Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad ★★★

The act of separating my penchant for all things nerdy, my childhood consumed largely by the worlds of superheroes and supervillains, and my affinity as a male for the talent and looks of Margot Robbie is enormously difficult for me. As I explored in my Civil War review, I feel like casting aside that part of me is nonsensical. Why ignore an internal bias that generally amplifies my appreciation for a film? Why deprive myself of that fundamental, non-critical geek out only these sorts of films can inspire? With that being said, Suicide Squad is a compelling mess. Crucially, the film establishes a personality for itself. It revels in the insignificance of it's "heroes", developing them within smaller arcs, more personal narratives. Harley's love for Joker, Deadshot's concern for his child, El Diablo's disastrous past with his powers; all devoid of world-ending contexts, manic supervillains and the internal wrestling with notions of heroism. Unlike most superhero films, Suicide Squad doesn't ponder what the hero owes the world, but rather what the world owes these heroes, and whether or not to act based on the perceived merits of those who need saving. The film doesn't pull any punches regarding the evilness of these people, never trying to extract some sort of altruistic moralistic core to this band of murderers, thieves and general psychopaths. Actions are performed out of self-interest, and met with a staggered sense of gratitude.

Too bad it has no perceivable flow, cohesion or coherence to speak of. Many of the jokes, in fact most of them, don't land. Characters are questionably killed off and arbitrarily explored, and the "villain" of the tale (aside from the Squad's own issues) is remarkably weak. Not compelling at all, she comes out of no-where and the film depends on our ability to feel sympathy for a relationship that we are given two minutes to understand, performed by two uncharismatic and bland actors. The most glaring issue, though, is how scattered it is. I need to see it again, and I can easily see the rating going down, but I think the script was seriously weak. At times the “mission” was the focus of the film, at others the concept of a Suicide Squad. But the most distracting yet oddly most rewarding segues are derived from individual, detached explorations of the characters. But Ayers transitioned between these without nuance or fluidity, making them feel somewhat empty in the end.

But damn, was it occasionally entertaining. First off, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto and Will Smith are excellent. Their characters, dynamics and perspectives are compellingly cultivated, and I felt like they were actually characters, rising above a caricature sketch I was worried they'd be limited to. Harley Quinn is going to be controversially received, I think, because the sexual side of her is amplified here unapologetically. Suffice to say, she resembles post-2000's Harley Quinn much more than The Animated Series' imagining of her. I'm not complaining, because the greatest strength of the film is it's style, and utter indulgence in adolescent sensibilities. Explosions are cool, muscles are badass and hot girls are, well, hot. I get it. It’s like asking the Fast and Furious franchise to lose the cars, girls and muscles, it’s not in the formula. I’ve read extensively the adventures of the Suicide Squad in comics, graphic novels and even a few cinematic/television adaptations, and this felt true to the spirit of those stylings. Adding onto this point, I loved Ayers' visual work here, quickly recognizable as the sole triumphant strength of the film. The fights are stylized, eccentric and electric, aptly showcasing most of the character’s abilities and weaknesses, while shining the spotlight on Deadshot and Quinn especially. There’s numerous moments that work extraordinarily well. Harley and Joker’s romance is exceptionally done in this regard (the vat of acid scene was *incredible*). It feels comic-booky, true to the loud and aggressive nature of the source material.

I sympathize with those who despise this and envy those who adore it. I could watch it multiple times and not get bored, for sure, but the film is simply not good. It has elements that work, crucially some foundational ones, and that bodes well for the future. But this story, when studied individually, is a spastic mess. It’s cheap entertainment, playing on our (or at least my) basic, elemental pleasures, namely sexuality, violence and vulgarities. It’s not a film I respect or cherish, but will I buy it? Yes. I’ll buy it for Harley Quinn, for Deadshot and for Joker. I’ll buy it for it’s gratuitous cameos, it’s shameless plugging for future efforts I actively salivate for. I’ll buy it for it’s few great scenes, with the knowledge that I’ll have to endure twice as many awful. I’ll buy it because it’s DC, and at least they tried. They split from the formula (once again) and put out a work unlike anything we’ve seen before. I’ll have it printed on my headstone at this point, but at least DC is cinematically interesting. Their triumphs (BvS) soar, their failures provoke discussion, debate and contemplation, at least in myself, but it seems much of the cinephile community as well (MoS, SS). I had no idea what I would be getting when I sat down for this, whereas I feel I could almost make a beat by beat prediction for Doctor Strange, and be somewhat accurate. This isn’t a knock on Marvel, as I enjoy their stuff and I’m anticipating that film quite a lot. But DC is in it’s modern infancy, clumsily creating an identity for themselves with a clear desire to depart from the status quo. In the world of superhero cinema, I’ll take an interesting failure before a conventional success any day.

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