Okay, so the short of it is that Suicide Squad is not nearly as boring or as uneven as Batman v Superman, but it’s still pretty boring and uneven.
Suicide Squad, like a lot of modern blockbusters, feels like it’s happening at you. People say and do things so quickly that there doesn’t seem to be any time to establish silly little things like plots, mcguffins, or narrative rules and logic. In the short term that’s okay, it allows for more mindless action sequences and more helicopters to be blown up (seriously, how many helicopters were shot down over the course of this movie?), but in the long term it robs the movie of any emotional payoffs it thinks it’s earned. Unfortunately, the movie’s not very smart either and it has absolutely nothing clever to add to the commentary and deconstruction of superheroes that DC thinks its movies are doing.
It’s not bad, per se, but it’s definitely not as razor sharp and entertaining as the trailers would have you believe. Jared Leto’s Joker, I think, embodies this fact more than any other aspect of the movie. He struts around and poses a lot, tilting his head back and swaying to and fro, spouting trailer-ready dialogue that, in context, makes very little sense. This Joker is all bark, and the one time we do see him commit a murder (inside a nightclub via flashback), it’s so confusing and weirdly motivated that it leaves you scratching your head. This is Jared Leto as Joker by way of Johnny Depp. For all the obnoxious crap he pulled and can’t stop bragging about, Jared Leto doesn’t bring much to the table here. Granted, he’s not given much to work with or do, but his performance feels like someone whose knowledge of the character was surface level and never really went deeper. And really, that’s kind of the whole movie. And the DCEU in general, in my opinion. Geoff Johns gives the people at the top comics to read and they flip through looking at the pictures, going, “this would look cool,” while ignoring the content.
The rest of the cast is pretty good, those that are given anything to do anyway. Will Smith does the heavy lifting, and he sells it well. This is definitely a Will Smith performance, but we’ve been in a bit of a Big Willy drought as of late so I’ll take it. Margot Robbie’s performance is pretty uneven. There are moments where she inhabits Harley perfectly (like when she meets Katana or poses on the helicopter rope – again, helicopters), but there are also times that just ring false, and her ever-fluctuating voice doesn’t help either. Rick Flagg goes back and forth between hard-ass and softie, and he doesn’t necessarily sell either. Viola Davis does a lot of scowling, and she sells the whole bad-ass chick vibe (she also kind of reminded me of Hillary Clinton, but I could just be projecting). Diablo felt like he had a lot of potential, but all of the serious, emotional beats they tried with him came off flat and corny (“Bye”).
Croc, Boomerang don’t get much at all, and Slipknot gets even less. The fact that he wasn’t given an intro like the others spelled certain doom for him right off the bat, also robbing the movie of what could have been a truly shocking “THEY DID WHATTTT?!!” kind of moment. Oh well. I’m not sure if Cara Delevingne wasn’t very good or if she was just wasted in this movie. Most of her dialogue is replaced in post, and in the climax she’s replaced with cheap-looking CG models (this generation’s equivalent to the Rock in The Mummy Returns). There’s a lot of CG in this movie, none of it good. I know this movie had a smaller budget but come on, most of it looked unfinished.
The plot is forgetful but thankfully not as convoluted as BvS. There’s a greater sense of clarity here, but it still doesn’t make much sense. Much of the movie is very standard, which makes the “hardcore” tone laughable. Everything is safe and by the numbers, so much so that when the film tries for edgy, it just feels corny and fraudulent. Like one of those kids that suddenly shaves their head and says that they’ve always been punks. Likewise, when the movie goes for heart (“I lost one family, I won’t lose another!”), it falls totally flat on its face. These moments are only accentuated by the picture’s music choices.
A lot’s been said about the film’s soundtrack, and while most of the songs are very good, they’re not exactly inventive choices nor are they used to great effect. Instead, it feels like the songs are covering up some pacing issues, even to the detriment of the rhythm of some scenes and comedic beats. I thought they were going for a record within the first twenty five minutes of the film to see how many different jams they could front-load the picture with.
It’s not terrible movie, not a 26-percent-er, but it’s not great. I’d put it somewhere in the forties percentile. It’s dumb, loud and fairly boring, but the characters are enjoyable enough, and I wouldn’t mind seeing them in an adventure that’s smartly written and well-paced.