The tagline for DC’s newest roll-out is “Worst. Heroes. Ever.” It should have been “Wasted. Talent. Everywhere.”
It seemed like a film all but guaranteed to succeed, despite the critic lashing at Batman v Superman. The trailers were excellent, full of fun, comedy, outrageously flippant action violence, and big names that could hardly fail. Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Will Smith, Margot Robbie, and Cara Delivingne are all trusted names, considered by many to be some of the best in the business. But from the film’s opening moments, it’s obvious that something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.
The film offers hardly any introduction before we launch right into the dinner scene so heavily featured in the trailers. This starts a segment that feels about a half-hour long that is seriously nothing but drawn out introductory montages. These include drawn-out backstories, enough stylized typography editing to go into a Borderlands game, and Batman cameos that, shoehorned as they are, are really the best part of the movie.
That is the tone of the film, right there. Forced and unnecessary backstory, a cast overcrowded to the extreme, and no sense of real story other than the fact that hey, there’s this team.
Deadshot is a perfect example, despite being the best character-actor combination in the film. Will Smith is well-suited to the role and puts as much emotion as he can into the role. But they give his entire backstory, daughter, Batman, arrest, everything, before the visit to the cell even happens. There’s nothing left to reveal, nothing to peel back. And even as Smith’s character tries to establish himself as the leader of this team, there’s nothing he can do to make us care about him, because there’s really nothing more to his character than a bad guy assassin who has a daughter.
The same goes for the other characters. Harley Quinn’s entire backstory is revealed before the team forms, and adds a couple of forced references and flashbacks throughout the film, as well. Margot Robbie is an excellent Harley Quinn – idiotic, annoying, lovable, fearless, and over-friendly, but there’s not a thing she can do to save this film from its one-dimensional caricatures across the board. Choosing to neglect the part that the character could play in issuing a warning about abusive relationships, she’s occasionally funny and mostly sensual eye candy (though this aspect has been overstated by some reviewers). Even what part she does play is at times overshadowed by the Joker, which is impressive considering he’s hardly in this movie at all. In fact, while there’s nothing really wrong with his performance, his part is so forgettable (as a writing issue, not an acting issue) that you could take him out of this movie entirely and the film would probably have been better for it.
The team is finally brought together and activated when Enchantress manages to trick her host and get free enough to let unleash her evil alien/god brother and wreak havoc on the city. In no time the city is deserted like a Call of Duty: Zombie Mode mission and she stands aloof with stuff floating above her “building her machine” that’ll do who knows what because who knows why and her nameless brother shows up every so often to remind people that there’s actually supposed to be a villain in this movie somewhere. Not only are the characters one-dimensional, the actual threat is never explained, the villain is weak and empty, and the plot struggling to find a reason it still exists.
So then, all that’s left is for the film to be fun. Is it fun? Yes–at times. But not nearly fun enough to overcome its faults. Will Smith us undoubtedly the best part of this movie, and the banter between him and Margot’s Harley is a blast (in fact, they may be the only two characters in the movie who have truly good chemistry). Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang works well as comic relief, although he is extreme bizarre, bordering on slapstick. But it’s still extremely predictable, with little more action than fighting off nameless CGI baddies (remember: villain standing beneath swirling stuff making who knows what because who knows why) that, after a while, is about as interesting as watching someone else play Halo on one-player mode.
But there’s an even more disappointing aspect of the film. The great thing about the Suicide Squad property (and something that CW’s Arrow completely nailed) is that the villain of the series isn’t actually the bad guy. It’s Amanda Waller. It becomes a story about how the ones who pretend to be the good guys are actually bad, and how sometimes even the villains can decide to change. More than anything else, Suicide Squad should have been about Deadshot having a redemption story and standing up to the corruption of Waller.
This all falls completely flat. Waller is bad, sure, but that’s just another facet of a one-dimensional character dropped in the bucket. It’s sad that the film wastes a talent like Viola Davis, but again, there’s no reveal. The moment that should have been her most diabolical act of villainry (which is witnessed by Deadshot) is just another “yeah, she does bad stuff” moment. And because of that passed opportunity, there is no true redemption story, no real ethical dilemma, and no truly lasting character development. Any moral redeeming quality that could have been in this film is tossed by the wayside.
Aside from a few chuckle-worthy moments, there’s little to like in this film. Despite having several talented actors to its credit, it’s mostly a train wreck of mediocrity and wasted talent.