So, I have now had 10 glorious hours to sleep and reflect on last night’s pre-screening of the new DC Comics film, Suicide Squad.
I will try not to post any spoilers (but there will be a couple, so be warned), but rather give you my impressions about aspects of the film. I will be seeing it a second time on Thursday night, and I’ll see if these thoughts hold up.
First, and let me get this out-of-the-way right now, it didn’t suck. More importantly, I liked it better than I liked Batman V Superman (but we all know how I feel about BvS by now, right?).
As I noted in my post back on April 2, about the reported re-shoots, it was imperative to the success of the film to see whether “…Will Smith can sublimate his Will Smith-ness into this ensemble instead of needing to be front and center; and how fans will accept the Jared Leto version of the Joker, along with Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn.”
How did the film do in those areas?
Yes, yes, and yes.
Yes, Will Smith was effective as the most relatable of the Suicide Squad members, although I think David Ayer made his Floyd Lawton/Deadshot a little more prominent than was necessary. So, through no fault of his own, Smith occupies more screen time than any character apart from Harley Quinn.
Jared Leto’s Joker? An interesting take. It is, however, more than a bit helpful that his Joker occupies so little actual time in the movie, so his character is more digestible than it might be if he was an actual main character instead of a side-story for Harley Quinn. More Tony Montana than Jack Nicholson, the Joker (and Harley Quinn) occupy the most bright and colorful set of flashbacks of any character. Not quite as neon as Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever, but still a jarring contrast to the tone of the rest of the film, which is only fair, I suppose, given that Harley Quinn and Joker are both bat-shit (pardon the pun) crazies. But they are also bat-shit crazy in love with one another. That is never in doubt. Harley never feels like a pawn of the Joker’s, but more a true partner.
Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is a fun character. It looks like she just decided to go “full nut-job” and enjoy what she was doing, instead of obsessing over possible fanboy nit-picking. To be fair, DC decided to really sex the character up, as opposed to the classic Harley Quinn costume (which we get a glimpse of in flashback), which will likely assuage a lot of the criticism about her performance.
Sadly, the other members of the squad are basically forgettable. Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc, Katana (although she’s a “good-guy,” not a bad-guy), Diablo (perhaps the only true “good-guy” on the bad-guy squad, who desperately wants to atone for his past crimes, not only against society, but against himself) and Slipknot (the meta-human who can climb anything).
What, you don’t remember Slipknot from the trailers? I didn’t either. There’s a reason for that.
But, yes, those members seem to exist solely as filler.
Let’s not forget Enchantress, once captive and controlled like the others, who drives the entire movie with her machinations and evil plans against her chief antagonist, Amanda Waller, and thus the entire world.
Big stakes. Maybe too big. There is never any doubt that this rag-tag group of villains will do the “right thing” and save the world. It’s the world. They live here, too. So we don’t get a slow growth of grudging respect for one another, or dare I say respect and friendship, between the members. Rather, we get a nice bar scene (don’t expect the trailer version: it’s been edited) that really only serves as a stand-in for that growth period as a means to getting the Suicide Squad to the “big boss” portion of the film together.
Maybe had there been a smaller threat, or even a series of really small threats to see them working together and building that relationship…
There were a few times where the story kind of lost its way, probably as a result of the re-writes and re-shoots; I believe the phrase I heard used and think is appropriate is “stapled together.” It’s there, but it’s fragile. With a two-hour running time, they might have use a couple extra minutes to reinforce a couple transitory areas, especially if they dropped the opening scene(s) of Deadshot and Harley Quinn and instead opened with Viola Davis’ excellent introductory voice-over about how the world has arrived at the need for “Task Force X” and then proceeded with the character introductions.
Overall, Suicide Squad is a fun movie, and I’ll recommend it. It is definitely a departure from the Dark Knight universe, even though they occupy the same dimension. It feels different because it is different.
Right now, that’s something the DC movie universe desperately needs.