By: Muneeb Arshid & Samar Khan
Well, here we have it, the most anticipated film of the summer! Yeah, right. The latest addition to the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) can easily be summed up by the title of this review. A colossal disappointment, but one that wasn’t wholly unexpected. This entire experiment from Warner Bros. to rival the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is seemingly turning into a disaster with their comic book universe.
Both Man of Steel and Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice were at best average with the latter requiring an extended cut just to make it justifiable. As co-reviewer Samar Khan can attest to, the Ultimate Cut made BvS an exponentially better film but that’s not something you want to have to wait for in the case of every film. So what’s going with Suicide Squad after such a great pre-release in terms of trailers and features that had fans excited, (we even did a featurette for the trailer introducing the characters)? Was it all too good to be true? The answer is a resounding yes (Samar Khan periodically offers his thoughts throughout the review so enjoy!).
Suicide Squad is the 3rd installment of the DCEU and follows on from the events of BvS (a little Batman cameo would confirm that, of course!) but introduces a massive list of characters, all collectively named… you guessed it, the Suicide Squad. They are the worst of the worst, most to all of them serving some sort of life sentence for all types of heinous crimes. What distinguishes all of them is that they are all meta-humans as well, which is one of the reasons why ARGUS head Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) chooses this team of “crooks” to be the new “good guys”. The team is led by Colonel Rick Flag (played by Joel Kinnaman in a role that was originally turned down by Tom Hardy who went on to star in the exponentially greater The Revenant). The Suicide Squad themselves are led by the expert marksman Deadshot (played by Will Smith, in one of the better acting performances in this film) and literal crazy person Ms. Harley Quinn (in a mostly good performance by Margot Robbie). Jai Courtney plays Captain Boomerang, Jay Hernandez as El Diablo, Adewale Akinnuoye-Akbaje in a weirdly comic role as Killer Croc, Karen Fukuhara as Katana, Cara Delevingne as the Enchantress and of course Jared Leto as the Joker (I’ll get to him in a bit). As you can see, a bit of a cast we got here. Problem is, apart from Will Smith, Margot Robbie and Viola Davis, the others could’ve just sat aside and not shown up, and it wouldn’t have actually mattered at all.
The story is where the problem starts. You see, the story is of course about this group of REALLY bad guys – emphasis on the “really”- who are forcibly recruited to become a part of this team. Each has their own motivations, yet we wouldn’t know anything about them because most aren’t properly fleshed out with their backstories with the exceptions being Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Flag, and Enchantress. That’s because they’re probably the highest paid actors here, but also because the story sort of revolves around them, and the rest of the team is there as window-dressing to actually make it look like a team. Inspirational team speeches ARE included with the price of admission. Enchantress is actually Dr. June Moone who has become the Enchantress through very dark magic but is having trouble sticking to one identity as she is missing her heart… her literal heart, which is in the hands of Waller. You can see where this is going. Enchantress wants the heart back, so she makes it her mission to do so, while also destroying the city with her weird dance move gyrations (you’ll know when you see it). June’s connection is with Flag as they are a couple, which makes things interesting for the team once they find out that the entire mission is personal to the guy that they hate. Well, fine, you must now be asking where the Joker comes in all this; you see he doesn’t.
Samar Khan: where was the explanation for the storyline? Why introduce the concept of “metahumans,” “World War 3” and NEVER actually explain said concepts? Why close out the film with a wholly unsatisfying CGI battle when Zack Snyder (for all his faults) can be called upon to step in make an action scene worthwhile?
