Dawson Joyce’s review published on Letterboxd:
February 2017: Flounder’s Scavenger Hunt #2
TASK #21: A film whose rewrites, reshoots, and reediting are so painfully obvious in the final product!
Suicide Squad is one of those rare films where the more I watch it, the more I notice its flaws and also the more I honestly quite enjoy it. Generic, heavily flawed, and a mess, but I can give credit where credit is due for at least attempting to stand out from other comic book films much like Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice before it, even if it’s executed in a way that makes it more bland and workmanlike, although it’s not necessarily the fault of writer and director David Ayer. For those who are unaware, this was originally meant to be a gritty film and the comedic moments were more on the dark side of the spectrum. However, when Warner Bros. released their botched theatrical cut of BvS, it was met with lambasting reviews by critics whose main complaint was that its tone was dark, dour, and gritty. I would argue that people should care more if a comic book movie is good or bad in quality rather than if it’s too kiddy or too depressing in tone, but I digress. When it dropped 68% in its second weekend, WB was in panic mode and decided to order re-shoots for Suicide Squad, hoping to make the tone lighter and more jokey and action-driven, therefore more palatable for the masses. Little did they know this would turn out to be another bad move, along with cutting a half-hour out of BvS. When re-writes and re-shoots were finished, WB re-edited the film to death in post-production with the help of the company that made the trailers and held several test screenings of different cuts. They took what people liked best about all the cuts and compiled them together, editing them into Suicide Squad’s theatrical cut. Fans’ hope for the DCEU to be solid continued to decrease. Ironically, by trying to prevent another BvS from happening, they ended up letting another BvS happening. This is what happens when a studio loses both its guts and its nuts and has absolutely no idea what they’re doing with their multi-million dollar cinematic universe franchise.
How is the film overall? As I said, an utter mess, but enjoyable. For starters, the actors all do fine jobs in their roles. Will Smith gives one of his most charming and charismatic performances in years as the hitman Deadshot, and his character is given a compelling arc with him wanting to give his daughter a good life despite all the murders he’s committed and all the terrible things he’s done. Margot Robbie is phenomenal as Harley Quinn, capturing the character’s psychotic yet fragile and endearing nature beautifully. Viola Davis is fantastic as Amanda Waller, effortlessly nailing the character’s cunning personality and no-nonsense attitude. Jay Hernandez is solid as El Diablo and his character is given the best, most compelling, and most poignant arc. Joel Kinnaman is solid as Rick Flag and I didn’t mind his banter with Deadshot. Jared Leto is also fine as the Joker, taking elements from Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger’s portrayals while still making the role his own. Cara Delevingne does the best she can as Enchantress, and I honestly loved the look for her character, but she’s unfortunately stuck playing a generic villain with thin motives, and her ancient Egyptian gyro dancing was just weird. Admittedly sexy, but still, weird and honestly out of place. Jai Courtney is pretty funny as Captain Boomerang but he gets little to do, as do Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Killer Croc, Karen Fukuhara as Katana, and Adam Beach as Slipknot. And yes, Flash’s cameo is pretty cool if forced and Ben Affleck’s appearances as Batman are awesome.
The chemistry between the cast is middling. Smith’s chemistry with both Margot Robbie and Joel Kinnaman is good, along with Kinnaman’s chemistry with Viola Davis and Cara Delevingne and Robbie’s chemistry with Jared Leto. However, the chemistry between the entire Suicide Squad team just doesn’t work, mainly due to the lack of focus and character development for half of them. Unlike the film this is obviously DC’s answer to, Guardians of the Galaxy, the team dynamic doesn’t grow in a way that feels organic. The film’s plot is relatively straightforward and easy to follow, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t lacking in coherency or tonal consistency. There’s also some real bothersome issues when it comes to storytelling and characterization. The Joker, in one scene, is shown to own a nightclub and yet somehow, none of the police in Gotham nor the Dark Knight, the world’s greatest detective, have managed to find him. Amanda Waller’s plan is that in case the next Superman turns out to be a terrorist, a team should be assembled consisting of villainous metahumans who could do good, and they would be easy to control since heroes like Batman wouldn’t. Okay, sounds reasonable enough. But the team consists of only two metahumans: Killer Croc and El Diablo. Is Waller really stupid enough to think that a mentally unstable former psychiatrist with a baseball bat, a hitman, and an Aussie pink unicorn fetishist who can throw boomerangs are able to take down the next Superman? How moronic is that? It gets worse though. Waller apparently doesn’t see the possibility of the Enchantress, a centuries-old witch that can teleport, not being under her control. Waller also sends Rick Flag and a bunch of soldiers into battle with Task Force X against Enchantress, which defeats the whole purpose of using the Suicide Squad for black ops and suicide missions (the premise of the original comics, mind you), but whatever.
