By Harry O’Driscoll (Tunbridge Wells, Kent, UK)
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Suicide Squad is like that obnoxious kid in school who is so desperate to show everyone just how crazy he is. Batman vs Superman was a bad movie, but the good kind of bad. But Suicide Squad can’t even reach the dizzying heights of so bad its good.

I’m not going to go into the choppy editing or the hot mess of a narrative, if it even qualifies for the word. The whole movie could be summarized as: Some people each get a music video; they are then brought together to fight a thing; then they talk for a bit; then they fight it again.

What really irked me here is despite the relentless publicity about how hard-core, and crazy this film about a motley crew of villains is… just how tame it is. This is supposed to be a group of villains and yet at absolutely no point do any of them get a moment where we are not supposed to like them. We don’t even get any actual characters here.

A big problem with Zack Snyder is his inability to distinguish Character for Iconography. That’s why he fought the big fight in Batman vs Superman was iconic simply because it’s the two biggest superheroes. Not because they have an ideological reason to oppose each other or would even be evenly matched in such a conflict.

Well clearly he’s not the only one, the entire mentality here seems to be if you give someone a distinctive costume; a few demographically assembled “quirks” and a cliff-notes introduction to a song which teenagers will think is cool that will constitute as a character.

Will Smith plays a standard badass assassin whose one personality trait is he cares about his daughter. One character has a sword that can suck out people’s souls, but this is conveyed entirely through backstory, never once does she actually use the sword. There’s a guy called Boomerang who was caught by the Flash and that really is all I can say about him. There’s a big crocodile-like guy who shows up sometimes. There’s a redshirt who turns up for two minutes. Um… Who else?

Oh, there’s Diablo. Now he actually gets a bit of insight. We’re shown he once used his powers to burn his wife and kids. A moment which actually gets played as a tragic character beat, instead of a “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?”

People have raved about Harley Queen, and Margot Robbie certainly seems to have embodied the character as best she can. But like everyone else she is introduced through a series of musical cliff-notes (which admittedly look like a more interesting story than the rest of the film) that skip over any possible insight into her interiority or how she made that descent into madness. Compared to Selina Kyle’s mental breakdown in Batman Returns – frightening, sad, compelling and convincing all at once – it feels downright tepid.

And then there’s the Joker who is… better than Cesar Romero, I suppose. I mean we heard rumors of how intense Jared Leto’s method acting was, how he was running riot on his co-stars backstage. But what does the Joker actually do? Nothing really. If you took him out of the movie it would have changed nothing about the outcome as far as I can tell.

This is an emo teenager’s idea of what a psychotic villain acts like. Leto never intimidates, or dominates the screen in the way his predecessors do. Like so much else in the movie the Joker is such a poser, so concerned about trying to look cool. It’s adolescent and it’s embarrassing. The Joker is unmitigated, anarchic force of nature. The villain other villains’ are terrified of. Jared Leto tries too hard and it doesn’t come off.

It’s not even particularly good as simple action spectacle either. Zack Snyder’s grimy aesthetic is clearly the standard for the DCEU here. Everything looks dark and dirty to prove just how grown up and cool DC’s superhero movies are. The squad fight a rabble of faceless fodder because no superhero movies have ever done that before. Never once do we see Deadshot using his expert marksmanship; never once does Boomerang use any of his Boomerangs; never once is the soul stealing sword used. The action set pieces all just blur into a murky soup of CGI.

Actually there is someone I liked. Amanda Waller, an actual character among all these poser cosplayers. Unlike the squad she actually acts like a villain, she’s utterly ruthless and the end always justifies the means to her. You get the impression any member of the squad would just get caught in her teeth. While they are just murdering fodder no one cares about, Waller is cold enough to order her own colleagues to be killed.

But ultimately what lets Suicide Squad down is how limp it is. At the time I almost enjoyed it in an oh-well-this-is-passing-the-time-I-guess way. But once I left I find it almost impossible to remember anything. I don’t feel involved in any of the characters, or even that they really were characters. It’s not nearly as intense as, say, Batman Returns.

I’m inclined to say I’m simply bored with Superhero films at this point. But this here barely even constitutes as a story, we hardly even get anyone actually talking. I still don’t know what the villains plan was or how the squad stopped them. More importantly I don’t think I’m supposed to care about that.

If I may borrow a quote from Mark Kermode, it’s like watching Teletubbies bouncing around in a padded cell. Suicide Squad is trying so hard to be this edgy, insane movie and yet it tepidly falls into standard superhero beats. By the end their Diablo declares their family after having spent just a few hours together, which tells you everything you need to know here.

At least the song Heathens in the closing credits was good.

Rating: 1/5

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