By Patrick Tedder
Warning: Spoilers Follow
I’ve seen Suicide Squad for the second time now. It was widely panned by critics, and its B+ Cinemascore suggests that casual viewers didn’t love it that much either. So what went wrong? It depends on what movie you watch.
Suicide Squad is multiple films all rolled up into one big blockbuster mess. The film’s first act, mostly put together by a company that creates film trailers (not a joke) is what Suicide Squad should have been throughout. You see, the first part of the film is fun and has the type of energy one might expect from Edgar Wright or Guy Ritchie. It also most closely resembles the fantastic marketing leading up to the film. The first act also includes the most interesting character, and perhaps the best actor, of the film.
Jared Leto’s bold turn as the “Joker” lives up to the masterful performance of Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson. Whenever Leto shows up on screen, there’s incredible tension and excitement that is sadly lacking in the majority of the film. He’s one of the few characters in the film where any mystery resides, and also the only one of the characters that seems like a legitimate villain.
Leto disappears in the second act, and then the joke appears to be on the audience. It’s at this time we get a different Suicide Squad, one where the pacing drags so badly that the movie no longer resembles the one that was marketed. It’s terribly average and devoid of any of the spirit that the film opens with, as if it blown its wad and scratches its head, wondering what else it’s going to do.
What holds any semblance of a film together is Margot Robbie, who is creative and fun as the Joker’s lover / creation “Harley Quinn.” She is so good that, like Leto, it’s a shame she doesn’t have better material to work with. However, due to the choppy editing and poor pacing, even her performance suffers.
The biggest flaw of the film is apparent from the start. Most of the team that compromises SQ is grounded in some sort of reality that makes sense for the DC Universe. Anyone with powers is specifically described as a “meta-human”, and the audience is comfortable with this because we’ve seen it in the past two DC films. However, the SQ nemesis “Enchantress” is purely fantastical. This doesn’t blend well with the other characters, none of who really tap into any sort of “magic.” It may sound like I’m being nerdy and picky, but it’s a problem when the nemesis doesn’t seem to fit into the same universe as the main characters.
The film / films aren’t that bad. I frankly kind of enjoyed them, but I did so in spite of themselves. DC continues to put out post-Nolan films that are all over the place in terms of quality and message. At the moment, they’re pretty bleak and worrisomely desperate as they try to catch up to Marvel’s cash printing machine.