So we meet again, DC Cinematic Universe. It seems like only a few short months since you had me staring at the screen, asking over and over again, "WHY DID YOU SAY THAT NAME?". Now you have returned, bringing along one of my favorite DC characters that was created specifically for an animated TV show that I adored growing up. So, for Harley's sake... I trotted off to see this film.
Despite the vitriol people seem to think I throw at the DC Cinematic Universe unnecessarily, I really do want these films to succeed. I grew up as a huge fan of Superman. Batman The Animated Series was a something that took precedence over all other activities. I resented my older brother when he was taken to the theater to see Batman (1989) and I was left at home. I remember sitting there in stunned silence all those years ago, when I saw Lois Lane holding Superman's dead body, after that fateful melee with Doomsday. So, with that in mind, please know that above all else I WANT DC to do well. Hell, I think the industry NEEDS DC to do well.
Sadly, this is not the film that is going to fix all those problems, but it is a start.
Before you run away thinking this is going to be nothing but me bashing the movie, stop, and give me a chance to explain myself. There is a lot to enjoy here, but ultimately, the problems it faced were close to insurmountable. Please indulge me as I step off the precipice and dive straight into things...
For those that don't know, the Suicide Squad (officially Task Force X) is a group of criminals, assembled by Amanda Waller, to go on a suicide mission. If they succeed, time will be taken off their sentences. If they fail, well... they die. There is more to this arrangement, but I'll let the movie fill that in for you.
That basic premise alone, makes this movie an interesting prospect. We're not going to be faced with heavy moralization that we see in something like Captain America, we are teased with the idea of vicious criminals, being allowed to let loose (in a controlled sort of way) on all manner of things worse than they are. That idea sounds amazing.
In theory, this movie has everything going for it. It has a fun cast, a nice premise, and with Harley Quinn in there, a little bit of humor should be a given.
The actors do a great job of bringing their characters to life. Margot Robbie manages to walk that line between brilliant psychiatrist, and psychopathic lunatic that should underline Harley Quinn's character. Will Smith manages to inject Deadshot with a great sense of humanity, and even manages to make one feel sorry for his character. Viola Davis comes off as the proper type of manipulative bitch that one would expect from Amanda Waller. Cara Delevingne put up an admirable performance as June Moone as well as The Enchantress.
I really wish they had given a little more screen time to Karen Fukuhara, who seemed like a good fit for Katana, but I feel was pushed to the side to make way for more time with Deadshot and Harley.
Arguably, Harley is the most interesting part in the movie. She provides a lot humor, as well as a surprising amount of relatability to this motley crew of miscreants. She can switch from lovesick, to tough as nails psychopath in the blink of an eye, and is quick with a joke. She has some moments of intense weakness that she manages to cover up as soon as she sees someone looking, leaving one to wonder how much of her schtick is just a mask to hide how broken she is inside.
This brings us to some of the major downfalls of this film. I think the fault of this can be laid firmly at David Ayer's feet. As writer and director, I think he tried to cram too much into the movie, leaving some scenes seeming to be mildly ADD, one need only to watch the opening of the film to see what I mean. Character origins are tossed in willy-nilly, and relatively glossed over. Rather than offering up a good connection to the characters, we are offered up brief, blink-and-you'll-miss-it flashes of what got them to this point. Not to mention the climactic battle, that... makes absolutely no sense from a character perspective.
This movie, would have benefited from some lead in. A solo Batman flick to introduce Harley and this incarnation of the Joker to the audience. That would have cut out some of the necessity of introducing them in this film, opening up a lot of opportunity to tighten things up. Some of these characters are somewhat obscure to the average movie-goer, so offering up more time to develop the more obscure characters would have been a great benefit.
Now, for the elephant in the room, Jared Leto's Joker...
As a character, I think he's great. Over-the-top insanity, sociopathic tendencies, as well as that strange relationship with Harley, all spell out a great Joker. However, I can't get past that awful aesthetic. The tattoos and the strange metal teeth, are too jarring, and end up taking me out of the moment, every time he is on screen. Which is a true shame, because he actually is really good in the role.
All in all, the movie was a let down. A mess, that occasionally shines through with moments of brilliance. Ultimately it was more enjoyable than some movies, and is arguably the most enjoyable movie in the DC Cinematic Universe, it still shows that this universe needs some work.
RECOMMENDATION: If you're a fan of Orphan Fight and Man of Hopeless Bleak Despair, this movie will be right up your alley. If you are expecting a tight, focused story... Well, perhaps you might want to look elsewhere.
IS IT THEATER-WORTHY: There are some bombastic scenes that will play well on the big screen, but at the end of the day, the whole thing is underwhelming. It might play well for others on the screen, but for me, The Fresh Prince of Belle Reve and friends are just not worth it.
FINAL THOUGHTS: The film tries to do something great, and at moments, the greatness shines through. But it is all rather, muddied by the sea of mediocrity it is mired in. From the awful look of the Joker, to the over-sexualization of Harley and the Enchantress, the film just fails on a visual level. The story does not hold up well, and might benefit a great deal from a director's cut, that might help explain the mess that was the final battle, but I honestly don't think anything is going to salvage that. It is a good step forward, but shows that DC still has a long way to go if they want to compete with Marvel on this stage.
FINAL SCORE: 6 out of 10
A trailer and some character vignettes all in one!