Suicide Squad ★★★

Suicide Squad is the latest film from DC Comics and is largely pitched as an adult alternative to the Avengers, assembling a team of antagonists that are far removed from the likes of Captain America and Iron Man.

Like its predecessor in the aforementioned franchise, it suffers from a cluttered narrative and serious pacing issues - there is far too much going on at too quick a pace for the audience (or at least this member of it) to become seriously invested in the film as a whole.

Rather, in what was a similar reaction to the one afforded to Batman v Superman, I found myself appreciating isolated aspects of David Ayer's flick.

Of all Suicide Squad's plus points, the most surprising is Will Smith as Deadshot. This is his most enjoyable performance in some time (at least in a film of this ilk) and he's a sound choice as the unofficial leader of Task Force X. All of his action sequences are well executed (one in particular is completely badass) and his back story, though generic, is enough to justify his almost certain inclusion in either a Squad sequel or standalone Batman movie.

Also appealing is Margot Robbie's depiction of Harley Quinn, which had been much hyped prior to release. The Australian is an actress of considerable talent, possessing an innate ability to fuse drama with both comedy and sex appeal. Certainly, she deserves higher praise than that afforded to her in a recent highly misogynistic Vanity Fair article.

Her character, however, is sadly not without flaws. The relationship between Quinn and her maniacal spouse, The Joker, is badly misrepresented by Ayer's script, which almost entirely neglects the fact that she is ultimately a victim of his abuse and manipulation. Her kidnapping and torture in an early flashback scene is presented in a manner that is worryingly blasé - I can certainly see why the film has been accused of casual sexism.

As for the latest iteration of The Joker, I was relatively satisfied with Jared Leto's performance. Both he and Ayer wisely take him away from the uber realistic depiction provided so excellently by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight and instead return him to his comic book roots, albeit in an oddly Scarface-esque fashion. I'm looking forward to seeing what Leto can do with more screen time, particularly if it's up against Ben Affleck's caped crusader.

Viola Davis also completely nails the character of Amanda Waller, the devious ice queen that assembles the Squad after a lengthy charm offence on the US government. Her efforts give the film a crucial anchor that alleviates its often over zealous bouts of violence and 'meta-human' mumbo jumbo (of which there are many) and is effective in reminding the audience that our anti-heroes are ultimately pawns in a much bigger game. It'll be interesting to see how much involvement she has in the DCU going forward.

Despite these positives, Suicide Squad cannot shake off the shackle that is imposed by the overstuffed story it tells. Once again there is just too much new material being shovelled in the audience's direction (any casual fan is likely to be at a complete loss as to what is going on) and this is a major issue going forward for DC Comics and Warner Bros. I've confidence that once its teething issues are resolved the franchise can match the Marvel model but at the moment its nowhere near as efficient as the competition.

If you think about the content that has been shoehorned into the last two films, let alone Man of Steel, then the overriding problem facing DC and Warner Bros becomes clear. Most cinemagoers, myself included, are often not entirely acquainted with a film's source material but there is currently a grave negligence of this, with new concepts and characters being introduced on a whim. What suffers most of all due to this is the tone of the universe, which currently have an awkward balance between the gritty realism of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy and the otherworld occupied by Superman, Wonder Woman and the more mythical occupants of the DCU.

As said my hope and indeed optimistic expectation is that these issues will be resolved with time and the planned release of the Justice League member's solo films, the recent Wonder Woman trailer promising much to this end. Of equal importance will be the introduction of new directors to the franchise and the loosening of the often erratic Zak Snyder's grip on it. David Ayer's efforts do not pull off entirely here but Suicide Squad nonetheless has a very different aesthetic to both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, which is no bad thing.

Ultimately, this did not live up to my expectations but I'm still a little nonplussed by the critical vitriol that has been unleashed over the last week. At the very least this is a highly entertaining summertime movie, the kind of which have been largely missing in recent years. Whilst it certainly has glaring faults, there's enough to enjoy about Suicide Squad to warrant the price of entry and its far superior to the other big DC release of 2016.

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