn’t read any specific reviews for Suicide Squad, I managed to glimpse a few key descriptors, including: “a mess”, “a hasty response to Batman vs. Superman”, and “a really long music video”. Having seen the movie last night, I can tell you that all these phrases are unequivocally true, BUT, y’know, I didn’t hate it, and at this point in DC’s Cinematic undertakings, that’s saying something.

Spoilers below

The film opens with a song lifted directly from the trailer, “You Don’t Own Me” (though the scene itself features Lesley Gore’s original where the trailer features the Grace cover) as we tour Belle Reve prison, stopping in with our two favorite (read: most popular) anti-heroes: Floyd Lawton aka Deadshot and Harley Quinn aka… Harley Quinn. Within five seconds, we’ve established the film undoubtedly belongs to these two.

So far, so good.

We then move to Amanda Waller’s secret dinner with the cop from Stranger Things as they discuss the TOP SECRET dossier in her purse over a glass of cabernet. Here is where the movie begins to veer off course. While offering a speedy introduction (read: exposition dump) of each “potential” member of the Suicide Squad, one that could be overlooked for the sake of time, the scene zooms through too quickly. We’re given the necessary information then immediately, we’re following the villain. Off a cliff we go. In these first ten minutes, we’ve met everyone we’re going to meet, with the one exception the ill-fated Slipknot.

Actual footage from the movie.

Were this a 40 minute television pilot, the quick-and-dirty drive-by method would work, even be essential. But a two hour movie? We have time, guys. Slow down. As a result, the movie was less a movie and more a sequence of action shots meant to pack in as much fighting into 123 minutes as possible.

Admittedly, ensemble films are difficult tasks. By the end of the movie, everyone in the audience must sympathize with everyone on screen. But the wild box office victories of the Marvel Cinematic Universe—to which this will inevitably forever be compared—as well as films like Spotlight and Straight Outta Compton shows that not only is finding emotional depth within a sea of characters possible, it’s paramount for a timelessly successful film.

Even Fox managed to get it right once. 

It seemed as though somewhere in the editing room of Suicide Squad, amidst all the chaos, explosions, and exposition, the reshoots and directorial changes, that emotional depth became lost, with vague hints of it turning up during the film.

The main character establishing beats made their way into the movie while the follow-through and the nuance were left on the cutting room floor. Colonel Flagg’s starcrossed relationship with Dr. June Moone could have been one of the great tragic love stories of cinematic history, but we were never afforded the opportunity to see what aspects of their personalities made them fall in love with each other. 

What the audience was fed instead was a meal of tragic Rubber Ducky backstories meant to explain why the characters behave the way that they do. Deadshot lost a fight to Batman in front of his daughter and so he wants to prove himself. Harley Quinn fell in love with Mr. J, so she wants to get back to him (and he to her). Katana’s husband was murdered by someone, so she… I’m not sure what she wants to do about that. Enchantress is really, really old and wants to rid the world of the Internet or something.

These attempts at endearing us to the characters present themselves entirely through dialogue, telling us about their goals rather than showing us with little “why” moments. Why should you care about these characters? Because we told you to! Sure we breezed through their tragic tales via 30 second voiceovers, but, man, it was sad! Sad, ya hear me?! Cry, dammit!

Sorry. It’s the voices.

I’m just kidding.

That’s not what they really said.

To be fair, my opinion of the film isn’t all nitpicky fanboy hatred. There were parts of Suicide Squad that I enjoyed thoroughly. Margot Robbie playing Harley Quinn, one of my favorite characters, was a joy to watch. The crazy love story between she and Joker was new twist on an old tale. In the comics, Harley’s new 52 origin story saw her pushed into a vat of chemicals by the Joker, who couldn’t give flying bat guano whether she lived or died. In Suicide Squad, Dr. Harleen makes the choice to become Harley on her own, providing a sort of mutualism to their relationship and giving Harley much more agency in her own narrative than in any previous incarnation of the character since her debut on Batman: The Animated Series.

And then there’s Viola Davis, the senior actor of this cast, who proved once again that she can handle any role thrown her way. Unlike the rest of the cast, Davis’ character Amanda Waller was given no tragic backstory, no redemption tale, no fable to make her more likable. Viola took a manipulative taskmaster and crafted a character that commanded loyalty by gravitas alone.

The action scenes were also a hoot. Watching an entire group of superpowered people take on zombies in the middle of Toronto Midway City was as fun and exciting as it sounds. I was left clutching my pearls and genuinely feeling as though Harley could die at any momen—hahaha. Yeah, right.

This lady’s got plot armor thicker than Killer Croc’s skin.

So, what the film lacks in substance, it more than makes up for in flash (pun intended). Was this Citizen Kane? No, but neither was it aiming to be. The simple goal of Suicide Squad was to continue building the universe that DC began with Man of Steel while giving us a chuckle or two, and in that, it succeeded.

Rating: Solid C. See it if you’ve got nothing better to do/wait until Redbox has the Blu-Ray.

Julienned Notes

  • Needs more women. I will say this until I no longer have to.
  • Harley’s slapping a smile on after the SPOILER death of the Joker was actually rather sad.
  • Any scene where Jai Courtney is fully clothed is a wasted scene.
  • Enchantress could have been a great villain, but then her dying words were, “you don’t have the balls.”
  • The Joker and Harley are totally worth their own film.
  • As Enchantress’ lightning bolts were destroying military ships, who had the cameras relaying the destruction of those ships back to ARGUS?
  • Also, I don’t think the word “ARGUS” was used once.
  • Ike Barinholtz in any movie is like the bacon garnish on a Bloody Mary: you didn’t ask for it, you’re not sure why it’s there, but someone somewhere thought it was a good idea.

Did anyone else get the chance to see Suicide Squad in their free time? What are your thoughts? Do you think this will make or break the DC Extended Universe?