Even if you're David Ayer and you wrote Training Day and directed Fury, bringing together a bunch of comic-book Batman villains that have never been in a live-action film along with a new iteration of The Joker was always going to be hard, and messy. With acclaimed actors like Will Smith, Margot Robbie, and Jared Leto, though, it should also be hard to mess up.
I was really looking forward to Suicide Squad. Batman vs Superman: DoJ kick-started DC's cinematic universe in divisive fashion, with too many subplots and rocky direction that felt like it was too influenced by the studio. Suicide Squad, after some fantastic trailers, looked set to successfully navigate these problems. However. Its main problem, unfortunately, is feeling too much like a generic comic-book film, especially in the second half (the first half, however, is great - see below). Instead of going a unique route of having a team of morally ambiguous, blackly comic villains fight and work amongst themselves, perhaps uniting against a wild card like The Joker, we get a ham- fisted team up against some otherworldly entity (BvS anyone?) aided by faceless minions (Avengers anyone?). Comic book fatigue indeed.
Another problem is the widely-advertised re-shoots that were ordered of Ayer after critical backlash in the spring targeted BvS's dull, mirthless mindlessness. Too often, the film feels choppily edited, with several portions of the film feeling like they were directed by different directors before all these sections were Frankensteined together. This seems a clear indication that there is too much 'higher up' involvement in the making of these cinematic universe films. Ayer's vision can be glimpsed through the mess, especially in the first half. His vision of The Joker as a tattooed, pimp-like, mob-boss gangster is commendable, but falls prey to reshuffling and the apparent removal of several of his scenes. Flashes of brilliance, such as viewing Batman through the eyes of Deadshot and Harley Quinn, are brilliant: the vigilante is seen as a terrifying, meddling threat who splits families apart and keeps true loves from each other. A lot, however, is lost as the film suffers from the curse of post-production reshuffles.
But I digress, as Suicide Squad really isn't THAT bad. The first half especially is a joyful romp which unfortunately does not indicate the tone of the film overall. The character introductions could not have been done better, with tongue-in-cheek visual effects and on-screen writing giving a sens of the characters, and a great mix of flashback and scenes of the characters in prison providing excellent contrast. Most of the gags and humour hits (most, but definitely not all), though it would have been nice if the creators had more independence to target an older audience, perhaps focusing on why these guys are so bad. In a film that is a very, very soft 15 certificate, it is hard to display the remorseless murders and horrific crimes that they have done, and the film could have benefited from some good black comedy. The acting is a mixed bag - Robbie is simply superb, the stand-out with what is one of the only complicated roles in the film, whilst Viola Davis excels and Smith is a solid lead. Leto is alright, though nowhere near the heights reached by the likes of Heath Ledger and Mark Hamill. It often feels like he is trying too hard to be edgy and crazy, coming across as almost Jim Carrey-like at times. His screen-time is relegated to mostly token appearances, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it means more time devoted to the bland Joel Kinnaman and the eye-rollingly boring villain Enchantress, played by an over-the-top and possibly miscast Cara Delevingne (though who could sell this properly: http://tinyurl.com/zh4w52t).
Basically, though, none of the characters are given enough time to bond like they say they are. Jai Courtney, doing his best Tom Hardy impression, is a promising side-character but is very underused, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje's Killer Croc is basically useless. There are significant swathes of the film which are really enjoyable and fun, with the soundtrack simply wonderful, but there are just too many inherent problems. Uneven direction, often laughable dialogue, choppy last-minute editing, and a plot which just went in the wrong direction. It simply can't cut it at the top of the blockbuster world, and is unfortunately for me a large disappointment, especially due to all the promising signs I saw in the film.
Maybe this is the comic-book film fatigue building up steam, but studios really need to change something in order to keep their cinematic universes being such reliable cash cows. Marvel's Doctor Strange looks intriguing - though if Suicide Squad proved anything, it was that trailers, however incredible they are, do not provide an indication of the film - and their Civil War was often refreshing, but there needs to be consistent adaptation. To quote Frank Underwood (fine, Winston Churchill), to improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often. If the Affleck- directed Batman film, the hopefully different Aquaman, and Justice League can learn from the mistakes of BvS and Suicide Squad, then DC will prosper. Until then, films such as this Suicide Squad are just not good enough. Mostly enjoyable, and probably worth a watch, but just not one to ever re-watch and unlikely to delight anyone over the age of 14. 55/100.
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