By Eric Hanes
After one of the larger marketing campaigns of the year, Suicide Squad has opened up to a record breaking weekend at the box office for the month of August, and has proven that audiences, at least initially, have taken an interest to the film. This success is in spite of a critic rating of 26% on review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, which is not to say that the movie is of 2.6/10 quality, but rather that 26/100 critics rated the film positively. There’s a difference, Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t work like normal review sites, and people need to start learning that before freaking out. The average rating for the film among critics is actually 4.7/10, which is exactly where it belongs: the bad side of mediocrity.
This film is a complete mess, despite being littered with some good ideas and performances. It had no idea what it wanted to do, and it seemed to be constantly struggling against its own tone. There are some very easily identifiable problems in this film that quickly explain the poor critical response, and in the end, what one can only assume will be a series of weekly drops in box office success.
Characters and Performances
This is probably one of the most glaring things that the film does wrong, mostly because it shows the capability to do them so well, only to thoroughly shit the bed at times. Harley is often nearly accurate to the cartoon that made her so popular, and yet there are times when her voice is completely off and she is completely out of character, such as the scene where she criticizes Diablo at the bar for not owning up to certain things that he was probably just too choked up to even discuss, given their nature. Giving her some sense of responsibility after having her spend the entire movie trying to run away with the Joker simply did not flow well.
Will Smith plays Will Smith in this movie, and though the performance was sound, the character was literally just Will Smith, and he rarely ever puts on his mask or acts vaguely like a character. The scenes regarding his daughter all feel incredibly forced, though this may have something to with the terrible child actor forced to portray said character.
Jared Leto’s heavily marketed Joker received less than 10 minutes of screentime, making him one of the most highly advertised side characters in film history. Though his performance was not necessarily up to the standard of Ledger or Nicholson, Leto was definitely great in his own right, with the exception of the fact that his relationship with Harley, the basis for his entire subplot in this film, is almost entirely missing any exploration. Leto claims that most of his scenes were cut from the final product and this is probably due to the studio attempting to keep the film more friendly to teen audiences that may be uncomfortable with complex relationships and domestic abuse.
Every other character was either fun (Captain Boomerang, that Belle Reve guard, Killer Croc) or one-dimensional in their serious nature (Diablo, Incubus). The only exceptions to this are Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), who was genuinely believable as a soldier and a human being, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who was incredibly one dimensional but actually worked and was legitimately off-putting, and the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), who was just fucking awful, I mean god-fucking-awful. You cannot get away with a performance this shitty in a good film, despite it being a summer blockbuster, As the actual villain, she is completely goofy in a wholly unintentional way, and utterly unconvincing in any scene where she has to deliver dialogue. As the dark and dirty Enchantress at the beginning of the film, she is actually quite spooky, and if the film had gone for more of a horror tone and kept her that way, it may have worked out quite a bit better.
Needless to say, the plot was bland and consisted of a group of talented individuals coming together, putting aside their personal desires, and fighting the source of a giant blue light in the sky in the middle of the city. However, it is what the film does with these pieces that truly makes it a steaming pile of shit.
The film’s opening minutes are absolutely awful and repetitive, as they introduce the villains, sometimes twice, as part of introducing Amanda Waller’s plan for the Suicide Squad that she later presents, meaning we get her pitch for it twice, meaning that we’re sitting through no plot progression, no character development, and about 15 licensed songs from the 1970s and 1980s for a good twenty or so minutes. When they finally take the time to show off Harley and the Joker in the form of flashbacks, they chop up the scenes and edit them so heavily that they don’t even feel like part of the film anymore, and resemble cuts for a trailer more than anything. This does not flow well at all with the rest of the film, which is quite blandly framed and shot. However, nearly every scene transition features a jarringly bad cut, as scenes do not end at a natural time before the next one starts.
Other than that, the most egregious fault is easily the dialogue. Some of the comedy in this film is absolutely cringe inducing, from the Enchantress’ revelation of her plan to her brother to Katana’s introduction on the helicopter. Even the Joker’s scene in what can only be assumed as his strip club is terribly done, as he is written like a cartoon character but the tone and design are more reminiscent of something out of a gritty gangster flick. The tonal inconsistencies are simply distracting and lame, and I firmly believe that director David Ayer’s original vision for this film is not what’s at fault, so much as it is the studio interference that arose as a result of Batman V Superman’s complete failure with fans and critics alike.
There is actually a very good movie hiding in the wreckage that is this one, but unfortunately, due to studio panic, audiences were treated to a neutered experience that contains little of the original promised edge that this one was supposed to bring. For a movie about psychos and murderers, it managed to be less edgy than Tom Cruise’s remake of Groundhog Day.