Suicide Squad has been making waves for being as poorly reviewed as Batman v Superman, and for breaking box office records for August. But the thing is, Suicide Squad is a completely different kind of movie than BvS, and in my opinion, way more enjoyable.
What brought BvS down is that it was plodding, gloomy, and slow, trying to use it’s death march to the epic showdown to build tension. Suicide Squad is both a shorter movie and far more energetic. Where BvS broods, Suicide Squad prances, with a sort of skewed but basically linear plot, amusing characters, and a clear cut baddie.
Speaking of baddies, the idea of the “Suicide Squad,” a comic that originated in 1987, is that condemned supervillains are forced into “Task Force X” to do heroic, but basically suicidal, missions. If they succeed, their sentence is reduced, if they fail, or try to flee or sabotage the mission, they are killed.
So they are introduced as “the worst of the worst.” Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) are not just excellent in the movie, but for all that they’re murderers, seem pretty likable. Even El Diablo, who murdered his own family in a rage, seems like a decent enough guy. Killer Croc is a monster, but hey, he just wants some basic creature comforts. The amazing Viola Davis who plays Amanda Waller is the one who comes off as the real monster (or “gansta” as Will Smith calls her). Some criticisms have lambasted that they’re more heroes than “anti-heroes.” It’s true, their real evil is downplayed, but it does insure that we can sympathize with them, as they seem more badass than bad.
Speaking of downplaying the evil, one of my disappointments was Jaret Leto as the Joker. He’s there to show how he abused Harley and turned her insane, but it doesn’t really work for me. He comes across more like a pimp who’s trying to be off rather than a really insane and abusive man. In the original cartoons, and especially in the comics, Harley is clearly better than the Joker—and better off without him, because he’s horrible. But here, he’s really just sort of a smitten crime boss, and it’s a surprisingly genuine feeling, and it didn’t feel over the top enough.
Like a lot of superhero movies, the villain and evil army seem pretty easy to knock down. The movie’s combination of “street” level hyper action combined with mystic/magical CGI superheroics sometimes seems a bit forced. And while in general I liked the pacing, sometimes there’d be flashbacks at odd times that would sort of jumble things.
But despite flaws, this is a well acted, fun movie, with entertaining quippy dialog, good action scenes, hip-hop/pop music that appropriately pumps up the scenes and enhances the appropriate “street” mood, and even when it’s choppy or dealing with backstory (Joker..) that doesn’t quite work, it doesn’t last long, and we’re back to the fun pretty quickly.