Starring: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Cara Delevingne, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Joel Kinnaman
Written By: David Ayer, Based not he Comic Book by John Ostrander
Directed By: David Ayer
Original Year of Release: 2016
Run Time: 2:10
Sometimes a movie comes along and I find myself torn between critic and fanboy. This looks to be what will come with DC Comics and Warner Brothers’ superhero releases. The critic within places a wall up and stands firm upon it saying, “forget all you know about these characters, these films stand on their own”. That’s a really hard thing to do when you know the backstory to so many of DC’s characters. The fanboy stands there screaming with joy that the likes of Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, and Killer Croc are in a movie. These two sides of my brain also struggled with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Thankfully, the writer within, who simply loves a good story, trumps them both. This brings us to the Suicide Squad.
This is a huge gamble for DC Comics placing B and C list characters in their own film. On a grander scale, it is a huge gamble for superhero movies in general. This film is the first of its kind for the genre, a live-action film featuring villains as the main characters. Many of these characters have yet to even grace the silver screen. So introductions need to be made. An immediate overlap and exposition come from two of the main characters, Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). We are given an overabundance of who they are. Granted, they are the stars of the movie, but I felt as if I got all I needed from their second introduction, the first was pointless. This additional time may have been better spent flushing out some of the smaller and lesser-known characters in the film. In not doing this, it reveals to the audience who is going to stick around and who will die an early death. It also doesn’t help that one’s star power also indicates his/her level of significance.
The tale for Suicide Squad wraps itself around the events of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. What if the alien being (Superman) turned out to a be bad guy instead of a hero? What do we do now that the hero who triumphed the American way of life has fallen? Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) has the answer, Task Force X. In short, a supervillain "Dirty Dozen" with a roster of captured and controlled Metahumans. As it with villains, they have an agenda of their own and one gets away from Amanda Waller. The Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) turns on her captor and looks to end civilization as we know it. Task Force X is brought in to clean up the problem and again a montage of character skills, costumes, and backstory are played out before us.
Storywise, if you ignore the events of Batman v Superman, what we have here is solid. Therein lies the rub. This story relies on what has transpired in Batman v Superman to justify itself. Why was Task Force X created? Because Superman existed and then died. So when Deadshot says that they will be remembered for what they did on a biblical scale (saving the world) you have to wonder where the hell Batman and Wonder Woman are. The complete story of Task Force X, its follies, and the cleaning up of its own mess is easy to explain why Batman and Wonder Woman were not called in. Yet when we witness the devastation that The Enchantress and her brother bring to Midway City, you have to ask, where are the heroes (I guess they are off team building)? What is further perplexing is that the justification for Task Force X is, in being villains, they can just be blamed for what happened. Why then, in a post-credit scene, does Amanda Waller acknowledge Bruce Wayne’s (Ben Affleck) nighttime activities? Why not have a scene as to why he wasn’t’ involved with the saving of Midway City or why she did not call upon him and Wonder Woman? It feels logical to me if the world was going to end, to call in Batman and Wonder Woman, on top of sending in Task Force X. It would only make sense.
I know this is just a comic book movie. We are supposed to just be thrilled that our heroes, or in this case, villains, are up on the big screen. What we cannot forget, even in a movie with magic, a crocodile man, and a human flamethrower, is that there still has to be a logic to the story. What I kept coming back to is the question of why Harley Quinn was chosen for Task Force X. She is not a Metahuman, has no special abilities, possesses no military training, and is certifiably insane. All the other members of Task Force X possess one, if not two of these qualities. To serve a purpose for the story, she is to bring the Joker (Jared Leto) into the fray, but that’s it. Her own story adds to the insanity of the situation, relying on villains to save the day, but is still nothing more than an introduction of these two characters to DC’s cinematic universe. Then again, I am not so naïve as to not know she is the eye candy for fanboys and girls that have wanted a film with her in it for decades. Sure, she is was in the "Suicide Squad" comic, but aren’t we to ignore that, because this is its own thing, right? Hell, Hot Topic won't complain she is in it.
There are some great performances, despite the leaps in logic to how the story and characters were handled. First and foremost, Margot Robbie nails the character of Harley Quinn. Jared Leto shines as the Joker, who provides just enough subtle insanity and never goes too far in the character’s iconic craziness. There are two characters that I thought nothing of when they were introduced, Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney). Certainly, I thought these C-listers were lambs to slaughter. Refreshingly, Hernandez delivers the tortured soul of a villain who lives with the vile acts he has committed. It’s a stellar performance and one that he should get a lot of credit for, despite being unrecognizable. Courtney, on the other hand, chews through his scenes as Captain Boomerang with unparalleled delight. His screen time may be limited, but by the third act, you start to hope he will still be standing at the end.
I did enjoy this film far more than Batman v Superman (see theatrical review and director’s cut review). It was what it promised to be, a "Dirty Dozen" movie with comic book villains. As a fan of these types of films, do I have to give DC Comics and Warner Brothers another pass because now they are getting their house in order? How much longer can the fanboys and girls be blinded by their love of these characters and ignore simple things like logic and incoherent character arcs? I won’t be in it for much longer if the producers behind these films don’t adhere to the fundamental approaches to good storytelling. See, these films aren’t for the people who read comic books and go to comic cons. They are, in fact, for general audiences who go to the movies to be entertained. When they stop coming to the likes Man of Steel 2 and completely ignore characters like Cyborg, it is over. It’s not about comic book sales or fanboy and girl ticket sales anymore. It’s about longevity and producing good stories that bring people back time and time again. So far, DC Comics and Warner Brothers are walking a razor’s edge with the fans. Whether or not they are able to compete with Marvel and Disney may just reside with their next film, a film that Marvel hasn’t attempted yet: a female superhero who has her name in the title. The Suicide Squad does not help DC's cause.