Round Two… goes to Marvel.
Yeah, sadly, I have to admit that Marvel owned the summer at this point. Round One (Civil War vs. Batman v Superman) was clearly a Marvel win. Now Round Two must be ceded to X-Men, over the mess that is Suicide Squad. Not a hot mess, but still a mess. It’s not so much that this movie is a trainwreck, but more like one of those rafts, made from an old truck, sailing over from Cuba… except it’s got an inexplicably powerful motor pushing it.
If you are a well-versed DC fan, and you already know a lot about Suicide Squad, this film’s shallow, break-neck romp might be a decent treatment. Think of it as a fancy sushi buffet, where you know there is a lot more to experience if you ordered off the menu instead. It’s not that we don’t get to enjoy the film adaptations of these characters, it’s that we’re almost watching a long trailer, rather than a film. From the outset, we are thrown into a high-pace, manic series of jumps and cuts that feels as if it were cobbled together from excerpts of a script.
Sure, visually and aesthetically, it is very pretty. But, sadly, we’ve seen it all in the trailer. This film left few new concepts or beats to a bigger reveal. If you have been hoping the trailer was simply a taste of things to come, you’d be wrong. The full film is more like some sort of director’s cut, extending basically everything we’ve seen already.
Overall, Suicide Squad seems like a long-way-around-town route to setting up Harley and Joker as villains for either Justice League or the next Batman flick. It comes complete with a villain who offers us nothing of much substance, and a sidekick so obscure, the nerdiest of nerds would call anyone who “got it” a bigger nerd. Not only do we really not care what happens to anyone but Harley and Joker, most of the characters seem like filler roles or unnecessary distractions. That’s a bit sad, as there are fascinating characters we’ve been waiting to see, like Katana, who are used more for gimmicks and gags than substance. Combine this with a shoe-horned cameo by a fellow Leaguer, and we’ve got a lineup that is spread pretty thin.
All of these critical observations are set against what would be a well-conceived soundtrack, if not for a few missteps. One pitfall is an evident obsession with using songs often-associated with the Vietnam War any time someone is in or around a helicopter. The music rehash even includes what should be a comic book movie sin: using Spirit In The Sky (or any other track from Awesome Mix Vol. 1).
For all its weaknesses, there is value in the snippet-assembly of this film. Even as Bruce sends us home by doing his best Nick Fury, our heads are swimming in a larger DC Extended Universe. Even without enough depth, some of these characters are a lot of fun to see. Will Smith, for example, steals the show with all the best lines (a double-edged sword, really), and is someone we are used to seeing interpret his roles with his style and wit. It is a little off-putting that Deadshot would be grounded in the ways this one is, but it works in the story.
Perhaps the largest strength in the film is the spot-on portrayal of Amanda Waller by Viola Davis. She holds her own in the blast-radius of Will Smith, and given the low depth addressed above, she almost serves as an anchor to ease the ongoing skimming. As ruthless as Waller must be, this was a role not to be attempted by lesser actresses, and she nails it.
Suicide Squad doesn’t have to be on your rush-out-and-see-it-now list. It won’t make your all-time faves list. You should see it, though, but with properly tempered expectations.