Arguably one of the most anticipated films of the summer has landed with a bit of a critical thud but a box office explosion. David Ayer’s team up of DC’s super-villains is likely to draw interest from many angles and the many fans of the different characters that make up the squad. The relentless marketing campaign has certainly sparked intrigue amongst the public, but have the standards and content of the trailers damaged the overall experience of the film.
Unfortunately, once you’ve actually seen the film, you may feel disappointed or let down. The upbeat, off-beat, explosively psychedelic action-comedy that the trailers teased at is rarely found during the film’s two hour running time. What you get instead is an uneven, poorly paced, mishmash of a film, one that hints at serious troubles behind the scenes. It seems that the rumours of attempts to make the film funnier post Deadpool‘s success and Batman V Superman’s relative lack of (and criticisms of its dark tone) may be true as the film feels as though a multitude of visions have tried to be merged together (not purely Ayer’s which has come through more in the on-set stories), resulting in an uneven tone, with aspects such as the music and certain jokes seeming to be tacked on in an attempt to change the atmosphere which ultimately makes the film messy.
The poor pacing is the film’s main issue but is arguably a result of other problems. There are a whole host of issues with the editing as well as its direction. The first part of the film is plagued by a long, tedious sequence of backstory montages to introduce the characters, albeit focusing a great deal more on certain characters than others, creating a disparity in seeming importance. Granted, due to the DCEU’s format, backstories are necessary for the audience to understand the characters, but bombarding them with a slew of lengthy montages may turn off the audience more than engage them. This chunk of the film does well to give the audience some idea of each character, but this is as far as it goes for some of them, with little development present over the rest of the film as it struggles to accommodate its wide cast.
The film’s plot and villain (Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress) seem to have been universally derided as weak, and it is this fundamental issue that prevents the film from really maintaining momentum, or presenting any real feeling of urgency and threat. This then serves as a barrier to the film creating a real atmosphere, especially in its climax. The odd narrative structure it follows often feels quite jolted and fragmented (largely due to frequent flashbacks) means that the film lacks a sense of cohesion, being unable to pull together the various aspects of the film to create compelling viewing. The film’s soundtrack (which is used well to add to the tone of the piece) also sometimes switches songs so frequently and quite abruptly that it almost becomes a distraction.
However, despite this the film still manages to be entertaining, thanks in huge part to the stellar cast. Each actor breathes life into their character, and despite some of them not being given as much to do (Harley Quinn and Deadshot seem to attract a lot of the focus) craft unique individuals, each with their own quirks and style. The stand-out, however, has to be Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn who seems to steal most scenes, as well as inject a volt of energy into the film each time she appears on screen. Will Smith, too, proves he still has his movie-star charisma that we seemed to have missed from the big screen in recent years. Arguably, the most threatening character in the film isn’t even in the squad itself, but takes the form of Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller. Davis brings a steely grounding to her role and manages to take control of each scene, despite the characters around her being the ones with weapons and delusions. There are the odd cameos from other characters in the DCEU, but these are fleeting and likely don’t have the desired impact due to the audience’s lack of familiarity with these iterations of the characters in this cinematic universe.
The interactions between the members of the squad are the high points of the film, providing frequent laughs as well as delivering the wittier dialogue of the piece. The Joker and Harley Quinn’s interactions are also interesting, but so short that their relationship never feels fully explored. The Joker is not in the film much, which wouldn’t really affect the opinion of the film had there not been so much focus on the character in the trailers, promotional appearances, and tales from behind the scenes, meaning that a lack of the character may make audiences feel a little cheated. Arguably, the decision to have little of the joker is otherwise a good move both in terms of the fact that the film is about the Suicide Squad, of which he is not a part, but also in terms of having to follow Heath Ledger’s legendary, Oscar-winning turn as the clown, giving cause for introducing his successor more slowly. Jared Leto does well with the character, he avoids imitating his predecessors, however at times almost feels a little like a caricature, most likely down to his brief screen-time not allowing the character to be more deeply explored.
Overall, Suicide Squad is entertaining and fairly fun, but for some that may not be quite enough to overcome the disappointment that what is an ok addition to the DCEU, could have been a great one.
Quick warning: whilst you don’t really need to have seen Batman V Superman before Suicide Squad, there is a major spoiler from it within the first few minutes, so if you don’t want it spoiled, see it first, otherwise a prior viewing doesn’t add much aside from having seen Ben Affleck’s Batman before.
It really emphasises my experience with Batman V Superman that I had forgotten about this major event in the DCEU before it was stated again in this film…