As movies based on comics continue to take over the world, those holding the purse strings obviously to capitalize as quickly and completely as possible. This means that we’re going to get some “expansion” titles (like Guardians of the Galaxy) that feature characters that aren’t as well known to the masses.
This leads to a lot of problems when it comes to working through the plot and characters, and Suicide Squad gets almost every decision wrong.
The film builds its own theory at you, while trying to simultaneously exist as that theory, with elusive, government pawn manipulator Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) sharing notes on the criminals she wants to have on hand in case the next Superman isn’t so friendly. This plays out as a 15-minute highlight reel that gives us our characters.
Deadshot (Will Smith) was taken down by Batman, and though he’s a morally dead hitman who seems actually incapable of missing a shot with any gun, he is at a stage of life that leaves him slightly torn, because his daughter is old enough to realize that when everyone says bad things about your dad, it’s hard to figure they’re all wrong.
Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is the ex-psychologist who fell for The Joker’s madness, then adopted it, and despite the fact that the film details no “powers” of any kind, her connection to The Joker means she needs to be around to complete the plot moves. She’s also far and away the best thing about the film.
There are other characters in the film, but it hardly matters, and the film itself can hardly be bothered to convince you to remember them. Killer Croc is easy enough to pick out of a line-up, and we eventually need something to happen underwater, so we maintain some point to his being there, but we get nothing of him as a character. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) manages to keep your attention as the special forces hero who was manipulated into controlling Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), a spirit/witch who possesses the archaeologist who wandered into the wrong ruin. Boomerang (Jai Courtney) is a guy with a boomerang, and the movie was only partially convinced to bother telling you that, and Diablo (Jay Hernandez) throws around fire, but isn’t interested in doing it anymore.
The film lays out the idea of putting together a squad of criminals who can be controlled, and though the ideas of controlling them are somewhat complex, at least in some cases, it actually just comes down to implanting a bomb in their neck.
Things don’t exactly stabilize the way we would like, and Enchantress is soon off the leash, and recruits her brother to boot. They seem unstoppable, and are out to destroy/take over the world, and we’re off to the races.
The film, in almost every way, is a strange move for writer/director David Ayer, who is best known as writer and/or director of Training Day, End of Watch, and Fury. It’s so far from his abilities and sensibilities that it has to make you wonder how much control he really had. It isn’t simply that the plot is oddly spelled out at the beginning, and then plods languidly along toward the obvious resolution of that plot, but the film more importantly has no characters in it at all, except Harley Quinn. That just isn’t like Ayer, or any of his movies. Even The Fast and the Furious, while not among Best Picture or Best Screenplay hopefuls, had characters that could pull you into the story, and managed to develop beyond a two-sentence “excuse” for their general attitude.
There are a few minutes of fun action, but it’s a slow death getting to it, and when a film like this screams of no descriptor more than “boring,” everything has gone wrong.
The only save to the film is Margot Robbie, whose effort as Harley Quinn is as good as Jared Leto‘s Joker is laughably bad. Where Leto pushes cartoon lunacy, as though he were voicing The Joker’s guest spot on Scooby Doo, Robbie pushes, and against her shackles here, to find a person who could end up as this character, and even though the film has little interest in delivering that character, Robbie does.
The worst comic films we’ve seen in the last few years have largely been at least efforts at pushing fun and adventure. This one stands out as seeming to be an effort by those who aren’t even fond of the genre.