Warner Bros. and DC Comics’ second entry in their cinematic universe, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, was criticized for being too grim and overblown with convolution. Many fans breathed a sigh of relief when the fast-paced and action-packed trailer for Suicide Squad soundtracked by Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz” was released, promising a fun, high-octane film that would do DC justice.
But the question is, did they deliver?
Suicide Squad is an odd film in that it feels like two film cuts Frankensteined together. On one hand you have a serious, grim tale of villains, psychopaths and murderers making their way through a supernatural war zone because, if they don’t, their heads will be blown off by the government.
Pretty dark, right?
The visual tone matches that sentiment; the only bright colors come in the form of Harley Quinn’s reds and blues, but keep in mind, she’s a serial-killing clown’s girlfriend. Even characterizations are grimy, particularly Jared Leto’s Joker, who is a modern street boss with way more tattoos than sane thoughts. To boot, you have Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a sewer-dwelling cannibal with deformed skin, and El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), a thug who used his pyrotechnic superpowers to kill his family. This is a thematically dark film on its premise and portrayals alone; there’s no denying that. But, in an almost ironic switch from BvS, the bright half of this stitched-together monster is what makes Suicide Squad a muddled mess of tones.
Parts of the movie are flashy, quippy sections soundtracked by Eminem and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Or, you have Will Smith who plays Deadshot, the deadliest sniper alive, quipping like he’s back on an episode of Fresh Prince. Everything still looks grim, and feels grim, but it’s like someone randomly added a fun Instagram filter to sections of the movie’s script and soundtrack to pep things up.
While this may have been Warner Bros. way of fighting off the the “too-serious” complaints of BvS, it just doesn’t work a lot of the time. Slapping a Twenty One Pilots song onto BvS would not have improved it, and the same applies here. Some scenes in Suicide Squad feel like fan tribute compilations teenagers make to sync up with their favorite songs. To cite a specific example, Harley Quinn’s origin is shown in a flashback, which involves Joker convincing her to dive into a vat of chemicals. It’s a serious scene, but is paired with a godawful Top 40 ballad that would only seem romantic to a 13-year-old.
It’s just an odd feeling jumping from tone to tone so sporadically, and it’s ultimately what turns uninvested watchers off to the film. The editing process just seems slapdash. It’s as if there were multiple cuts of the film, and Warner Bros. decided to put random selections into one cut. But unfortunately, the whole does not equal the sum of its parts.
However, Suicide Squad really isn’t a total letdown. The editing is annoying, yes, but it has some saving graces, namely in the form of the cast. Smith gets a load of screen time as Deadshot, and it’s deserved. He conveys the conflicting sides of the character’s life—a single father by day and a killer-for-hire by night—with gripping emotion, and a lot of his jokes land. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is the most hyped character to come from the film, as she brings the Clown Princess of Crime to life on the big screen with the mix of insanity, ferocity and smittenness she deserves. The Help and How to Get Away With Murder’s Viola Davis is one of the most surprising scene-stealers as Amanda Waller, the government administrator who assembles the team. Waller is a character who couldn’t do much in a fight, but is the scariest person in the room on reputation and clout alone. Davis portrays that power beautifully, even when face to face with her hired team of supervillains, who’d love to end her at any given moment.
Even supporting characters like Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and El Diablo fulfill their purposes well and added the necessary presence for an ensemble movie. You can also see the promise in Leto’s Joker and Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress, the movie’s antagonist, but, ultimately, the editing process gutted most of their characters’ development. This is quite a shame, because their character arc failings alone make the film structurally weak.
And really, the biggest thing it has going for it is its watchability. Suicide Squad is beautifully shot visually and has fun action sequences. It’s like watching an action movie with a comic-book flair. And that’s why, while it may be be critically flawed as a film, it’s a crowd pleaser. If you’re willing to ignore the odd tone changes, rushed editing and neglected plot lines, you’ve got yourself a nice popcorn flick.