I don’t normally like, nor want, to post movie reviews. I didn’t go to film school. I have no technical eye for cinematography. Ultimately, I know what I like and sometimes get a bit critical because I am not so easily won over by pretty explosions and people, not always in that order. However, what I am is a comic book fan. Sure, mainly I focus on the Marvel Universe (it’s a much better Universe, just saying), but I dabble with DC from time to time. So when I saw Suicide Squad this weekend, I had an opinion on it.
First off, let me say I didn’t hate it nearly as much as the Rotten Tomatoes score did. It was entertaining and there were moments where it got so close to being what it should have been all along… But its misses were big ones and that comes mainly because DC is struggling to make their version of Guardians of the Galaxy or even Deadpool. Snarky, hilarious movies about a cast of misfits that don’t fit in well with the powerhouse superheroes of the Avengers or Batman. The problem DC has is that they don’t have the kind of funny, snarky characters that can stand on their own. The majority of the characters that make up their universe are morose and broody and pretty simple from a character arch standpoint. Superman is simple to understand. So is Batman and Wonder Woman. Hell, the most interesting thing about Batman is his moral code to never kill and how that conflicts with his cast of villains. But even Batman’s cast of villains, Joker, Two Face, Penguin, etc. all need Batman or else their motivations start getting flimsy.
That was the starting issue with Suicide Squad. These villains they “recruited” are bad guys. They make sure to remind you of that fact over and over again during the film. You shouldn’t start to feel like they are being redeemed through this ordeal. They aren’t. They are selfish BAD GUYS who need to do a good thing or they will be killed. If you asked them nicely to do something good, they’d laugh and then probably shoot you in the head for good measure. These aren’t a rag tag of misfits united by a common goal but are ultimately decent people like Guardians of the Galaxy and they never will be despite DC needing something a little lighter in their cast of characters. I think that keeping these characters true to their purpose would have been fine, but WB and DC needed a win, not another swing and a miss following Batman vs. Superman.
So, the directors and producers freaked out after Batman vs. Superman and decided to re-shoot massive sections of the movie and it shows. Oh man, did it show… Part of the movie was kind of a silly/serious music video montage of bad guys. The other half was dark fight scenes with supposedly heavy moments. I liked the music video feel. I thought that was done well, was visually interesting, and a great way for someone who isn’t familiar with random minor villains in the DC Universe to get caught up. But the hodgepodge of movie styles had the whole experience falling apart at the seams and suddenly the whole reason the Suicide Squad exists is because the person putting the team together lost control of one of her recruits. Oops?
But all of that, all of it, is beside the point with how the films director used these DC characters. Throwing in random people into the Suicide Squad to blow them up and show “hey, we’re serious about the whole ‘obey us’ thing.” Which I get but it was done so laughably bad that it was just a waste of a moment. The Suicide Squad in the comics frequently have people dying, no one is safe. There is an inherent tension in that. The guys you love to hate may not make it because they are bad guys and if something goes wrong they won’t be missed (theoretically). These are loners, selfish, distrustful villains forced to work together for a cause they don’t believe in. Shit’s going to hit the fan. Except this group became all buddy buddy three seconds into meeting? Bullshit. Great, you have a common enemy. But where is the infighting for how to go about overthrowing these overlords? The jockeying for alpha dog status? Glaringly absent this time around, I’ll tell you that.
Then there was Joker and Harley Quinn. Some of the most anticipated characters in this movie were the ones that hurt me the most. Jared Leto’s Joker was the worst Joker I’ve ever seen. He turned this twisted, evil genius who delights in mentally tormenting his foes as much as physically abusing them into a two bit pimp? Gangster? I don’t know, he had the gold chains and ran a strip club and that is so not Joker. That’s more Penguin or Two Face’s shtick, not the Joker who delights in mayhem and attracts a similar following. Joker is a guy who can still throw Gotham into chaos while behind bars in Arkham. Jared Leto’s Joker was not that. Jared Leto is a phenomenal actor in the right role, his interpretation of the Joker was nowhere near his finest work and makes me yearn for Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger’s Joker all the more. Those guys got him 100% right.
Everyone was also very upset about the Joker and Harley’s relationship but because of how abusive it was. Well, that was one of the few “comic book” factual things to the movie. Harley and Joker’s relationship is insanely abusive. When Harley was treating Joker as a patient, she thought she was curing him. Instead, because he’s an evil genius, he was driving Harley to madness where her only salvation was the Joker’s love. Except Harley is always a pawn to the Joker. Always expendable and usually is. He’ll leave her to make a quick getaway if he needs to and maybe he’ll come back for her later, maybe. Harley loves Joker 1000x more than the Joker cares for Harley. That’s how it’s always been.
EXCEPT this film positioned it as Harley fell in love with the Joker while she was still his doctor. Just a silly girl with a crush. Then Joker turns her and he somehow gets as addicted to her as she is to him? Nope, just nope. Harley is a brilliant woman, a legitimate doctor. And they stripe that away (literally) to where she’s a 50’s-esque mobster’s girlfriend who has an aversion to pants. Harley is sexy and uses that sexuality when it suits her. But she’s not a doll whose sole purpose is to be eye candy. They got close once in this throwaway line where Harley psycho-analyzes Deadshot, that’s the Harley she needed to be the whole time. Batshit crazy sure, but smart and brilliant. Someone who delights in the chaos and madness thrust on her but who uses the skills she once had to get people to do the Joker’s bidding. It’s what makes her valuable to Joker and she knows that and Harley ALWAYS wants to be needed by her abusive creator.
The rest of the characters… there were too many of them to feel like any were given the kind of air time they needed outside of Harley, Deadshot, and Commander Flag. I liked Diablo. His character and “redemption” story was interesting but ultimately wasted in a movie that didn’t care about this character as much as they did ensuring Harely’s ass was always on screen. I thought Commander Flag and Deadshot’s banter was good though, it felt true to their characters. A trained soldier not getting along with a paid mercenary? Natural. Them finding out they aren’t 100% so different and having a very uneasy, and dare I say, respectful, relationship at the end? I can buy that.
The rest? The other characters and how DC allowed the director to butcher them with "creative license" and the suffocating desire to have a lighter hearted movie? I’m sorry, no thanks. Suicide Squad could have been extremely interesting and amazingly good. The content for it is there. They just need a better director. One who understands the source material and respects it while putting a modern lens on it. That never happened which is ultimately WB and DC’s failing, not Suicide Squads.
I’d like a do over, please and thank you.