Suicide Squad

3 out of 10

Suicide Squad is not a particularly bad movie. Maybe it is because I went into the showing with lowered expectations, but I did enjoy the film and it moved along at a quick enough pace to be entertaining without overstaying its welcome.

The opening and closing credits are hilarious because they look like a unicorn (that is a sly reference for those of you who have seen the film) puked neon-colored rainbow colors all over the place.

Suicide Squad follows… well, I am not sure who it actually follows. The title of the film refers to a crew of criminals, some meta-humans, who are rounded up into a team by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) who is a lady that you do not want to cross. This squad includes Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Diablo (Jay Hernandez, almost unrecognizable), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, completely unrecognizable) and Boomerang (Jai Courtney, an Aussie playing an Aussie). Waller puts Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) in charge of the team.

The problem with the film is that there are two parallel stories going on. One is a rescue mission and the other involves defeating a witch – yes, you read that right. Neither of the storylines are very interesting because they are not given enough time to develop. The witch storyline makes not much sense since we aren’t really given any insight into the motivation of the witch and why she is doing what she is doing. The rescue mission storyline is a bit bland because it is shrouded in secrecy and the final reveal is not surprising at all.

The best thing about the film is the The Clown Prince of Crime (Jared Leto). Leto’s Joker looks a little like Jack Nicholson’s Joker from the 1989 Batman. But, he’s scary and intelligent like Heath Ledger’s Joker from the 2008 The Dark Knight. Leto’s Joker is fantastic, it is unfortunate that he has so little screen time. What is better than the Joker? All the scenes with the Joker and Harley Quinn together. Warner Brothers could make a Joker and Harley Quinn movie and I would go see that, Leto and Robbie are awesome together.

Will Smith is good in what feels like a lead role. His character feels like the audience surrogate. Yes, he’s a mercenary who kills for money, but he is also a father and seems to have a moral compass, or at least more of a working compass than any of the rest of the characters in the film.

Tonally, the film feels schizophrenic. There are rumors floating around that the original cut of the film by Ayers was much darker and more violent. This rumor has it that Warner Brothers tried to “fix” Suicide Squad after the bad reaction from audiences to Batman v Superman’s lack of humor and fun. WB’s “fix” was to have the film re-cut to inject more humor into it. After working things out with Ayer, there were reshoots and the film was recut by Ayer to add levity.

While the rumors may or may not be true, the film feels like a result of what was rumored. The levity in the film is welcome, helping to cut down on the grimness of the film. But, at points the change in tone is quite jarring. Late in the film there is a scene in a bar, which is featured in some of the previews. This scene is reminiscent of the scene in The Avengers: Age of Ultron where the Avengers sit around just shooting the shit. But, while the Avengers scene worked for the most part, the scene in Suicide Squad feels a bit wedged in there.

The problem seems that Warner Brothers is very reactionary with their films. Batman v Superman was a reaction to The Man of Steel. Audiences complained loudly that there was too much wanton killing of civilians in The Man of Steel and suddenly Batman v Superman is all about tidying up those complaints. Suicide Squad seems to be a direct reaction to the complaints that Batman v Superman was dour and humorless – and maybe a reaction to the big success of Deadpool. WB needs to let the artists creating the films free to do what they need to.

If the rumors that there was a cut of the film that was darker, I would love to see this cut of the film. Batman v Superman’s theatrical cut was a grand mess. The director’s cut of Batman v Superman was a marked improvement. My hope is that the same is true for Suicide Squad – maybe there is even more Joker in the director’s cut?

What I can see is that Warner Brothers is embracing the whole “darker and more gritty comicbook” movie thing. It is something that is different from the Marvel films (wholesome and full of humor) and I like WB’s vision. But, WB seems to also want to get the same ticket sales of the Marvel films and chase after that same audience. I think this is a mistake. The R-rated version of Batman v Superman was much better than the PG-13 theatrical release. This PG-13 cut of Suicide Squad is serviceable, but I have a sneaky suspicion that if Ayers was left alone to create his own version of this film, it would be R-rated. WB can’t have it both ways. WB cannot try to create dark and gritty comicbook movie universe while trying to maintain a PG-13 rating. Well, it can try, but the results will continue to be the same.

Batman and Bruce Wayne make cameos in the film. There is one more cameo that surprised me and I thought was pretty cool.

So, in the end, is Suicide Squad worth seeing? I admit, I saw the film for free because of a T-Mobile promotion. Would I have paid $13 out of pocket to see Suicide Squad? No. Is it a worthy matinee movie? Yes, definitely. Go into the film with low expectations knowing that it is a late-summer film and you will be entertained for two hours.