With the very mixed critical and audience responses to 2013’s Man of Steel and early 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, both DC Entertainment and their parent production company Warner Brothers need Suicide Squad to be a successful movie to kick start the DC Extended Universe. While Suicide Squad is a much more fun movie than the previous DCEU entries, it unfortunately is almost as much of a bumpy ride.
Directed by David Ayer (Fury), the premise follows government spook Amanda Waller, played brilliantly and ruthlessly by Viola Davis (How to Get Away With Murder), as she assembles a task force of supervillains to confront the new alien and metahuman threats that have come to light since the emergence of Superman.
The lead actors on the task force give very strong and entertaining performances, and really help carry the movie. Military hero squad leader Rick Flag is played by Joel Kinnaman (RoboCop), who portrays the character brilliantly as someone conflicted between duty and personal attachment. The latter is a common theme throughout the movie. Playing off him is the always delightful Will Smith (Men in Black) as the assassin Deadshot, also conflicted between getting a paycheck and being there for his family. Smith by himself is great in the role, and delivers a lot of laughs, but he and the rest of the cast also have great chemistry together.
Fan favorite Harley Quinn makes her first ever live action cinematic appearance in Suicide Squad, played by the alluring Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street). Robbie clearly has an understanding of the character, and it shows through her performance as she delights in causing mayhem, while also being drawn back to her disturbing relationship with the Joker, played by the talented Jared Leto (Fight Club).
Regretfully, the Harley Quinn and Joker relationship that has been explored through countless animated shows, comics and video games doesn’t get much screen time. In fact, the Joker who has appeared heavily in all the Suicide Squad trailers, only appears in a few short scenes. Thus, the much anticipated performance by Leto isn’t fleshed out to its full disturbing potential, and the few glimpses are seemingly a borderline imitation of Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight. Recently, Leto has stated that several of his scenes have been cut from the final edit.
A surprise, but great performance was by Jay Hernandez (The Expanse) as the tormented Diablo, a powerful metahuman gangster trying to atone for his sins.
Disappointingly, other great comic characters such as Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney, Terminator Genisys), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Thor: The Dark World), Katana (Karen Fukuhara) and Slipknot (Adam Beach, Cowboys & Aliens) are all underutilized in the movie. Courtney is especially hilarious as a sloshed and chauvinist Boomerang, Akinnuoye-Agbaje has a terrifying yet amusing presence as Killer Croc and Fukuhara is mysteriously great when she’s given attention. Suicide Squad is her very first screen acting credit.
While the actors help carry the movie, the plotline, main antagonists and the film editing makes the cinematic journey a bit rough. The film starts out very strong, albeit from some jumpy editing between shots and scenes. While the initial character flashback introductions are great, there are a couple later in the film that seem slightly out of place and could perhaps even confuse general audience members not as familiar with these characters.
The main antagonists themselves seemed like they quite weren’t were they were supposed to be, such as the Enchantress, played by the stunning Cara Delevinge (Paper Towns). Delevinge herself is talented at portraying a tormented archaeologist that is possessed by an ancient evil, that is equally alluring as she is eerie. Lamentably, the script itself doesn’t quite deliver for what could be a truly terrifying menace to the DCEU. The final climax as well doesn’t quite get to where this film should.
Currently, Suicide Squad has an unceremonious 27% approval rating among critics on the popular website Rotten Tomatoes. While Suicide Squad doesn’t deserve nearly that low of a number, it also doesn’t quite live up to the well-received trailers previously released at SDCC and online.
Many of the cast members have responded to the harsh criticism by stating that Suicide Squad was made more for the fans of the comics. Director Ayer has stated this cut of the film is his vision, despite some speculation across entertainment reporting sources that there was a creative struggle between Ayer and Warner Brothers. Ayer has stated that is not the case.
Perhaps due to the negative critical response, Suicide Squad is not being screened at all in global box office powerhouse China, and a major Mexican theater chain has refused to screen the film.
Despite all this, Suicide Squad is still has much more fun than the previous DCEU entries, and shows the potential for great future movies based on the heroes and villains of DC Comics, with a little course correction. All eyes are now turned to new DC Entertainment president Geoff Johns as he oversees production of 2017’s Wonder Woman and Justice League.