Editor’s note: This post was originally published here on the 13th June, 2016. It has been re-uploaded to Hardly Hamilton so that all of my posts are in one place.
Written by Josh Hamilton
SUICIDE SQUAD is DC’s best attempt at firmly establishing a competitor to Marvel’s already thirteen film-strong cinematic universe. I’ve seen it, and I liked it.
It is fun, energetic and engaging, but not without flaws. While the critics are not justified in hailing this as worse than Dawn of Justice, they are certainly on to something. Learn my verdict in this spoiler-free review.
A PANDERING PLOT
Unfortunately, Suicide Squad’s plot is not one of its strong points. Boring, bland and uninventive; the film’s story is highly unoriginal. This is not, however, to the detriment of the overall experience. Suicide Squad perseveres, and is a highly entertaining 130-minute rollercoaster. It exudes a sense of fun and adventure, which Dawn of Justice lacked. It had me hooked every step of the way, even if the pacing felt off at times.
Sometimes, however, the fun stopped. If Suicide Squad is anything, it is a highly confused film. Whilst there were times when the audience laughed out loud, there were others when humour fell flat. Other instances showcased DC’s standard darker tones – which is fine, contrary to what the rest of the internet may tell you. Not every superhero film must share the same light-hearted vibes as a Marvel production. What bothered me was the film’s inability to decide what it really wanted to be, which prevented it from rising above the other movies in its genre as a standout creation.
Mercifully, the end-credit scene makes for a better attempt at setting up The Justice League than that famously awful exposition in Dawn of Justice. Even the cameos of certain key characters feel fluid and natural, giving me hope for a better set of films in the next year of DC’s slate.
Thankfully, superhero films do not tend to thrive on their plot. Debuted in August, Suicide Squad is about as far from Oscar season as you can get, and does not feel the need to deliver an incredibly detailed, intricate plot that exceeds expectations. Instead, it is the characters and their relationships that make this genre worth watching. Did the DCEU’s third attempt succeed in establishing more interesting, relatable characters?
The answer? Complicated. Suicide Squad’s central antagonist is a wasted opportunity: dull and unsympathetic. He lacks much interaction with the audience, making it impossible to understand the objectives of such a lacklustre villain. You will no doubt tire of this claim, but it is without remorse that I repeat it: The Joker should have been the main antagonist. Jared Leto was surely cut out of a substantial portion of the film, as his recent interviews have revealed. This is to the detriment of the overall experience.
While his performance forms another great take on such an iconic character, he could have done with far more screen time for us to truly understand the relationship dynamics between him and Harley Quinn, and the rest of the Suicide Squad. Additionally, poor writing choices lead to The Joker act out of character at times.
Margot Robbie’s character blossoms due to a substantial amount of time on screen, bolstering an excellent performance. One flaw with the conclusion to her story though is a failure to let loose The Joker’s chains. Instead, Harley remains two-dimensional, defined largely by her relationship to the King of Crime. I am hopeful that this will be rectified in a sequel; perhaps the standalone Batman flick will feature Harley’s disowning of The Joker. This may have been part of the original plan, and the film’s re-shoots likely led to this segment of the story being scrapped.
Harley remains two-dimensional, defined largely by her relationship to the King of Crime
Suicide Squad also succeeds in its focus on Deadshot; Will Smith delivered an excellent performance. His character is sympathetic and well-developed, and we are given a real sense of why he needed to be taken down. Where the film yet again fails to deliver is in the rest of its supporting cast. Slipknot, The Enchantress, and the rest of Task Force X? Forgettable. With such an impressive collection of characters, not all are developed equally. A better route would have been for Warner Brothers to have picked a smaller handful of key characters, as Marvel so successfully accomplished with Guardians of the Galaxy two years ago (side note: how has it already been two years since that film released?). Hopefully DC have learned from this, and deliver a more well-rounded cast when the sequel inevitably drops.
EYES AND EARS
Suicide Squad looks and sounds fantastic. Featuring music from Twenty One Pilots that fits the tone marvellously, it was a joy to hear over the credits. It was also shot beautifully, with great introductory scenes for each character in the first twenty minutes that are very reminiscent of the video game Borderlands, in the way each anti-hero’s abilities and codenames are listed. Unfortunately, this does not continue. While the camerawork remains lovely, it resorts to a very standard, very unremarkably shot film, and is hardly a treat to the eyes.
Is Suicide Squad worth seeing in the cinema? Probably, if you enjoy solid summer blockbusters. But DC have failed yet again to compete with Marvel’s excellent cinematic universe. That doesn’t stop it from being a fun, well-shot, if remarkably flawed film.
Have DC finally quashed Marvel? Have your say in the comments below.