Swapping DC's heavy hitters for a team of renegades can't pull off a 'Deadpool' and puts DC further behind
When Batman vs Superman was unleashed upon audiences back in March, somewhere around the Dawn of Justice it dawned on audiences and critics alike that this just wasn’t a lot of fun. Between a turgid plot, a joyless script, a complete an utter misunderstanding of how to use women, and whatever Jesse Eisenberg and his pee jar were doing, Warner Bros and DC’s second swing at the super-powered piñata failed to connect. The candy still rained from its bloated stomach to the sum of $873m, but it left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Instead, while Marvel’s Civil War deftly introduced new heroes, new villains, and an entirely new dynamic, DC’s heavy hitting first-rate heroes seem to be spinning entirely out of control.
It seems odd, then, that the third movie in this cinematic universe is already looking to parachute in a bunch of second-rate antiheroes to carry out some much-needed course correction. Regardless of the star quality on screen – and we’ll come back to that later – the ragtag roster of villains in Suicide Squad, the “worst of the worst” of the DC universe, are really a bunch of nobodies.
Start with the jive-talkin’ expert marksman assassin with a penchant for dressing like a 70s pimp in his downtime. Throw in a woman built around a pair of hotpants and fishnet stockings and sexy sexy Stockholm Syndrome. Add an Aussie who bloody throws bloody boomerangs while snorting vegemite off a surfboard, a demonically-possessed archaeologist straight out of Relic Hunter central casting, a reluctant pyromaniac with emotional baggage, and a crocodilian lizard man who looks like one of those reptiles from the Super Mario Bros movie on steroids. You don’t really need to know their names, they don’t do anything much these broad descriptions.
Viola Davis's scheming Amanda Waller takes no prisoners when it comes to squad goals [Facebook]
Thank god for Viola Davis, at least. As Amanda Waller, a shady government agent who, despite having no super abilities beyond the power of terminal scowl, manages to inject some interest into proceedings. In the wake of the events of Batman vs Superman, she’s decided the safest way to protect the world from a Superman-level threat is to establish her own team of expendable baddies. Manipulating everyone from her superiors to her right-hand man, Waller’s plans backfire spectacularly, but you get the feeling that the spreadsheet she keeps tabs on everyone with is exceptionally well maintained, even while she's teaching everyone how to get away from mortars.
Nothing is ever quite right in Suicide Squad, most notably with the casting. Regardless of what Vanity Fair seems to think, Margot Robbie is not yet a movie star capable of producing a performance magnetically mental enough to make Harley Quinn into anything more than a pretty basket case. Robbie’s comic timing troubles notwithstanding, her Harley never goes full throttle, failing to find the manic danger in the Joker’s better half. And as for Jared Leto’s take on the most iconic supervillain of them all, it is just so perplexingly earnest, a schticky mess of cackling ticks and editorial fashion poses so determined to find the madness in the method, you cannot help but wonder why so serious?
As Deadshot, Will Smith, gifted all the best lines, emergency lands most of Suicide Squads’ jokes, while Cara Delevingne brings the kind of physicality only a supermodel can to her role as mystical compost-heap. Delevingne’s indefinable ‘It Girl’ individuality, the you-can’t-quite-name-it thing that has turned her into a household name, gets utterly swamped under Enchantress’s tresses and distresses, but her transformation scenes remain the stand out as the only playful use of visuals in the entire film.
For a movie about baddies, which have always been DC’s ultimate ace in the hole, Suicide Squad suffers from some terrible ones. The foot soldier foes, a cross between Stranger Things’ tulip monster and Mighty Morphing Power Rangers’ putty patrollers, maraud meaninglessly around Midway City, while the main antagonist stomps through the train station like Ghostbusters’ Zuul, without any of the fun.
David Ayer, the writer/director best known for his script for Training Day, proves himself to be as tone deaf to the material as Zack Snyder. Instead of bursting off the page, the cast struggles to find chemistry, the story borders close to boring, and the action is so perfunctory that you can’t help but wonder why they expect an adult to fork out €20 or so to see it on IMAX, when there’s really nothing here you haven’t seen before.
Suicide Squad (15A) is released nationwide on August 5th.