Suicide Squad (2016)

(On Cable TV, April 2017) What’s most fascinating about Suicide Squad isn’t that it’s a film that begs for mixed reviews … it’s that some of the worst things about it are usually strengths in other contexts. I like classic rock soundtracks a lot, for instance, but even I felt that the film was trying too hard by the time its third hit song started playing barely five minutes into the movie. I like exploding helicopters, but seeing three of them go down in a single movie was excessive (and who knew such crashes were all easily survivable). I’m a big fan of dense detail-rich editing, but even I was getting tired of Suicide Squad’s opening act, masquerading a dull exposition structure by plenty of fancy cuts. So it goes, on and on, for much of the movie. The script can’t commit to the idea of villain protagonists, and that’s how we end up with even more exposition to soften their edges. Will Smith takes over a film his character had no business taking over, leaving little to his co-stars of what’s supposed to be an ensemble cast. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn runs against nearly everything I usually like about the character, making her an oversexualized strumpet with the special power of … waving a baseball bat around? Jared Leto’s Joker seems self-consciously edgy for no good reason. And let’s not talk about Slipknot, because the film really isn’t interested in him. David Ayer’s direction may use CGI like crazy but can’t put all the pieces of this disjointed film together in a harmonious whole. Tonally inconsistent, the film tries for operatic gritty grandeur but ends up joking around CGI most of the time. Visually, moments of it are nice … but don’t quite amount to anything better than pretty pictures. There are rumors, to be clarified in a decade or so, that the production of the film was marred by reshoots, change of direction and a competitive editing process—who knows where the real problem was? What’s obvious is that Warner Brothers ends up with another ho-hum film in its attempt to compete with Marvel in presenting a coherent shared universe on-screen. I’m not saying that Suicide Squad is a disaster—Michael Jai Courtney here has his best role to date, while Viola Davis is having fun as Amanda Walker. It’s just too bad that the script never used her, or the squad, in ways most appropriate to their characters. As read here and there on fan forums, a far better conceptualized Suicide Squad would have seen supervillains going against superheroes for a noble goal, not fighting another generic super-monster like they do here. Frankly, go watch the “Bohemian Rhapsody” trailer of the film again for a purer Suicide Squad experience.

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