Suicide Squad ★★

In hindsight, I'm not sure why I ever thought I'd love a superhero movie (let alone one with Will Smith) but I can only put it down to amazing promo art and a marketing campaign that definitely seemed to suggest I'd be getting something a little different. I went in feeling optimistic but, unfortunately, Suicide Squad is just a premise and some cool character designs desperately in search of a story, some fun or some edge.

It's weird because they have a great idea to work with that almost writes itself. A bunch of psychopaths and sociopaths put together in secret government task team have to save the world - you've instantly got not just a setup for some great action/violence and some black comedy but also for tension and character-building opportunities because each of them is a potential wild card who could snap at any moment and do something really, really evil. The first third of the film spends a lot of time reminding us that they're some of the most dangerous criminals in the world but then proceeds to neuter them almost the second they get in the team, culminating with a last act of pure schmaltz. I would've liked to have seen them actually, like, be bad; to struggle with their inner conflicts. It would've made the film so much more interesting.

But characterisation is not really something Suicide Squad concerns itself with. It jumps around from scene to scene in a barely coherent fashion, throws in way more characters than it knows what to do with (what was the point of bringing in Katana really late to, essentially, do nothing? Or Slipknot?) and never develops anyone into anything three dimensional. They go from clichés of their comic book selves to one sort of uniform "friends forever!" cliché by the final battle.

The story makes about as much sense too. What should've been simple is over-complicated by a scattershot chronology of events (that adds nothing) and, again, way more characters involved than need to be, which distracts and messes the flow up, making it hard to follow beyond "there's some shit these people need to blow up to stop a thing from happening". It often feels like the scenes have been written by the director of photography and the VFX guys rather than a screenwriter - a lot of stuff appears only to be there so it be cut into a trailer and look cool. In fact, Suicide Squad often plays like a trailer that just keeps rebooting itself every few minutes rather than a feature film. The clumsy way in which the insufferable and mostly 70s rock soundtrack is edited in (always intrusive, maddeningly on-the-nose and too loud) only adds to this feeling. You really don't go too long in this movie without someone making a grand WWE-style walk-on entrance to a scene (accompanied by a lyrically appropriate song)...

The action isn't fun either. When you've got a bunch of villains who exist to cause disruption, you need more chaos, more craziness, more violence, more "what did I just see??". Instead, once this kicks off it becomes like every other McDonald's-template superhero movie. There's an interminable section in the middle where they just walk through the dark with silly guns blowing away an endless procession of CGI blob soldiers (hard to really explain succinctly but the enemy, for the most part, are just these anonymous gooey things) and it's just like watching someone play Doom for a really long time. The final act is even more CGI and all the tired city-trashing effects we've seen in every other blockbuster for the last few years.

The cast let me down too. It says something that Will Smith was, by no means, the worst. In fact, he was pretty decent. I'd really hoped - given she's now such a big deal - that Margot Robbie would pull off a performance so amazing, it'd be a genuine breakthrough role and everyone would be blown away, but her accent is all over the place and it's all just a little embarrassing. I don't know how much of this is her, the director seemingly not having much control over his film or the writer writing some truly terrible lines but I suspect it's a combination of all three. And possibly also that she was taking her cues from the actor playing the character closest to hers, who was also by far the worst thing in the film... Jared Leto, as the Joker. I can only hope they put a "Leto-free Edit" on the DVD release so that people don't have to suffer him polluting every scene he's in. I loved the idea of recreating the Joker as a modern urban gangsta but Leto was not the person to bring this vision to life. All I ever saw was Jared Leto being Jared Leto (which is to say ridiculous, hammy and awful). It's embarrassing. Like watching a school play with a kid in it who watched The Dark Knight a few too many times and just REALLY wants to let you know he can 'do' Heath Ledger.

But, you know, in spite of all this, I didn't absolutely hate Suicide Squad. I liked it more than a fair few other superhero movies I've watched because, while it made no sense, had a lot of awful qualities and was a colossal missed opportunity, at least it did have a few cool visuals and nice character designs. If I closed my eyes during the boring bits, I could almost write the film I wanted to see in my head while the rest of it played out. Cara Delevingne was a lot of fun as Enchantress, easily the most interesting/weird character of the lot, and Viola Davis, likewise, made good as the morally ambiguous team boss Amanda. It's a shame that none of the others got given the interesting dichotomies these characters did and that about 80% of them just got lost in the loud nonsensical mix, or this could've been brilliant.

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