David Ayer’s supervillain romp is ugly, daft and humourless, setting a new low-bar for comic-book entertainment.
When Hollywood reaches such a point that trailers are often considered to be a superior outlet for filmmaking than actual feature films, it seems a logical progression that trailer editors would hijack a feature film and, hence, audiences worldwide would be treated to what is essentially a feature-length trailer. David Ayer’s Suicide Squad is a film of two very distinct halves, the former of which has clearly been shoved into the inexperienced hands of those who masterminded Squad‘s extraordinarily effective marketing campaign, resulting in a flashy and loud montage of character introductions and team-recruitment. The latter, meanwhile, is typical David Ayer: dark and humourless, yet mindless and stupid.
This film is ultimately more schizophrenic than Jared Leto’s psychotic Joker, a character whose pathetically small role in a film greenlit off his involvement is evidence enough that an abundance of footage has been cut from the finished product (there are countless Joker shots in the trailers that are nowhere to be seen). Meanwhile, the central team who do occupy most of this big-budget music video is a hodgepodge of laughable stereotypes and soulless window-dressing. Margot Robbie is an awful Harley Quinn: unable to pull off a convincing accent, never mind the complex physicality of the nuanced comic-book character. The Harley of this film is no more than eye candy; she’s an insultingly underwritten sex object with seemingly no actual skills to offer Task Force X (the squad hired by Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller to… ummm… do something) outside dropping one-liners. Accompanying her are Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and Katana (Karen Fukuhara): each the embodiment of how America has misjudged Australian, Mexican and Japanese culture for many centuries. Adam Beach’s Slipknot may serve the least practical purpose, but it is the character of Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje)- a man possessing the attributes of a crocodile- who is the most ill-conceived of all.
Displaying a reasonable shred of humanity are Will Smith and Joel Kinnaman, two charismatic leads undeserving of such a weak ensemble piece, who grapple with unfathomably bad dialogue (and having to act opposite a crocodile). Smith’s character, additionally, is burdened with a saccharine storyline, involving his young daughter’s impact on his conscience, that operates on an entirely different wavelength to the cynical and heartless environment of the film at large. We are constantly reminded that these are “bad guys”, yet it seems that the studio refused to hand over $150m to Ayer until his bad guys were given redemption. What a copout.
Not only does Suicide Squad feel out-of-touch with the post-Dark Knight era of Smart Comic-Book Movies (a trait it shares with last August’s similarly-awful Fant4stic Four), it bears very close resemblance to the sort of blockbusters that were made at the height of 2007/2008’s Writers’ Guild Strike, films completed without scripts and with much actor improvisation (see: X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen). Some of the jokes are so poor, only Smith and Robbie themselves could have written them.
Worst affected by the apparent lack of control David Ayer had over his cast is Jared Leto, who looks totally lost in his few short scenes. Leto is one of the few real method actors of our time, and it’s sad to see him flounder in such an important role; one suspects it isn’t his fault. All bulging, lecherous eyes and lashing tongue, this Joker is impressively dissimilar to Heath Ledger’s timeless interpretation. He’s the sole character in Suicide Squad who can possibly survive this car-crash project, and a future face-off with Ben Affleck’s Batman (who cameos here, to little effect) could have potential. When a film features The Joker, one of the greatest movie villains of all time, it’s terrible to have to declare that its primary antagonist is as much of an insult to blockbuster cinema as Cara Delevigne’s Enchantress is. Initially introduced as Dr. June Moone, she whispers “Enchannnntresss” and is transformed into a murderous, belly-dancing witch. It’s even stupider than it sounds. Delevigne, like Ayer, deserves to never work in Hollywood again.
It would appear, from the trailer-esque first half, that the majority of Suicide Squad‘s budget was spent on music licensing. Every “cool” and “hip” song you can imagine is squeezed in for 10 seconds of gaudy montaging, in what must be the most head-scratchingly incoherent opening to a major franchise film in recent memory. Somebody at Warner Brothers saw Guardians of the Galaxy, bought “The Awesome Mix Vol. 1”, didn’t understand what was so great about it and decided to try their own version. In film and in soundtrack, they failed miserably. Should we blame David Ayer for this explosive disaster if his actual editorial control is as questionable as it presently is? Maybe we shouldn’t. But he’s taking credit for the film, and defending it to his death, so blame him we shall. Suicide Squad is shameful. A damn shame.