Suicide Squad (2016)
Director: David Ayer
The idea to make a team of bad guys or super “meta-human” criminals and channel their destructive powers into a fight for the greater good is one worth exploring. As a premise for a superhero movie, it totally takes off and hypothetically has the potential to challenge the status quo in the world of superheroes. The problem with Suicide Squad is that it’s not a premise, it’s a movie and somewhere along the way from turning that premise into a movie, things went a bit haywire. Where is the fight? More accurately, why is the fight? Throughout the first hour, all I kept wondering is, ironically, why so serious? Built on hypotheticals and scenarios based on fearmongering, the story is catapulted into motion by FBI agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and her persistence to protect America against…well we have no idea. But we must take her vision for granted and trust her intuition that soon enough a meta-human villain will strike down the land of the free and threaten its freedom. And boom! it happens but the villain the squad is up against is poorly explained, their motives unconvincing, and the whole thing seems to have been rushed as if it was the villain who was created to fight the squad and not the other way around. Writer-director David Ayer fails to execute a premise with so much potential because he got all riled up by its promise and forgot to do the work to make it a proper production of plot instead leaving us with a poorly plastered ploy.
As for the performances, the movie is pretty solid. Surprisingly Will Smith ranks highest with a great turn as Deadshot followed by a manic Margot Robbie as the iconic Harley Quinn. It is important to note that despite her success, Robbie can’t help bring more to a character that’s hypersexualized and demoted to the Joker’s “baby” in a tight see-through shirt and sleazy underwear. What wasn’t as solid was character design, character development, and..anything to do with character really. It all starts at the beginning where instead of showing us who the “bad guys” we’ll be siding with are, Ayer spurts one-minute videos that feel like trailers for each character’s origin story movie rather than windows into their minds. And even later, all character details – if any since until the end of movie I had no idea who Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) or Katana (Karen Fukuhara) were, their pasts and dreams, what they’re really made of – are revealed through dialogue or flashbacks. Flashbacks can be effective but when abused they become a bad trick merely employed for expositional purposes.
But let’s say we can accept all these slipups and forget them amidst our laughter and sympathy, what cannot be forgotten or forgiven is the major fuckup that is The Joker. First of all, I’ve only read a single Batman comic but it’s important to mention that it was The Killing Joke, so in case you were just about to doubt my knowledge of The Joker’s identity, that should at least reassure you that I know how he came to be and why he is who he is. Based on what I read, The Joker is not a killer obsessed with guns and knives. He’s not a criminal whose drive is bloodlust. The Joker is an elaborate mastermind who plans destruction where he believes destruction is necessary. He sends a message, he is a message. Yet what Ayer gives us is a deformed joker, a clown who does nothing but laugh incessantly and chase Quinn. In fact, The Joker’s character almost feels like a forced afterthought only there to provide background for Harley Quinn’s story. And even then, he just sits around making plans to save his damsel in distress and no more. There is no substance to his character, substance true to his comic book origin. Secondly, what a performance. What a terrible, meagre, shallow, empty performance. Mr. Leto – who throughout the marketing campaign for the movie and during interviews was said to have been immersed in the role, a “method actor,” “The Joker come alive” even when the cameras were off – fails miserably. And I’m not even comparing him to Heath Ledger. Surely with a travesty for a role, Leto can’t do much to save our beloved genius. However, he must take part of the blame as well. Somehow Leto decides to take it upon himself to make The Joker a laughing matter because that’s literally what he does. Whether he’s supposed to be intimidating, flirting, or breaking and entering, Leto must add his squeaky laugh into the scene one way or another. Not to mention his exaggerated stares and irritating voice which only aggravate the audience even further. Who told him he needed to change his voice like that? Sure, get into the role but don’t let that impede vocal clarity. Was it him? Or was it the silly make-up team that decided to add their lovely touch and give The Joker silver teeth that seem to be uncomfortable but also a nuisance distorting speech? I’m not sure but it’s definitely a mess.
All actors, including a mediocre Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag, a moving Jay Hernandez as El Diablo, and a strangely appealing Cara Delevingne as Enchantress, deliver. And of course, my personal favorite: Jai Courtney as Boomerang. However, it’s important to distinguish between good performances and weak characters. Does David Ayer chisel his characters to present an in-depth look into their psyches and histories? No. But do the actors still pull it off? Yes.
Now we all go into action movies expecting deafening sound effects but we don’t expect noise. For some reason, the sound editing team thought the movie would be better if transformed into a prolonged remix music video of a gazillion songs, because that’s what it becomes when the audience is bombarded by no less than four songs in the first half hour of the movie. Even on the acoustic level, the movie tells rather than shows for instrumental music – actual music and not techno shit – can aid in creating an appropriate atmosphere, alas they decide to cram words into our ears every chance they get.
But does Suicide Squad give the people what they want? Maybe. To an extent. The movie does suffer on several frontiers but it’s not an unbearable experience. It entertains the audience because all they want is some fun, explosions, and of course Margot Robbie’s ass. The movie provides all three in palatable portions with a side of satisfactory performances. Unfortunately, performances alone cannot carry an entire movie. And as far as progress goes, this one is surely a step-up from Batman vs Superman, so there’s that for DC Comics.