Most of the marketing for DC’s Suicide Squad focused heavily on Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. The reason behind this is now clear: She’s the best thing about this critically panned comic book movie adaptation, thanks in large part to the Australian actress’ capacity to have fun with the material she was given. It appears, however, that no amount of reshoots post-BvS could save this hot mess from an inevitable implosion. Even with a ragtag group of seemingly interesting characters and an overabundance of filmmaking tricks, Suicide Squad falls flat due to its oversimplification of supervillains.
The squad in question is put together by government official and all-around badass Amanda Waller (Viola Davis in full on Shonda mode, basically rehashing her role in How to Get Away with Murder) and led by brooding super soldier Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman). It’s a special unit composed of criminals, thieves, and sociopaths whose primary objective is to take on lethal missions where, if shit hits the fan, the group can be either annihilated or sold out.
The beginning of the movie beams with potential, as characters like Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Enchantress, Diablo, Killer Croc, and Captain Boomerang are introduced using a pastiche of scenes that provides audience insight into each villain’s personality. But the character development ends there—the fatal flaw being some characters are allotted more backstory than others.
Because of Will Smith’s pay grade, Deadshot affords a daughter whose sole purpose is to humanize the exemplary assassin, albeit quite pathetically. Harley Quinn gets a grin or three in, her doomed romance to Jared Leto’s cringe-worthy interpretation of the Joker taking center stage. Sadly, this does little to elevate the anti-heroine's cred, reducing her into a punch line-spewing sideshow. You know the studio wasn’t comfortable with model-turned-actress Cara Delevingne’s silly portrayal of Enchantress, her speaking lines few and far between even when she becomes the movie’s main antagonist, an obvious consequence of her subpar acting.
If you’re curious about the rest of the squad, well, truth be told, they didn’t even need to be there. Without a deeper understanding of their motivations and the machinations of their minds, there’s no reason to be emotionally invested in any of these individuals. It’s sad, because their histories are ripe for drama and catharsis. Instead, these supposed edgy supervillains are molded into conventional stereotypes that are just as boring as the heroes who’ve once tried to stop them.
This David Ayer-film is also drenched in what can only be described as neon cinematography, evoking an intoxicating hedonist binge that makes Suicide Squad enjoyable until it crashes. Its tone is misguided and the pacing of events is jarring, especially when the story moves into the actual mission they need to complete.
Taking its cue from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, it crams as many memorable pop songs into the soundtrack, ensuring Spotify’s Suicide Squad playlist does better with the critics than the actual movie. Maybe they were wishing moviegoers kept their eyes closed and listened to The Stones, The White Stripes, Black Sabbath, and Eminem instead.
The reality is until fans start demanding for better standards when it comes to these comic book movie adaptations, filmmakers won’t respect the canon. At this point, it’s safe to assume that a Suicide Squad sequel might not be the best idea for DC and its partners. Sure, a Harley solo outing might work. And in fact, plans have already been laid out. But until then, all of us are left to cough up our hard-earned cash for underwhelming comic book movies that are just as deranged as Harley Quinn herself.