It’s been a whole three months since we’ve had a superhero film which means, according to Hollywood, we’re about three months overdue for another. Luckily, Suicide Squad has arrived to end the unbearable drought, but there’s a twist: these ain’t your regular heroes.
Following on from Batman vs. Superman (which I didn’t see, so instant spoiler alert when this began), the government are desperate to keep the country protected. When a new supernatural threat emerges, Amanda Waller, the leader of a secret task force, eventually convinces the rest to recruit the most dangerous imprisoned criminals to undertake a black ops mission to eliminate it. These perps include ultra-precise Deadshot (Will Smith), pyromaniac Diablo, sewer dwelling mutant Killer Croc, bank thief Captain Boomerang, a witch Enchantress, a criminal named Slipknot and finally Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) the girlfriend of Gotham’s most notorious prankster criminal, The Joker (Jared Leto). It all seems so foolproof: if the mission goes awry, simply blame it on the crooks who are seen as inherently evil anyway. To keep them in check, the team is led by Colonel Rick Flag and a small bomb is placed in their necks that can be remotely activated. But when it dawns on the group that this is a mission they were never meant to come back alive from, will they continue to go through with their orders or revolt?
DC have always appeared to be lagging behind Marvel in their cinematic universes, continuously trying to catch up. Suicide Squad does nothing to gain any ground on the infinitely superior releases of the aforementioned studio, but that’s hardly surprising. Marvel began sowing the seeds for their Avengers franchise way back in 2008 with the release of Iron Man, subsequently releasing an origin story for both Thor and Captain America while teasing inclusions from other members. No such luck with Suicide Squad: a brisk 10 minute back story for a few squaddies are all you’re going to get. To the shock of no one, Will Smith’s Deadshot gets the most screen time and largest look at his history, but it’s not even close to enough to care. The same goes for each one of these misfits: by previously not giving them their own vehicle to drive, they’re all clambering for the steering wheel resulting in a car crash of a movie.
For a movie about so many bad guys, the badd-er guy (or in this case, girl) needed to be worse than all of their previous dastardly deeds combined. We do get something truly awful, but it’s not the actions of the antagonist – it’s the CGI that constructs them. With a budget of $175 million, it’s hard to forgive such noticeably atrocious visuals. But then, remembering the ex-Fresh Prince was cast, it all makes sense where most of that dollar went. I know it seems I’m picking on Big Willy quite a bit, but he’s not the only culprit for Suicide Squad’s failure. To be fair to all the main cast though, I don’t particularly place any blame on them – they do the best they can with the convoluted script they’ve been given. Action set pieces are sparse, and when they do start it’s the usual choppy, difficult-to-follow editing we’ve all to come know and loathe from modern blockbusters. With this being DC too, the obligatory draining of colour is all present and correct here making everything look far gloomier than necessary. The soundtrack plays it achingly safe too by choosing the most well known rock songs in history: House of the Rising Sun, Paranoid, Bohemian Rhapsody… you get the idea. It’s always great to see rock getting some exposure in film, but there’s far more to the genre than these overused cuts.
One aspect which needs addressing directly, however, is the Joker of the pack, Mr Jared Leto. Anticipation for his portrayal was unreachably high, largely due to comparisons with the late Heath Ledger’s iconic Oscar winning performance in The Dark Knight. Well, Ledger’s unforgettable turn still remains the greatest of this century, as Leto is crushingly disappointing in the same role. It’s made worse by the gleefully horrific stories that came out about Leto’s methods when getting into character: pulling stunts such as sending fellow cast members used condoms and boxes with live rats in them. So why didn’t we get that Joker on screen? Instead, what we get is a green-haired depiction of the male half of artsy rappers Die Antwoord. He’s barely seen, which was always going to be the case, but it doesn’t bode well for any future cinematic appearances.
Put simply, if Marvel’s Avengers series is to be compared to a complex, interweaving tapestry, DC’s Suicide Squad is more akin to one of those Christmas decorations made by toddlers in their first few school years – well intentioned but badly stitched, hurriedly concluded and undeniably ugly to look at.