Oh boy. Okay. So, I’ve actually been somewhat avoiding this review. It occurred to me if I was ever going to do it, sooner would be better than later. I guess I’ll get out of the way that there are spoilers ahead. If you still want to be surprised by the movie, get out now.
I’m not going to beat around the bush here. Suicide Squad was really quite a bad movie. No one is more disappointed by this than me. When the first few trailers for this filtered through the internet I got so incredibly hyped about it I thought it would be a guaranteed success. A quote from me, circa May, 2016, “There’s no way this movie can fail. It can just be the trailers and it’ll be great.”
We’ll open with that particular chestnut. Oftentimes when a trailer for a movie is released, it’s before the final theatrical version of the movie has been cut. That means it isn’t unheard of for footage in the trailer to not be in the final version of the film. This isn’t usually a problem, and honestly most people don’t even notice it. There are certainly exceptions to this rule. The most recent Fantastic Four movie (literally one of the worst movies I have ever seen) had a scene in the trailers of the Thing dropping out of a plane and assaulting a military base that was completely cut from the film.
Suicide Squad, for as great as its trailers were, had some noticeable stuff cut. And not just noticeable, but meaningful. Very large sections of the movie represented in the trailer were absent in the final version of the movie. Several different lines of dialogue, many of them quite humorous, were nowhere to be seen. A scene where Harley Quinn takes drink orders from people, a focal point of an entire trailer, is utterly absent.
Katana, who’s entire character shtick is being able to pull out people’s souls with her sword, never once pulls out someone’s soul with sword! We see her do it in a trailer! It literally what she does, why would they take it out?
Perhaps the most important trailer-based emission, however, was basically everything related to the Joker. Jared Leto was reported to be a big part of this movie, with many theorizing that he would be central to the entire plot. The trailers show him interacting with the titular squads on several occasions. At one point in a trailer he shows up disheveled and partially scorched, leading you to believe he’s survived some explosion or crash. The bit where talks about showing all of his toys, which a lot of people were looking forward to.
You can probably figure out where this is going. None of the previously mentioned things were present in the final version of the film. After his helicopter crashes in the second act, the trailers would lead you to believe that he survives and comes back during the finale, but he never does. Yes, he does show up immediately before the credits, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that the audience was severely mislead as to the amount of Joker in this film.
You may or may not know this, but people really love the Joker. He’s an absolutely amazing villain, and Heath Ledger’s performance in the Dark Knight trilogy will likely go down as the greatest rendition ever. I was optimistic for this new Joker. Leto is an excellent actor, and the new direction looked like it could be something fresh.
It doesn’t in the slightest. To his credit Leto dove headfirst into the role, and he’s extremely unhappy with the amount of content he filmed that got cut. Regardless, we were left with a half-baked Joker who is a disinteresting gangster. He has little depth and does nothing of concequence in the movie. His scenes could be removed entirely without damaging the continuity of the film. In fact, it might help the run time.
Alright so that was a lot of writing about the trailers. Let’s move onto the actual film now.
Let’s start with the squad itself. We have Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, El Diablo, Killer Croc, Enchantress, Katana, and Slipknot. More accurately, though, we have Deadshot and Harley Quinn. They’re really the only characters that get a reasonable amount of screen or development time.
Now, yes, the development we get for them is entertaining. Will Smith does a great job as Deadshot. He comes off less like Deadshot and more like Will Smith, but that’s fine. It’s the first time Will Smith has just acted like himself in a while, and it’s fun to watch. Harley Quinn, as well, is excellently performed by Margot Robbie. Her background was pretty interesting, though it was laden with the misrepresented Joker and hard to understand for people not familiar with the source material.
The other members of the squad, however, might as well not be there. Slipknot, “the man who can climb anything”, gets his head blown off almost instantly. It was obvious to anyone watched the trailer, but the film itself does nothing to make you think it won’t happen. Katana, as we already mentioned, never pulls out a guy’s soul. She doesn’t do much of anything for that matter.
Captain Boomerang, while incredibly entertaining to watch and one of the best performances I’ve seen by Jai Courtney, throws three boomerangs in the entire movie. All three of which either miss or get destroyed. It’s such a disappointing and perplexing use of a character that is way more interesting than his name would suggest.
While feral and monstrous at the beginning, Killer Croc calms down and becomes a boring brute quickly. While I applaud their decision to use practical prosthetics instead of CGI, the result was a Killer Croc that just wasn’t that impressive. The only noteworthy event involving him was when he swam into the flooded subway tunnels to find a discarded bomb. The scene felt like it was added just to give Croc an excuse to exist.
El Diablo’s backstory, while well executed, was fairly contrived. He killed his family and he doesn’t want to use his powers. That’s fine, there’s nothing wrong it, but it’s clumsily delivered. He’s seen using his powers repeatedly for no reason at all, so his refusal to use them to fight makes little sense. That said, his transformation at the end of the film when he goes to full power is one of the coolest moments in the film. The character design of the Aztec demon is amazing and all the fire just looks cool.
The main story of the movie could have potentially made up for all of these faults, but it comes far short. The main villain is the Enchantress and her brother. Neither of their powers are well explained. You’re often left wondering why they’re doing what they’re doing. The creation of the Enchantress’s weapon is frankly insulting Mcguffin, and doesn’t carry any of the weight it should. Nothing surprising or unexpected happens. On a number of occasions your left scratching your head as a character does something totally out of the norm.
The editing in this film is the real downfall. From the trailers alone we know a large amount of content was left on the chopping block. Tons of character development was left out that would have filled in blanks on the main cast. The order in which scenes appear could have been altered to make the story better, but instead we were left with a muddy piece of incoherency.
The film has it’s bright points. Smith and Robbie, along with Viola Davis and Ben Affleck during his cameos, nail their roles. Captain Boomerang and El Diablo are briefly quite funny and fun, respectively. The costuming and effects for the Enchantress looked amazing. The final scene with the Joker where he breaks out Harley Quinn in his custom SWAT gear feels very Joker-like in a way that leaves you smiling.
Sadly, the highlights are few and far between. Even at their brightest, they’re unable to elevate the rest of the film. Suicide Squad isn’t the worst movie ever by a stretch, but its muddy editing and poor story decisions leave it mired. There was no way it could come close to living up to the hype. Still, we could hope for a good movie, if not a great one. Instead, we got neither.