After the epic fiasco that was Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, fans and the upper brass at Warner Bros. could at least look forward to David Ayer’s Suicide Squad as the potential saving grace of the emerging DC Extended Universe. Over the course of his career, Ayer has crafted ensembles featuring characters that are of questionable moral fortitude, so he seemed like a perfect fit for the team of supervillains reluctantly assembled to fight evil. The only thing ragtag about Suicide Squad is its slipshod assembly, and most of the questionable morals played out behind the scenes in this plotless blockbuster. Three movies into the DCEU, questions have to be raised whether it really has any purpose in going forward with the numerous movies slated through 2020. What’s the point of going forward if it means more incoherent, dramatically inert movies within a universe without any cohesive vision?
To say Suicide Squad has a plot would be an insult to wordsmiths everywhere who labor over both situations and characters. Basically, Suicide Squad is a movie that is comprised half of flashbacks and half of pointless, redundant action sequences. Following the death of Superman in BvS (who apparently is now remembered as a national hero), Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) has fears of what might happen if more “metahumans” were to take up a cause other than that of American interests. Her plan revolves around assembling a crew of imprisoned supervillains as a contingency, and then we’re then introduced to all of them through a series of flashbacks, sometimes more than once.
Led by the virtuous and noble soldier Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and his trusty assistant Kitana (Karen Fukuhara), the squad consists of Deadshot (Will Smith), a virtuoso hitman who never misses, but laments his killing ways because it keeps him from his daughter; Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the mentally unstable girlfriend of the Joker (Jared Leto); El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), the gangbanger Mexican from East Los Angeles with facial tattoos and the ability to control fire; Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), a hard drinking Aussie that uses boomerangs to take down enemies and rob banks; Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), whose name sums it all up; and Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), an ancient spirit of a witch who has inhabited the body of Dr. June Moone, who also happens to be in a relationship with Flagg. There are other characters that float in and out of the narrative with little purpose, like a prison guard played by Ike Barinholtz.
The Enchantress escapes the protective measures keeping her in line, resurrecting her brother, who I don’t think even gets a name, and uses her powers to create an army of anonymous and faceless bad guys perfect to get mowed down in the pointless spectacle of the film’s second half. So the gang of misfits go into the fictional Midway City and proceed to just move from one point to another fighting more and more irrelevant bad guys. There are just no real stakes at play in the script by Ayer, even though we’re told the very fate of the world lies in the balance. Frankly, the Enchantress is just a pointless villain, one that exists to be the big bad but operates with nothing resembling a motivation.
It’s practically impossible to overstate just how much the Ayer’s script squanders some rather spirited performances. Will Smith is his reliable self, adding a bit of quick-witted charm to his hitman with a heart of gold, though his kindhearted nature underscores the deadly menace of his character. The biggest surprise of Suicide Squad is just how energetic and wild-eyed Jai Courtney is Captain Boomerang. But Ayer’s script really doesn’t give the character anything to do aside from sipping on tallboys and throwing the occasional boomerang.
Margot Robbie steals the show as Harley Quinn, embracing the character’s unstable energy with overtones of violence always just around the corner. Even as spirited as Robbie is, the film really doesn’t give her all that much of story arc, and the film utterly fails in making a case as to why she’s head over heels for the Joker, who isn’t exactly a caring and loving boyfriend. Look, I understand that the relationship between the two is unusual and unstable, but some effort has to be made to help us understand the nature of this one-sided destructive relationship. Of the few jokes that do land, they come from Robbie’s Harley Quinn and her mixture of ditzy blonde and serial killer.
Which brings us to Jared Leto’s much ballyhooed turn as the Joker. Frankly, it’s baffling that so much of the marketing material focused on a character that could’ve been completely cut from the film and not alter the story at hand. For all the countless pages of digital ink dedicated to Leto’s on set antics, he’s barely in the movie and brings nothing of value or interest to the role. Even worse, Leto seems to playing the character by mimicking the vocal inflection employed by Heath Ledger in his iconic turn as the character. In some countries the level of misrepresentation employed in regards to the Joker might constitute fraud.
As for the rest of the characters, they’re an assortment of forgettable moments that are maybe punctuated with handful of lines of dialogue. Diablo is a crude Mexican stereotype, but he does get the closest to an actual story arc; that’s brought to light in a flashback that occurs right before the film’s climax – it’s amazing how misplaced in the context of the movie this scene is. Killer Croc doesn’t even register as a character in the slightest. Meanwhile, Kitana is character motivated only by the death of her husband, and also only has about a five lines of dialogue. Supposedly main characters have all the same importance as the superfluous cameos from Batman (Ben Affleck) and the Flash (Ezra Miller).
Being marginally better than Batman v Superman isn’t what DC should aiming for as it’s still trying to find its footing in order to compete with Marvel, and yet that’s all that Suicide Squad is. It’s not quite as dour and self-serious as BvS, but it’s still nothing resembling fun. When it comes to the future of the ongoing franchise, I could care less about most of the characters introduced, including the Joker. The only one of these characters I would have any interest in seeing again would be Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. Suicide Squad only goes to prove just how desperate the DC Extended Universe is for someone to oversee all of these stories and characters into a cohesive whole. (Save us, Geoff Johns!) As it stands, Suicide Squad is a movie without a plot, operating solely through countless flashbacks that employ some of the most obvious and moronic needle drops in the recent history of blockbuster cinema. I’m just not sure if Suicide Squad describes the roster of characters in the movie or the executives behind the scenes.
- Overall Score
A plotless assemblage of characters without much purpose, Suicide Squad squanders the wonderfully demented performance of Margot Robbie in an utterly pointless entry in the DC Extended Universe.