Review: Suicide Squad, and My Problems with the Negatives of the Negative

(Originally published 13 October 2016)

WARNING!!!! This blog post SPOILS the entirety of the Suicide Squad movie! If you have not seen it yet and wish to go in unspoiled, proceed with caution. Or…don’t read it until after you’ve seen the movie. Whichever works, yo.

You know what they say; all great critics review movies over two months after they come out (they totally say that look it up shut up).

So I guess there’s no point in attempting an objective tone or a general review here. If you want to go see it, you’ve seen it, if not, it’s clear you’re not going to. They made their money, and it’s nearly out of cinemas anyway, so nothing I say will help or hinder Warner Bros. And I’m cool with that-I’m a dude who talks about movies online, I don’t assert that I have any real power over this shit anyway. Plus, I’d rather talk about this film overall and not be confined to spoiler sensitivity, so let’s get to it!

So I’m going to do what I did in my Fant4stic R3view and break this down into good and bad points, because I…didn’t hate Suicide Squad? I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s terrible. Like, one of the worst movies of the year. I honestly think, on a production level, that Suicide Squad is actually worse than Dawn of Justice, though I also think DoJ is more fundamentally broken. However, I liked this one a little more, and while there were positives in DoJ, the positives in this film made it enjoyable rather than made me refrain from slitting my throat to end my suffering.

Enough of the hyperbole. List time!

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The Good

-The cast are great. Will Smith is playing Will Smith, but he plays Will Smith well (Will Will Smith smith? Yes, Will Smith will smith). Margot Robbie was fantastic in her role, though I’ll go more into Harley later. MVP of the movie is Viola Davis as Amanda ‘The Wall’ Waller. Outside of some REALLY stupid parts, she was note perfect. I really like Jai Courtney, which almost kills me to say, but he’s really good in this! A lot of the other roles were well cast in this.

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Viola Davis, take a bow!

-The premise itself. Really weird thing to shout out, but I just love the idea of a group of supervillains doing shady government missions. You can really get a lot of mileage out of that idea with the right execution.

-The bar scene. Like, that could have been the whole movie. Light without being silly, great tone shift, natural banter and dialogue. It’s also the best edited too. It’s just a really cool, calm, relaxed and well shot scene. I really think this was the movie the director intended.

-El Diablo is the best character in the movie. Like, by a mile. His development from ‘reluctant thug’ to ‘sacrificial hero’ is extremely well done in a few short scenes, I just wish he got more to do. Also most of his development is crammed into the final act. But no, he’s great, absolutely. Loved the actor, too.

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Jay Hernandez, take a bowier bow!

-It’s legitimately funny in places. Like, it can make me laugh hard. Pretty much everything Harley or Deadshot said was a great zinger.

-Some of the side characters were actually really well characterised. I loved the guard who harasses Deadshot, and the military guys who guard the squad have their moments too.

-The dream sequence was great. Outside of one. But I love those kinds of pieces, and it’s paced well enough that it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Harley’s one was particularly great in how subtly creepy it is.

-Batman is in three brief scenes, and he feels more like Batman already than he did in Batman v Superman. I loved the scene where he apprehended Deadshot and tells him to tell his daughter to leave-it’s one of the most Batman things I’ve seen in a live action movie in a long while.

-Some of the make-up and costumes look pretty cool. Particularly on Killer Croc and Enchantress.

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The Bad

-The. Fucking. Editing. Very quickly, as this has been talked to death; Warner Bros decided to get the guys who edited the very successful trailers to edit the entire movie. Apparently, the finished project is like a mishmash of both theirs and Ayer’s original cut with his approval. And holy hell does this make everything suffer! Characters are set up about two or three times, plot points get repeated, scenes end flatly or pointlessly with stupid zingers, fights are a jumbled, incoherent mess, etc. Not helped by…

-The Putty Patro-sorry, ‘Eyes of the Adversary’ suck. Like, their design is terrible and they’re horribly ineffective. I love how the dialogue tries to build them up by saying they survived being shot in the head when one of them gets killed by having its throat slit.

