Warner Bros. wants to make their DC comic book movies as popular as Disney's Marvel movies have been, with a plan that includes reboots, new standalone hero movies, and a Justice League film, released every year through 2020. The first step in that plan was Batman Vs. Superman, which was released earlier this summer.
Having survived that disaster, I can't say I was exactly excited to see Suicide Squad. The good news is, it's better than BvS. The bad news is, that's about the best that can be said about it.
The film takes place soon after the events of Batman Vs. Superman, with the government once again pondering what they can do to protect the world from the next attack — be it from another alien threat, or a "meta-human" fight gone wrong.
Agent Waller (Viola Davis) decides to put together a team of mega-bad guys because....why not? The idea is, they have nothing to lose fighting for the good guys, except some years off their sentences, but, come on, how would any of them not have life sentences?
The first 20 minutes of the movie is pure exposition, with a classic rock soundtrack, (before the credits even roll, we get to hear the Stones, the Animals, AND Lesley Gore). Every bad guy gets an introduction, a little back story, and a look at their current situation down in Belle Reve, a Louisiana maximum security prison. There's a lot of them, but the only ones the movie really wants you to care about are Deadshot (Will Smith), the world's deadliest assassin-for-hire, who's actually not that bad a guy because he reaaaallly loves his daughter, and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the insane girlfriend of the Joker, (Jared Leto).
Let's get Leto's Joker out of the way first. While he got the majority of the film's pre-release buzz and publicity, he's hardly in it at all. Which I suppose is a relief, since he's a total snooze. He's supposed to be a mega-gangster, but really just resembles that creepy guy who's always in the roped-off section of a nightclub, tossing money around and making threats at anyone who looks at his girlfriend...who's dancing on a pole in the middle of the club (STOP LOOKING!).
But he doesn't seem psychopathic, or capable of any kind of master crimes. He's more like a twitchy meth head with a silver grill that makes it sound like he's drooling when he talks. Harley Quinn could do soooo much better.
But, alas, Harley Quinn's sole purpose in life is to love her "Puddin," and joins the Suicide Squad as a means of running back into the Joker's skinny little arms. Margot Robbie's version of Harley has evolved since the character's introduction in the Batman animated series, and by "evolved" I mean she's now wearing less clothing. A lot less. Gone is the original "Harlequin" themed catsuit, replaced by hot pants, a tight t-shirt, and...that's about it.
What does remain is an exaggerated "New York" accent that makes her sound like a 1930's mafia moll, and the basic backstory that she was once the Joker's psychiatrist, until she fell under his spell and went crazy (with the help of some electroshock to the brain), and is now hopelessly in love with him. (Which, yes, comes off as gross as it sounds.)
Robbie's Quinn is the highlight of the movie, but really, that's not saying much. She's at least a different kind of villain, and has an anarchic energy that is, at times, engaging. It's just too bad her dialogue is terrible and her jokes fall flat. Too often she reminded me of every annoying drunk girl in a "Sexy [blank]" costume anyone's ever had to deal with on Halloween (and who this year will probably be dressed up as Harley Quinn).
Once the Squad is, finally, all assembled, the movie turns into Escape From New York. They get microbombs injected into their necks — just like Snake Plisken did! — that will explode if they attempt to escape. Then they're airdropped into the ruins of a city and have to fight their way to the top of a building to help rescue a Very Important Person. (Seriously, how did John Carpenter not get a story credit for this?!)
Oh, but of course, that's not enough plot for a movie that has TEN villains. There's also a Big Bad that has to be brought down, and here's where the stupidity of the movie's plot really comes into play. The villain is the Enchantress, an ancient witch who has possessed the body of archaeologist June Moone (Cara Delevingne). This super witch is also one of the villains Agent Waller recruited into her Suicide Squad. So, basically, the hypothetical supervillain the Squad was put together as a defense against wouldn't have come to be if the Squad hadn't been put together in the first place.
A smarter movie would recognize the humor in that, or at least work some comment into the story about, I don't know, the circular nature of war? Something; anything! Instead, we just get scene after scene showing the Enchantress's ridiculous army of pustule-faced rock monsters, and her huge swirling vortex of trash.
Though, come to think of it, maybe that's the commentary I was looking for. "Please enjoy this Huge Swirling Vortex of Trash. See you again next summer!"
Related: Out of Frame: Suicide Squad