The world is full of healthy competitions– Ford vs. Chevy, Verizon vs. AT&T, Coke vs. Pepsi– but one place where you won’t find anything close to a competition is in the comic book movie world. After the disasters that were 2013’s Man of Steel and this year’s Batman v. Superman, DC has officially reached the “three strikes and you’re out” threshold with Suicide Squad. Even if we didn’t compare it to the boffo successes that Marvel has enjoyed across the board, Suicide Squad would still be an unmitigated disaster.
With a lackluster script, amateurish direction, and an abundance of cliches–from the story to the soundtrack to the characters–it will take a lot for something to come along this summer and unseat it as the biggest disappointment. (And, yes, that includes Ice Age: Collision Course— at least there were no expectations about that bit of drivel.)
Writer/Director David Ayer actually had a nice little track record going before he signed on to cash a paycheck with Suicide Squad. Fury and End of Watch were both among the most underrated movies of the past couple years, and his screenplay for Training Day was arguably the best of 2002. But something un-funny happened on his way to the DC Universe. Either Ayer took some time out to attend the Michael Bay School of Tropey Filmmaking, or he hit his head. Slo-mo shots of bullet casings bouncing on the ground? Check. Slo-mo “squad strut” scene? Check. Slo-mo shots of swords flying, fists landing, and all manner of things blowing up? Check, check, and check.
After what seems like an interminable set-up (wherein we’re slooooowly introduced to each and every character), we finally get to what we’re made to believe is the main story (such as it is). Government higher-up Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is assembling a group of the most evil villains in the world as a sort of fail-safe–should Superman or Batman ever go rogue. Among the rag-tag group of obnoxious tools she collects are Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), and El Diablo (Jay Hernandez). And then one of the group actually goes rogue herself, the squad is dispatched to make things right (or at least not so entirely wrong).
The problem, though, is that every single character is a complete ass, which means there’s no one to root for– Suicide Squad literally forces you to choose the lesser of more than a dozen evils. And of those dozen or so evils, only one of two characters are actually drawn well enough for you to even remotely care. I’m actually still trying to figure out the point of Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney); near as I can figure he was captured (fairly easily) robbing a bank, and he also flings boomerangs. It’s not a stretch to think that an infirm grandmother could dispatch this guy with little or no effort.
Jared Leto has been grabbing all the headlines lately for his performance as The Joker, but a) he’s on screen for maybe a total of 10 minutes…maybe. And b) after Nicholson’s and Ledger’s incarnations, anyone else would look like a goofy, hammy caricature. Which Leto does. And that’s before we even discuss the fact that the character adds nothing whatsoever to the plot , which makes him completely expendable.
For her part, Robbie gets credit for being the only person who seemed to have any fun at all filming this trainwreck. Even Smith seems to be sleepwalking his way through it.
Suicide Squad is full of so many ridiculous, lazy moments, you’ll think (or hope) that someone is just playing a joke on us. But I’m guessing the only people laughing are the folks at Marvel, who are having a grand ol’ time reveling in the fact that DC did the impossible– they made the god-awful Batman v Supermanlook like award-worthy masterpiece in retrospect.