6 Things That Worked About Suicide Squad (And 8 That Didn't)
The reviews for Suicide Squad have arrived, and they're pretty harsh. It's getting a paltry 27% on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing, and while there are a few defenders, the zingers have ranged from "an all-out attack on the whole idea of entertainment" to "2 hours of soul-sickening torment" to "the worst 'big' DC Comics live-action movie since 'Catwoman'."
And they're right—Suicide Squad is a bad movie. There's no getting around it. But here's the thing: some parts of it work perfectly, which is the most infuriating thing about it. The cast is amazing, and perfect for their roles, and you can see brief moments of the irreverent, colorful tone that they were clearly going for. With a little (or a lot) of tweaking, this could have been a darker version of Guardians of the Galaxy.
So what went wrong? Here are six things that worked about Suicide Squad, and eight that definitely didn't:
Mild spoilers ahead!
Pro: The backstories
The first ten minutes of Suicide Squad made me think it was going to be a much better movie than it is. The introductions to Deadshot, Harley, and El Diablo in Belle Reve, along with Amanda Waller's explanation of each villain's backstory, had more energy and wit than the rest of the movie combined. Even when the backstories were a little cliched or underdeveloped (more on that later), the whimsical feel that we all expected from Suicide Squad was ever-present. It was all downhill from there, but it gave a brief glimpse into what this movie could have been.
Con: The plot is a f*cking mess
Possible spoilers ahead! (Click to reveal)
Pro: Harley Quinn
This is old news by now, but Margot Robbie is perfect as Harley Quinn. The movie as written didn't serve her character very well, especially when she randomly becomes "good" at the blink of an eye, but Robbie's charisma shines through, and the movie is generally better when Harley's irreverent insanity is elevating the proceedings.
Con: Harley Quinn's costume (or lack thereof)
We already knew this from the trailers, but the worst part of Harley Quinn by far was her costume. Harley is supposed to be a seductive character, yes, but Robbie conveyed that with her performance alone. Her ridiculous hot pants were made all the more offensive by the blatantly objectifying close-up shots and gratuitous changing scenes. I realize that the studio thinks they're pandering to the comic book audience, but the idea that only straight teenage boys read comics or watch comic book movies is sexist (and erroneous) in itself.
This sexism was pervasive through the whole movie; Katana was reduced to a nearly mute sidekick to Rick Flag, while Enchantress was a scantily clad, sexualized villain who mutated people into faceless soldiers with her fatal kiss (I can't decide if that's more offensive for being sexist or ludicrously cliched). In one of the most cringe-worthy moments, Deadshot tells Rick Flag to give Enchantress a "pat on the butt," and tell his woman to lay off. If there was ever any doubt that Suicide Squad was assuming women aren't part of their audience, it evaporated with that line.
Pro: Amanda Waller
The only female character who wasn't subject to this treatment was Viola Davis' Amanda Waller, who is a goddamn boss. The script lets her down by making her plan illogical and stupid, but the character escapes being sexualized and is merely a feared and respected villain (a better villain, indeed, than any of the members of the Squad). Davis absolutely kills it in the role, and her sinister machinations for the sake of the "greater good" represent the only interesting moral shading in the film.
Pro: Will Smith
Harley is the scene-stealer, but Deadshot is the lynchpin that holds the group together. Smith's stellar acting chops save even the most saccharine moments with his daughter, and make Deadshot feel like a real character in spite of his utterly boilerplate backstory. But most importantly, his humor and charisma gives him chemistry with every character, most notably Harley Quinn, Rick Flag, and Boomerang. There are only a couple of moments when the film slows down enough to allow the Squad to bond organically and feel like a real team, but when they do, it's almost entirely because of Smith.
