Suicide Squad is the movie equivalent of a hot mess. It made sense to start a DC Extended Universe with a Superman movie. He is the most prominent DC superhero after all. Although rushed, it made just as much sense to follow it up with a Batman crossover including Wonder Woman. What never made sense to me, was following that up with a Suicide Squad movie. That’s like going from Iron Man to Civil War to Guardians of the Galaxy. The similarity being all of the DC supervillains that needed to be introduced in one movie. That technically makes Suicide Squad the first supervillain movie. The idea of a Suicide Squad has existed ever since the 1959 The Brave and the Bold #25.
They were once a simple military unit before the 1987 Legends #2 turned them into a team of existing supervillains. The overall concept of Task Force X is actually very interesting. Villains perform suicide missions in exchange for reduced sentences, and have their heads blown off if they don’t cooperate. I was never too familiar with the team, but they continually appeared in animation. As well as live-action TV shows like Smallville and Arrow. The 2016 movie felt like it came out of nowhere. Before I knew it, actors were cast, images were released, trailers dropped, and Suicide Squad was coming out the same year as Batman v Superman. I wasn’t immediately nervous, but the drastic tonal shift between the Comic-Con trailer and official trailer should’ve been a warning sign…
Suicide Squad has been in the works since 2009. Only going into serious production after the DCEU was established. Most comic book movies announce their cast one at a time, but Suicide Squad announced 6 cast members all at once. I didn’t really believe the movie was coming until an image with the entire Suicide Squad was released. Task Force X has obviously had a revolving door of team members ever since its creation. They are the “Suicide” Squad after all. Even still, their choice of team members made the movie seem more than a little overstuffed. Rick Flag is the oldest member who acts as the heroic Military leader keeping Task Force X in line. Tom Hardy was originally cast, but he had to back out due to scheduling conflicts. Joel Kinnaman felt like a serious downgrade since he was so dull and lifeless in RoboCop (2014).
Amanda Waller has always been a morally grey business woman with a finger on the button. Respected African American actresses as big as Pam Grier and Angela Bassett previously portrayed her in Smallville and Green Lantern respectively. So it was a good sign that soon to be Oscar winner Viola Davis was chosen for the part. Floyd Lawton/Deadshot is another longtime member and recurring Batman villain that I expected to see on the team. Will Smith’s 2010 career resurgence made his casting seem promising since he was due for a comic book role. The Australian George “Digger” Harkness/Captain Boomerang is yet another longtime member and recurring Flash villain that I knew would pop up as well. Jai Courtney probably made me the most nervous considering how lame he is in most major franchises.
I never expected to see metahuman Batman villain Waylon Jones/Killer Croc on the big screen, but he was another interesting addition. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is a pretty recurring presence who was previously part of the MCU. DC’s Enchantress is Dr. June Moone, a witch who’s always been associated with the Suicide Squad. Model Cara Delevingne was already getting her start in acting, so I didn’t think much of her casting. Tatsu Yamashiro/Katana is a Japanese superheroine who previously made a faithful live-action appearance on Arrow. I didn’t know anything about Karen Fukuhara since this was her first movie. Apart from the Native American Adam Beach being cast as the obscure Christopher Weiss/Slipknot, I knew next to nothing about the firestarter El Diablo. The villain has gone by many aliases, but the movie cast the hispanic Jay Hernandez as Chato Santana.
But none of the team was ever going to get as much attention as the first theatrical appearance of Dr. Harleen Quinzel aka Harley Quinn. Harley Quinn has the most interesting history out of Batman’s entire rogues gallery. She was actually an original character made for the 1992 Batman: The Animated Series episode “Joker’s Favor” until her official 1999 comic debut in Batman: Harley Quinn #1. Harley was introduced as a sidekick/love interest for the Joker before becoming an instant fan favorite. She didn’t become a prominent member of the Suicide Squad until the modern New 52 relaunch. Margot Robbie was another very encouraging casting announcement, but even she was overshadowed by Mr. J himself. Batman’s archenemy has always had a strong media presence. So it was only a matter of time before the Joker made his cinematic return. Despite the critical acclaim that the late Heath Ledger received, fellow Oscar winner Jared Leto seemed like a good idea at the time.
