Take a bunch of supervillains and popular actors, add a heaping cup of controversy, garnish with some dazzling marketing and the result is a pretty successful summer blockbuster.
Or maybe not. Before its release Friday, “Suicide Squad” was the subject of the polarizing opinions of apathetic critics and eager fans, many of whom have petitioned to have the Rotten Tomatoes website taken down for its negative assessment of the film.
Neither the abysmal failure that critics paint it nor the wildly successful supervillain romp the fans hoped it would be, “Suicide Squad” delivers the fun, quirkiness and action of a summer blockbuster, yet kills itself with its uninspired story and wasted opportunities for character development.
Set in the wake of Superman’s death in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Suicide Squad” follows the misadventures of a group of supervillains — including Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) — who are recruited, under pain of death, to join a secret task force by government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). When a magical being threatens the world and one of their own turns against them, the Suicide Squad must go to work to save humanity.
“Suicide Squad” features tons of flashy action, mainly against Enchantress’ nameless minions. Deadshot’s varied arsenal and pinpoint accuracy make for some exhilarating scenes as he mows down enemies with his wrist guns or snipes them from afar. Harley Quinn’s trademark baseball bat makes several appearances for a few beat-downs while Diablo’s pyromancy powers are brought to life with some awesome special effects during the film’s climax. The film also features many comic book easter eggs and cameos, from Harley Quinn’s iconic jester suit and mallet to appearances by Batman and The Flash.
The plot itself is straightforward and cliche, a story done many times before in other franchises such as “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “X-Men” and “Lord of the Rings.” What makes “Suicide Squad” notable is the abundance of big-name villains and the interactions between them.
But for a movie centered around supervillains, Enchantress is a rather uninspired antagonist— a typical magical baddie that remains relatively undefined throughout and wants to destroy the world because that’s what bad guys do. Her one-dimensional vendetta against mankind, generic vortex of a doomsday weapon and similarly undefined brother/accomplice Incubus (Alain Chanoine) leave the plot hollow and without a sense of urgency; Enchantress is not defined enough that the audience truly understands or cares why she wants to destroy the world. Where “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” suffered from having too complicated a plot, “Suicide Squad” lies at almost the opposite end of the spectrum — a little too simplistic and without any big twists.
Much of the anticipation toward the film can be attributed to Harley Quinn’s first big-screen appearance and Jared Leto’s rendition of The Joker. “Suicide Squad” twists the duo’s traditional relationship; normally Quinn is hopelessly in love while the Joker remains coolly indifferent to her affections. The movie, however, paints a mutual mad desire. Leto’s Joker is much angrier and more subtle than previous iterations such as Nicholson’s, Ledger’s or Hamill’s. However, he is not given enough screen time or significance to the plot for Leto to truly flesh out his version of the Clown Prince of Crime.
Robbie’s Harley Quinn is a disappointment. The actress had some mighty big clown shoes to fill: the likes of Tara Strong’s and Arleen Sorkin’s, the original voices for Quinn in previous cartoons and video games. Perhaps a victim of overacting or poor writing, all of Quinn’s jokes and antics seem forced and awkward. That isn’t to say she isn’t occasionally funny; however Robbie is missing the sweet naïveté, goofy humor and heart of gold that made the cartoon character a beloved comic book icon. Instead, Quinn in “Suicide Squad” is little more than an oversexualized, violent woman trying too hard to look crazy and make everyone laugh.
“Suicide Squad” was supposed to be DC’s saving grace after the critical failure of “Batman v Superman” but the stars and iconic characters are hampered by the plot that, although coherent, fails to excite. The film’s stylish action scenes and quirky humor provide the brainless entertainment expected of summer films. However, the shallow character development and generic story destroy any hopes DC might have had for redemption.