Suicide Squad (2016)

Suicide_Squad_(film)_PosterWhen I first heard of this film and saw the trailer, I honestly had very low expectations, mainly because I didn’t like the lead actors, but also because I felt that, in the end, this would very much be another repetitive superhero film. I wasn’t necessarily wrong, but the film itself was definitely better than I might have thought. I ultimately decided to go and see it after it was maligned by mainstream critics (the very same who sung praises of last month’s terrible Ghostbusters remake), and though the film wasn’t necessarily great, it was a decently good comic book film, and my experience with it essentially proved that the critics, long the self-appointed judges of cinematic taste, no longer hold any weight.

Anyway, the film could be considered a “justice league” film for the bad guys, though that would be oversimplifying things a bit too much. The plot of the film revolves around a group of convicted criminals with special abilities who are recruited by the government for one mission – to eliminate a mysterious and enigmatic threat that is wreaking havoc on Midway City, and soon the rest of the world. If they succeed, they will receive lighter prison sentences, but if they fail, they will die and possibly be used as scapegoats.

Compared to most superhero films (certainly most DC superhero films), this film seems to be aiming for a less serious and more irreverent tone, and the characters certainly reflect that. However, the story is somewhat unfocused, and the film ultimately falls into line with the conventional superhero formula. While it is rather formulaic in its approach, it’s not without its charm, and there’s often a humorous touch in places you don’t expect. Personally, it’s the plot that concerns me, but rather the fact that they squeezed in a lot of characters, but without putting much thought into most of them. Many of them come across as filler characters, and that is particularly true of the characters who are introduced well after the first act.

Even if the story isn’t that good, the characters themselves are an interesting bunch. I’ll start by talking about Jared Leto, who I didn’t like very much before I saw this film. After the film, however, I’m convinced that Jared got the character just right. He captures the Joker as the deranged psycho that he ought to be, and he does such a good job at it that I’m disappointed with how little a role he has in the entire film, taking a backseat to an altogether more conventional and less convincing villain. Still, I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like if they had cast Marilyn Manson instead? Nonetheless, if Jared Leto gets his way and we get a standalone Joker film, I’d go and see it.

Another standout character is Harley Quinn, a character who benefited greatly from the liveliness that Margot Robbie injected into the character. Most of the time, she’s a delightfully quirky character, and her performance is pretty much the highlight of the movie. I’d say she’s done a great job at reinventing the character, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Will Smith’s character. I’m quite surprised at how far removed he is from the boorish urban caricature he played in the 1990’s, because as Deadshot, he plays an earnest antihero – a multi-faceted character with hopes, dreams and weaknesses that make him more human than the rest of them. Sure, he sometimes comes across as a typical Will Smith character, but at least here, he can pull more than his own weight.

The main problem I see is that a lot of the humour is forced, and only occasionally works. I’m aware that they changed Suicide Squad to be more humorous in response to the critics who thought Batman v. Superman was too serious, but they didn’t put much thought into it, and so the jokes and up ruining the serious parts. Another problem is the lack of detail a number of the characters get. Killer Croc, for example, is a completely ancillary character who only gets a few lines in the entire film, and it seems like they put him in for the sake of it.

I can only assume that the vast majority of the film’s $175 million budget went into special effects, because this film has it in spades. From the opening to the credits, the film basically bombards you with pastel colours and special effects that, I admit make the film look quite nice, but in all honesty, I think they used way too much special effects, to the point of it being overkill, and since the action scenes are injected with as much CGI as possible, it sort of translates into yet another bombastic CGI-fest. It doesn’t help that a lot of the music consists of popular songs that don’t seem to fit well into the film, and sometimes are just there because they’re loud and because the producers thought it represented the attitude of the characters.

Suicide Squad certainly has its flaws, but it’s certainly not as bad as the critics will have you believe, though neither is it as good as its fans think it is. It doesn’t completely live up to the way it was advertised, and I’m disappointed by certain choices the writers and producers made, but in the end, it was decently enjoyable film, and the ending at least hints that there may be more yet to come. Let’s just hope that the inevitable sequel is even better than this.

  • Score: 66%
  • Grade: C
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