Dear Suicide Squad marketing team: What was with all the neon splattered, eye-popping publicity? The bells, the whistles and the jokey trailers and bubblegum sizzle reels?
Because once the ‘Worst. Heroes. Ever.’ were finally unleashed upon the planet, it was clear that Suicide Squad was no raucous super-villain caper. Instead, it shared the same murky tone as Warner Bros’ previous DC laughfest, Batman v Superman.
And it shared something else with BvS – the critics hated it.
It’s as if every hack raced out of a screening to try and outdo each other with their witty take on how soul-crushingly awful it was.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been so bored by summer sequels and reboots, but I enjoyed Suicide Squad’s messy two hours. The standout for me? Actress-of-the-moment Margot Robbie’s acrobatic, demented performance as Harley Quinn:
Robbie’s Harley is one of a crew of criminals handpicked by brutal government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) to fight future non-human threats.
Recruited from the same maximum security hellhole are Will Smith as lethal assassin/caring father Deadshot; El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), who has a fiery Aztec god inside him; Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje); and Aussie Tom Hardy lookalike Jai Courtney, whose thing is to throw boomerangs. If they step out of line – boom! A mini-explosive has been injected near their brain stems.
Trying to command the squad is soldier Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman), who is in love with squad member and archaeologist Dr June Moone (Cara Delevingne). She is possessed by a powerful entity named Enchantress, who goes rogue and becomes the metahuman threat Waller feared. Along with her magical brother Incubus, Enchantress starts turning people into zombies that look like walking blobs of caviar.
Out of the talented cast, only Delevingne has received near-unanimous criticism. But it’s not her fault she gets stuck in a bikini and made to gyrate around in front of a CGI light show, or that her naturally deep, smoky voice is manipulated to sound, as one reviewer put it: ‘like Vanessa Redgrave on rhinoceros tranquilizer.’
Will Smith brings high-wattage star power, while Davis gives a masterclass on what an actor can do with a really thinly drawn character. As for Robbie – she may be in the squad, but she’s in a league of her own. Robbie’s superpower is almost to be super-engaging, to the point that articles have again and again tried to analyze her appeal.
Meanwhile, Jared Leto’s Joker doesn’t want to watch the world burn so much as rule the world with his ‘queen’ Harley by his side.
While some people felt cheated that Leto only gets about 15 minutes of screentime, others – perhaps already repulsed by the fortysomething alleged method actor’s reported on-set antics – will argue that 15 minutes of Leto goes a long way.
But it certainly means the Joker’s relationship with Harley is under-served.
— Suicide Squad (@SuicideSquadWB) January 20, 2016
Fans may be familiar with reports of the profound difficulties the production faced, and the movie does have plenty of problems with plot, structure, etc.
But as Brandon wrote about BvS, audiences don’t turn to comic books movies for intricate stories or well-developed romantic sub-plots.
The dominant genre in our time, comic book movies are about seeing characters like Harley Quinn and the Joker come to life, seeing how they are portrayed and how they interact with each other.
Suicide Squad’s greatest strength is its charismatic and gifted actors. They are all deeply committed to genuinely intriguing characters – both iconic and more obscure. It’s a shame the rushed script doesn’t give them room to breathe.