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Suicide Squad: The Good, the Bad and the Critical

Written by Jake Barber

WARNING! Suicide Squad spoilers within.

“You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.” Jor-El there, in Man of Steel and isn’t it ironic how apt those sage words have become as of late with regards to the DCEU. After the critically mixed bag that was Batman V Superman, I was hopeful that Suicide Squad would be the film to restore the faith in many a critic and disgruntled fan with regards to the DCEU and its future. No margins for error, no detail to be nit-picked over just a great movie, the Citizen Kane of Superhero movies as it were.

Now you can call me an eternal optimist or just plain delusional but before, during and after Suicide Squad my faith remained intact, my optimism not dented in the slightest, having largely adored the film. I am and remain to be as fireproof as Diablo when it comes to the negative backlash that has been heaped upon Suicide Squad and the DCEU in general by other critics. I have spoken at great length before about how fantastic I thought Batman V Superman was as well as Man of Steel and have gone on record many a time (largely on this site) to defend my opinions, opinions I am proud to hold. I’m not going to even entertain the conspiracy theories behind sites such as Rotten Tomatoes, anti-DC agendas or Disney backhanders, I mean I’m a critic for the love of Krypton, how hypocritical would that make me!

That said, I’ll be 100% honest. I do feel as though the DCEU has had a rougher time of it when compared to that of the MCU. Case in point, Marvel’s first three films in order being: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2. Even the staunchest of Marvel fan boys or DC haters have to look deep within themselves and have to honestly admit that Marvel’s cinematic transition to the big screen wasn’t without its own commercial and creative pitfalls… for instance, I’ll give you several seconds to think about Iron Man 2‘s plot or lack thereof. Moreover, neither of these three Marvel films came close to breaking the heady heights of Man of Steel, Batman V Superman or  Suicide Squad’s current run  at the Box Office having just enjoyed its third week at the Number One spot in the Domestic Box Office. To put that into context, The Incredible Hulk barely crossed $260 million at the Worldwide Box Office, talk about removing the “Hulk Smash” from Box Office smash.

Much has been written about Suicide Squad and rather than muddy the waters further with another review I thought I’d instead condense what I thought was good and bad about the film as well as address some of the critiques lobbied at it. So get the taste of rotten tomatoes out of your mouth with an unhealthy dose of Puddin’ because I’ve got Suicide Squad firmly in my sights.

The Good

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Humour Intertwined with Emotional Gravitas: Overall, Suicide Squad is my second favourite DCEU film out of the three, Batman V Superman ranking first, Man of Steel third. I have often stated that I love both the MCU and the DCEU but when it comes down to it, thus far I have been more impressed with that of the DCEU. We all know that Marvel stands head and shoulders above DC when it comes to humour in its films but when it comes to dark, gritty realism DC leaves Marvel in its metaphorical shadow. That said, one of Suicide Squad‘s biggest strengths is its deployment of humour interspersed throughout its narrative, a narrative which by its very nature deals with some dark, ethical quandaries such as abusive relationships, criminals civil rights and don’t even get me started on that amazing bar scene with Diablo.

Suicide Squad offers both substance and humour in spades, Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) stealing the comedic spotlight, a spotlight which I envisioned before entering the film, would largely be eclipsed by the Joker. See, that is what is so exciting about Suicide Squad, it’s DC’s first shot across the comedic bow at Marvel and its an unadulterated success. Marvel can go dark don’t get me wrong but for short passages of time, Agent Coulson’s death in Avengers Assemble a notable example. The killing off of a key component of the MCU was ballsy and shocked me when I first saw it, but Marvel couldn’t help but make Agent Coulson’s final words a punch line and thusly in the process lost all emotional clout. Suicide Squad demonstrates that DC/ Warner Brothers can do funny and that they’re listening to the criticisms lobbied at them whilst not sacrificing what differentiates them from Marvel in the first place.

harley and joker

Joker and Harley: This was one of my biggest concerns entering the film: would they get the balance right when it came to Joker and Harley’s relationship? The answer? A resounding yes from me. David Ayer in particular managed to do the unthinkable, take two unpredictable, mentally unhinged characters and balance them just long enough to evoke a degree of sympathy within the audience whilst also forcing them to stop and consider the logistics of such an abusive relationship. I have seen this relationship represented in a myriad of ways from that of Harley Quinn’s introduction to Batman lore in Batman: The Animated Series throughout various comic book arcs and what made this all the more special was that I myself, a Batman nut, found myself witnessing a different Joker to one I’d seen before. As maniacal and violent as Jared Leto‘s outstanding depiction of the Joker was, it was played with an element of vulnerability, Harley more the Bonnie to his Clyde than some accomplice.

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The Soundtrack: As I write this, the soundtrack to the movie enjoys its second week at Number one on the Billboard 200 chart in America and what a soundtrack it is, a worthy rival to that of the soundtrack to Guardians of the Galaxy. Like the film’s ensemble cast the Album is ecliptic, a mixture of old and new much like the source material used to create the cinematic depiction of the squad. The soundtrack is used expertly in the opening twenty minutes of the film which for me personally was also the strongest and most enjoyable part of the film, the music being used in tandem with inter-titles to introduce us to the Squad’s roster.

The Bad

Enchantress

The Plot and the Villain: There were only two aspects that let me down with regards to Suicide Squad and they go hand in hand more inextricably than Enchantress and June Moone (get what I did there). Let’s be honest, we knew Enchantress was going to be the villain all along even if Warner Brothers and the cast didn’t admit it themselves or highlight Enchantress as the villain in any of their promos.

Now I think it’s important to first state that I felt Cara Delevingne did a great job as Enchantress; she was spooky, visually macabre and faithful to the character. I can even forgive Delevingne for her rhythmic swaying within the latter half of the film, coming across more like a possessed Shakira than an ancient witch. However, although her hips may not lie, unfortunately the weaknesses of the film do indeed lie squarely upon her character’s shoulders. The antagonist’s scheme renders the previously awesome Enchantress that we saw within the Pentagon scene earlier, petty and unsubstantial, her brother and hired muscle Incubus, even more so.

Unfortunately, much of the second and third act of the film falls afoul of that old staple of superhero films, citywide destruction and the dispatching of endless hordes of minions, the intentions of the antagonist cast aside for special effects and spectacle. Films such as Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor: The Dark World and even Man of Steel to an extent have continued this trend, a trend both Marvel and DC seriously need to alter. Spectacle can be achieved but should never be done so at the expense of the plot, films such as The Dark Knight and Ant-Man are living testament of this and prove that sometimes less really is more.

The Critical

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The Cameos: Many were concerned just as they had been before Batman V Superman was released that the presence of cameos in Suicide Squad would detract away from the Squad themselves. I personally loved the short sequences with both Batman and the Flash, coming at the start of the film so as not to distract those who were aware of the cameos throughout. That said, the mid-credits sequence infuriated me beyond belief, Bruce Wayne portrayed as now being in Amanda Waller’s pocket, offering her protection in return for documents on the meta-humans that will make up the Justice League. It’s Batman for the love of Zod! He’s the world’s greatest detective and he hates any form of injustice, most notably releasing those criminals he has worked his cowl off to bring to justice in the first place.

So have I got a view of Suicide Squad sharper than Katana’s Soultaker or has the DCEU just committed suicide? As ever I’d love to know what you think in the comments below or on our Twitter page.

 

About the author

Jake Barber

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