It’s here. After the OMG-fuelled images that perforated the web showing off a new tatted Joker post Heath Ledger, the official team photo and the LSD-laced trailer that spurred our anticipation for what was in store, Suicide Squad is now in cinemas.
Now, I am sure you’ll be comparing it to how it stands beside the hyper-violent humorous antics of Deadpool or the star-team power of The Avengers. As one probably should. Hell we should probably mention them at some point. And it’s not to illicit another “Fuck Marvel” from David Ayer. “What ever happened to DC being the ‘Distinguished Competitor’?”
Anywho, this review will be more concerned with the current DC Cinematic Universe and what new avenues if any are opened up by Suicide Squad, or even if any effort in merging with Zack Snyder’s happy shack of a universe is even worth undergoing. And of course the narrative of the piece. What would a review be without that?
Put on a brave smile for daddy.
If any of you are familiar with the overall story of the Suicide Squad in comic or animation form, the story here is not at all that unfamiliar. Amanda Waller, essentially Nick Fury of the DC Universe, but with more balls, looks to assemble a task force of some really bad people to deal with the hypothetical of an evil, rogue Superman. Which in Zack Snyder’s Universe is a safe bet. Almost an assurity. So she gets the worst of the worse, from a sociopathic hitman to a Doctor possessed by a spirit that is summoned by the mention of the word ‘Enchantress’, and assembles them as a wet-works team to covertly deal with [metahuman] crises. And their first assignment has them going up against the witch and all sorts of supernatural uglies. The witch being Enchantress, who frees her brother to build a supernatural WMD of sorts so they can be worshipped by humans again like in the good old days. Talk about creating your own problems.
I hear what you’re saying. If the Suicide Squad are so bad ass, they surely can’t be forced into a group to do some government official’s bidding, right? Not if any of you are familiar with Amanda Waller, beautifully played by Viola Davis. She has a superpower. Well not the typical kind. Her superpower is called ‘leverage’. And she has a lot to go by. Waller has devices implanted in the base of the Squad’s necks, which go boom if they deviate from instruction. Not to mention embedding Rick Flag and Katana in the team to keep everyone in check.
And Waller also has a witch in her employ, called Enchantress. And how does she control a witch? By owning her heart. Literally. Think a cooler Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Something Waller does not hesitate to threaten and destroy to gain the witch’s compliance. And she also social-engineered a romantic relationship between Rick Flag and archaeologist Dr. June Moone, the body which the spirit Enchantress currently inhabits. So Waller also has her claws in Flag through her. She is quite gangster like that.
But is Suicide Squad a solid film, or a gateway to something else?
Every good team dynamic has individual skills that, singularly, are impressive, but when brought together and synced harmoniously, become a thing of clockwork. The Swiss / Rolex kind. Armed with rockets, garrotte and a laser that can burn through iron. Complete with name engraved. Suicide Squad aims for this and it gets a few of the elements right.
Deadshot, super accurate with fire arms. Harley Quinn is, well, a chick with a hot/crazy coefficient of 15 [10 being the highest], Diablo, a pryo-kinectic who has lost his burning desire to fight. Boomerang, an Aussie. That’s a super power right? Croc, who’s handsomely ugly and an ox of a brute, and, I’m sure I’m missing someone. Oh yeah, the Indian guy who got his head blown clean off not even five minutes into the mission. “A good indian…” right Hollywood? What was his special talent again? Climbing walls. No worries the building you need to abstract Waller from has elevators. Good stuff. Hard being a character whose inclusion is just to show the rest of the real team that the implanted explosive devices work and Flag has the stones to use it.
But here is where things fall a bit short. Most of the conflict comes between Rick Flag and Deadshot. Being two alphas, that is expected. But otherwise inner-team mechanics would dictate they’d be hella more pissed at Waller, and there would be a lot more friction between the group members. With the likes of Captain Boomerang, wanting to go off reservation and not being a team player, Harley being a mental case, the volatility (eventually) of Diablo… a lot of opportunities for internal, riveting conflict. These were a group of people who never worked together before, who were used to operating independently and without care for anyone else but self. So to ask them to then be a team, their very lives in each others’ hands, one would expect start off on a bit more a shaky leg under the watchful mama hawk Waller and her errand boy Flag. But the team didn’t trip over themselves once, or dropped the ball. They were pretty cohesive as a unit. Without training together. Yeah. Then they went and got drinks and started psyche eval’ing themselves near the end.