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Pictured: Probably those guys mentioned above, I don’t know…

-The cinematography is too freaking dark. Like, I get it, this is a dark movie…in theory, but the lighting is all wrong and makes it really difficult to make out a lot of what’s happening on the screen and eventually just becomes an eyesore. David Ayer kind of has a tendency to go for underlit films, but at least the editing in those is a lot more coherent and trying way less hard to impress us.

-Speaking of…holy shit, the tone is all over the place. The movie has no idea if it wants to be a light GotG-esque dark comedy or a serious supervillain black ops flick with some jokes here or there. So we get moments of intense gravitas undercut with a stupid joke here and there. It’s confused, jarring, and really doesn’t let the movie settle into a consistent feel.

-So that’s all kind of production stuff that doesn’t matter in a visual medium you know. Let’s look at the plot! Unlike BvS, I can’t really think of a lot of plot holes in Suicide Squad. It’s more…weird plot decisions and slight contrivances.

-The entire formation of the team itself comes to mind. So, Amanda Waller wants to create a team to be able to take on a threat like Superman. That’s fair, logical. So she picks…a group of villains. When we know there are heroes a lot more powerful running around (sometimes literally). The post-credit scene shows that Waller clearly knows about the other heroes, so how come she doesn’t try to contact them? Like…did you even ask the dude who TROUNCED Supes with a kitchen sink? He’d probably say no, but it’s worth the ask!

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‘I want you to join our team.’No! Let me brood, damnit! LET ME BROOD!’ ‘Alright, alright! Jesus.’

-Speaking of ‘powerful’: her picks are a guy who can throw boomerangs, a marksman, a mentally unwell woman with a bat, a crocodile…man, a woman with a magic sword, a guy who can climb up walls, this balsa-wood army motherfucker, and two of the members who are the most powerful are either unwilling to use said power or turn out to be impossible to control. The Suicide Squad are a wetworks team who are brought into ethically shaky or dangerous government assignments so they can shirk accountability and risk their lives due to the fact that they’re criminals and nobody would care if they died (hence the name). Framing them as a team that could take on a Superman-level threat is pretty patently ridiculous.

-I talked a bit about certain characters, so I guess I should talk about the others now. Putting aside the villains, the only other one that gets a lot of focus is Rick Flag and he’s…played by the human equivalent of Prozac Joel Kinnanman. Everything about his character bored me, he had no chemistry with Will Smith, Viola Davis or Cara Delevigne, and there was just nothing compelling in his performance. He apparently was the one who replaced Tom Hardy in the role, which to call him a poor man’s Tom Hardy is an insult too poor men Tom Hardy. He’s barely the poor man’s actor!

-As for the other characters…you could have had the entire movie without them they made so little of an impact. Captain Boomerang was fun, but only there for the occasional funny bit and that pony gag was stupid and nonsensical. Killer Croc was incomprehensible and mostly filler until the plot randomly found stuff for him to do (though he DOES get my favourite line in the movie). Katana is there.

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Unrelated Killer Croc pick because I DO like his design. This is what I’d imagine a crocodile/human hybrid would look like.

-So why are the other soldiers there? Like, I understand the mission isn’t to attack Enchantress but to get Waller out of there (though one questions what they WERE going to do to stop Enchantress, but I digress), so why risk the extra men ‘not authorised’ or whatever the fuck she says before she murders them (also, those highly trained soldiers were either temporarily paralysed when she shot them or the Wall has the metahuman ability to kill people fast)?  Rick Flag had Katana to back him up, so they just wasted a perfectly good cadre for no reason! Also, love to see what would have happened if the mighty bitchslap shooting hand of Waller was smacked down by one of the men in self-defence.

-Slipknot is such a badly conceived plot point, it’s kind of hilarious. The filmmakers gave so little of a shit about making his death a surprise, he’s not in the roster layout OR character introduction, his first appearance is when the team are changing to go on their mission! Like, you have to TRY to be this lazy! R.I.P. Slipknot-thanks to mismanaged storytelling, I hardly knew ye.

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I will remember you…(??)

