Looking at the Rotten Tomatoes score for Suicide Squad, it’s clear the critics were sore after the letdown that was Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. I’d agree with the reticence except for the fact the problem wasn’t with the film; it’s Superman.

DC’s character doesn’t portray well on the big screen. Give the dude some sun minus the SPF and he’s unstoppable. Goodbye suspense when if he feels like it, he can kill everyone.

Suicide Squad dispenses with that with characters that are villains and have weaknesses. Not immortality and not-subtle ‘he’s a God’ references. The movie should stand on its own, and when you don’t make up your mind about the film before buying a ticket, it turns into one hell of a popcorn flick.

That’s what Alex and I did. We let the hype and disgruntled flame wars die down surrounding the movie and caught it on Labor Day. Well past the release date and any expectations we had were gone.

And what we came out of the theater with was an appreciation for the film. And a demand to see Deadshot and Harley Quinn standalone films. Smart move by Will Smith passing on Independence Day 2. Suicide Squad is far and away a better film. Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn is great.

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn

Character Development

It was quick, and you can tell DC wants the focus on standalones to be Deadshot and Harley Quinn. We see her descent into madness with Jared Leto’s Joker. Which I’m glad there wasn’t more of. The film already lacked a cohesive story, and cutting him to an ancillary character made helped tighten up the film to the extent it could.

Will Smith’s Deadshot is the perfect villain who is actually a hero. Sure, he kills for money, but we see in the end how ARGUS operates. He has a code. The government? Not so much.

Killer Croc gets a brief introduction, along with Captain Boomerang (Digger Harkness). Nice way to tease Flash in the upcoming Justice League film. One person that didn’t get an intro was Adam Beach’s Slipknot. I was excited as hell to see the actor from Windtalkers until Digger convinces him to test the ARGUS implants. Doesn’t end well for the character who could climb anything.

Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flagg is exactly what you’d expect him to be. Honor. Duty. The works. He leads the Suicide Squad in the field, protected by Karen Fukuhara’s Katana. Anyone else wish she had more screen time? Talk about a badass when in action.

Rounding out the squad was Jay Hernandez as El Diablo. Content to not use his powers because of his past, his eventual reveal is the ‘oh shit’ moment of the movie.

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The big bad of the movie is supposed to be a member of ARGUS. Dr. Moone who is inhabited by the Enchantress. She’s pissed about being imprisoned and ends up freeing her brother to destroy the world for no longer worshipping them.

It’s the standard comic book movie story. Bad shit happens. Form a team and the good guys – in this case, the bad – win. It’s never going to win awards, but if you have the right set of characters, it will clean up at the box office.

Action

Pivotal to a comic book movie. The set pieces are a must, and you only need to look at Captain America: Civil War to see it done to perfection. Suicide isn’t perfect, but the glimpses of where the DCEU is heading is evident. The scene with Deadshot against the army of the Enchantress and her brother is great.

Deadshot and Harley Quinn

El Diablo’s reveal in the final battle is another excellent action set piece. The rest were too standard for a film that held more promise. An extended cut doesn’t seem like it will fill out the film in any meaningful way except for the addition of more Joker.

The lack of a tight story shows in the action. It’s small battles until the final one where it ends rather anti-climatically.

Brooding Can Be Fun

The biggest complaint about Batman vs. Superman was how dark the film was. The same argument can be made of Suicide Squad, and it was a fun movie. Cinematically, all the darkness was there. A team of supervillains battling against their inner demons, ARGUS and the Enchantress.

The film never go bogged down by becoming brooding like both Superman films. No wrestling with internal questions of is Superman a god? Can we trust him? Clark Kent and a shoehorned Lois Lane. Thankfully Batman and Wonder Woman were both in the BvS film to steal screentime away from Superman. His scenes are destined to be super depressing.

Having David Ayer behind the camera was a plus for the film. He’s not in love with over-the-top cinematography we saw in Batman vs. Superman. Seriously, the origin story of Batman was absurd and made the film feel like a job to watch.

Suicide Squad proved that a comic book movie could be dark and fun at the same time. Having Will Smith and Margot Robbie helps in that regard.

Scale Can Work With Charisma

Two films this summer dealt with destroying the world. Independence Day 2 and Suicide Squad. Each showed off the immense scale to pull it back down into a small footprint. The sequel to Will Smith’s dominance of Hollywood was outlandish in its scale of the aliens returning to Earth in a ship that essentially could swallow the planet.

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Suicide Squad saw Will Smith battling against a witch that was creating a machine to destroy the world’s army. And like Independence Day, the final battle ditched the immense scale completely.

Why was one terrible and the other a fun watch? The charisma of the characters. Will Smith has it in spades. Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn was great. All the characters played to their roles and made the film feel large yet intimate at the same time.

Independence Day fell flat because it felt like someone gave Roland Emmerich a giant check and said run with it buddy. Dropping Dubai on London? Hell, why not?

David Ayer kept the outlandishness confined to the characters. Harley Quinn is supposed to be nuts. Viola Davis as Amanda Waller is cold and calculating. The whipsawing of the scale isn’t supposed to be the movie. And that’s where Ayer succeeded where Emmerich failed. Suicide Squad was grounded thanks to the insanity of the characters portrayed.

It proves that you can have the immense scale of action, but you better be damn sure to have the characters to hold an audience’s attention.

Full Suicide Squad cast

Wrapping Suicide Squad

Was it a bonafide hit? Box office figures say hell yes. Critics say it was garbage. Who is right? Well, money may corrupt, but it doesn’t lie. The answer is somewhere in the middle. Suicide Squad is a decent movie. Not great, but I wonder if the first two entries in the DCEU have left fans on edge.

Look at it this way. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has its duds. Iron Man 2 and arguably 3. Thor 2. The first Captain America is not a rewatch for me, but the two sequels are arguably the best comic book movies made.

There are story issues and some pacing problems throughout the film, but scoring it on the level of the disappointment that was Batman vs. Superman? No way. It may not win an Oscar, but it fills the niche of summer popcorn movies.

I’ll put Suicide Squad ahead of those four movies with ease and will gladly rewatch it when it releases on Blu-Ray.

It doesn’t make it a top-notch film, but am I pumped for the first Justice League? Hell yes. And the same goes for Wonder Woman. Whenever the standalone Batman gets a release date, I’m completely onboard. Ben Affleck has already proved his mettle as Bruce Wayne and the villain will be Deathstroke.

And that was the success of Suicide Squad. It reversed my feelings towards the universe. Instead asking how will the studio screw up the next one, I’m back aboard the hype train for future releases.

Suicide Squad Review
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