In a very odd move on the part of director David Ayer (or the higher ups at WB), the Joker actually has his own separate arc in the film that barely hangs on to a thread of comprehension with the rest of the film. The only reason he’s there is because we get our introduction of Harley Quinn, which builds up her backstory. Other than that, like a lot of this film, there is no sense of comprehension or cohesion with the plot with Leto’s character as to why he’s even in this film. There is no attempt at even trying to incorporate him into the rest of the plot which worsens the movie since he’s off-screen for most of it and then will randomly pop up just to say, “Yes, I’m still here”, to which point the audience just wants to get on with the rest of the film. Oh, and Jared Leto, please, whatever you do, learn from this performance, for the sake of everyone. One of the great things about the late Heath Ledger was that he was able to play Joker in a very fearsome psychological performance, one that hit the viewers at a primitive level, and made us understand what the Batman was going through in The Dark Knight. I appreciate that Leto is trying something different with the Joker. We’re seeing a Joker that looks different than the one from 2008, but also a Joker that is immature as compared to the Heath Ledger version. However, what doesn’t work is the way that Leto is trying too hard to get his version of the Joker out, and the over-acting of his performance becomes very apparent right from the get-go. His being in the film coupled with Batman is definitely foreshadowing his role in the new Ben Affleck led Batman film, but that’s about it for the reasons why he might be here.
Samar Khan: Leto was utterly wasted. The film’s editing issues were visible, as certain scenes from the trailer that could have fleshed out Leto’s Joker seemed to have been cut out entirely last minute. Warner Bro. seemingly didn’t learn from the generally positive reaction to the BvS Ultimate Edition Directors Cut, and should have avoided meddling into the director’s final vision.
I would love to say that David Ayer and his cinematographer Roman Vasyanov may have helped redeem this film. However, there was nothing special with the way the film is shot, with a few surprising choices through the action sequences. Now, that isn’t the surprise, as this was the duo who shot End Of Watch marvelously through the use of Jake Gyllenhaal‘s hand cam, which was pretty unique and quite fun to watch. Vasyanov uses multiple slow motion sequences towards the end of the film as if to deliberately put the focus on the action and away from the story. This might have done its job, had I been engaged with the film in the first place. Also, the criticism of not being able to follow along during the action set pieces is once again prevalent here, which coupled with many scenes occurring at night, did not help the fact.
Samar Khan: The editing was as sloppy as can be. As mentioned above, excessive cutting of the director’s film invariably leads to negative results and that was the case here. Scenes that were extremely random thrown together and the incessant sudden flashbacks and tonal shifts were jarring, to say the least.
Ultimately, Suicide Squad is a resoundingly boring disappointment. There was no level of engagement, not just with me, but the rest of the crowd as well, save for a few spots. For a film that was so heavily marketed as being something different- and for some people, this was going to be the film that might have redeemed and given the DCEU some sort of pedestal to stand upon- ends up falling flat as a dud, which is on par so far with the rest of the films in this universe.
Samar Khan: The worst part is this: the main reason many were excited for Suicide Squad was because of the excitement surrounding a new Joker. The fact that his already limited screentime was cut even more AND edited so poorly is nigh unforgivable. If there’s a reason to be excited for Leto’s Joker, it is this: his increased role in an Affleck written-and-directed Batman film ensures a quality script for the Oscar winner to bring to life. Unlike the inconsistent Snyder and hit-and-miss David Ayer, Affleck has garnered the critical acclaim and requisite hardware to do the DCEU justice. Here’s to hoping Wonder Woman paves the way for a brilliant Batman film.
So far, it’s very easy to say that Marvel is still king of the comic book universe. We’ll just have to wait and see whether Wonder Woman can redeem the DCEU next year. Zack Snyder guest-directed one of the best parts of the film (Flash cameo) and the visuals are clearly inspired by his proceeding films, a testament to his strengths. Unfortunately, his action choreography was sorely needed in Suicide Squad as David Ayer and co. could not attempt to save their poor plot with even passable action scenes. Here’s to Wonder Woman, save us!
Suicide Squad receives a very disapproving grade of D (5.0/10).
+ Will Smith, Margot Robbie and Viola Davis are generally excellent
+ Visuals, for the most part, are stellar
+ Zack-Snyder guest directed cameo segment
– Oddly placed soundtrack
– Jared Leto’s overacting
– Jared Leto’s Joker gets limited screen time