With comic book movies being BIG BUSINESS, and Marvel making bank with its highly acclaimed Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, DC has decided to follow suit and create its own series of interwoven films. Starting with this past spring’s critically reviled but box office smash Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, which introduced us to Wonder Woman and set the table for the formation of the Justice League, DC is giving us a bunch of big-budget, star-powered releases that will tie into each other and introduce a bunch of new characters. (Who will, of course, get their own movies. We know how this goes.)
Suicide Squad picks up where Batman V Superman left off. Superman’s dead — sorry if you didn’t know — and Batman/Bruce Wayne is dealing with the criminal elements of Gotham. The government is aware of metahumans (i.e. superheroes/villains) and the potential threat they pose to society. With that in mind, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) forms a team of imprisoned supervillains to serve as her personal mercenary force to be used when the shit hits the fan.
Right away, we hit kind of a storytelling snag. See, this squad is full of characters we have yet to be introduced to. Unlike, say, The Avengers, which consisted mostly of individuals that Marvel had meticulously presented to us in movie after movie, Suicide Squad is chock full of folks we don’t know. So the film has to spend an inordinate amount of time giving us their backstories.
Because of this, we know which characters are important and who will be relegated to backup roles. Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) get the most fleshing out. Both are in prison because of Batman and we get to see their run-ins with the Dark Knight. Deadshot is a highly-skilled assassin who has a soft spot for his young daughter. Meanwhile, we learn that Harley Quinn used to be a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum before falling in love with the Joker (Jared Leto).
Yeah, about the Joker. Despite being heavily featured in the advertising for the film, and Leto grabbing a lot of press over the odd way he acted on set trying to prep for the role, Joker’s nothing more than a secondary character. He’s mostly used to flesh out Harley Quinn and enhance her story rather than be a central part of the plot. He pops up here and there, but he’s largely inconsequential to the story.
Speaking of, there really isn’t much of a story going on in Suicide Squad. Considering we spend so much time finding out about these anti-heroes — only two of which have legit superpowers, mutated croc/man Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuyoe-Agbaje) and literal human torch Diablo (Jay Hernandez) — the writers kinda forgot to make us care about the point of getting them together.
Apparently, there is an ancient witch, known as Enchantress, who inhabits the body of a young archaeologist, Dr. June Moore (Cara Delevingne). Waller can control Enchantress because she’s in possession of her heart. At the same time, she’s manipulated elite soldier Capt. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) to fall in love with Moore, I guess to control Flag or something.
Enchantress breaks free and unleashes hell on some city, with help from her brother, who Waller has encased in a voodoo doll. (Yeah, this is what we’re sold.) So now there’re a couple of supernatural beings looking to destroy the earth, but they never really explain why or how this is happening. Just that we know that a group of criminals is going to be forced to save the world. (All with small grenades lodged in their necks, a la Escape from New York.)
Despite the disjointed storytelling, hokey premise and attempt to cram too much (and yet not enough) into one film, Suicide Squad is still kinda fun. First and foremost, anytime Margot Robbie is on screen it feels like we are in a different movie. She really is memorable as the mercurial, dangerous, unpredictable Harley Quinn. It is a given we’ll be seeing her again in future DC flicks.
And while it is beyond cliche, you do look forward to the squad bonding as a team. The scenes where all the members interact with each other, learn about their lives, their quirks, develop camaraderie, that all works, as shopworn as it is. There is legit chemistry in these scenes, making you look forward to another movie featuring the Suicide Squad.
All in all, this ain’t half bad. But, again, it ain’t half good. For the action scenes and Robbie’s performance, it’s probably worth the price of admission. Maybe a matinee showing.