It has seemed like a long time coming but David Ayer’s Suicide Squad has finally landed in cinemas and it quickly blew up a fuss. On the one side were the critics who almost universally panned the film. On the other were the fans, denouncing reviews and calling for the destruction of review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. This strange devotion somehow seems to have been conjured up by the lengthy marketing of the film with fans rallying against the critics despite the fact that the public hadn’t been able to see the film so didn’t know whether Suicide Squad was any good or not. The marketing for Suicide Squad is an interesting place to start because it seems to tell a story of the film’s fate all by itself. The very first trailer was a dark, serious and atmospheric couple of minutes, with a slowly building song that rose to a dramatic crescendo. The squad were all troubled and dangerous individuals existing in aggressive confinement.
Then Batman V Superman happened and was hit with a backlash. It was too dark, too serious, throw in a couple of jokes. And suddenly things changed. The trailers were lit with bright neon colours and sound tracked by up beat 70’s pop classics. The Squad are now peppy and wise cracking with a ‘they may be bad but you gotta love ‘em’ edge. There was a poster in a bubble gum comic, graffiti style and most bizarrely a dodgy computer generated poster where their character logos appeared in a bowl of cereal.
You can feel this shift as you watch Suicide Squad. It starts off peppy with the neon bubble gum coloured writing introducing our key players, all zippy editing and crowd pleasing soundtrack and it’s kind of fun but as the film goes on you realise that Suicide Squad is not that film. The film isn’t funny, it has very few jokes and those that are there don’t land. It retains the fizzing soundtrack but makes it relentless. There is rarely a moment that doesn’t have a song stuck over it, sometimes switching between several in the same scene, and it becomes quite grating quite quickly. It’s a great soundtrack but for listening to at home not to be bombarded with when you’re trying to watch a film. The song rights budget on this film must have been huge. Most of the film is darkly lit, with the squad travelling into an under attack city in the middle of the night and mostly during a huge downpour. Suicide Squad doesn’t know what its tone is and so can’t settle on one.
There is very little story. With the knowledge of the existence of super beings, government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) gathers together a group of dangerous criminals who she will force to work together to take down any super powered threat that might attack the country. It consists of Deadshot (Will Smith), a hitman who never misses, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), a former psychiatrist who fell in love the Joker (Jared Leto), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a scaly skinned and sharp toothed criminal, Diablo (Jay Hernandez), a former gang member who can shoot fire, Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), an Australian criminal with a penchant for boomerangs and unicorns, and former archaeologist June Moone (Cara Delevigne) who is possessed by the evil spirit Enchantress who are all led by soldier Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman). When a supernatural threat does attack the squad are sent out to defeat it.
It does the film no favours that it happens to have some of the worst Supervillains that film has seen. Captain Boomerang is a massive Australian stereotype whose superpower seems to be that he has some sharp boomerangs, some of which can defy the laws of physics. Slipknot is introduced to us by showing him punch a woman in the face and his power is that he can climb anything which just means that he has two small grappling guns. The other characters may be better but they aren’t given much by the film. Smith’s Deadshot is presented as one of our main characters but it’s difficult to warm to him despite the film’s attempts at showing him as a loving father when he seems to have a misogynistic streak running through him. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Killer Croc gets so little to do and say that he might as well not be there, the same with Karen Fukuhara’s Katana, and Jay Hernandez’s Diablo comes saddled with an obvious and cliché backstory that the film feels the need to tell us when it’s been easily inferred earlier on in the film. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and Jared Leto’s Joker are the best and most interesting characters but they are also underserved. Robbie throws herself fully in to Quinn, who is at first a little annoying but gets much better as the film goes on. Arguably, Harley Quinn is such an over the top, comic creation that she jars a bit when put in a real world context, but Robbie makes a fine go of it, even if she is dressed in fetish wear for most of the film for no real reason, making one of the few lasting impressions. Leto has been bashed with a lot of fan criticism for his portrayal of the Joker but as he and Ayer have discussed, their version of him is based on real world flamboyant drug lords and gangsters which his portrayal of the character fits perfectly. The film lifts when he is on screen as he is actually entertaining. It feels like Ayer cares a lot more about these two than any of the others as they have all the interesting and memorable ideas and images in the film. Harley Quinn and the Jokers’ scenes together are the most interesting and entertaining in the film and it’s a shame that there isn’t more of them. If reports are to be believed, a lot of the Joker footage has been left on the cutting room floor and it certainly feels like it when you watch the film. The Joker was teased as one of, if not the main antagonist in the film yet he is barely in it and has little to do with the overall plot.
The main problem with Suicide Squad is that it is just so boring. With so many uninteresting characters you can never really care for anyone or their fate. The action has no flair and is a dull and weightless mash up of bullets and falling bodies. The villain is saddled with dodgy CGI and little motive. They turn people in to raspberry headed goons that only exist to mildly bother the squad and in turn become their cannon fodder. The squad’s mission is initially unclear as they go to rescue a high profile asset, something which you don’t really realise until they are almost at their door. Origin films always have the trouble of having to introduce their characters and try and set up a story for them to take part in but with Suicide Squad lasting for two hours you really do need something more interesting for the characters to do. During Suicide Squad Deadshot asks ‘How long is this thing going to go on?’ and I was sitting there thinking the exact same thing.
Suicide Squad disappoints. It’s not the complete car crash that some places have reported, it’s got a handful of interesting ideas and images, but it is hugely boring without a consistent tone.
2 out of 5 Buttons