Walking out of David Ayer’s Suicide Squad left such a bitter taste in the mouth, the taste that I was not hoping for in the slightest. I can certainly say without any hesitation that Suicide Squad is indeed better than Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, but since most things fall under that area, that’s not saying very much unfortunately. Excitement jumped up a bit more after a surprisingly positive reaction towards Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but it seems to be quite a lucky hit now that I come to think of it. I saw potential rising from the idea that David Ayer, a filmmaker with an extremely gritty style could bring a new turn for superhero films, but I don’t even know if I can say what I saw was close to being a David Ayer film. The tagline alone promised the “worst heroes ever” and maybe there was an extent to which it did live up.
Hints of promise came within the opening of the film, introducing the most prominent members of the titular Suicide Squad. It’s from their introductions I feel like the best traces of David Ayer’s style and how it could really be a much more interesting turn for superhero films to take are coming into play. Whether it comes to handling their origins and their backstories (Harley Quinn’s being the standout from the bunch), there’s always interest being formed. Yet given how long the film takes with setting up every last member of the squad, it is also killed off by their antics later on because there never seemed like they carried arcs as opposed to quirks right afterward (Katana in particular was a bother for she just pops into the movie and aside from a flashback, we never have real reason to care about her). And even then, this prologue also introduces some of the very biggest problems with Suicide Squad.
Visually, Suicide Squad is just plain hideous. Even in Harley Quinn’s introductory, which I found to be the most interesting of the bunch, had such an obnoxious visual cue from the way it’s edited once the Joker takes over her mind. It’s not nearly as bad as Man of Steel‘s colour palette, but when it gets in the way, that’s something else. I wouldn’t mind so much if the film had stayed consistently dark in terms of its tone, but I’m not even sure if there was a clear idea what the film even wanted to be because I only saw half of what could easily be a David Ayer movie with tone and the other half being something that was clearly catering to another demographic. With what it establishes, it’s a shame that Suicide Squad at its very best, cannot find a balance within itself – for it intercuts between extremely dark and lighthearted (sentimental to another degree) too frequently, a problem that comes in with how terribly edited it is.
Going now to the colour palette, it’s far too dark the moment in which the squad arrives at Midway City. This wouldn’t be so much of a bother, but during action sequences it obscures what is happening on the spot and almost reminded me of the overtly gloomy outlook placed over Man of Steel, though not nearly as bad. However, the bits of action that we can see end up working as a detriment for it all appears as generic as ever. It’s also a fault of how poorly shot the film was during said sequences, but what reason is there to care for these characters doing such and such beating up Enchantress’s minions, who are already so dull just from the way that they are designed? I would have expected more from David Ayer, considering how he has a great eye for grittiness and it could even have gone well for a PG-13, but it so clearly has failed rather terribly right here.
Now to speak of the cast, I can’t really say I hate most of them because for what they have, some of them are great and others are downright terrible. A standout if I had to pick one would be Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. Some viewers I know are to comment on the sexualizing in regards to how she appears as Harley Quinn, but even with all the gratuitous shots emphasizing her rear, that’s not what bothers me about this performance. What bothers me is that Margot Robbie, who’s magnificently talented, is simply reduced to throwing a punchline then and there, which does get rather old quite fast. It moreso seems to be the fault of poor writing, something that would have been clear since David Ayer had been rushed to write the script within six weeks. She, Viola Davis, and Jay Hernandez amongst the bunch were saving graces in what only came off as a lifeless bore of a superhero film.
Unfortunately, more problems arise when it comes to the antagonistic forces that define the film, pointing especially towards Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress and Jared Leto’s Joker. Leto, who was supposedly method acting in order to get this performance right off the bat, only succeeds in hamming up a menacing character within his short time on the screen. Considering how menacing some of his lines sounded, there was never a trace of subtlety to be found with his performance, which is saddening, but it’s not the worst that was offered. Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress takes that cake, for her own wooden delivery on the screen never seemed to match up with what could have been all the more frightening based on her appearance. There are points to which it even rubs off as awkward especially from the point to which she gets much stronger as she turns into the film’s primary antagonist. Most of the cast, even some of the more charismatic faces like Will Smith only come off as plain, but they were never awkward to watch, which is where the established antagonists end up failing at leaving the mark they were supposed to carry.
Of the many things I expected Suicide Squad to be, dull was not one of them, because that’s the very first word I can think of when describing such a film, it’s all just a dull mess from beginning to end. There was so much potential coming into this especially with the gritty tone that could easily have arisen from what David Ayer has made in the past, but suddenly, the catering ends up distracting from what this movie could have been. You’ll have a popular song thrown in then and there (a good number of them feel misplaced), but the attempts at humour that come in also feel so tacked on it’s absolutely cringeworthy. Add that up to just about every other wrong choice made here, and then Suicide Squad is what it all comes to. What a disappointment this was. I can’t really blame David Ayer though, because there’s no way that this even felt like him at all.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Warner Bros.
Directed by David Ayer
Screenplay by David Ayer, from characters from DC Comics
Produced by Charles Roven, Richard Suckle
Starring Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood, Cara Delevingne, Karen Fukuhara
Release Year: 2016
Running Time: 123 minutes