Suicide Squad is not a great film. But if you pay attention to critics you might think it is worse than terrible. I saw it on Sunday night, and my impression is mixed, but it is not negative.
First of all, the point of the project was the characters. To get a great cast together to play some iconic roles. The plot was always secondary, and criticisms of the plot are therefore missing the point. We didn’t buy tickets to be blown away by an ingenious narrative. Hell, any lame excuse to get Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Killer Croc, and El Diablo together is worthwhile. We are there to see some good action, Will Smith being witty, Margot Robbie being gorgeous, and Jared Leto as the Joker weaving a bit of chaos. Did the film deliver on those points? Yes, it bloody well did. So don’t dismiss the film with vague assertions that it doesn’t hold together, that the plot is tired and poorly written, or even that too many of the characters are two-dimensional. You do know how many dimensions there are in a comic book right?
I made the experience of seeing the film hard. I was alone, and I had no food or drink. That means at no point could I slurp some sugar into my system to enhance the pleasurable parts of my brain. Even then I enjoyed the experience. I enjoyed it because there was enough of Ben Afleck’s Batman to redeem his part in Batman v Superman — that is hardly any.
I got annoyed by Jared Leto’s Joker, which I think was way overdone, but was intrigued by a development in his character that I will elucidate below. Leto played the Joker as much more of a Victorian gothic character, with his brooding and Shakespearian mutterings. However, the costume and makeup was far more modern, with tattoos and silver teeth that made him look more gangsta. I fault the director David Ayer for that, and it was indicative of everything I didn’t like about the Joker. At one point he is sitting at a table in a fancy club talking to the rapper Common who presumably is a high-ranking criminal. The Joker mutters about how Harley (who is exotic dancing in the background) is the fire of his loins. Harley comes over and it turns out that Common does not like her. The Joker kills Common. Now, why was the Joker in that club? Does he own it, or have a share? Is he scoping it to rob it? What was the basis of the conversation with Common? It is quite possible that I missed something, but in a nutshell this is my problem with Suicide Squad, much like Batman v Superman putting Gotham and Metropolis right next to each other so that both could be shown in a single shot and Lex Luther could gesture from one to the other, cool shots are prioritized over common sense. The Joker at one point is talking to one of his henchmen in a modern highrise building. The Joker is sitting in a large room with hundreds of knives and other weapons (and a few baby onsies by the looks of it) arranged in a spiralling circle around him. I could only imagine him spending hours arranging the items just right, or maybe handing a detailed specification to his henchmen on how he’d like his room arranged. It is stupid, and eroding to the character, who is not supposed to make sence, but still needs to be somewhat consistent.
So with that verbal puking of some of the things I didn’t like, what did I dig? Margot Robbie of course, she was exactly as entertaining as the marketing promised. And aside from being outrageous eye candy (hey I’m not the only one who was monitoring just how far her short-shorts would ride up her crack) she was way more powerful than in the comics and the games. She really kicked ass, which is important because otherwise she would too easily become a damsel in distress being constantly rescued by the Joker. Throughout most of the story she has an unshakable confidence and cheerie attitude, it is only when she thinks the Joker is dead that her facade is shaken. This is no shallow character. Her motivation is always clear, and her methods to achieve her ends make sense. As I said before, there is an intriguing development with the Joker’s character. He is genuinely in love. We have not seen this before at the movies (I cannot speak for the comics) and it is a huge change because suddenly there is something predictable about the Joker, he is always going to get his girl. That is a vindication for Harley Quinn as well because to date she has been little more than a pleasing appendage to the Clown Prince of Crime, something that can be cut off if necessary. Her survival as a character I think has more to do with the fact that fans like her. She is villainous, but not in the way that Poison Ivy, or the Enchantress, or Talia al-Gul are. Those three are exotic, whereas Harley Quinn is more mainstream. She is like Catwoman, and just as Selena Kyle genuinely has her claws in Bruce Wayne’s heart, Harley has captured the Joker’s.
The best scene for me demonstrates this. The Joker and Harley Quinn are talking on a ledge above several vats of acid. It is implied that these may be the same vats that the Joker fell in to become the character we know. He asks Harley if she would die for him, and she says yes. Would she live for him? Again, yes. Then she dives backward into one of the vats, and the Joker looks down at her and turns away. Then, with conflict on his face he throws off his coat and dives into the vat, pulling Harley to the surface, and kissing her. This is the most human Joker I have ever seen, and dammit I want to see more. With all the criticisms; the overacting, the Heath Ledger voice imitation, and the fact that with white make-up, darkly hooded eyes, ratty tattoos and silver teeth, and forty-four years on this earth; Jared Leto is still so outrageously pretty, I am sold for a sequel. And one is already on the way, with David Ayer tempted to go R-rated. The implications of that on Margot Robbie’s shorts are almost too much to be considered in the daytime, and a second crack at this may bell yield something better.
Don’t expect the critics to be merciful with their opinions though. They are so far up Marvel’s arse I expect their bleating to drown out Jarvis in Tony Stark’s helmet. If a film is entertaining don’t let the critics convince you that it is poor. It may not be the best thing in the world, but hell Hollywood is never going to be.