DCEU Film Retrospective: Suicide Squad (2016) by David Ayer

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  • Directed by: David Ayer
  • Starring:
    • Margot Robbie as Harleen Quinzell | Harley Quinn
    • Will Smith as Floyd Lawton | Deadshot
    • Viola Davis as Amanda Waller
    • Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag
    • Jay Hernandez as Chato Santana | El Diablo
    • Cara Delevigne as June Moon | Enchantress
    • Jared Leto as James Franco in Springbreakers The Joker

Synopsis: Amanda Waller, concerned about the existence of evil superhumans, puts together a team of criminals to take on future threats. She intends to have Captain Rick Flag lead a team made up of Deadshot, Harley Quinn, El Diablo, Killer Croc, Captain Boomerang (hahahahahha), Slipknot (irrelevant), and Enchantress. Something inevitably goes wrong and Waller calls in the gang to stop the next Big Bad.

The Good: (hey, I can hear you snickering. Yes, there were actually a few good things about this film)

  • Harley Quinn – yes, I know, this is the thing most everyone agrees on. Margot Robbie was fantastic as Harley Quinn. She did the accent well, she had great comedic timing and her enthusiasm was palpable. I enjoyed her in every scene she was in which is saying something because I didn’t enjoy every scene she was in. Even in my skepticism at letting David Ayer control the Gotham City Sirens movie, I am super excited to see Harley again!
  • Will Smith – arguably the only actor aside from Margot Robbie to come out of this with some praise. (Viola was Viola but she had maybe 5 minutes in this film?). Deadshot was fantastic! While the writers reached into the cliche well for his motivation (“My baby girl. I gotta get back to my baby girl, etc”), it’s Will Smith and it was compelling. I enjoyed his introduction the most of out anyone’s and I wish the film had structured itself around him as a protagonist. More on that in a moment. He had some great comedic timing and surprisingly great chemistry with both Harley and Flag. I want more of this character.
  • Amanda Waller – Viola was fantastic and frightening as hell, as Amanda Waller. Her performance was on point the entire time and I sincerely hope we see her in more films.

Okay, that’s literally all I could come up with.

The Bad:

