If the recent Justice League and Wonder Woman trailers from Comic-con haven’t convinced anyone that Warner Bros. has started to play follow-the-leader in the superhero blockbuster game, clock an eye in the direction of Suicide Squad.
Like the aforementioned trailers, the latest full length release featuring superfolk from the DC stable has more in common with Marvel’s series of box office blowouts than it does with either Man Of Steel or Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice.
The tone is lighter, the dialogue snappier and, with one or two exceptions, both the cast and the characters they play look like they’re having oodles more fun than anyone in either of the recent marquee DC superhero films – Jesse Eisenberg notwithstanding. The film features its share of dour souls to be sure, but their dark mood doesn’t dominate the proceedings. Suicide Squad is just as colourful and bouncy as its neon-soaked opening credits.
Suicide Squad Review: Plot
If you’re not up to speed with the film’s plot pitch, here’s the juice: Justice Department hard-nose Amanda ‘The Wall’ Waller (Viola Davis) has viewed the damage done by Superman and other meta-humans and has decided the USA needs a worthy counter, in case the next man of steel turns out to be a sod. To that end she convinces her higher-ups that a team of recently incarcerated super-powered ne’er-do-wells can be repurposed as a government task force to deal with super threats. She happens to have leverage on the lot of them, and if they die in the line of duty… well, who cares?
The team is comprised of Deadshot (Will Smith), a preternaturally talented marksman and hired killer, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), a damaged psychotic kook, Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), an amphibian mound of muscle and teeth, El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), a heavily tattooed pyro-kinetic and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), an Australian criminal who happens to be rather good at using (surprise!) boomerangs.
Suicide Squad Review: Cast And Characters
To keep the villains in line, the authorities inject them all with exploding capsules that can be remotely triggered. The detonator is then handed to Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), a gritty military hardman with no sense of humour, who serves as the Squad’s field commander. He’s aided in his efforts by Katana, a lithe swordswoman whose weapon traps the souls of anyone she kills with it. Hilarity ensues. The Enchantress, the evil spirit of a witch from aeons ago who inhabits the body of Flag’s girlfriend June Moone (Cara Delevingne) rounds out the team.
Fans of the comic would be better off forgetting most of what they know about John Ostrander’s work for DC. It isn’t that Suicide Squad completely tosses its source material in a skip – Davis, Kinnaman, and Robbie especially, play their characters as though they jumped off the pages of the original comic book. Hernandez is suitably brooding, Akinnuoye-Agbaje could stand to be a little more savage and Courtney manages to convey the spirit, if not the visual representation, of Cap Boomerang.
The weak link in the chain for fans is Will Smith whose portrayal of Deadshot is about as far away from the character in the comics as you can get using a Tardis. Rather than play Floyd Lawton as a cold, callous killer with a king-sized death wish, Will Smith’s Deadshot is Will Smith in blockbuster mode. There’s a touch of darkness about Smith’s Deadshot, but he’s still so charming that you wouldn’t think twice about asking him round to meet the folks at the weekend. That having been said, if you look at the comic and film as separate entities, Suicide Squad is an awful lot of fun – and so is Smith.
If you’ve ever watched the first instalment of a planned superhero movie franchise, you’ll have gathered that most of the running time in these types of films is taken up with establishing the characters. Suicide Squad doesn’t differ in this regard, but writer/director David Ayer does a great job of moving the action along at a galloping pace. He also manages to give equal time to the movie’s smorgasbord of characters – only Croc feels a little short-changed – without the movie feeling over-packed.
Suicide Squad Review: Cast Chemistry
He’s aided in no small part by his cast who, crucially, have fantastic chemistry. There are a couple of groan-worthy exchanges and an over-reliance at times on slow motion to convey the emotional weight of a scene, but by the end, the bond between this ragtag band of sociopathic misfits feels real. The Suicide Squad acquit themselves brilliantly, particularly Robbie as Quinn whose swivel-eyed lunacy never veers into pixie-esque kitsch and Courtney who, incredibly, makes Boomerang not only an irredeemable scumbag, but one of the more likeable characters in the film.
Aside from introducing the Squad, Ayers has to pit them against some potentially world-ending catastrophe. I’ll not spoil it here, suffice to say it involves a lot of CGI, an army of identikit foot-soldiers and a denouement that’s as saccharine as it is expected. That having been said, if the film’s publicity material hasn’t given you some indication of what to expect, there’s a bridge I’d like to sell you.
Oh, yes. Suicide Squad features both Batman and The Joker and you’re probably wondering how they panned out. Well, Ben Affleck remains superb as the Dark Knight. Jared Leto certainly has unique take on The Joker and no one could accuse him of cribbing from the likes of Ledger, Hamil or Nicholson.
Instead, Leto’s Joker is part vaudeville, part OG pimp-roller, part Hannibal Lecter and it’s hard to get any real sense of the character. That may be because he features as a tertiary presence but it feels weird to have The Joker seem by-the-by rather than pivotal. To my mind he lies a distant fourth to Nicholson.
Suicide Squad Review: Conclusion
Regardless, the fact that neither of these two marquee characters overshadows any of the Suicide Squad while they’re on screen speaks volumes. David Ayer has produced a punchy popcorn flick whose cast elevates it considerably. The camaraderie of this band of oddballs alone is enough to recommend it. The fact that it’s fun, funny and hugely entertaining besides makes it one of the better films of this year.