What Happened with Suicide Squad?

By Daniel Fox | @danielfox85

I’m writing this about 20 minutes after the final credits rolled on my viewing of David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, the Warner Brothers and DC Comics summer tent-pole centered around a group of villains who are coerced to work together for the benefit of the government.  I needed to write this as soon as I could, because to put it frankly, I’m pissed.  I’m really pissed.  If I was a cartoon character, my face would be tomato red with steam coming out of my ears.  Suicide Squad might be the biggest mess of a movie that I’ve ever seen, a poorly constructed film from top to bottom.  There isn’t one aspect of this movie that I couldn’t criticize.  I think I’m so upset because the potential for this film was sky high.  You’re getting Harley Quinn on-screen for the first time ever, a Jared Leto version of The Joker, David Ayer writing and fresh off directing two great films in End of Watch and Fury, and Will Smith seemingly accepting an ensemble role.  Those aspects combined with really great trailers set my expectations high.  After reading the overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics I went in with lowered but reasonable expectations, solely thinking that this was another critical attack on a DC Comics movie and that it couldn’t really be that bad.

Throughout the film, characters ridicule one another for their lack of guts or heart, often referring to each other with certain profanity centered around the male/female anatomy.  It’s ironic because I feel like that derision should’ve been pointed at the movie as a whole, because this movie had no heart, no guts, and no soul.  It feels as if the people at Warner Brothers had a really good idea (and it really is a good idea) and ended up rushing along a product without ever really giving it time to develop.  The result is a plotless mess, poor character development, and zero emotional connection.  When you’re playing around with the antihero trope in comic book films, the movie is no good unless the audience can find some redemptive quality for the antihero.  We need a reason to root for them, to believe that in their heart they want to do the right thing.  Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool do this very successfully; the former through the characters’ search for friendship and acceptance, the latter through the title character’s drive to do anything to get back to the woman he loves.  Suicide Squad knows it must do this, otherwise we are just watching bad people doing evil things and that’s not what comic book films are about.  Its main problem is it simply fails at this miserably, and when it finds even a little spark of an emotional connection it comes almost 90 minutes into the two-hour film.  Hey Deadshot, you really want to be a positive influence in your daughter’s life?  Maybe give up that whole killing people for money thing and be a dad.  Harley Quinn, you really want love?  Maybe falling for the psycho clown isn’t the best choice.  Hey Rick Flag, if you love your girl so much, maybe convince her not to turn into an uncontrollable witch. What the hell did Captain Boomerang or Killer Croc even bring to the table?  I think we saw Katana cry for her lost husband for about two seconds, that was nice.

 Photo Credit: suicidesquad.com

Photo Credit: suicidesquad.com

The only redemption, if found, is in a nice five-minute scene at the beginning of the final act when all the characters take a break to enjoy a quick drink in the bar.  Through this we finally get some nice and real conversation between characters, and I felt a tiny little tug on my heart strings.  Easily the best part of the film is Jay Hernandez’s character arc for El Diablo.  When he tells the story of how he caused his own family’s demise because of this ability he was born with was pretty moving.  You really felt bad for him, and the CGI effect of the dancing flame was pretty awesome.  You finally understand his pacifistic stands throughout the first couple acts of the film, but by the time we finally get that connection it’s way too late.

Really quick thought on Jared Leto’s take on The Joker.  I want to cut him some slack because coming after Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning turn was almost an impossible task.  Also, he’s barely in the movie; if you have seen the trailers then you’ve pretty much seen all of his scenes.  His take was definitely more of the psycho serial killer Joker, which hasn’t really been done before on-screen.  So, all in all, I think I would definitely be interested in a Batman movie starring Affleck, Leto, and Robbie if they could get the right script and director.

So what could have been done differently?  Get rid of the entire second act, it was absolutely useless.  Change the main villain to the Joker and get rid of Enchantress completely, as that creates conflict with Harley Quinn having to choose between her life and her love.  Move the bar scene to the first hour instead of the second hour.  Those are just some of the choices that could’ve possibly salvaged this trash of a movie.  For now, it’s safe to say that Suicide Squad is a complete failure.  However, given that the film just smashed the August box office record despite horrible reviews, we should be getting a sequel in 3-4 years.  Hopefully that sequel can take the quality concept behind Suicide Squad and make something amazing.