  • James Franco from Spring Breakers
    •  
    • Jared Leto’s Joker was a basically just a tattooed gangster with green hair. Some will say there was nothing he could have done because most would compare him to the brilliance that was the late, great, Heath Ledger’s performance. In some regard, that is true but I will say this, there have been Joker performances that have been praised since 2008. Of course, they’re animated but it’s worth noting that, even with the shit show that was The Killing Joke’s animated adaptation, Mark Hamill’s performance was highly regarded. Jared’s Joker purred, growled and laughed himself silly in a circle of baby clothes, Mac laptops and knives. He adopted a strange, 50’s Hollywood voice when speaking to Harley Quinn and at no point did I find him frightening. Perhaps the worst aspect of his performance was due to my next point:
  • The Romanticization of Harley/Joker  – Look, I get it. Hot Topic hit the goldmine with these two when they realized that several people have no clue what this couple is to each other in the comics. It’s similar to the way we’ve learned to view characters over time: there’s a male version and a female version so of course they belong together. Bugs and Lola Bunny; Hawkman and Hawkgirl; Donald and Daisy Ducky; Mickey and Minnie Mouse. This pattern has lead to some hilariously uncomfortable assumptions about comic book characters when people make stupid comments like “She-hulk was invented so Hulk could have someone to bone” or they do couple’s costumes as Batman and Batwoman. I understand how someone who doesn’t read comics could think this relationship was #goals. It’s the director’s and the writers’ jobs to make sure that the audience knows Harley/Joker are nothing to be admired.
    • The Joker is abusive towards Harley Quinn both in the animated cartoon and the comics. He frequently leads her into dangerous situations and ditches her there. He sends her explosives in the post. He repeatedly tries to kill her and that’s just the physical abuse. He frequently calls her stupid and worthless and it’s not at all a healthy relationship. Harley hovers between being in love with him and trying to kill him to save herself. So, why does this film ignore that?
    • Buried on the Blu Ray are some deleted scenes where the Joker is more blatantly abusive towards Harley. Such as the scene where he slaps her and she threatens to shoot him. It’s easy to see how the film was reworked to make their relationship seem more loving. There were rumors that the first drafts of the film had the Joker pushing Harley out of his plane before it was shot down. I’m pretty sure the prison breakout was added after the rewrites.
    • Had they had the guts to portray this relationship accurately, we would have gotten to see a female comic book character deal with an abusive relationship and eventually decide to leave her abuser. Instead, we get a romanticized, jumbled, mess that Hot Topic is exploiting on all of their merch. “Mad Love” should not be #goals.
  • The Enchantress – She was a shit villain. When she wasn’t pop and locking, she was giving strange line deliveries. The scene with her breaking her brother out of his bottle went on way too long and their goals were kind of muddled. They want to destroy mankind for imprisoning them. So, their plan is to create bubble men and take down the cities to distract them so they could regain all of their power. I think? I’m a little unsure. I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to the paragraphs of subtitles.
  • “You made one mistake. You messed with my friends.” – One of my biggest pet peeves is movies telling, rather than showing, that characters are friends. Avengers: Age of Ultron did it and so did Suicide Squad. This whole film seems to take place in like three days and yet at the penultimate scene of the Skwad v. Enchantress, Harley’s calling them friends? Diablo’s calling them family? Since when? You just met? Diablo even sacrifices himself for these people? Why? It made no sense and it certainly wasn’t earned.
  • Poorly used POC – The press and lots of Twitter fans promoted this as a diverse film. It would be the first comic book movie in a long time to star people of color and have a female character in a lead role. Before this, we had Blade and, after quite some time, we got the disaster that was Catwoman. We haven’t had a black lead since then. For female comic book films, we had the disastrous Supergirl starring Faye Dunaway in 1984, Catwoman, and Elektra (yikes) before this year’s (long overdue) success in Wonder Woman. A film with this many actors of color should have been refreshing. It wasn’t.
    • Katana, played by the lovely Karen Fukuhara, was given about two lines. Her backstory is one of the few that’s told to us instead of shown in a flashback. She comes to serve Flag and doesn’t seem to have her own motivations. A disappointment because not only was this a waste of an actress, Katana has, arguably, the most interesting backstory.
    • Killer Croc, played by the brilliant Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, has more lines but isn’t utilized much. He is the second member of the Skwad with supernatural abilities yet he’s only used for swimming and eating these goo people. Wasted opportunity.
    • Slipknot, played by Adam Beach, was insulting. I know, we needed an example of how Waller’s control devices worked but why use them on Slipknot who’s introduced moments before he’s killed. Why kill him off and not the most useless member of the Skwad:
  • Captain Boomerang – I will never understand the purpose of this character. I appreciated Ezra’s Flash cameo but Captain Boomerang is a waste of space. Why we gave him more lines and screentime over Katana, I will never know. He’s just bloody annoying and, as evidenced in the third act, he’s useless without his toys. He just stabs things. You could have replaced him with any number of actual soldiers.
  • Too Many Cooks – This movie fails because they tried to tell like 3 different stories at once. Had they just picked one character and centered the film around them, say Deadshot, it would have been 10x better.
    • Start the story with Deadshot’s interaction with Batman. He goes to Belle Reve and Amanda Waller pulls him into the team. He meets Flag, they clash but come to a mutual understanding, all the while Flag’s keeping his daughter’s letters. Deadshot is more integral in recruiting the others and the plot is taking down Enchantress from the get go. There, a less cluttered, mess of a film and we have the most compelling character as the lead.

Is it a recommend?

This is tough but… no? I mean, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is fantastic and assuming she has a fairly big role in Gotham City Sirens and that movie isn’t a misogynistic mess, I would recommend just checking that film out and leaving this one alone. Even Will Smith’s best isn’t enough for me to recommend suffering Jared Leto climbing into a guys lap and purring at them.

Score: 6.5/10

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