Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, Jared Leto, Joel Kinnaman, Jai Courtney, Cara Delvigne, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ben Affleck, Jay Hernandez, Karen Fukuhara

Comic book fans are aching for their favorite DC villains to make a great film. Sure, by standards set by comic nostalgia, Suicide Squad may be good – witnessing these characters together on screen. However, as a stand-alone movie, Suicide Squad doesn’t cut it.

I am not a comic book fan, though I do admire the art and the medium. I am a fan of plot, character, and theme, and how they play out in good film. Despite how good the comic books are, movies should be able to stand on their own.

Suicide Squad – a flick full of less-than-good people – is a less-than-good film.

Margot Robbie has a blast with Harley Quinn; she and Viola Davis keep Suicide Squad from complete self-destruction.

Margot Robbie has a blast with Harley Quinn; she and Viola Davis keep Suicide Squad from complete self-destruction.

That’s because it tells too much of its story through choppy montage and arbitrary flashback. The characters seem like they could be interesting, but there are so many of them. In the piecemeal act of introducing them all, none of them deliver a full arc. Here is a movie idea ripe with possibility, yet there is no theme to speak of. Instead, we get a pretty standard plot of outsiders fighting for what’s right. (See A-Team, The Losers, and The Expendables, etcetera.)

We start after the disaster that “meta-humans” (humans with nonhuman abilities) wrecked upon Earth in Batman vs. Superman (which is slightly worse than this film). So, the US government is looking for a way to fight back. Government insider Amanda Waller (Viola Davis, having a blast being a badass) decides to recruit the worst villains for the job. She’ll plant small bombs in their necks to gain compliance. If anything goes wrong, the villains will take the fall…and likely die.

The only character that cannot be controlled this way is an ancient witch (Delvigne). Waller steals the witch’s heart to manipulate her…until the Enchantress uses magic to escape…

Here’s the first problem. This Enchantress seems like she can use magic to do anything. So, I still cannot figure out why this character needs to stoop to hand-to-hand combat, or even why she cannot figure out a quick way to magic her heart back.

We can't even compare Jared Leto's Joker to other great; the movie chops his bits up.

We can’t even compare Jared Leto’s Joker to other great; the movie chops his bits up.

The movie is full of plot holes like this. Batman (Affleck) appears at the beginning. Then, the superhero is gone for the rest of the film, while the Enchantress plans to destroy all humanity. Umm, helloooo, Batman?!?!

Even the villains – who could possibly be interesting – can’t work through this mess. The first twenty minutes is all flashback trying to introduce them. Only the assassin Deadshot (Smith) and Joker’s girlfriend Harley Quinn (Robbie – besides Davis, the other good thing about this film) each have half a story here. The other seven rogues (count ‘em; seven!) only get one flashback apiece – doled out in weird fits, interrupting the main story.

Maybe that’s because the main story is dull. First of all, our villains land in the city taken over by the Enchantress. Then they cut through evil henchmen like butter, then they face the main villain…haven’t we seen this thousands of times before?

Honestly, I expected way more writer/director David Ayer (of the brilliant End of Watch).

Even Leto’s Joker doesn’t raise a pulse. Though Leto is a gifted actor, here, he can’t compare to Nicholson or Ledger. It’s not him, though; it’s the choppy, truncated storytelling killing him.

Writer/director David Ayer takes several steps down from his excellent End of Watch.

Writer/director David Ayer takes several steps down from his excellent End of Watch.

There is an interesting theme here, lying unused. How can selfish villains build a team of trust? When you throw in madness, grief, and isolation, it gets even harder. If we humans could’ve recognized a bit of our own selfishness and insanity in the characters of Suicide Squad, the film would’ve been so much better.

Of course, this would come after those plot holes got filled. Also, Ayer would’ve had to find a more cohesive way to tell those backstories. They could have started by limiting the cast – introducing other villains in other films. Let the characters left over build their relationships and histories more strongly.

In truth, Suicide Squad is not the worst film ever made, or even the worst comic book film. (I think that dishonor falls to last year’s Fantastic Four.)

Finally, Suicide Squad is going to break a lot of records, because of comic book fans lining up. (And I concede that fans’ measurement of movies may be entirely different from people looking for plot, character, and theme.) We all know that profits are the major way Hollywood measures success. The industry releases about six to eight flicks a week hoping that some will grab the bank.

Ratings Key

See it now! Buy the DVD! Quote lines at parties!

Definitely worth the price of admission

It’s useful as a distraction

Maybe if someone else pays and you need a nap

Slightly worse than eternal damnation

However, time measures the true art and cleverness of movies. (For example: Shawshank delivered middling box office success, and yet it’s now the top film as rated by IMDB users.) As a comic book film for fans, this offering may rock. As filmmaking art, Suicide Squad will be forgotten within a year.

 

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