This is a tough one.
What a deeply flawed and wonderful, yet confusing, experience. I said it by accident when we stepped out of the theater, “that problem sure had a lot of movie.” My flub in the wording was actually more accurate and almost funny, but as I started to process everything I could tell this one would take a while to sort out my thoughts on.
Let me see if I can get all of this out and make sense of it.
I absolutely loved the first thirty minutes or so of the film. Most of this was character building, which was my favorite part of the experience. It’s the old idea of putting a team together to stop some magical force, just with slightly less reputable and expendable individuals. This is what I wanted out of Suicide Squad, some cool characters in a playground of mayhem, allowed to grow and share a bit, while not turning too ‘good.’ This kind of happened. There were just too many bodies trying to all occupy the same spotlight. I would have cut out Captain Boomerang, Katana, and probably Killer Croc (take the BET joke with you), so that the movie could focus on the characters that had more of a point and worked without feeling shoehorned. See, everyone else I actually gave a shit about and wanted more of. I even thought the Batman and Flash cameos worked here.
Will Smith stole the show in most of the scenes he was in. Say what you want about the man, but he has never lacked charisma. I was so worried when I heard he was playing Deadshot, but that fear wasn’t warranted. Viola Davis delivers an amazing performance of a powerful woman who is made of ice and will do what it takes to control a situation and protect the status quo as she sees it. It was refreshing and mirrored my perceptions of Amanda Waller immaculately. Jay Hernandez made me a believer in the power of El Diablo and although he was a victim of a bad CGI fight (ala Mortal Kombat: Annihilation as others have mentioned) I was wrapped up in his emotional struggle and wanted so much more for him. Finally, Margot Robbie showed me a new take on Harley Quinn that I enjoyed. It took a moment for her to sink in, but now she’s under my skin and I’m clawing to get at her. She needs a different costume for sure, and her relationship with Joker needs some tweaking, but I love the weird back and forth between sexy, gross, and dangerous that she embodies, leaving me with several confused boners. Every one of these people is someone I want to see back in their respective roles, given more time, focus, and some quality writing. These characters deserve better, but they all nailed the audition.
The film fails with its plot and villains. I was so unsure through most of the movie what the goal was or why certain things were happening, but especially when it came to Enchantress and her brother Incubus. Did we ever actually get a good look at this machine she was talking about or an explanation of what it did? I made some guesses of course, and they are probably close, but I don’t fault anyone for being lost or simply not caring about the plot. We come to expect some shortcomings in comic book based narratives driven by multiple McGuffins and questionable decisions, but there needed to be something more here. The best part about Enchantress and this whole mess was her introduction—yes, the hand bit. I tried to defend the idea of Jared Leto as Joker and his odd new look when that all came out, but frankly I was a little disappointed. I’m just not sure that was all his fault. This man tried. You could tell. His best scenes though were tied to the origin of Harley. I was actually a fan of the laugh though—it’s creepy.
Yes, the soundtrack is good and I am glad people are learning how to incorporate these things better than in Watchmen. I would say Warner Brothers is probably spending a ton on royalties, but my guess is one of their many companies owns these songs or they got a package deal. This is a part of the problem with it though, as there are too many songs and some of them are over too quick, leaving a couple that could have been used much better. It was neat how the beginning the movie almost tried to give each character their own theme song, and I wanted more stuff like that. The music and color created a style—especially with all the tattoos and each character having different gear—which gave an underlined personality to some of the scenes, even down to the subtitles having a sweet font, and made me want to see more appropriate adventures with this crew. There was a lot more here I wanted to see and I feel like for all of the good parts the movie produced there was twice as much missed opportunity and several misfires.
The writing needs to improve for sure, especially the awful one-liners and a cutback on the banter that felt forced. I can’t say too much bad about the writing though, as I have read that David Ayer was only given just over six weeks to put a script together. The pacing is wobbly and much of the editing wasn’t great, but the unnecessary flashbacks that recap moments we saw so recently was pointless and mildly annoying. None of this is surprising, seeing as the film suffered through multiple cuts and reshoots and there is a long list of deleted scenes. Many of those scenes from their descriptions help to explain small holes in the plot and do more for Joker and Harley’s relationship as well as make her a little stronger as a character.
I think the movie would have been much better with a lot of these left in and some of the original script additions that were rumored. The movie is dark. We see people die and many signs of mistreatment. Harley is even given credit for killing Robin in her file—though I am sure there is much more to that. I think there was a lot of talent here who had to deal with WB forcing stuff in and asking for bits to be cut and switched around. I can’t wait to see a director’s cut or ‘unrated’ version. This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the movie, because I’d watch it one more time at least. In fact, I liked it more than Batman V Superman and I walked out much more excited for what they almost accomplished, plus the idea of what is coming in the future.
*I did not like Flag’s accent
*I forgot Batman killed KGBeast in Batman V Superman
This article originally appeared on my Patreon page.