This isn’t the film that will save the struggling DCCU, and set it on par with its comic book rivals.
It’s important to get that out there straight off the bat (no pun intended), as a lot of expectations have been place on Suicide Squad’s shoulders. That it would be DC’s Guardians Of The Galaxy, that it would lighten the tone of the comic book universe from the grim and gritty of Snyder’s Batman Vs Superman, that it would get the DC cinematic universe running with the same seamlessness as Marvel’s. An impossible ask, but hopes were buoyed by a phenomenal trailer. In retrospect you can probably see the exact moment that this broke David Ayer’s film about a Dirty Dozen like team of super-criminals. Like Bane practising chiropracty.
With Superman gone, government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is looking at ways to handle the next meta-human threat to the world. Her solution is Task force X, an off the books group of meta-human criminals, made from those already in custody. Effective, deniable, expendable – a Suicide Squad. When a world-ending ancient terror is unleashed on the people of Midway City it is up to the assassin Deadshot (Will Smith), the lunatic Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the gangster El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), the freak Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and the criminal Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) to save the day. The small bomb in their spine providing much of the motivation they need.
Suicide Squad is a mess of storytelling, trying to sandwich in multiple origin stories and its own set-up into its two hour runtime. As a result everything suffers. Its pacing is stilted, its tone jarring and contradictory (lurching from neon coloured lunacy to dark prison drama), its emotional pay-offs are often unearned and appear from nowhere, and it lacks any real sense of threat (despite multiple character deaths).
Yet beneath this jumble, you catch glimpses of great film struggling to emerge. Ayer’s visual style and iconography are fascinating, giving us a look and feel that is fresh to comic book cinema. Smith, Robbie, and Hernandez all bring a tremendous amount of pathos to these villains, creating human stories rather than costumed freaks ready to act as a punching bag for the hero. Hernandez especially goes above and beyond in this regard, making us care about a minor DC character. You can’t help but feel he, and Davis’ ruthlessly efficient Waller are a relic from an earlier, better script. However it’ll be Robbie and Leto as the Bonnie and Clyde romantics (Harley and Joker) that will be remembered. Despite problems with its core of domestic abuse, this will be the relationship taken to heart by fans, and has already launched a thousand cosplays.
In the end though Suicide Squad is a disappointment. An average Superhero film, that has frequent flash of brilliance, dragged down by an atrocious script and woeful pacing.