The Comic-Con trailer was released before Dawn of Justice and featured a darker version of the Bee Gees song “I Started a Joke.” Unlike Batman v Superman, the tone seemed to fit the supervillain ensemble a lot better. Even though it once again looked like an R rated movie posing as a PG-13 movie. LEGO sets were never made since the title Suicide Squad is still too edgy for children. I was no less uncomfortable knowing kids were going to see something just as mature without going a step further. Most of the unnecessary profanity and innuendo can be blamed on overly edgy director David Ayer. Proving Zack Snyder wasn’t the only DC director who could make ill-advised decisions. It all started with the first look at everyone’s costume. Unlike Snyder’s gritty comic accuracy, Ayer has a bizarre tattoo & gangster fetish. Rick Flag looks alright with standard Military garb, but a yellow t-shirt would’ve been more interesting.
Apart from the race change, Deadshot is really the only one who feels like he leapt off the page. Smith wears Deadshot’s red-orange spandex with added padding, wrist gauntlets, and his signature high powered lens occasionally paired with a white mask. Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc, and El Diablo are all wearing very inaccurate gold chains, hoodies, and/or tank tops for some reason. No one knows what Slipknot looks like in the comics, so it didn’t matter that he had a rope covered mercenary look. Captain Boomerang is the only thug with some accuracy since he’s always worn a knit cap, trench coat, and carried deadly boomerangs as weapons. El Diablo is covered head to toe in skull tattoos, but really it’s the reptilian Killer Croc who has the most impressive makeup in the movie. As shocking as it was, the DCEU won an Academy Award before the MCU when Suicide Squad won for Best Makeup and Hairstyling.
Katana’s Japanese ensemble and signature katana were also ripped straight from the comics, but they do go for her more sexualized look. The Enchantress was also sexualized with a dirty green chainmail bikini, but the most sexualized character in the entire DCEU is Harley Quinn. Although she started her criminal career in a red & black jester costume, Harley was always a sexy wild card who wore progressively more revealing outfits. So Harley has red & blue pigtails and wears extra small shorts, sneaker stilettos, a tight shirt with “Daddy’s Lil Monster” written on it, a jacket with “Property of Joker” printed on it, a “Puddin” choker, bracelets, and carries a bejeweled gun with a “Good Night” bat as her primary weapon. Not to mention the light amount of tattoos and makeup she has. I have absolutely no problem with Harley’s seductive costume since Margot Robbie is one of the hottest actresses in Hollywood. Although I only felt uncomfortable seeing it with my family, all of her suggestive scenes didn’t bother me either. Not as much as the sexist dialogue that most people seem to ignore.
I can totally buy Harley Quinn becoming a modern icon, but the Joker was a different story. I was more than a little shocked when I first saw Leto’s short neon green hair, silver grill, dark red lipstick, and pale body covered in unnecessary tattoos. Joker has a ‘J’ teardrop tattoo, the word “damaged” written on his forehead, “Ha ha ha!” all over his body, and smiley faces on his arm, abdomen, and hand. Suicide Squad is practically word porn, but the Joker’s purple gangsta coat and gold chains made me even more nervous. There’s a fine line between edginess and trying way too hard. The Comic-Con trailer seemed to make it work, but everything changed when Batman v Superman became such a failure. Suddenly the overly dark tone of the DCEU forced Warner Bros. to quickly rethink their strategy. Leading to several rewrites, the Joker being severely reduced, a climax change, a more comedic tone, and a kickass trailer set to “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I know there’s an audience for Suicide Squad that sees it as simple dumb fun, but for me it’s a non-stop cringefest that’s 2 hours too long and somehow ended up worse than Dawn of Justice.
