The first thing I’d like to point out in this review is that Suicide Squad, David Ayer’s hotly-anticipated contribution to the quickly expanding new DC universe, is certainly not as terrible as the recent onslaught of damning reviews would have you believe. I entered the cinema with extremely low expectations, and was met with a complete tonal and structural mess of a film, but one which was surprisingly enjoyable in parts. It details the attempts of ruthless government official, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), to assemble a group of renowned criminals who are coerced into serving and protecting society against their will. It was clear that David Ayer had intended to create a fun, rambunctious and genre-subverting film featuring a task force of misfits, in the same vein as Marvel’s much-loved Guardians of the Galaxy, but the lack of clear direction resulted in a talented cast being squandered on a collection of scenes which just never quite meshed together effectively.
A comparison which can immediately be drawn between Suicide Squad and the aforementioned Guardians of the Galaxy was the energetic but overused jukebox-esque rock soundtrack, which was aimlessly added to action scenes and exposition montages and bore no connection whatsoever to what was happening onscreen. Unlike the imaginative and well-placed selection of classic pop songs littered throughout Guardians of the Galaxy, Suicide Squad’s soundtrack usage was obnoxious and tiresome, insulting its audience by forcing a particular mood instead of building it organically, as if to act as a guise for how shallow parts of the film actually were.
Subject to a great deal of speculation before the film’s release was its cast, and I feel that the film’s highlights were some of its performances. Jared Leto provided a very unique portrayal of the Joker, bringing fresh and unusual qualities to the character. Despite his very limited screentime, we see him involved in a range of incredibly comic-esque ‘shenanigans’, adding to the film’s sense of fun and providing lurid and colourful aesthetics which I wish could’ve been carried throughout the rest of the film, which was predictably gritty and washed-out. It must be pointed out, however, that the attention the Joker paid to his own style and status made him noticeably less threatening than the chilling performances of previous Joker actors, most notably Heath Ledger. Margot Robbie’s performance as Harley Quinn unfortunately missed the mark, but this is almost entirely due to poor writing, as most of her lines consisted of jokes which simply didn’t land. Will Smith’s portrayal of Deadshot was enjoyable, but ultimately his character was shaped by his attempts to do right by his daughter, which became a little one-dimensional after a while. The rest of the titular ‘Suicide Squad’, whilst intriguing, were mostly just shoehorned into the film, and didn’t really receive the attention they probably deserved during scriptwriting.
In terms of plot, the film’s ending felt frustratingly easy and predictable, which wasn’t helped by plot holes, as well as the characters’ new found empathy and compassion towards one another, which felt uncharacteristic considering their supposedly sociopathic personalities. The film’s opening mainly consisted of blatant exposition and character flashbacks, with each member of the Squad being given their own profiles, likely for the benefit of viewers who weren’t familiar with the comics. This felt disjointed with the rest of the film structurally, but on a positive note, was fairly visually creative and engaging as an opening.
It’s easy to condemn Suicide Squad on the basis of the predominantly negative reviews it’s received, but there is clear ambition exhibited in sections of the film, such as in its daring, albeit divisive, performances and its occasional enjoyable silliness. Had the script been completely overhauled, the characters better showcased and the action sequences well-organised, Suicide Squad would almost certainly have provided the rejuvenation the DC universe desperately needs. Despite some positive elements however, it simply didn’t achieve that goal.