Film Review: "Suicide Squad"
I am a big fan of Harley Quinn. In the comics. What you have here though is not about Harley Quinn, not really. No, it's the story of DC Comics the company, trying so hard to make their movies more like the Marvel movies. Enter: DC's extended universe. That's why basically, this movie is not the Harley Quinn movie Harley Quinn fans wanted for years. Instead, they put Harley on a team with a bunch of other characters, so she can basically be their version of Black Widow.
Don't believe me? Here's the similarities Harley in this movie has to Black Widow in The Avengers:
- Main female of the team, secondary female is a brooding loner who's very powerful, but doesn't talk much.
- Interacts with all the characters on the team, psychologically manipulating them to coax them into gritted-teeth cooperation.
- Has no powers of her own, but is used by the team for her ability to "talk down" the powerful but unstable members of the team.
- Has a tragic past the movie jumps to every so often.
- Fan service outfit.
This movie is trying so hard to copy The Avengers, it burns.
Another big expectation from the hype of this movie was that it would be about Jared Leto's version of the iconic villain, the Joker. It's even less about him than it is about Harley. The main problem with Jared Leto is, I can't tell really who he was trying to be. Is he trying to be the campy, goofy Joker from older iterations, or the dark, brooding, intimidating gangster Joker from Dark Knight? He's kind of both, and also kind of his own thing, but it's not a very good Joker. Now, I know, after Dark Knight, no one can top Heath Ledger. But Jared Leto doesn't find a niche that fits. Either he or the movie seems to have issues with his characterization, everything about him is awkward and ambiguous.
"What if I lose control?"
"Then maybe we have a chance."
Plot Summary (Contains Spoilers)
This has the plot of every cheesy superhero team story ever, the only difference is the team in this case is a bunch of criminals, motivated to do the government's bidding by the promise of a prison release. But not just any criminals, super criminals. Oh, but we don't call them that in this movie. They're "metahumans". Yeah, the people that brought us Superman are afraid of calling someone "superhuman"? I don't understand the insistent terminology here. But whatever, again, it's just like how The Avengers could show two mutant characters, as long as they didn't say the word "mutant". I remember seeing the term "metahuman" in the comic books, but I think it's a stupid term.
So, the team is Harley Quinn plus:
- Will Smith as a super-accurate shooter? That's kind of a lame power, but whatever.
- A monstrous dude who lives in a sewer and wants to live in peace.
- A pyrokinetic Hispanic dude (you know that because Will Smith calls him "ese") who wants to live in peace,
- Katana, who is probably the most offensive Asian character since Breakfast at Tiffany's (I mean, Katana? Why not just name her Godzilla or Hello Kitty or Maid Cafe, while you're at it?)
- An Australian thief. I'm not sure if he even has any powers, but he's there to look tough and say things in Australian.
So the plot revolves around this gang trying to stop an evil witch, simply called Enchantress, who wants to... speak like a combination of Zecora from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Galadriel from the Lord of the Rings movies, fly around, and do random CGI wind explosions and uh, take over the world? I guess? But in the mean time, they have this belabored angst and tension between the titular squad and the military they work for. Will Smith and this one army dude fight like an old married couple. Yawn...
So yeah, they confront the witch, eventually kill her, and surprise surprise, are denied the freedom they were promised, instead getting granted charming little prison perks. I don't know though, is giving Harley an espresso machine such a good idea? But at the end, wouldn't you know it, the Joker (who we thought had died in a helicopter crash earlier, and it wasn't explained how he was not dead from that, because movie) swoops in to rescue his princess like the white knight we know he is. No, seriously, that's what happens. The Joker, who in most comic book iterations does not give a crap about Harley Quinn, and who didn't break her out for however long she was in there before, busts her out now. And, either everyone else from the squad is killed because he kind of explodes a lot of things to get there, or he's busted them all out too, but it's off screen. Love conquers all, and yay, there will be more movies. For me to laugh at. (Not in a good way.)
What I Did Not Like:
- The beginning exposition is told while the woman in charge of this whole "suicide squad" project talks, and talks, and talks. It starts to feel like the movie is going to be one of those stories with a framing device it keeps jutting back and forth to and from, like in The Princess Bride. It's an info dump.
- The dialog in this movie is beyond dumb. They all point out obvious things a lot. None of the jokes are funny. I never once laughed at Harley Quinn or the Joker, and their whole schtick is that they're clowns, for God's sake. At least they were funny in Batman: The Animated Series.
- Going off the "saying the obvious" issue, they repeat the idea that Harley Quinn is "crazy" so often you get sick of hearing it. A guard says "that's a lot of pretty and a lot of crazy" when he sees her, and 1) this is a guy who presumably has been tending her for a while, and 2) that moment felt like such a wasted spot for a better line. They got her talking about "hearing voices" and being "off her meds". This is a cheap, juvenile way of talking about mental illness. Harley Quinn never seems all that crazy. Show movie, don't tell.
- The middle of the movie drags.
- It has everything wrong with modern movies, as in, it's all style and no substance, all tacky CGI special effects that neither feel real nor evoke strong emotional responses from either the actors or us the audience.
- The plot is so cliche and predictable. What 10 year old would think "but wait, the twist is that the good guys are all criminals, are all bad guys" was enough to make this any less of a sad "ragtag team of misfits up against supervillain who's plotting the apocalypse and/or world domination" cliche? They don't even have a real "bad guy" on their team, at worst they have people who are pragmatic, jaded, and/or apathetic, but for Gotham, these people might as well be superheroes.
What I Actually Liked
- Harley Quinn interacting with other characters. She's able to get Katana to take off her mask, and similarly, other characters kind of let themselves be themselves around her more freely. That's nice.
- The movie kind of fails in my opinion, but it goes for a theme of the soldier being not really different from a hit man, since they both kill people for money. Well, other movies have done it better, and like I said, this is done in the form of Will Smith having drawn-out arguments with an army dude, so yeah. What they're trying to say would be a good message, if they could have figured out how to say it better.
No matter what the hype prior to this movie would like you to believe, this is not a Joker movie. This movie is about Harley Quinn and Will Smith. Other characters are there mainly for show, but the focus is clearly centered on those two. But it's not a great depiction of Harley Quinn, and Will Smith is clearly trying as an actor, but his character is kind of boring and cliche, and the dialog in this movie is oh, so dumb.
"We're bad guys." Yeah, keep saying it.