It literally takes 18 minutes just to introduce almost every member of Task Force X. Rather than work it into the story organically, several stylized stats are shown only for the most important teammates. Unlike the previous DCEU films, there’s much more neon color mixed with pop art visuals. Most of it ends up feeling awkwardly edited into the film. Just like several flashback sequences that feel like they were meant for the beginning of the movie. The death of Superman is acknowledged, but it never feels like Suicide Squad was meant to be the follow up to that. More often it feels like an excuse to justify bringing in a team of low-level criminals to fight a standard world ending event. Intelligence Officer Amanda Waller is just like her comic book counterpart in how she proposes the idea for Task Force X to the government. Viola Davis is great at portraying Waller’s ruthlessness, but she isn’t given much to work with. Her dialogue while talking about every individual Suicide Squad member can be just as cringy as her edgier co-stars.
Suicide Squad burns through about 6 good songs in the span of 8 minutes. Unlike Guardians of the Galaxy, the movie’s soundtrack is way too desperate to emulate the formers success. Almost like they pulled popular songs from a karaoke machine. I’m not a fan of “Purple Lamborghini,” but the soundtrack is at least good for including original songs like “Sucker for Pain” and “Heathens.” Most criminals are imprisoned in the comic accurate Belle Reve prison. Will Smith feels like he’s trying the hardest to sell the movie. He was practically the only actor to speak at Comic-Con when the entire cast showed up and he turned down Independence Day: Resurgence to star in Suicide Squad. It’s a no win situation either way. Although his edgy humor can feel forced, Deadshot does have more layers as a hired gun with a daughter to look after in Gotham City. Even if the actress playing Lawton’s daughter can feel very stilted, it does lead to the coolest part of the movie.
The bad guys may be the stars, but Batman can still pop in to fight crime. Since Batman has been around for 20 years, his entire rogues gallery is pretty much already out there. Ben Affleck doesn’t have a huge role, but it is neat to see him in the batsuit once again, and driving around in the Batmobile. Deadshot surrenders for his daughter and mostly does the mission for her. I’ll admit that Deadshot being given a chance at target practise was the only comedic scene that genuinely made me laugh. Margot Robbie was perfectly cast as Harley Quinn the moment she hangs from a prison cell to the tune of “You Don’t Own Me.” Her trademark Brooklyn accent isn’t too cartoony, but she does keep all of her catchphrases. Harley also has a lengthy backstory that feels like it was shot by someone just as crazy. Dr. Quinzel becoming the Joker’s psychiatrist and subsequently falling in love is so rushed that it’s hard to get any emotion out of it.
Apart from the electric shock scene and a few moments from the extended edition, Harley & Mr. J’s abusive relationship is never done justice. Harleen willingly jumps into a vat of chemicals and the Joker jumps in after her. She dances at a nightclub and rides with the Joker in a purple lamborghini pursued by Batman. Harley manages to kiss the Dark Knight as he saves her from drowning, but that’s how she ends up in prison. This is easily the worst Joker ever put to film. Jared Leto tries way too hard in an attempt to distinguish himself from other Clown Princes of Crime. His behind the scenes method acting sounds more like an excuse to be a jerk. The gangster angle was stupid, his subtle voice and laugh are more goofy than intimidating, and his other eccentricities feel more random than psychotic. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is worse, but Leto is a close second for most botched archenemy. I can’t imagine his role would’ve been better had his scenes remained intact.
The Joker is mostly around to try and release Harley from the Suicide Squad. He encounters a really annoying security guard played by the very punchable Ike Barinholtz, infiltrates A.R.G.U.S, and tries to defuse the bomb in her head. Jai Courtney ended up being surprisingly good as Captain Boomerang. Even if he is a drunken Australian stereotype with an out of nowhere pink unicorn fetish. Why is that funny? Boomerang spends most of the movie fighting whenever he wants, flirting with Katana, and stealing jewels in a flashback sequence. Ezra Miller has a quick cameo as the Flash, but he feels too soon. Despite Akinnuoye-Agbaje being covered in scales, Killer Croc also feels like a black stereotype who’s just there to look cool and say one-liners occasionally. His cannibalistic side is mentioned, but exploring the sewers are the extent of his metahuman abilities. El Diablo is a partial Mexican stereotype, but Jay Hernandez is easily given the most passionate performance in the movie.
