Is Suicide Squad Suicide-Worthy?

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Unless you’ve been taking shelter under a rock lately, you might have heard some unkind words circulating about DC’s latest superhero movie, Suicide Squad. Having seen the movie and being the objectivist I am, I’ve decided to share my own thoughts.

Spoilers, obviously.

I’ll start off by saying that I have no stakes in the DC franchise. I’ve never been a particular fan of most of the staples like Batman, Superman, etc, nor have I seen any of the other movies that have come out like Man of Steel or Batman v Superman. I also only went to see it because my friend promised to pay for my ticket. He also loved the Transformers movie, so at that point my expectations were already set lower than the floor of Satan’s wine cellar. Perhaps that’s why I came out of the movie pleasantly surprised.

Is the movie “good”? No, probably not. But I don’t think it’s deserving of the ire it seems to have brought on. It has its good things and its bad things. Let’s tackle the good things first.

First, it’s an interesting and original premise. Yes, I know it’s based on a comic book, but it’s an original premise for movie goers. The idea of a group of villains being coerced into a government task force is a really great premise with a lot of potential. In a way, I think it would have made for a much better television series, as it would work better in episode format than the Hollywood three-act structure – but we’ll get to that under the bad part.

Second, I liked the aesthetic. I think the characters’ costumes and details looked quite good and managed to toe the line between ridiculous and realistic. Toward the end of the movie, everything was a bit dismal and dark, but I think the almost garish outfits of the titular squad helped to offset that and make them pop more.

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Which leads to my final point. I found the characters quite engaging. All of them stood out in their own way and were fun and quirky without being too out-there. There were also some surprisingly engaging character arcs and solid performances. Deadshot (played by Will Smith) is the most obvious candidate, showing his internal struggle between doing right by his daughter and trying to take care of himself. He really does a great job at balancing the roles of anti-hero and villain. Harley Quinn played by Margo Robbie) is also great, and her relationship with the Joker really took me by surprise. They actually make you care about them as a couple (and I’ve never been a fan of their sadomasochistic tango) and the moment when Harley is shown a vision of a life with her and the Joker as a totally normal family was really moving. Diablo had a hidden past that came out in a great way, and his self-sacrifice at the end was quite sad and fitting. Captain Boomerang and Killer Croc weren’t given much fleshing out, unfortunately, but they were fun. And the former probably ended up my favorite character in the movie.

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And the Joker… Well, I know a lot of people were upset that his role in the promotions were inflated. I have to agree that it would have made for a much better movie if he was the villain. I think Jared Leto nailed the character in a way that was both frightening and strangely charismatic.

Now, on to the bad. I could just say “everything else” and leave it at that, but I like to think I’m more professional than that. So here we go.

First, it was confusing. There are moments where the plot jumps around, and I have no clear idea of what’s going on. The moment where the antagonist suddenly switches sides left me scratching my head – not because the motivation was unclear, but because the editing was jarring and the moment left unexplained, as far as I can tell. The battles were also a mess. The moments I could make out were choreographed well, but most of the time it was a blur of bodies being thrown at each other.

That leads to my next point – there were too many people. The Suicide Squad already has a substantial number of members, but then they’re accompanied by a big military detail, which kind of undermines the whole “suicide squad” concept to me. Add to that fact, most of the battles are them being swarmed by legions of generic villain fodder so that it becomes more overwhelming than navigating Times Square on New Years Eve.

This one’s a minor nitpick, because the character was fine and the actor did a decent job. But I would have liked to have seen Rick Flagg, the soldier in charge of the Suicide Squad, to have been a bit more entertaining himself. It would have been great to form him as a comically serious Only Sane Man to play off the Squad’s quirkiness. As it was, his harsh no-nonsense attitude didn’t jive particularly well with the tone. And it would have been nice to have the Suicide Squad change him and wear down on his stiffness, while he in-turn made them strive to be a bit better than what they are.

The main antagonist is the final big blow. You would have been forgiven for thinking it was the Joker, based on the marketing, but it wasn’t. It was  the Enchantress, apparently some meta-human witch from ancient days. While her aesthetic and acting was sufficiently creepy, she wasn’t very deep or nuanced. As I touched on in this post, she seemed to just be filling in that typical “insert villain here” slot that so many superhero movies seem fond of. Despite the immense power she and her brother that she resurrects are supposed to wield, they do very little but stand in one spot while they make their “insert destroy-the-world device here.” I think this is largely the result of trying to follow the mandated Hollywood three-act structure, rather than doing what worked for the story as a concept.

 I think, in the end, that’s what Suicide Squad’s problem boils down to. It’s not bad for the risks it did take, but for the risks it didn’t. The things it did different and right, like the characters, stand out like shimmering gems in a large bucket of slurry. It is fair to note, however, that it’s certainly not the worst of that kind – again Transformers – so the critical flagellation its been receiving is still a bit surprising. It’s not great, but it’s not terrible, and if you’re just looking for some fun characters and a couple hours to burn, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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Now, finally, I think I’ll end things with my own vision of what I expected and how I think it should have gone down. Like I said, I think it would have actually made for a better TV series, but it could still have worked as a film. The movie I think of the most in this case is X-Men First Class. I would have liked to have seen the Suicide Squad go on several missions before the main one in montage form, like when Charles and Erik go around recruiting the mutants in First Class. It would not only give time for the Squad to bond, but to also showcase some more of their quirky sides. During this time, they could have setup the whole “Joker wants to rescue Harley” subplot and had him break into the prison as he does at the end of the movie to get her. The Squad would be given the job to track him down and stop him, and Harley would have been put in the position at the climax to choose between her abusive relationship with the Joker and the budding family she has in the Squad.

What do you guys think? Do you agree with my analysis? Disagree? Think my screenplay for Suicide Squad would have worked better? Let me know. Next time will be another critical analysis, this time of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians. Till then!

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