Comic-book films are big business, especially if a fickle and seemingly Marvel-partial audience likes your film. But superhero flicks can also be big disappointments, and DC Comics’ latest adaptation “Suicide Squad” is more of a bust than boffo.
The “Suicide Squad”
The recipe was sound: toss together a ragtag group of ne’er-do-wells and pit them against a common enemy, explore their backstories enough to make them sympathetic, and have them bond as the family they never had while they miraculously emerge victorious against overwhelming odds. Sprinkle liberally with jokes and special effects and count your cash.
Some version of this has played out across screens both big and small, but the closest relative to “Squad” is Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy”, especially since “Squad” tries so hard to follow in Marvel’s lucrative footsteps, catchy musical selections and all. But “Squad” adds a dash of misogyny, a pinch of racism, and a heaping helping of head-scratching moments.
Jared Leto as The Joker
The titular squad is a collection D-list characters (“Slipknot”, anyone? Anyone?) plucked from prison to form Task Force X, the brainchild of morally questionable government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) who aims to use them against meta-human threats. If they succeed, wonderful; if they don’t, their sacrifice is no great loss to society.
Their individual expendability is telegraphed by a short-shrifting of their respective origin stories and their miniscule involvement in the proceedings. And although many will know of The Joker (Jared Leto), he’s not among the Squad’s ranks; he’s relegated to glorified cameos, but that’s fine—his Joker is a disturbed emo James Cagney.
Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn
But his crazy, baseball-bat wielding girlfriend Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is a Squad member, along with sharpshooter Deadshot (Will Smith), reptilian Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), tattooed pyrokinetic El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), and knife-throwing Boomerang (Jai Courtney), among others.
Confusingly, the filmmakers pit this pugilistic bunch against The Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), a mystical sort impervious to fists or flame. Never have I seen more of an onscreen mismatch between opponents. The filmmakers should have kept the characters street-level to street-level for a more plausible confrontation (think Daredevil against Punisher instead of Daredevil against Thanos).
Finally, just because a movie is based on a comic book doesn’t mean it has to be stupid, and a fair amount of eye-rolling accompanies “Suicide Squad”. It’s borderline average, too long, tonally uneven, and certainly not the success DC needed it to be.
Rated PG – 13 for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content and language
Director: David Ayer
Writer: David Ayer