Despite possessing immense fire power, Diablo chooses not to fight as penance for accidentally killing his wife & kids. Although it’s more complex than a movie this dumb deserves, calling the Suicide Squad his family after sharing drinks for 2 minutes is extremely forced. Adam Beach is totally wasted when Slipknot shows up at the last possible second as “the man who can climb anything.” I immediately knew he had to be the one team member that was made an example of. Boomerang convinces him to escape and Slipknot’s head is suddenly blown off. David Harbor, Scott Eastwood, and Common are also wasted with nothing memorable to do. Katana shows up at the last possible second with a cringy explanation from Flag. Karen Fukuhara tries, but she’s also given little to work with. All we know is that Katana is there to bodyguard, carries a sword that traps her victims, and lost her husband to it.
Rick Flag’s sole purpose in the movie is to shout exposition. Made worse with Joel Kinnaman’s annoying Southern accent. Flag has a bickering relationship with Deadshot that never quite comes together. Deadshot has better chemistry with Harley since Smith & Robbie both appeared in Focus together. Flag is also given a mostly off-screen romance with June Moone. As soon as I saw the trailers, I knew the Enchantress had to be the most villainous villain in a movie full of villains. I don’t buy Cara Delevingne as an archeologist, but the way she transforms into the Enchantress is pretty cool. Waller keeps the Enchantress in line by controlling her heart and stabbing it if she betrays her. As the demonic Enchantress, Delevingne also feels random with an extremely cringy magical hula dance. Her vague evil plan is to destroy the world using a machine that shoots a sky beam into the atmosphere. She creates disposal CGI minions by kissing Midway City citizens and turning them into ugly thousand-eyed blobs. She also summons her brother Incubus as a civilian with the worst CGI I’ve seen in a long time.
It’s all very cliché, but it’s still enough to force the Suicide Squad into action. The 2 hour runtime never feels justified since the team spends most of the movie wandering around, making comments, and plotting against Flag. The slow motion Zack Snyder style action is a minor highlight when they fight in the streets and end up in a high rise building. Everything else is mostly a lot of helicopters being destroyed. I guess it’s supposed to be a surprise when Waller ends up being the mission objective, but Suicide Squad is too sloppy to make it work. Harley attempts to flee with the Joker, but his helicopter is taken down as well. Waller is captured and the movie comes to a screeching halt when the team stops for drinks. Any attempt at an emotional core is lost when Harley tells Diablo to own killing his family. They all casually stroll into the climax after Flag sets them free for reasons. The Enchantress shows Flag, Deadshot, Quinn, and Diablo the life they want. Flag imagines being with June, Deadshot imagines killing Batman, Harley imagines a normal life with the Joker, and Diablo sees his wife & kids again.
Only Diablo manages to snap them out of it and fight Incubus as some sort of fire monster. In the end, he’s the only other team member who dies. Killer Croc swims through the sewers and for some reason throws a bomb in place of Captain Boomerang. Deadshot shoots the Enchantress’ machine after a bizarre scene where he sees his daughter. Harley’s bat is practically useless, but she manages to strike the Enchantress’ heart with Katana’s blade. Flag crushes her heart and manages to get June back. Waller somehow didn’t die after everything that happened, so the movie returns to square one with everyone sent back to prison (with the exception of special requests). The Joker returns to break Harley out of prison, but don’t expect that relationship to be followed up on. The DCEU really tries to copy Marvel by having a mid-credits scene where Bruce Wayne receives files about the metahumans he’s looking for from Amanda Waller. I can’t exactly call Suicide Squad a disappointment, but it’s far too chaotic to win me over.
Preceded by: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice & Followed by: Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)