Oh No, I Actually Liked Suicide Squad!
The latest in cinematic experiences from DC/WB is Suicide Squad, a boisterous flick that shifts the focus away from superheroes in order to give the baddies a day in the limelight.
It comes as a relief that this movie isn’t an origin, nor an attempt to replicate anything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We get thrown into the action of a story where superhumans are already established. Rather than erode or oversimplify decades of comics storytelling for the sake of a 2-hour movie, less than hardcore DC fans are welcomed into the continuity – it’s a bumpy ride, but it works. Incidentally, it’s nice to see a movie that doesn’t re-hash the Batman lore. If superhero films are eating the box office and our souls, some variety is nice.
But making a movie that feels this much like a comic book can be both a good and bad thing, because the writing is one of this film’s biggest weaknesses. A movie engages more senses than reading a comic page does, and movies have their own timing, structure and set of rules. Simply put, things that make sense on a page of sequential panels might not when lifted literally into a filmed scene. This combined with jerky, underwhelming editing make for a lot of plot-heavy scenes becoming muddy and confusing. In some cases characters show up out of practically nowhere while others are introduced, then re-introduced 2 more times. The whole thing feels like a 2 hour trailer, especially since the story makes more sense in the actual trailers.
Much like the movie’s rag-tag characters, there’s some good too. Although DC is perceived as being a more conservative and regressive company, the cast of this movie is considerably ethnically diverse, and for the most part get real development. El Diablo does rely on some uncomfortable latino stereotypes and a cliche backstory, but the strength and commitment of his actor carry the role to something more. Will Smith’s Deadshot is fun and charming. Cara Delevingne plays the dual role of Dr. June Moon and Enchantress well, even when her role ceases to make sense. Her character and motivation are fairly standard evil witch business, which she does by… opening a magic portal to the sky and belly-dancing around it a little?
The stars of the show are absolutely Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and Viola Davis as Amanda Waller. Their performances feel like the real deal, as if the characters came to life and walked into the movie. We get to see Dr. Harleen Quinzel and how she became the Queen of Crime, and a whole lot of ass-kicking to remind us that Harley isn’t just there to be ogled at. (Also WE GET TO SEE HARLEY IN THE CLASSIC SUIT OH MY GOD. Okay, ahem. Back to professional tone now.) For better or for worse, the Harley/Joker relationship is played out accurately, and while it is important to her character it makes me fear the trend of them being labelled #RelationshipGoals. Meanwhile, Amanda Waller is almost too good to be true, being the squad’s ‘god’. She’s almost as potent as the baddies without any superpowers, nor even really touching the action. She might not be the character you’d jump to cosplay as, but there’s no doubting whom has the real power in this film. These two women are, without a doubt, the best things about this movie.
Overall, Suicide Squad is bound to become a lot of people’s new guilty pleasure. Not required viewing for non-DC fans, but it’s worth wolfing a bag of popcorn over.
A hot mess, but strangely charming. Not the worst movie ever to have Batman in it, either.