Leading up to the release of Suicide Squad, it was difficult to trudge through the smoke and debris left from the scathing reviews garnered by Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I didn’t hate that film – far from it. I felt it managed some truly iconic moments, and it made way for Wonder Woman’s long overdue cinematic debut. Yes, it suffered from being over-stuffed, yet still too simplistic in its execution of highly regarded arcs from the comics; like a game of Jenga, you could feel DC wanting to build and build upon its own universe with Flash-like haste and, as with Jenga, without careful consideration and planning, it can all crumble before your very eyes. While certainly watchable – and I think we can all safely agree that Batman was awesome! – Batman v Superman was an expensive misstep in trying to play catch up to Marvel’s firmly established film universe.
But there was a beacon of neon-light at the end of DCs bleak tunnel: David Ayer’s Suicide Squad! It was exactly the kind of rebellious jolt DC needed to land on its feet after a dodgy dismount earlier on in the year. Trailer after trailer, Suicide Squad had fans foaming at the mouth. The tone of each subsequent trailer captured the essence of the comics perfectly, with some fantastic use of pop music and the kind of brilliant editing that took many clips out of context (so as to not spoil anything) but still compelled you to throw money at the screen. They were vibrant, energetic and totally badass; the tidbits of character interaction felt completely in character for each of the cast.
So why did absolutely NONE of that make it into the final film?
I can honestly say that I walked into the cinema with an open and optimistic mindset; the pre-release reviews were not going to deter me from enjoying this film. It looked fun and had a strong cast with a dependable director, so as long as I enjoyed myself, that’s all that mattered. Maybe they just didn’t get it. Maybe the film just wasn’t for the casual crowd…
…or maybe, it was just a really uninspired movie. One simply destined to exist in the pantheon of comic book films (alongside Thor 2 and Iron Man 2), like some forgotten piece of furniture left to gather dust in the attic.
And that’s probably the movie’s worst offense of all (and there are many); Suicide Squad may briefly flirt with the idea of being fun and edgy, but it very quickly becomes an entirely different movie altogether, one strapped for time to develop its large cast, and one that all too easily settles into mediocrity. There are many boring scenes in film. Boring! In a movie that contains a crocodile man, the Joker and a ninja assassin, how is that even possible? Allowing twenty minutes for introductions, through mostly ineffective flashbacks, simply isn’t enough to fuel the rest of the film. The entire running-time should have been an introduction to this world, into the dynamics of the group; to build this world of crooks into something multi-faceted and lived-in, but why even bother with anything like character development when you can have an electrical ring of death in the sky and Cara Delevigne dancing in a bikini?
With talks of multiple re-shoots and a tonal overhaul by studio big-wigs, naturally one might assume that the majority of Suicide Squad‘s shortcomings stem from the fact that David Ayer’s version of the film was chopped into tiny pieces. While Ayer has gone on record saying this is his cut, scenes are noticeably absent and/or short-changed. Flag’s relationship with Enchantress, for example, is relegated to a pithy one-liner from Amanda Waller that’s meant to qualify as character development; it’s interesting to note that some of the promotional trailers showed scenes of them together, romantically, and considering Enchantress is such a big element of the film, it would seem only appropriate that we get to see the woman behind the witch before things get a little too CG-heavy. I am not asking for Flag to show up with a boombox outside of Enchantress’ portal and declare his love for her, I just want a reason to care. About any of them. The mission is what matters in this script; it’s just a shame said mission is really, really dull.
The thing is, whether or not the film was thrown into a blender, and the final product is a diluted concoction of edits, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that the script is dastardly, with dialogue that never feels believable and very rarely rings true to the characters. There’s no time for witty banter because most the dialogue is made up of each character reminding the audience why we should consider so-and-so a villain in the first place. We are constantly reminded just how crazy Harley is but she barely even crosses the line into kookiness, and time and time again the audience is told that Deadshot is a murderer for hire (I felt particularly battered from this reminder). It’s a perfect case of tell and not show, which is the exact opposite of what you want when you’re being introduced to this seedier side of DC for the first time. Joker’s relationship with Harley is addressed but never explored; we are allowed few scenes of Dr. Quinzel before her transition, we are just supposed to accept that she fell in love with the Joker because reasons. It’s a show-reel that keeps reiterating their relationship without adding anything new or of relevance. Considering just how complex their relationship is often represented, it’s truly disappointing to see such a basic primer on such a lurid, twisted romance.
Considering the majority of the wafer-thin character work on display here (the merc-with-the-heart-of-gold, Harley and Joker’s relationship, Enchantress, the maguffin mission), you would think that, as compensation, we would be treated to some interesting and action-packed set-pieces. Think again! Not one character had a shining, defining moment. The action scenes were claustrophobic and poorly framed; the henchman were especially forgettable with absolutely no personality, and not one posed any kind of threat to the team. The fun in having a bunch of misfits band together against their own will is to witness the dysfunction, distrust and chaos of the initial set-up and watch as that dynamic gradually shifts into something resembling a fully-functioning anti-Justice League. But Suicide Squad has no time for anything of substance, not really. All of the team have one-liners and silly replies, but there’s none of that juicy, seething tension, the kind you get when your significant other watches an episode of Game of Thrones without you. There’s no concept of how bad they are or once were; they’re just empty puppets, who walk from point A to point B, to advance to the next level. Rinse and repeat.
The hype was oh-so real for this movie. Suicide Squad opened with so much promise, so much potential. I genuinely loved the start: Harley’s scenes in captivity were loads of fun, and how Enchantress is initially introduced (specifically how – with her black hand clasping her human host’s) was one of the most interesting visuals the film has going for it. Will Smith, initially, is absolutely electric as Deadshot; Jai Courtney garnered some laughs as Captain Boomerang, and Viola Davis is perfect for the role of Amanda Waller. But all of these elements are quickly taken for granted: the fun fizzles, Deadshot becomes too melodramatic, and the ruthless Amanda Waller comes off as slightly ridiculous when things take a turn for the murder-y.
It is so disheartening to be writing this about some of my favorite anti-heroes and villains. When you look back at Deadpool, and just how crazy fucking awesome that film was and what it managed to accomplish (in terms of style, script and box-office takings), you realise what a colossal swing and a miss it was not to treat Suicide Squad with the same kind of unhinged tenacity.
This was such an average film. Not bad, not good, not so-bad-it’s-good, just resoundingly average. And that’s probably the worst possible outcome for a fan of the original comics, or any DC fan at all.
All eyes are now on Wonder Woman. The pressure is on. Can the Amazon Princess bring DC to the forefront enough to be considered an actual threat to Marvel’s triumphant Cinematic Universe? I hope so! The Comic-Con trailer gave me goose bumps the first time around and still does every time I watch it. But if I’ve learned anything from Suicide Squad, it’s that trailers can be very, very misleading…