Really, Enchantress shouldn’t have even been the main villain. The Joker should’ve, as a way to further develop Harley’s character and the two’s relationship as well as keep the film somewhat grounded. But no. The Joker really doesn’t even need to be in here and they get his relationship with Harley Quinn wrong. Here, Joker loves Harley and she loves him back. While Harley loved Joker, Joker never loved her in the source material. He only used her as a means to an end and abused her, but there was something about him that made Harley keep coming back to him (and unlike something like Fifty Shades of Grey, this isn’t meant to be romantic). Here, the relationship is changed and simultaneously toned down so audiences wouldn’t be grossed out. It doesn’t help that a lot of his scenes in the trailers don’t make it into either the theatrical or extended cuts. Enchantress’ motivation for wanting to shoot a giant laser beam portal into the sky and destroy all humanity is that they once worshiped her, but because of advances in technology as time went by, they have created machines and worshiped them instead of Enchantress and her brother Incubus, who were once gods to them. So now Enchantress wants to create a machine that will destroy all human life on Earth as we know it. Yeah, it’s basically ripping off part of En Sabah Nur’s villainous motives in X-Men: Apocalypse, but here, it’s worse because she never really had a plan to execute this or a compelling enough reason why.
Ike Barinholtz is entertaining as Griggs but his character arc goes nowhere. Killer Croc being a racial stereotype who’s attracted to tough, no-nonsense women and wants BET in his cell was lame and disheartening. Slipknot is given less than five minutes of screentime before he gets offed. I know his being an expendable is meant to show how serious Waller is about the nano-bombs exploding their heads, but a little development would’ve been nice. Katana also has no reason to be here and we barely see her use her sword nor do we see it trapping the souls of her victims. Jai Courtney only uses one of his boomerangs during the third act, but as a video camera drone to help the Squad locate the Enchantress. When El Diablo turns into a fire demon to fight Incubus, the fire somehow doesn’t kill him despite there being a nano-bomb in his neck. The mid-credits scene is unnecessary and nonsensical. We see that Waller has files on Aquaman and The Flash, which begs the question why she didn’t hire them for her team that will defeat the next Superman? I know they wouldn’t be easy to control, but that’s not an excuse not to at least make an effort. Bruce Wayne says to her that she should the Squad down because he and the Justice League will take care of metahuman threats from now on. Doesn’t that make the rest of the film pointless? Also, why would he need files on Aquaman and The Flash when he’s the world’s greatest detective, meaning that he could find them on his own means?
So after all of that, what makes Suicide Squad fun for me? Well, when the character development and chemistry truly is there, it works very well. The arcs for Deadshot and El Diablo, as I said, are well-written and well-executed and they manage to give the film a surprising amount of heart. The back and forth between characters like Deadshot, Harley, El Diablo, Rick Flag, Amanda Waller, and Captain Boomerang is often quite funny, as is a lot of the humor. While some of the jokes are pretty cringey, I’d be lying if I said most of the humor didn’t get a laugh out of me. The film’s action sequences are a lot of fun to watch and while it really could’ve benefited from an R rating like David Ayer’s other directorial works, it’s still entertaining and it helps that it’s fast-paced and it’s easy to tell what’s going on. The musical score by Steven Price is great throughout and like Amir Mokri and Larry Fong’s work on Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Roman Vasyanov’s cinematography is gorgeous. Despite the marketing campaign promising a more colorful film, the only splashes of color come from the costume designs and random, jarring blue-purple filters inserted in post-production. The colors primarily used here are white, grey, teal, blue, green, tan, yellow, orange, brown, and black, but the palette itself still has enough vibrancy to it to make the colors pop out more. Ayer and Vasyanov primarily use dark lighting, as well as fog and mist for the climax, but they never overdo either, thus the audience is still able to comprehend what’s happening on screen. The camerawork is relatively solid, with smooth, fluid movements. And as I said before, the performances from the cast are all quite impressive.
The editing by John Gilroy, Michael Tronick, and Lee Smith among others is without question an unmitigated disaster. While the action is edited coherently and the film moves by at a swift pace, the editing is still horrible. It really does feel like multiple different editors viciously fighting in post-production on what the tone should be and not being able to agree or compromise on anything, so they just gave up and thus, the finished result is a mess. The editing also makes the tonal consistency way off to the point of schizophrenia and the reshoots stick out like a sore thumb, in particular Joel Kinnaman’s rapidly changing hairstyles. It also affects Jared Leto’s scenes as the Clown Prince of Crime and the blue-purple filters randomly added in to hide all the edits and make the film look more like the marketing campaign fail miserably at doing so. The soundtrack has plenty of good songs but also has its fair share of bad ones, and its usage in the film is problematic. Either the songs are on-the-nose or don’t fit, or even both, and it’s obnoxious. I also wished the film would’ve actually had the Suicide Squad be genuine villains and antiheroes. They keep saying they’re bad guys, but we never really see them do anything villainous or evil throughout most of the movie. I can’t help but find it sad that the two films focused on the heroes are meant to be gritty and dark yet the one with the villains is meant to be a fun popcorn film.
Suicide Squad is plagued with problems, so much that I would call it a bad film, but I just can’t because there are many things about it that just charm me and get me invested. It offers plenty of style, it’s fast-paced, it’s well-acted, it has some real heart, and it’s genuinely fun. As Nick Da Silva said in his review, “In the case of a movie like this, charisma goes a long way.” I can definitely get most of the hatred towards Suicide Squad. I even agree with a lot of the criticisms. I’m not going to sit here and pretend it’s not a mess (it most certainly is) nor am I going to pretend that it’s some unique standout from the superhero genre (it’s really not, guys, let’s be honest with ourselves, it’s as generic as it gets). But I can’t help but enjoy myself as I watch it again. The action sequences, visual effects, performances, humor, heart, and certain characters are all done well enough to win me over. The weakest entry in the DC Extended Universe (unless you count the wretched BvS theatrical cut, that is), but mildly enjoyable nonetheless.