Somewhere, there is a pretty decent film that nobody has seen since test screenings deemed it too dark. It’s probably on David Ayer’s computer. It probably contains longer versions of scenes we only get to see for 20 seconds, scenes that try to introduce us to characters that we’re stuck with for two full hours. The versions of these scenes probably don’t have pop songs on top of them, which would make them just feel like an extended trailer. This cut did not make it to theaters this weekend, and unless we get a director’s cut release on Blu-ray, we will never see this version of Suicide Squad. So what about the movie that we actually got?
Suicide Squad attempts to tell the story of a ragtag group of super villains, grouped together against their will in order to defend against the forever imposing threat of meta-humans. When one of these baddies goes rogue (immediately), it’s up to a girl in clown makeup, a guy with a boomerang, and a bad guy with a gun to stop the threat from… sucking the world up into the sky by a beam of light that may or may not be a portal to another dimension? I don’t know, and that’s part of the problem with this movie, a film in which I actually did not have a bad time with, despite so much that goes wrong.
To talk about Suicide Squad, you kind of have to preface it by mentioning what exactly we are seeing, in terms of the cut. The director, David Ayer, had a version of this film, which was a little bit darker than the one that would eventually see the light of day. Then, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice happened, and DC flipped the fuck out. They quickly made a cut that was lighter, tested both versions and then smashed them together with the help of a company that edits trailers. If that’s not a recipe for disaster, I don’t know what is.
What we’re left with is a movie that starts off stumbling out of the blocks. Told in flashback, we get tiny snippets of backstory of most of the members of Task Force X, the official name of the Suicide Squad (Side note: Adam Beach has never been in movie he couldn’t get cut out of). This 20 or so minutes is all we’re left with to get an understanding of who the characters are, which is hardly enough to empathize with characters not played by Margot Robbie and Will Smith. Maybe that’s for the best, though. Jai Courtney plays Captain Boomerang in complete Tom Hardy mode, and he’s not completely terrible in it, which goes against recent history. On the flip side, though, El Diablo has an interesting backstory somewhere lost in the quick snippets, which hurts the film when he has big moments towards the end, which feel undeserved.
The editing of this film is sloppy at best, and it comes in direct confrontation with the story they’re trying to tell. Enchantress is supposed to be the villain of this film, but that whole storyline feels like it is lost in the fray. There are huge chunks of this film where we don’t even see her or what she’s doing. All we get that even suggests that she exists are a bunch of faceless humanoid henchman that get mowed down by our “heroes”.
Despite all of this, there are some good things to pull from this film. Margot Robbie’s performance feels like it is pulled straight from Batman: The Animated Series. I went into this film with a single mindset: if I got 30 minutes of a decent Harley Quinn movie within this film, I’d be happy, and that’s exactly what I got. It’s not perfect, as it does come off as a bit too cartoony at times, but you cannot say that she doesn’t do the character justice, booty shorts or otherwise. That’s the character and it always has been; Harley Quinn has always been a plucky wild card, even amidst the darkness of a seriously abusive relationship. Even as it lies in the comics now, Harley Quinn is a Saturday Morning cartoon in a world inhabited by the dark and brooding.
Secondly, Will Smith gets to sink his teeth into a role that isn’t a cloying attempt to get him an Oscar, and it’s the most fun I’ve had watching Will Smith since Men in Black. Deadshot gets most of the emotional backstory, and while it’s obvious at times (how long is he going to fucking stare at that mannequin in the window?), he’s a fully formed character in a sea of caricatures trying to clamor for more presence. I’d watch a Batman vs. Deadshot film is what I’m saying.
You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned Jared Leto’s Joker. There’s a reason for that: there’s no reason why he should be in this movie. He doesn’t factor into the plot whatsoever. Most of his scenes are used in flashback to give a backstory to Harley Quinn, and while he is a major part of her character’s origin, he doesn’t do enough to justify the amount of press that he’s drawn. It’s a distraction above all else, and in a movie that fails so often to gain footing, his screen time could have been better served elsewhere.
That’s not to say Leto gives a poor performance, but he doesn’t give one with much substance, either. His Joker comes off as a glam rock, two-bit pimp and it’s a bit off-putting, but I don’t know if that’s his fault or the screenwriter’s. My biggest problem with the Joker in this film comes in the relationship he has with Harley. I feel like this film normalizes an obviously abusive relationship and it comes off as disturbing, and not in the usual Joker sort of way. Granted, most of the Joker’s story is being told from Harley’s perspective, so it could be an instance of an unreliable narrator, but the last note of this relationship in this film made me feel a little dirty.
I’ve already written over 1,000 words on this movie, most of it not great, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have some fun with it. This is a deeply flawed movie, but it feels like it’s the corpse of a much better movie. It’s a full Frankenstein job, but at the end of the day, I laughed a few times, I enjoyed most of the characters, Harley Quinn delivered what I wanted, and I liked Will Smith for the first time in a decade. No amount of that weird sort of CG shimmy that Enchantress does at the end made me forget that. Seriously, what the fuck was that?
RATING: 6.5 out of 10