-So I guess I’ll finally go into Harley. Now, I need to reiterate how great Margot Robbie is. She has the natural charisma, feistiness and crazy streak that makes the character so loveable down pat-she makes this role so watchable. Because the script doesn’t. Ignoring how deliberately objectified she is, Harley is a joke machine with no other personality outside of ‘zingers’. This is amazing, because not only is she the only Squad member outside of Deadshot to get a subplot that develops throughout the movie, her backstory is, if anything, over-covered! Seriously, the vat scene is stupid for various reasons and really unnecessary. So I guess that brings us to:

-Jared Leto as the Joker. With all the hype and crazy antics of Method Actor Jared Leto, it really, really didn’t pay off. He is embarrassingly awful. Like, his laugh made me want to die right there in my seat, but I probably have people who wouldn’t want that to happen maybe. Also, his purpose in the present day sequences is pretty much to create a couple of plot holes. As painful as the ‘I’m not gonna kill ya’ and club scenes are, they at least work to build up Harley’s backstory, who IS important in this film. Outside of that, the Joker’s entire character feels tacked on and pointless. It makes me wonder what the hell all the scenes that were cut out were there to accomplish.

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As fanservicey as it was, the recreation of the Alex Ross painting WAS pretty cool.

-Everything about Enchantress is stupid. Her backstory with Rick Flag is SO forced (I know it’s literally forced in the narrative, I meant the idea that these two planks of wood falling in love), Waller’s attempts to control her and Flag are delusional for someone who’s pretty consistently smart otherwise, her getting her heart was really damn easy (Amanda Waller, world’s most overprepared government agent, keeps the source of her control to a freakishly powerful God sleeping next to her in a briefcase), her motivation and plan are never fleshed out outside of ‘Rah-rah, humans evil, rah!’ and making a ‘machine’ which is clearly a spell, her brother is a pointless muscle character designed to pay off El Diablo’s arc (his name is Incubus, I’m sorry the movie didn’t tell you that), her power set is inconsistent and/or badly used and Harley managed to outsmart her, not by actually being clever, but because she’s a fucking moron. Also Cara Delevigne sleepwalks through this performance-she’s nearly as bad as Kinnaman.

-So the bar scene is my favourite? The scene leading into it is my least. So Waller’s chopper crashes and her ledger with her connection with Enchantress is left there after she is captured (WHY DID SHE EVEN BOTHER BRINGING IT?!?!?!). Deadshot picks it up, and manages to speed read it in time to catch up with Flag and call him out from keeping Enchantress’ nature a secret from them (something the movie never makes explicitly clear, but whatever). Despite the fact that this was all established at the start of the movie, the way it’s framed makes is appear like this is meant to be a really big reveal despite this-the tone the scene has is really weird. Even the way the characters are blocked is…awkward (I keep expecting Rick Flag and Deadshot to challenge each other to a dance off or something). We get YET ANOTHER FUCKING REPEATED SCENE of Enchantress’ turning which tells us NOTHING new, and the characters then proceed to move into a different scene. It’s incompetently framed, poorly paced, pointlessly melodramatic, unconfident in its audience’s ability to pick up information and completely deflates any seriousness they may have built up previously. It pretty much sums up the movie, really.

-The make-up effects are so great that it’s a pity that the computer generated ones are…not. This particularly hurts Enchantress, who has an awesome design let down by TERRIBLE CG surrounding her.

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Woof…

-The music…goddamn! Okay, the score is…generic, but of course the biggest issues are the songs. The goddamn jukebox soundtrack this movie has is so, so, so badly paced, with about 3 songs playing 10 minutes into the film! It’s a desperate attempt at aping Guardian of the Galaxy’s soundtrack without any indication that they understand why it worked. Good songs, horrifically placed throughout the film, and by half an hour in I was done.

