While Marvel have been making leaps and bounds of late building their cinematic universe, DC haven't been faring quite as well. 'Man of Steel' and 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' have their fans, but mostly their reception was either lukewarm (in the case of the former) or scathing (in the case of the latter). The hope from fans was that David Ayer’s adaptation of the ‘Suicide Squad’ comics would turn the tide, injecting a new energy and bombast into the stumbling franchise. However, it seems that, for all the many failings of ‘BvS’, the worst was really yet to come.
In the wake of Superman’s death, a covert government taskforce is set up by scheming Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) as a safeguard against any future threats. The thing is, this taskforce will be made up of the worst criminals and meta-humans currently in prison - superstar hitman Deadshot (Will Smith), insane and sadistic Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and larrikin madman Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), among others. When one of their number The Enchantress (Cara Delvingne) goes rogue and plans human annihilation, the Suicide Squad, led by decorated black-ops commander Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), use their unusual skills to stop her.
From the first five minutes, you think what you’re getting with ‘Suicide Squad’ is that injection of insanity the DC universe needed. Yet so quickly that you practically get whiplash, the film spirals wildly out of control, becoming one of the most inept and boring blockbusters in a long while. In fact, I find myself with practically nothing good to say about it. Ayer’s screenplay is woefully cliché and obvious, built around a narrative that has no drive and a structure that renders it almost incomprehensible. As an audience, we’re offered no way into the film emotionally, with all the emotional beats landing with a shuddering thud, and not a single action set-piece that illicit any reaction whatsoever. It suffers from both not having clear central protagonists to focus on and a villain whose arc makes little sense. There doesn’t seem to be any strong reason for anything to be there, especially the Suicide Squad themselves, who don’t even know what their mission is for most of the film. Perhaps the best example of this is The Joker (Jared Leto) - there’s no reason for him to be there, other than as a love interest for Harley Quinn, and even then his position in the plot doesn’t function. He’s the prime example in the film of decisions seeming made just "because", assuming the audience will go along with it but not earning a single solitary moment. We’re given no reason to care about these characters or this story, and so caring about them was something this audience member couldn’t be bothered doing. It’s also a technical mess, both rhythmically chaotic and lacklustre at the same time, and lacking in any visual ambition. Most upsetting of all is Oscar-winning composer Stephen Price’s score, all the inventiveness he brought to ‘Gravity’ and ‘Fury’ boiled down into a preposterously generic action score.
The film’s treatment of women is also surprisingly uncomfortable. Harley Quinn’s psychologist background is reduced to a line, instead focusing on her love-sick relationship with The Joker that means she will do anything for him - even break him out of prison - something that comes to define her entire character. We’re given no context for her attraction to him or an idea of who she was before, except the suggestion of a weak woman who needs this man to give her purpose. There are also many moments where women are either treated as objects by men or subjected to sudden bursts of violence; the audience in the cinema I was in openly gasping every one of the many times a man punched a woman in the face. This isn’t a good move at all for DC, especially with current discussions about the role of women in these superhero films.
Maybe the performances could have helped, but none of the cast can overcome the short fallings of the material. Will Smith carries it with his natural charisma, as does Margot Robbie, but it’s not enough to hold the film up. Across the board, the cast seems as confused about what’s going on as we are, especially Joel Kinnaman, who doesn’t know whether Flag is the sympathetic action hero or the villain. That grey area is obviously part of the intended fabric of ‘Suicide Squad’, but a film can’t function where every character exists in it. Only Viola Davis pulls it off, Amanda Waller by far the most interesting (and terrifying) character in the film. And as for Jared Leto’s much-publicised performance as The Joker, the less said about it, the better. This is the most inept interpretation of the character so far, lacking either charm or malice, Leto so caught up in the character that you often can’t understand what he’s even saying. The film also clearly has no idea what to do with him, as he’s given no great character entrance or significant moment in the film.
So quickly that you practically get whiplash, the film spirals wildly out of control, becoming one of the most inept and boring blockbusters in a long while.
The more I think about ‘Suicide Squad’, the less I have anything positive to say about it. In fact, the only reason I didn’t walk out was because I knew I would be writing this review. This is a woeful film, a mess from beginning to end, lacking in focus or ambition or clarity. But worst of all, it’s just incredibly boring, not an ounce of fun to be found. It could have been the bombastic blast of fresh air the trailers promised, but it’s been a long time since I saw a film fall as flat as this one. I’m sure its flashy marketing will ensure its success at the box office, but I can’t see audiences embracing this one, especially after the beating (the now shockingly superior) ‘BvS’ took. In the end, ‘Suicide Squad’ is basically the cinematic equivalent of its target audience, an awkward teenage boy - juvenile, obnoxious, male-centric and overwhelmed by unsightly blemishes.