Ugh, DC did it to me again. You’d think after Dark Knight Rises and Batman V Superman, I would have learned to contain my expectations for these movies. To be clear, Suicide Squad is not terrible (and it better than either BvS or Dark Knight Rises) but it is not great either. GO IN WITH LOW EXPECTATIONS. It’s more enjoyable that the instantly forgettable Xmen: Apocalypse but not nearly as much fun as Deadpool or Civil War (though it is an odd combination of those two movies). It’s right on par with Ghostbusters and Star Trek; it’s got problems but the good outweighs the bad and it’s worth seeing in the theater. Suicide Squad has enough good in it (and will make enough money) to warrant a sequel, so before we get to Suicide Squad II, here’s what’s wrong with Suicide Squad.
There’s hardly any story
I don’t know how you screw up a Suicide Squad story. They can go anywhere or go up against any superhero or supervillain you’d like to see them battle. The story here is just irritating. They have one adventure against one uninteresting enemy (and then another) in a single location. There are countless places these guys could have gone to and there are literally hundreds of super villains who could have been the focus of this story and the movie picks one of the most random and forgettable ones (which is particularly egregious with Jared Leto’s Joker hanging around looking for more to do). Both Justice League and Assault on Arkham (especially the latter) provide considerably better structured and more interesting stories. I’m hopefully that Suicide Squad 2 might send them to more interesting locales.
The movie is choppy
Remember how bad Superman 3 and 4 were? Both movies are virtually unwatchable in different ways. Superman 3 has a silly story and irritating characters, but it’s still a recognizable movie. Superman 4 is a weirdly cut together movie with sequences that don’t make sense and characters acting strangely because important information was edited out, and that’s how Suicide Squad feels during its first half. It feels rough and choppy with weird jumps and repetitions throughout. Fortunately, this problem dissipates as this movie goes along and it becomes more cohesive as the film reaches the end. The first few minutes – where you’re introduced to Harley and Deadshot and then introduced to them again and then there’s a meeting and then ANOTHER MEETING – feels jumbled and confused. There’s an important romance (in addition to the Joker’s and Harley’s) that’s central to the movie and is told badly and in backstories, which makes the movie ENORMOUSLY frustrating. It’s really easy to start getting frustrated in the first hour. Just hold on, it gets better.
The villain is – once again – awful
I don’t know what’s wrong with supervillains. This summer they’ve been forgettable (Deadpool’s Francis), disappointing (Xmen: Apocalypse’s Apocalypse), non-entities (Civil War’s Zemo) and infuriatingly misguided (Batman V Superman’s Luthor). Here, as with every single superhero movie lately, the villain is awful. He’s largely a CGI (and I mean Scorpion King level CGI) supervillain who is not at all memorable. The Squad’s battle with him (and the Bigger Bad behind him) is decently done but really should bring the squad together more than it does. The Avengers final act will always be the high water mark for super teams working together and Suicide Squad isn’t close to that. After watching the movie, it’s not clear to me why the Suicide Squad is more effective than a large-scale bomb (which, spoiler alert, is pretty much how they save the day). Next time, let’s hope for somebody worth their attention, like the Joker or Lex Luthor or even Darkseid.
There’s not nearly enough Joker (and Batman)
Jared Leto’s Joker is a fascinating take on the character. He’s not the refined aristocrat that Nicholson aimed for or the creepy homeless guy Ledger did so well. He’s a new version; vivid and dangerous but still vulnerable to Harley (and even more dangerous because of these vulnerabilities). This is a weirdly sensual and romantic version of him and it’s even creepier because of that. I am really interested in seeing what he (and Harley) do next. But, given the archenemy here is not terribly interesting, he is underused here. He’s in a lot more of this movie than you’d think from the reviews, and he is in a lot of the movie given that his interactions are exclusively centered around Harley. I would have loved to see him up against the rest of the Squad, not just interacting with Harley. Batman too is also well done here (the Affleck version fits this world well) and watching him (and, yeah, Flash) round up the villains is some of the movie’s high points. Actually, that’s one of the strengths of the movie; after seeing these villains here, I look forward to seeing how they’ll face off against their respective heroes. I have no idea how drunk burnout Captain Boomerang could ever stand up to Flash but if he’s in the Flash movie, I am pretty sure I’ll see it.
There’s not enough Will Smith
Man, Will Smith is a force of nature. He is EXACTLY what this movie needs; he’s the sarcastic heroic center of the movie. He’s the bad guy who doesn’t mind doing good (to impress his daughter) but is comfortable doing bad (because he’s a sociopath). He elevates every single other character in this movie, whether it’s the criminally under appreciated Joel Kinnaman, the laconic Jai Courtney (so good here, but what’s the deal with the unicorn?), and the high voltage Margot Robbie. Whatever they spent to get him is money well spent and it’s impossible to imagine this movie working without him. That’s actually the feeling you get watching this movie; amazing actors doing impressive work to elevate rough material. I had major problems with this movie, but Will Smith made it worth watching.