-Okay, this is getting way longer than I had intended, so quickly rounding off other niggling problems I had with the movie:

–In the dream sequences, despite Deadshot’s entire character motivation being about his daughter, his dream was…killing Batman. K.
–The fight scene with Harley in the elevator just screams ‘added in reshoots’. Also, how did the Squad beat her up there on foot?
–Amanda Waller’s other secret metahuman ability is that she survives this film. I don’t really know if this is a complaint or a compliment, so take it how you will.
–Why does Captain Boomerang come back for the climax? It’s implied that Harley developed an affinity for the team, but he’s never shown as really giving a fuck about any of them.
–That bit with Deadshot seeing his daughter before shooting the bomb is so goddamn cheesy and badly handled. For the final blow to the boss and the apex of his character’s arc, I shouldn’t be laughing. It also once again exemplifies how much of an idiot Enchantress is as she thought that would work.
–Why does Harley react when Waller threatens to detonate the implants? The Joker disabled hers, and Waller knows this.
–The movie is called Suicide Squad and only two squad members die, one of whom wasn’t even introduced! Seriously, even Flag’s snore of a girlfriend June Moone survives despite Enchantress (who is possessing her, need I remind you) getting killed. Kiiiiind of toothless for such a premise, all I’m saying.
–Why is Katana in this movie?

So…yeah. May have hated this movie more than even I realised…

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3/10

So before I sign off, I want to clarify a couple of things: if you liked this movie, that’s great! Seriously, a lot of folks dug it, and there is nothing wrong with that. Hell, feel free to tell me if I’ve gone wrong anywhere in my critique; as long as it’s civil, I’d be happy to take it on board.

The reason I’m adding this caveat is because there has been a huge backlash against, well, the backlash this movie received. It’s the same with Batman v Superman, and honestly it’s growing more hostile which each passing film. I won’t go into that stupid petition, which by now has been down for months, but I see it in popular discourse with people who did like this film. I can imagine this getting worse once the upcoming director’s cut (which apparently we’re getting now despite them saying we’ wouldn’t…) gets released.

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These people have brought more pain and scorn than any Batman and Robin.

And I get it. I do. It’s not great to hear so many people rag on something that brought you joy for whatever reason, and sometimes for what you feel are not valid reasons. The joys and the curse of the internet is that it’s really lifted the veil on exactly how people think. Whether you like it or not, the anonymity and/or disassociation an online presence can give us unconsciously reveals a lot of uncomfortable truths about ourselves. But that’s another topic; my point is that we’re now in a world where people’s opinions are unavoidable. The naked, stupid, possibly uninformed opinions.

So let me make it clear here: DC do not need you to defend them. They are not the underdogs. They are part of a muti-billion dollar media conglomerate who sits pretty on some of the most marketable IP in the world. They’re fine. It’s just as stupid for defending Marvel for exactly the same. This kind of false ‘rivalry’ between fans of these duopolies kind of ignores the major point here: neither company gives a shit about you as long as you’re spending money on their products. This may seemcondescending…okay, it kind of is, but we tend to get sweeped up in this competitive branding ‘rivalry’ that we ignore what brings us to these companies to begin with: great books.

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THIS is the only DV vs Marvel I endorse!

This is the third time in two years I’ve railed on a DC property in overlong fashion, and it’s kind of depressing me. I want DC to succeed with more than just Batman. I love DC’s characters, I just feel they are being mismanaged. Enjoying Marvel’s movies more doesn’t make me a fanboy, I just think they’re doing a better job than their main competitor. And that really shouldn’t be the case. I criticise because I CARE, you guys! I just care so much!!!

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WHY AREN’T YOU GOOD, DAMNIT?!?!?!?!?!?!!?!

 

So everybody chill. You’re free to have your opinion, just don’t shout it at each other (I’m putting both sides on trial now-I can’t deny that people who hate the movie can go too far, as well). Obsessing over whether a movie is good or not also really kills discussing any other of its other aspects, as it makes discussion pretty binary and not much else can be examined. Discussion is one of the cornerstones of being a movie fan, it’s one of the cornerstones for ‘geek’ culture! If we cannot be open and accepting of our differing views, if we shut down people for expressing their opinions, then this stops being a hobby all of us can invest so much passion into. All you do is hang yourself and your buddies on your own nooses.

Okay, I’m not ending on that stupid joke. Can’t wait for all this to be thrown out by the wayside once we all start bitching about the quality of Wonder Woman!

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Pleasebegoodpleasebegoodpleasebegoodpleasebegoodpleasebegood

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1 thought on “Review: Suicide Squad, and My Problems with the Negatives of the Negative”

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