Suicide Squad Review: Ugh, It Was Such An Amazing Trailer
Warning: This review contains spoilers!
As I’ve written about before, no one’s ever quite re-bottled the lightning that was GoldenEye 007. But the most ham-fisted and soulless effort was surely GoldenEye: Rogue Agent. The hook of this “sequel” was that you would be playing a villain, and would be interacting with other villains all doing villainous things. Unfortunately, one of the great pitfalls of the game is that you only ever see other villains. The result is that for all your vaunted villainy, you may as well be a hero because seriously how would the experience be different and is this sounding familiar.
Suicide Squad is also a cheap video game, but it’s a cheap video game you can’t even play. The world is flat, the characters one-note, and the personality that drives successful “all style, fuck plot” properties in the game world such as No More Heroes and Viewtiful Joe is completely lacking.
Take Jared Leto’s Joker. And to be clear, before I go into this, the guy should be applauded for even taking the job. Not for sending his cast mates a dead pig and whatnot. Heath Ledger so utterly owned the role of the Joker that it was always going to be like following Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard for whoever came next.
So, all that being said, let’s proceed: Jared Leto’s Joker is awful. Just awful. The Joker’s manic style has been ground down to a dull Scarface caricature. Leto stares and sulks and sometimes laughs a little, but he’s just so boring.
The writing does Leto no favors. Joker’s scenes never surprise you, and don’t even try. He’s literally the most boring, unsurprising person in a movie of boring and unsurprising people. The movie never risks letting Leto’s Joker do anything that might be described as “whacky.” Isn’t that the point of the Joker, even? To turn wackiness into menace? Whatever; this movie was having none of it.
The movie is really slumming it on characters in general. No one seems to have much of a personality or even more than one or two moods. Will Smith is as much the consummate charismatic movie star as he ever was, but his lines as Deadshot give him absolutely nothing to work with. Margot Robbie shows her own serious movie star potential, she’s gorgeous and just fun to watch, but falls short of being believably psychotic or even funny. The rest of the cast, not even being given much in backstory, fare much worse in their struggle with their own dialogue. Jai Courtney deserves mention for at least wringing some fun out of his Boomerang role.
Even Ben Affleck’s Batman isn’t the least bit likable, not that he was the first time. “I don’t want to do this in front of your daughter,” Batman says, right after jumping Deadshot in front of his daughter. Not that Affleck takes up enough screen time to really even warrant a mention. Why is he even in this movie again? Oh, right. Shared movie universe.
Honestly, Zack Snyder may not be captaining this ship, but the admiral’s influence is definitely felt. We are given, in a rare establishing shot, that Midway City (the center of the action) was evacuated. No thought is given to the awesome implications of such an order, what it took to carry out or what lives were disrupted as a result. An entire city has been emptied out and we don’t so much as see a news report about it. As a result, the world just feels incredibly made-up. The hastily-communicated evacuation is the barest pretense to put the movie’s characters in a video game world bereft of innocent bystanders or consequences. Start game, here’s a quick word about aliens being in the city, here’s the city, you can start shooting aliens now.
I mean, geez. It is hard to even feel that these people are very villainous when there are no people to be villainous to. Even the supposed compromised good guy, Colonel Flag, is initially presented as hard-nosed but in every scene comes out a pushover. Deadshot absolutely runs roughshod over the guy. That early scene where he blows someone’s head off feels utterly false as character building. The guy – “Slipknot” – is the only squad member not to have an intro, and is literally wheeled into the movie so shortly before the squad deploys that he doesn’t even have time to change into his red shirt.
Perhaps the worst problem with the film’s story is that it hinges on the supposed iron will of Amanda Waller, but the execution on her character falls apart almost immediately. Set up as an utterly driven , eats-nails-and-shits-results boss bitch, Waller fails to do anything demanding respect. Instead her self-serving plotting causes her to come off as a schemer and weasel with a well-practiced resting bitch face. She sets up the movie’s big driving mission to get herself out of the city, a second act twist which is about as much of a mindfuck as the least trustworthy person you know pocketing $5 left lying on your kitchen counter, and just as exciting.
Upon the team reaching her, Waller shoots her entire support team to death, which takes seconds both to carry out and for the surrounding characters to process. “You get used to it,” the agonizingly compliant Flag says as if she just dropped a cigarette on a clean floor. Who were those people? Do we even care they’re dead? As usual in the Snyderverse, the movie doesn’t care enough about the little people for their misfortune to gain any sympathy. Finally, Waller’s entire “rescue” consists of the team taking her to the roof of the same building to wait for a helicopter that could have come at any time.
What is even her job title? No one ever says.
The finale is so criminally heartless and flat that David Ayer should serve in the next suicide squad. World’s shittiest pacifist El Diablo makes a bold statement about how he won’t lose “another family,” referencing bonding between the squadmates that the movie never even tried to earn. Military divers set off a bomb at point blank, making a sacrifice that was apparently part of the plan and of no concern to anyone, least of all to Flag who gives the order — after Deadshot tells him it’s okay.
A bloodless, flaccid grindhouse wannabe. This is the Goldeneye: Rogue Agent of superhero movies. I’m sorry, but we are three movies and five protagonists in, so we can and should make this pronouncement: The DC Cinematic Universe sucks. Can it get better? Maybe. But only with a major, major course correction.