Now this is where I am trying to intellectualise things a bit too much. I understand the suspension of disbelief. But Superman in Man Of Steel, the god that spurred on DC’s sluggish monster-hit movie empire, is the first real taste this modern world has seen of anything remotely close to a super-powered man / woman. Metahumans. Now characters reaction to the Metahuman in Suicide Squad see-sawed between utter bewilderment and ‘meh’. It’s nothing like the emergence of mutants in X-Men: First Class and the true awe and fear it inspired in the normal folk.
In one moment, Cara Delevingne’s Dr. Moone character summons the Enchantress witch (a very cool sequence by the way, with the inter-clasping hands) in front of a team of military personnel. One woman, signs the cross over herself like a good Catholic. An understandable reaction. But others weren’t impressed by the ‘magic trick’. Not one bit. Not even a faint hint of feeling uncomfortable at the sight of full transformation of a woman into an elemental devil-Witch. Have to say she does get slightly terrifying in the end look-wise too. Had The Ring flashbacks.
And as far as the assembly of the team, most of which aren’t metahumans, they were to be able to deal with the hypothetical threat of a rogue Superman. Sure, if Diablo wanted to give Superman a tan while Deadshot massaged his upper chest area with bullets. Save for the green mood stone, not sure if the Suicide Squad would fare well against the Man of Steel. Other Metahumans, sure.
But that’s one of the things Suicide Squad has brought fans- a DC universe with metahumans. Not just an Alien or an awkward Flash flashpoint flashback whatevs. But Metas in this new DC world. And it was fun. From the pyro-kinetic Diablo turning all enemies to cinder to the supernatural Enchantress getting her witch craft on (which turns out to be a lightning super-weapon with boring earthly consequences to national security).
And while we do get a cameo from both Batman and The Flash, they seemed less crowbarred in than the cameos of Batman V Superman. Having that said, they did end up adding to a rather lengthy introduction to the Squad members. Some could have been way shorter and a bit more Guy Ritchie-y.
There have been doubts. But Leto’s Joker is visually a treat. The slightly androgynous ghoul of a man, whose very mannerism in speaking and gesticulation you can actually feel give slight pause to every actor surrounded by him, as if unsure what’s coming next. Must have been all the gifts, Leto.
But the Joker, we’ve been led to believe, would be a bit of a wild card, one that would certainly send things off-course for the Suicide Squad. But as it turns he wasn’t that wild a card.
Joker finds Harley Quinn is kept prisoner on a Black site, where she then gets recruited by Waller. Joker then pushes all the right buttons to find her and attempts to break her out from under Waller’s thumb.
Which leads us to why Joker works. Harley Quinn. From the audio-visual tribute made to the infamous Alex Ross illustration in the beginning, to the chinook rescue sequence, The Joker feels more of a fuller character when paired with Harley as the madly-in-lust couple. She is something he must have. Whatever the cost. And she is crazy about the idea of being in love. Match made in Arkham heaven. Hopefully we’ll see more of what this Joker has to offer come Batman’s solo film.
• Enchantress… well… enchants the few remaining Squad members with simulacrum of the greatest desires. In a flurry of a final attempt to thwart Deadshot from pulling the trigger to destroy Enchantress and her weapon she spent all day
dancing in front of building, Enchantress conjures the image of Deadshot’s daughter begging him not pull the trigger. The scene would have been of such a great impetus to see her visage being blown away violent by Deadshot breaking his promise to (the image of) her.
• Diablo’s retelling his story of how he murdered his wife and children. Could have shown charred bodies breaking down to ash. Not a full, meaty corpse exploding and disintegrating quickly into nothing. You ain’t that hot.
• Last scene. Wasn’t this site already compromised? Why’d Harley be back there with the Joker having already infiltrated once? Maybe I missed something? And he’s in riot gear. Clown Prince of Crime’s too cool for that level of dress-up. That’s why he’s got goons.
Suicide Squad was fun. Will Smith’s Deadshot was entertaining and Harley Quinn was understandably a hit. Though a bit corny and forced at times. High-pitched noises get to me… so it might just be me. Wish there was more of Katana that I could remember other than her crying over her soul-blade and Flag was particularly awesome. Glad Tom Hardy flaked.
Now team-dynamics could be more… well… dynamic. And the Joker was not as impactful and intense as his character would demand.
In the end, it was a good watch. And certainly is felt building towards a DC universe where the surreal and bizarre are possible. But it doesn’t feel all the way a gateway film like BVS was. Although I do suspect any cameo of The Flash will continually be considered to be jarring.
Oh and new rating system!