It seems the ever-growing divide between audiences and film critics is hitting it’s apex in 2016. I mean, never before have so many films been stamped worthy or unworthy before they even released, but this year it seems like almost every movie was prejudged before audiences could even vote with their dollars. No one has felt the pain of this divide more than DC/Warner Bros, as evident by the controversy that Suicide Squad has become. Earlier this week the review embargo dropped and the internet was flooded with negative opinions of the film. I literally only read one positive review before I saw the film myself. So, was it really *that* bad? Is it the worst movie of the year? Is it more of a cinematic abomination than last years Fantastic Four, as Vanity Fair suggested? The answer, confidently, is NO, it’s no where near that bad. Nothing is. (And the Vanity Fair reviewer must’ve had a serious bout of constipation when he saw the film because his article is unnecessarily cruel and could only have been written by someone so painfully full of shit.)
Suicide Squad broke the August record for a Thursday night opening of a film, by a lot. Based on the reviews, a lot of people are surprised by this. I am not. DC and WB stacked it with an eclectic cast, and spent a lot of time hyping it to the Hot Topic demographic and it paid off. Their character designs are perfect for marketing, as you can see with the deluge of t-shirts and other swag for sale everywhere. Even the soundtrack takes a rifle shot right at the mainstream. I mean, with the likes of Rick Ross and Lil Wayne you lock down the hip-hop crowd, and then add Twenty One Pilots and Panic! At the Disco, both whom are selling out concerts this summer, and I think you can start to see my point. They knew just what they were doing when they planned out the marketing strategy. They did however, forget to structure a cohesive film for which all of this marketing would hinge on…
“But Stephen, I thought you said it wasn’t that bad?” You’re right, I did say that, and it’s not. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a little-to-medium bad. The first hour is especially confusing and hard to follow. The film opens with backstories on Deadshot and Harley that are nice but feel like they’re a little hurried so as to get them over with. Once the team is put together they’re sent off on a mission that just so conveniently turns out to have been caused by someone who was supposed to be one of them. The majority of the film is just the team on this one mission. I was a little surprised that it went that direction, but it makes sense when you consider David Ayer’s film style. See, what he does best are linear action movies with intimate drama and lots of gunfire. He typically has a couple main characters and then maybe three crucial supporting characters. Here, there’s like five main characters and 87 supporting ones. All the “David Ayer” elements are here, but they’re in a movie with a much bigger scope than he’s shot within in the past and it feels like the whole thing gets away from him a little bit. For that reason, I don’t think you could really call this a “David Ayer’s film”, but that’s sort of what you sacrifice when you take on a franchise I guess. Hey, in his defense, he’s at least not as empty as Zack Snyder. That dude cannot make a movie with substance, or emotions that feel natural. Ayer can do that. He has a good cast and he gets good performances out of them, with some decent emotion, even though it’s stretched thin across so many characters.
Despite the confusing plot lines and mostly mediocre story, the cast is actually phenomenal. I think the sense of camaraderie that Ayer strongly attempts to instill in his actors shows through. Everyone seems to have a genuine connection and performs very well. Rather than trying to talk about everyone, though, I’ll just focus on some of the standouts.
Viola Davis is fantastic as Amanda Waller, the woman responsible for creating the team in the first place. She completely embodies the nature of the character and might possibly give the best, most natural performance in the whole film. I’m a fan of Joel Kinnaman and I felt like he did a great job as Rick Flagg, who is in charge of keeping the team together. Flagg is a military man and Kinnaman gives a solid performance. One of the standouts I felt was Jai Courtney as Digger Harkness / Captain Boomerang. He brings an off-beat sense of humor to the film that’s not the same as the other funny moments. It’s different than when Harley says something bizarrely crazy or when Deadshot makes a funny quip. Without him, the film could’ve been a lot more boring. Bringing to the table what is definitely the darkest personal drama of the team is Jay Hernandez as Chato Santana / El Diablo, the man who makes and controls fire. Hernandez portrays Diablo’s inner conflict well. He wants to stay out of the fight for personal reasons, but he clearly knows how easily his ability could decimate the enemy they face.
I thoroughly enjoyed Jared Leto’s Joker and actually wished their has been more of him. He wasn’t quite as much like the “Death of the Family” Joker that I was hoping for, but I see that potential in him. Margot Robbie is a good Harley Quinn, but after Amanda Conner’s and Jimmy Palmiotti’s incredible run on the character in her self-titled comic series, it’s hard to see her as emotionally out-of-control as she comes across in the film. I mean, yes, she’s crazy. Yes, she’s clever. But she’s also deceptively intelligent, and… I… I just struggled with this version of Harley a little. I didn’t hate it, I just feel like Conner and Palmiotti have written Harley in a manner that depicts her in control of herself and her own sexuality and I’m not entirely sure I can say that this Harley is. However, this is an earlier moment in the timeline of that character whereas that comic series takes place much later in her life so I hope that as we see more of her in films she starts to evolve into that strong, more mentally and emotionally in control woman she’s become in the comics.
In a perfect world, this movie would’ve cut the cast by about 5 people, one of those being The Enchantress who’s involvement just takes away from the greatness it could’ve been, and been shortened to about an hour and a half. To it’s credit, it’s nowhere near as boring as Batman V Superman. It may be messy and confusing, but at least it has enough going on to keep you interested. I would say the difference is… BvS was disappointing, but Suicide Squad just never fully achieves its potential. There are some really great moments too. Leto’s Joker is petty creepy, and many of the action sequences are really exciting. It’s worth watching for sure. I even hope that they can make a sequel because there’s so many more great characters that you can use in the Suicide Squad (*cough* Deathstroke and King Shark *cough*). I just think that the next one needs to be a little more focused and less shotgun-like. Much like the team itself, this film tries to hit multiple targets at once but just falls a tad short.