Pro: Jai Courtney
Boomerang himself wasn't exactly a standout character, since he was mostly relegated to being a sidekick and Aussie stereotype. But like Harley, his brand of flirtation, craziness, and humor livened up all of the scenes he was in, and he provided some of the only genuine humor in the movie. A particular highlight: when Rick Flag melodramatically tells them that they can all get up and leave, and Boomerang actually just gets up and leaves, and then returns, just like a real-life boomerang. Courtney has struggled to find a role that suits him thus far, but he seems to have found it in Suicide Squad.
Pro: The Squad's chemistry
Again, there weren't too many scenes between the machine gun mayhem that allowed for bona fide chemistry, but there were a few shining moments here and there. Mostly, the chemistry was between the few characters we actually cared about: Harley, Deadshot, El Diablo, Rick Flag, and Boomerang, which just reminded us that Suicide Squad should have focused on fewer characters.
Con: Racial stereotypes
...Especially if the secondary characters are nothing more than set dressing, and racist caricatures. Katana is yet another sword-wielding mystical Asian, El Diablo is constantly calling people "ese," and Killer Croc—played by the criminally wasted Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje—manages to be a racial stereotype even though you can't see the color of his skin. Oh-and then there's Slipknot: a Native American character who isn't given a backstory and is killed within five minutes. Deadshot and Amanda Waller, at least, are important and rounded characters, but even they can't get through a whole movie without Will Smith calling Viola Davis a "gangster." I would love to be happy that Suicide Squad has a relatively diverse cast, but not when it's handled like this.
Con: The villains forgot to be villains
They had one job. The entire conceit of Suicide Squad was that we'd be rooting for the villains, but they couldn't even bring themselves to write that movie. The squad was supposedly composed of the "worst of the worst," and yet they were all-too-willing to have heart-to-hearts in a bar about their tragic origin stories, put aside their own self-interest to save each other's lives, and save the world even when they didn't have to.
Possible spoilers ahead! (Click to reveal)
Con: The villain
Yes, most superhero movies have had disappointing villains of late, but this was one of the worst ones I've ever seen. Enchantress/Incubus checked all of the boxes for cliched superhero movie villains: a vague plan to destroy/take over the world (it's never clear which one), a cloud of CGI that looks like it's straight out of Ghostbusters, literally faceless footsoldiers that look like silly, bumpy blobs, and poor Cara Delevingne gyrating in such an absurd manner that the audience was laughing out loud. (Seriously, it looks like she's hula-hooping.) The mythology behind Enchantress and Incubus is never explained, and their relationship and powers are incomprehensible unless you already know it from the comics. The entire third act was mind-numbing CGI action at its finest, which was all the more annoying since they had the perfect villain right in front of them...
Con: The Joker
After watching Suicide Squad, I can honestly say I have no idea whether Jared Leto's Joker works or not. Leto sometimes seems like he's overplaying his cards, but since he's not even given a chance to develop his character, who can tell? His backstory with Harley is little more than a teaser, which is kind of criminal, since it's the only interesting one of the bunch. And his appearance is generally anticlimactic because there was no build-up, no ceremony. From the little we've seen, Leto's Joker is a much more sexualized and human version of the character than Heath Ledger's, which is both intriguing and fitting, considering his relationship with Harley Quinn. Maybe when he gets a chance to have a substantial appearance, it will work for fans, but this glorified cameo was a complete letdown.
And especially considering that Enchantress was such a terrible villain, they should have either used him as the main villain, or not used him at all. It would have been much more exciting if Harley had only alluded to her history with him throughout the film, and then he had been introduced in the mid-credits scene. That (much more than what we actually got) would have made us excited about the future of the DCEU.
Con: The mid-credits scene
Possible spoilers ahead! (Click to reveal)
Con: The soundtrack
The soundtrack worked at times, but I have to put it in the "con" column because it was just too much. It felt like listening to someone's "emo alternative pop" playlist, which worked for some scenes but not others. It would have been interesting if they had included pop songs with more traditional soundtrack songs, but even Bohemian Rhapsody was sung by Panic! At the Disco rather than Queen, which is pretty symbolic of the film's excesses in general.