By Vincent Abbatecola
In 2013, DC Comics began their extended universe with director Zack Snyder’s “Man of Steel.” While it was a somewhat fun return of Superman, it ultimately suffered from being a style-over-substance film with overblown CGI.
Then, back in March, we got the second installment of the DCEU movies with “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” which was also directed by Snyder. This one had even more problems than “Man of Steel”; besides the barrage of CGI, it suffered from an unfocused screenplay, an anticlimactic ending, and Jesse Eisenberg’s cringeworthy portrayal of the villainous Lex Luthor (the less said about his performance, the better).
After those two films failed to live up to their potential, the DCEU needed something to get them back on track, and director David Ayer’s “Suicide Squad” looked like it would be the offbeat genre-twister that could pull it off. Unfortunately, despite some decent action and a few standout performances from its large ensemble cast, this is another DCEU film that did not reach the heights to which it should have.
After the events of “Batman v Superman,” intelligence operative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) decides to bring together a team of criminals she believes the government can use as disposable assets for dangerous missions, in exchange for reduced prison sentences. This team includes the crazy Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), hit man Deadshot (Will Smith), pyro-kinetic El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), expert thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), beastly Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and mercenary Slipknot (Adam Beach). When an ancient evil emerges, the criminals are put under the command of Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and are thrown into action to take care of the new threat.
Margot Robbie offers a very entertaining portrayal of Harley Quinn. She looks as though she’s having a blast with the role, bringing humor, a touch of derangement, and deadly charm to a character who easily steals the movie whenever she’s on screen. Robbie doesn’t go too cartoony with the role, but instead imbues just the right amount of fiendish, devil-may-care attitude without hogging the attention from her co-stars.
With his magnetic performance as The Joker, Jared Leto joins the ranks of Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger for actors who have successfully brought their own distinct interpretations of the character to the big screen. In what only amounts to probably 10 minutes of screen time, Leto certainly makes a lasting impression, as he shows full commitment to the part of a disturbed, smooth-talking maniac. Actually, the scenes between Leto and Robbie had me wishing for a Joker-Harley Quinn movie instead of the film we were given, seeing as these two characters are really the only other interesting ones in the story, besides Amanda Waller.
Viola Davis excels in a role that’s pretty different from what we’ve seen her do before. Her character is an interesting mix of someone who believes in the good she’s doing, but will do whatever she can to get what she wants. With a don’t-mess-with-me attitude and steel will to make sure she meets her accomplishments, this is definitely a character who deserves to be seen more of in future sequels, especially with an actress as talented as Davis playing the part.
Will Smith offers a fairly comedic performance as Deadshot, although his wisecracks are rather hit-or-miss.
The screenplay by Ayer has some difficulty in juggling all of the characters, as some are given considerable focus, while others are barely developed. We are given introductory scenes for each of the squad members in the beginning of the film, but then it mainly becomes Harley Quinn and Deadshot’s movie as the rest of the characters provide little impact with a couple of quips and/or hokey backstories.
Speaking of some characters not getting appropriate arcs, the main antagonist is the worst offender. Seeing as the film follows a team of bad guys, I was curious to see how they would go up against their own villain (about whom I will not go into detail, for fear of spoilers) that is more dangerous than they are. Sadly, the story offers an antagonist that’s as one-dimensional and forgettable as they come.
Considering how this film is a very unconventional superhero film, it’s a shame the story is fairly generic. You won’t be blamed for forgetting bits of the plot as the film goes on, because it comes to the point where you want to arrive at the next fight scene to get some excitement from the film.
Just as “Deadpool” proved earlier in the year, R-rated comic-book movies can be hits, both critically and commercially. I’m not saying a comic-book movie has to have that rating to be successful, but for a superhero film such as this (which was given a PG-13 rating), you have characters who are practically begging to break out and do outrageous things. It seems like a missed opportunity, one that I hope the filmmakers will take a chance on for the sequel; but we all know the studio probably won’t let that happen.
Even with some questionable CGI, Ayer handles the action sequences well enough. Although these scenes could have been a little more imaginative in their execution, they still bring some thrills that are missing from the rest of the story, making these scenes more fitting for a better film.
The next movie in the DCEU is director Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman,” which is set to be released in June 2017. After three films that could have been a lot better than they were, it would be tremendous if this turned out to be great, especially since this will be the first female-led comic-book film since 2005’s “Elektra” (I apologize for bringing up memories of that film).
While “Suicide Squad” is a small step up from “Batman v Superman,” the DCEU has some work to do to recover from its first three films. These villains may have done some good this time around, but DC needs to do better.
Final Grade: C