Suicide Squad (2016), how can $175 million result in this?

Authors note: I’m talking about the extended edition of Suicide Squad in this review, I’m pretty sure scenes were only added and none were taken away but just a word of warning.

 

Back in the day I couldn’t care less about Man of Steel when it came out (if you read my review you’ll know I still don’t care about it now), but when 2016 rolled around it meant that I never bothered to see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice because I hadn’t seen and couldn’t be bothered to see Man of Steel. But when Suicide Squad was announced, I was all over it. It was everything I wanted at the time, cool anti-heroes like Deadshot, Killer Croc and Harley Quinn finally on the big screen. Then the soundtrack came out and it was filled with bangers, we got an amazing original song by Twenty One Pilots (who I was obsessed with) and Panic! At the Disco’s great cover of Bohemian Rhapsody. It seemed like the film was going to be everything I wanted and more. Then I went and saw it. I remember coming out of the film with a feeling of “what the hell did I just watch??”. Until now, I never went back to this film, not out of any spite or long-held grudge, but simply because I thought the film was trash. In a way, when I decided to watch the DC films, I was slightly excited to watch Suicide Squad again, was it as bad as I remembered? Would the extended cut improve the film in any way? What would I think about it now? And the answers turned out to be: No, it was worse than I remembered it; no, the extended cut didn’t make it any better; and I still hate it.

I honestly don’t know where to start, maybe the positives, as it won’t take very long. First off, the soundtrack: it’s great, filled with some original songs from a lot of big names, it’s the kind of soundtrack I would get on CD and listen to. I say that last part, because that’s the only way to appreciate the soundtrack, as it’s absolutely butchered in the film itself. Especially at the beginning of the film with the character introductions, the film will play 30 seconds to a minute of a song in an attempt to match the character or mood of a scene, before jarringly cutting the song short in favour of a new scene and a new licensed song which ends up creating this weird mess where the soundtrack is jumping from classic rock, to hip-hop, to pop in such jarring transitions that much like the scenes they accompany they ultimately clash with each other.

Using this as a nice segway, let talk about the character introductions. Our introductions to the ensemble cast come through the framing device of Viola Davis’s Amanda Waller going through her selection for members of the ‘Task Force X’, interspersed with brief introductions to the characters in their pre-prison life and how they ended up getting caught/arrested. This whole sequence is so poorly put together as the film clearly favours Will Smith’s Deadshot and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn who receive significantly more screen time than any of the rest of the squad. The rest of the squad get little to no meaningful introduction, and it just shows how little the film cares about the characters outside of the two money-makers in Smith and Robbie. If there’s any clear representation of how the studio butchered this film, it’s these character introductions as they’re so vapid and worthless in the wider context, there’s no real thought put into these scenes and for characters like Killer Croc or Captain Boomerang (or even Slipknot who doesn’t even get an introduction), in order to get the audience to understand or root for them as the film progresses. Deadshot’s introduction is arguably the only coherent one, as Harley Quinn’s introduction is a chaotic string of scenes highlighting her abuse and trauma (that she sometimes relishes in?) during her relationship with Jared Leto’s Joker. But while it’s more narratively coherent, Deadshot’s introduction encounters the same problem Harley Quinn’s does, and that is the fact the film doesn’t know what it’s trying to say with them. Is Harley Quinn complicit in the Joker’s rampages, or a victim manipulated into joining? Is Deadshot a tragic figure doing the best to take care of his kid, or is he a sociopathic serial killer relishing in his marksmanship ability? In both regards the film seems to want to say the ‘nicer’ of the two options to garner some sympathy with the audience, but then presents the characters in the opposite way.

As the film progresses the rest of the plot is disastrous. The newly formed squad, held hostage under the threat of death (as proved by the may-as-well-been nameless Slipknot who dies in a  convenient form of exposition), are tasked with taking down Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress who is taking over the city. The story feels completely meaningless, as the stakes feel incredibly low throughout, Enchantress’s motivation is just a generic: “evil spirit wants domination” type of deal. The monsters she sends out to kill Joel Kinnaman’s Colonel Rick Flag (the boyfriend of the Doctor that Enchantress has taken over), are terribly designed, looking like humanoid sludges. The film moves from lousy action set-piece to lousy action set-piece with moments of “character development” or “exposition” in the downtime between the action. I use the quotations because while that’s what they’re clearly going for with these scenes of painful dialogue between the squad, they deserve to be seen as such. The climax is hardly any better, as it attempts to merge the two, capping off the minimal scenes of character development with an attempt to make us connect to the paper-thin characters, all while two cgi-monstrosities tussle back and forth. 

The film is a complete trainwreck. All the elements clash with each other, it was clearly a marketing tool designed solely for Will Smith and Margot Robbie, any attempt at story or cohesion by David Ayer is either sloppily done or non-existent. The scenery and effects look almost universally terrible with dull cinematography throughout. I already mentioned the bad character design of the monsters, but the effects and production design also create these dull landscapes that the action takes place in. There’s no real cohesion to the design either, and it adds nothing to the film, but it’s always an eyesore for the audience. The most staggering thing about this film for me is that so many great films could have been made by competent directors with $175 million behind them, but somehow this film managed to get practically nothing right in this monstrosity with the funds and means available to them.

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