Morman reviews ‘Suicide Squad’: Opportunities missed

"Suicide Squad" Courtesy of Warner Bros.

2016 has seen its bevy of superhero films. This is the first year in which Marvel and DC Studios have really started to compete against each other, and the result has been that Marvel Studios’ films have generally performed better than DC’s offerings both critically and financially.

“Suicide Squad” is the second film to be released by DC Studios this year and hoped to turn around the negative press it had been receiving since the release of “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Unfortunately for DC, it doesn’t seem as if this is the film to do that.

“Suicide Squad” is a supervillain film, which immediately sets it apart from the many comic book films released this year. Even 2016’s “Deadpool” centers on an anti-hero, so “Suicide Squad” has the unique claim of being the first comic book film of its kind. It stars Will Smith, Margot Robbie and Jared Leto as Deadshot, Harley Quinn, and the Joker respectively.

Without getting into spoilers, the basic synopsis of the film is that the government creates a program called Task Force X that collects some of the world’s greatest supervillains and forces them to work for the good of the people and the government. The group of villains, monitored and led by Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), must stop an ancient evil that has plans to destroy the world.

I first want to talk about the good parts of the film. Will Smith as Deadshot and Viola Davis as Amanda Waller are the two best aspects of this film. Deadshot in the comics is a bit of a boring and bland character, and Will Smith gives the villain a sense of character that he really never had before. He was funny at times and was insightful. Smith was able to elevate the film whenever he was on screen, and it was really his character that the foundation of the film was built on.

Viola Davis as Amanda Waller might have been the absolute best part of the film. For reference, Amanda Waller is the government agent who assembles Task Force X. Those who read DC Comics know Waller to be a fierce, no-nonsense woman who never backs down in the face of a threat. Davis’ performance convinced me that she was scared of very few things. She was ruthless and may have been the scariest person on screen, and that’s saying something given that she was surrounded by truly evil people.

What didn’t work for this film was just about everything else. From the second the film began, I was confused. The pacing of the film is all over the place. It is poorly edited, and the story devolves into an insanely familiar plot. There are memorable scenes from the film’s trailers that do not make sense within the context of the film. They are just injected into the film seemingly at random. I have legitimate fears that this film was re-edited due to the response that Warner Bros. and DC received from “Batman v Superman.”

Certain parts of the film feel like they were inserted or left in the final draft just for cheap laughs. Sure this movie has some genuinely funny parts, but about half of the times when the audience was supposed to laugh, they didn’t. The director, David Ayer, didn’t leave enough space between the joke and the next beat of the film for the audience to have the chance to laugh.

Part of the problem is that the tone is also all over the place. “Suicide Squad” doesn’t really know if it wants to be a comedy, an action film or a thriller. It has elements of all three but never really excels at any of them. On top of that, the film doesn’t really have a score. It has a sound track.

My, oh my, are there a lot of songs in “Suicide Squad.” Every song from the trailers plus pretty much the most popular song from every generation in the last 50 years is in this film. It is honestly too much. This film feels like the world’s longest music video. There was a point in the film when a song started, and I actually blurted out, “No! Not another one!” The problem with all of these songs is that they don’t allow the narrative to fully develop.

This film has about six core characters and in the end, you really only get to know a couple of them. The most interesting character in the whole film is El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), but the film doesn’t give the character enough time to have the development he deserved. A really great character arc could have been accomplished with El Diablo if David Ayer spent a little less time editing around songs and more time letting the audience get to know El Diablo.

Suicide Squad Members Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Suicide Squad Members Courtesy of Warner Bros.

One of the biggest problems I had with the film was that the Joker was not needed in it. All of the Joker scenes could have been cut to give the film a tighter premise. The character himself was really bland. I don’t know whether this was due to poor writing or whether DC wants the Joker to be fleshed out in a solo Batman film. Either way, the performance that Jared Leto gives isn’t good or bad. It’s just there. The character doesn’t have any real depth, and I believe the character would have been better suited if he wasn’t in the film at all.

The characterization of the Joker that we do get isn’t that much aligned with the comic’s either. This is ever so present in his relationship with Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. What makes the dynamic between the Joker and Harley Quinn interesting is that it is, at its core, a relationship founded on domestic violence.

Harley Quinn is a character birthed from abuse at the hands of the Joker, and it presents how evil the Joker truly is, all the while demonstrating the power he has over Quinn. An interesting story could have been told if Harley Quinn was finally breaking free of the Joker’s influence in order to stand on her own, but what we got was a relationship between the two characters that is pretty much new and inherently uninteresting.

Harley Quinn as a character was pretty good, but at times it felt pretty obvious she was used for “fan service.” That is a shame, considering how prominent and great a character Harley Quinn truly is. Margot Robbie played the character almost perfectly. She was tough, crazy and a skilled combatant; but everything the film placed around her (the way she was shot, her relationship with the Joker or even some character inconsistencies) only did a disservice to the character.

In the end, “Suicide Squad” will go down as another summer flick with little to say about anything. Just like its predecessor “Batman v Superman,” it wasn’t a bad film, but it wasn’t a good one either. With more time dedicated to character building, a focus on tone and a bit more allegiance to the source material, “Suicide Squad” could have been one of the most fun films of the year. Ultimately, this film didn’t know what it wanted to be, and so it was only destined to disappoint.

I give “Suicide Squad” 6 out of 10.

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