Long before writer and director David Ayer’s Suicide Squad blasted its way to a record-breaking opening weekend, we speculated that the more offbeat tone and decidedly less bombastic source material could yield a far stronger film than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Alas, that ended up to be a far more contentious claim than we’d hoped, as Suicide Squad has been met by the same dismal reviews and divisive fan reaction as its predecessor.
Reports have already come pouring in about behind-the-scenes drama between Ayer and the studio, and the finished film certainly bears signs that there was a significant amount of footage on the cutting room floor. However, though the version of Suicide Squad currently playing in theaters may not bring the redemption some fans were hoping for, it’s also not a DC disaster on the lines of Green Lantern, Catwoman, or Batman & Robin. Here’s our take on some of the best and worst aspects of Ayer’s film.
The best: a talented cast
One of the most consistently praised elements of Suicide Squad has been its ensemble cast. Margot Robbie and Viola Davis have been earning props for their spot-on portrayals of Harley Quinn and Amanda Waller, respectively. Meanwhile, Will Smith tweaked his onscreen persona to better fit the morally ambiguous Deadshot. Even Jai Courtney — who has delivered flat performances in the past — earned his share of compliments as Captain Boomerang. For our part, we’re holding out a full judgment on Jared Leto’s Joker until he fully steps into the spotlight.
The best: a gleeful sense of humor
With the sarcastic Deadshot and the unpredictable Harley Quinn front and center, it shouldn’t surprise moviegoers that Suicide Squad is filled with tons of notable comedic beats, many of which organically fit with this particular cast of characters. Sure, the film centers on a group of despicable criminals, but after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, any bit of levity is welcome. We fully appreciate that the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) is rooted in darkness, but there’s little reason it should be so washed-out.
The best: how it expands the DCEU
Though Suicide Squad features familiar characters like Batman and the Joker, the film’s objective is clearly on building out the burgeoning DCEU and fleshing out these new versions of both characters. Along the way, a host of other DC mainstays finally make their live-action debut. Even though some viewers didn’t care for Suicide Squad, many have had to concede that they’re looking forward to seeing how Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Amanda Waller, and others play into upcoming DCEU releases.
The worst: a terribly bland villain
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been consistently fraught with criticisms for its underwhelming villains, Loki notwithstanding. Ironically, the DCEU faces the same difficulty here. The marketing campaign for Suicide Squad hinted that the Joker would be the villain. That might have proven more satisfying, as Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress instead becomes the cringe-inducing baddie who belly dances her way through an underdeveloped plan that involves yet another apocalypse machine that blasts a beam of light into the sky. Sigh. Really?!
The worst: pacing that never truly gels
Once you catch wind of the aforementioned reports of conflict between Ayer and the studio, it’s hard not to see the seams in Suicide Squad. The film is blatantly at odds with itself throughout, uncertain whether to commit to the mission at hand or hone in on the most fascinating members of the squad. Between its rampant flashbacks and repeated introduction scenes, several more promising characters like Killer Croc and Katana are pushed to the background while the film tries and fails to nail down a single focus.
The worst: an inconsistent, jarring tone
For the longest time, fans had good reason to think that Suicide Squad might be rated R to capitalize on the potential for the team of villains to wreak some real havoc. Ayer’s involvement seemed to support this, but rather than embrace the more disturbing aspects of its mass-murdering figures, the film sacrifices a more complex portrait of these DC characters in favor of a film that hews too close to the style and tone of Guardians of the Galaxy, a template which only barely applies to the darker rollercoaster Suicide Squad should have been.
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