Two years ago, Marvel released “Guardians of the Galaxy,” a movie about an obscure rag-tag group of heroes from a random ’60s comic series. That movie surprised everyone with a huge August debut and went on to be one of the highest-grossing movies of 2014.
Now, DC’s trying to do the same with “Suicide Squad,” but with a rag-tag group of many B-list villains. Sadly, it won’t pack the same punch as “Guardians.”
These villains, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Deadshot (Will Smith), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Diablo (Jay Hernandez), and Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) — are you tired yet? There are two more characters I haven’t even mentioned which lead the team — have been assembled together by U.S. Intelligence Officer Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) after the events of “Batman v Superman.” As every trailer has iterated, she’s creating a task force to save the world from metahumans who may go rogue (think Wonder Woman, The Flash, or any other characters, hero or villain.)
After “Batman v Superman,” I really wanted to like “Suicide Squad.” I’m a DC girl over Marvel. I grew up loving Batman, but for some reason Warner Bros. just can’t seem to figure out how to make a great superhero movie after “The Dark Knight.” While there are some good things about “Suicide Squad,” I felt like I was watching “BvS” part two.
The film is just stuffed with a few too many characters, all of whom are unnecessary to the overall film. After the movie introduces its initial task force, it randomly adds several more characters to the Suicide Squad club — Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Slipknot (Adam Beach), and a sword-wielding Katana (Karen Fukuhara) with little explanation why.
There are so many side characters in “Suicide Squad” that character development falls by the wayside unless you’re one of the big players, primarily Harley Quinn and Deadshot.
I get wanting to introduce a bunch of cool DC villains to the mix, but the film could have done without Slipknot, who I only learned is good at tying knots and scaling buildings, as well as Katana, who’s admittedly pretty handy with a spooky sword that holds the souls of everyone it kills. It seems like they’re only there to add diversity to the film’s cast.
And unlike other screen adaptations of Captain Boomerang, all I gathered from “Suicide Squad” is that he seems to have a random obsession with a pink unicorn plush that’s never explained. I guess it’s supposed to be funny.
It’s just nearly impossible to build an emotional connection to about a dozen characters in a two-hour movie. There’s a point in the film where Diablo, a tattooed man who can shoot out flames, says, ‘I lost one family. I’m not gonna lose another.’ But you don’t even feel like they are truly family. This isn’t “Fast and the Furious.” There isn’t enough time to give each character the development they need (outside of a small few) when there are not one, but two villains — in a movie filled with supervillains, mind you — to take down.
The villains themselves are just too generic (imagine the whole ‘We want to take over the world’ mantra — is this what we’ve come to expect from superhero films?) and confusing to anyone who’s not deeply ingrained into DC lore. I won’t spoil who they are because it’s supposed to be a surprise, though some have figured it out by now due to a casting sheet.
It’s hard to even get excited about the villains in a movie based around supervillains. They’re actually the least interesting part of the film. Half the time you’re more invested in Harley and the Joker’s relationship to even care about the bad guys they’re fighting.
Oh and if you’re hoping to see a lot of Jared Leto’s new incarnation of the Joker, you’re out of luck. While he pops up in the film several times, if you’ve seen the photos, trailers, and clips released for the film, then you’ve seen most of his role in the movie.
Though Leto brings a fresh brand of psycho to the clown prince of crime, in a year’s time no one will say this performance outshines that of Jack Nicholson in 1989’s “Batman” or Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning role in 2008’s “The Dark Knight.” Maybe that’s because this version of the Joker is not the main star of the film. Though a proven psychotic maniac, Batman’s main nemesis has a soft spot for his girlfriend Harley, his Queen of Gotham, who he pines after throughout the film like a lovesick puppy.
Joker’s still all guns ablazing, but he’ll move heaven and Earth to be reunited with his number one girl. The film feeds into the fandom’s love for the pairing of Harley and her puddin’ Mistah J (the Joker). Fans will be delighted to see the two in a few shots reenacting a popular “Mad Love” scene.
You know, this famous shot:
In fact, I wouldn’t mind a film centered around those two. Robbie and Leto share some of the movie’s best scenes. The film hints that could very well be in the cards. If Warner Bros. is smart, they’ll capitalize on the characters’ popularity and make a solo Joker/Harley film or include them as the main villains in the solo Batman movie.
The real heart and scene stealer of “Suicide Squad” is Robbie’s Harley Quinn, but that shouldn’t be a surprise. She has dominated the marketing for the film. And rightfully so. This is the character’s first time on the big screen. She was first introduced in ’90s cartoon “Batman: The Animated Series” as the Joker’s henchwoman. She’s grown in popularity starring in her own comics, and fans have been waiting years to see one of the best female antiheroes in a movie.
Though the movie is about a group of villains, it’s heavily centered around Harley trying to get back to her love, the Joker. Not that Harley can’t take care of herself. She can. We see her take down a number of villains ruthlessly with a gun and a bat without so much as blinking an eye. She even has to save the Squad leader Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) a few times.
When the first trailers came out for “Suicide Squad,” I said the success of this movie wouldn’t depend on the Joker, it would depend on Harley Quinn, and she nails it. She may not have the accent fans are used to from the cartoon, but she makes the former psychiatrist Harleen Quinzel her own.
While I suspected the film would mostly belong to Margot Robbie, Will Smith (maybe not so surprisingly) dominates the film as well. And that’s entirely welcome. If you’ve seen last year’s “Focus,” you already know Smith and Robbie have excellent chemistry and they share that again in “Suicide Squad.” This movie really belongs to Harley, Deadshot, and the Joker, suggesting WB is perhaps setting the threesome up for some sort of romantic quarrel in the future. I’d throw money at that.
Truly enjoyable moments in the film include cameos from Batman and another future “Justice League” member. That’s one thing DC is actually doing better than Marvel — creating a connection between their films that feels natural by having star players show up in subsequent films instead of just mentioning them by name.
The film also has a pretty solid soundtrack. “Heathens” from Twenty One Pilots and a “Bohemian Rhapsody” cover by Panic! at the Disco are stand outs.
Director David Ayer may have said “f— Marvel” on stage at the “Suicide Squad” world premiere Monday evening, something he has since apologized for, but I don’t think Marvel has anything to be worried about.
With “Suicide Squad” as the second movie in DC’s planned cinematic movie universe, the films are quickly feeling like pieces that have been slapped together too fast to catch up to the Marvel machine. That’s a shame because not only does DC have two of the most lucrative characters in Batman and Superman, but several years ago when Christopher Nolan’s Batman was reigning supreme at the box office, it was Disney and Marvel who had to play catch up. (And how they have!)
Opening weekend estimates are calling for “Suicide Squad” to break $120 million. While it may perform well upon its debut for fans eager to see the latest incarnation of the Joker and Harley Quinn’s first on-screen appearance, it’s not a movie you’ll head out to see more than once. The movie thinks it’s funnier and more fun than it actually is.
And if it does well opening weekend, a sequel is reportedly already planned. The film certainly lends itself to one. If not, at the least, Warner Bros. has a rotating cast of villains for future films.
“Suicide Squad” is in theaters Friday.