Let’s take a moment to understand what has happened to the DC shared universe superhero franchise. After the high of Nolan’s Batman films the franchise took a minor dive with Man of Steel, and then took a massive beating with Batman v Superman. Suicide Squad with its trailers looked like it would finally redeem things and place the DC universe on the pedestal where it belongs. It comes across as a huge shock that the film, written and directed by David Ayer, despite trying out new things is still as underwhelming as BvS in parts and much worse in some other parts.
There’s been a lot of talk about the behind-the-scenes drama of the film where execs changed stuff and re-edited the movie after the critical thrashing of BvS. A lot of films, even the good ones go through that process so it’s not entirely fair to get into that while talking about Suicide Squad. What does need to be talked about is how anyone associated with the film thought the final product was anything close to being fit enough to be released in theaters, especially after the drubbing of BvS.
A bunch of nasty DC villains are assembled together by a honcho named Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) because an even nastier super villain has decided to end the world. Will Smith is Deadshot, who fires bullets extremely accurately, Margot Robbie is Harley Quinn, the crazed girlfriend of the Joker (Jared Leto), Jai Courtney is Captain Boomerang whose skills with his titular weapon is put to unspecified use, Jay Hernandez is Diablo who can conjure fire, Adewale Agbaje is Killer Croc, Karen Fukuhara is a sword wielding ninja named Katana, Adam Beach is a climbing expert named Slipknot, Cara Deviligne is a 7000-year-old enchantress.
Now with so many characters introduced in one movie, the storytelling is a giant mess. Ayer decides to use a flashback structure to introduce every character and his thin and often contrived backstory. Cutting from the action to something that doesn’t ultimately pack any emotional punch is irritating to say the least, and there’s no style or finesse in the way the exposition is dumped. One moment the film is a dark and brooding story with characters of multiple shades of black, and the next moment is a pulpy B-movie with loud and colourful and often hammy characters. It feels like there are two competing movies in one, and you can’t help but think of the reshoots being done to make the film more light hearted.
The one thing the film has going for itself is the visual palette – everything looks really cool in the film. And yet the visuals don’t complement the potential violence that these bad guys could cause because of the lack of an A rating like in Deadpool. It feels like building a car made of gold without an engine.
The overload of new characters on the screen does the most damage to the one thing to go to see the movie for – Jared Leto’s Joker. His character is introduced with an intercutting scene where he’s just sitting around. It’s jaw droppingly disappointing. This is an iconic character on which the film has been marketed around for two years, and all you see is the Joker sneering from time to time without adding anything substantial to the plot. It would have been better if the Joker had simply been removed from the story completely rather than use him as a minor distraction.
Perhaps there would be an Ultimate Edition with Ayer’s original vision of the film, and hopefully it would be less of a mess. This film should have increased the anticipation levels for the Justice League and Wonder Woman movies, but it’s done quite the opposite.