Here's What's Good and Bad About 'Suicide Squad'

Here's What's Good and Bad About 'Suicide Squad'

Aug 02, 2016

Full disclosure, Suicide Squad was among my top three most anticipated movies of the year. Not just the summer -- the whole year. It was a risky movie dropped into a year full of riskier comic book films meant to help reinvent a genre that's trying to remain on top when it comes to box office and fan anticipation. Here was this movie that was solely about the villains, and not the heroes. Toss in an exciting, diverse cast and a few deliciously badass trailers, and it's no wonder Suicide Squad is poised to break all kinds of box office records when it hits theaters this week.

But is it any good?

Well... ultimately that'll be for you to decide, but here are some of the film's pros and cons to get the conversation started.

 

Pro: A terrific ensemble

The big selling point on Suicide Squad is that it's the first comic book movie solely about villains, but the greatest thing about this film is its groundbreaking diverse ensemble, led by Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn), Will Smith (Deadshot), Viola Davis (Amanda Waller), Jai Courtney (Boomerang), Jared Leto (Joker), Jay Hernandez (El Diablo), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Killer Croc), Cara Delevingne (Enchantress) and more.

The cast is the most ethnically diverse that we've seen in any of the modern comic book movies, and the moments when they're together -- going all-in on their respective character's personalities -- are among the best of the film. This is a true ensemble film that works best when it features the ensemble, whether they're hanging out at a bar or fighting their way through an army of other-wordly zombie-like bad guys. Suicide Squad's best scenes are the ones with, well, the Suicide Squad.

 

Con: It takes too long to get us there

There's a terrific moment where Smith's Deadshot is trying to get Hernandez's El Diablo to help the team out and use the fire-wielding powers he had retired following a tragic accident involving those closest to him. It works great, but it's late in the film. Everything that's fun about the movie happens late in the game because it takes such a long time to set up the primary characters and their backstories and the formation of the team.

Honestly there is so much extraneous material stuffed into this bad boy that it takes away from what we're actually there to see -- a group of bad guys kicking ass. Backstory is necessary, yes, because it helps you better invest in a film's central characters, but in this case it's the execution that feels sloppy and mismanaged. There's no flow to it. No ride. Just a lot of starts and stops.

 

Con: Are they villains or heroes?

Not that it doesn't have a purpose. Many of the leads, like Harley, Deadshot, El Diablo and Joel Kinnaman's Rick Flag, are all given emotionally-charged backstories in the hopes you're more invested in their characters as good guys versus bad guys.

And it's pretty tearjerk-y stuff, especially in the case of Deadshot and the little daughter he so desperately wants to reconnect with, but it does feel like a cop out in ways. Here is a movie about villains that act way more like the heroes we've already seen in other comic book movies. With the exception of Killer Croc, who's immensely enjoyable and ridiculous as this gangsta croc badass, the film could've backed off the sappy love stories a bit more in favor of additional ensemble moments. Not that sappy can't work in a movie like this, but with such a big ensemble those elements are gonna take a hit and not feel as meaningful as the film wants them to be.

 

Pro: A great soundtrack full of classic songs

If you dug the music in its trailers, then you're in luck cause Suicide Squad is packed with one classic song after the next. Each character gets a song, and several of the bigger, more memorable moments are set to music you know, giving the film this kind of rock opera vibe that's very neat at times.

 

Con: The music could've been used more strategically

Unlike Guardians of the Galaxy, which infused its music into the heart and soul of the film, Suicide Squad sort of just drops songs into scenes without much rhyme or reason. Sure, you know all the songs and probably love all the songs, but there doesn't seem to be an obvious coherence to it all. 

 

Pro: Joker and Harley Quinn

It was pretty clear from the trailers -- and it's even more evident once you see the film -- that Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn is the all-star here. When she's on screen, you can't look away. You may not understand why she's so infatuated with the ruthless, abusive Joker (Leto), but you'll fall hopelessly in love with her amusingly manic personality. 

For most of the film, Leto's Joker is trying to rescue Harley from amidst her mission with the rest of the squad. It's a subplot that feels unnecessary at times, almost like it's getting in the way of the film, but their dynamic -- as screwed up as it is -- makes for some of the film's most enjoyable moments. 

These are the kind of lunatics I want to invest in when it comes to a Suicide Squad movie. They're bad and they're mad, and while Leto's Joker isn't as clearly defined as more recent Jokers played by Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson, it's because we don't see him much. He's not the lead. But we do get enough of Leto to want more, which is what this film seems to be aiming for.

 

Pro/Con: The villain(s) are sort of meh

In the film's defense, they really do try to give us a more complex villain than we've seen in every other comic book film to date. Let's face it: the villains in these movies are almost always weaksauce. They're not as defined as the heroes, and usually their master plan involves opening some portal and destroying the world.

That won't change here -- as the final villain showdown will remind you of lots of other major confrontations, especially (and oddly) the original Ghostbusters -- but they do try to add a more fascinating element when it comes to Enchantress and her role in the whole thing.

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It's her brother Incubus who's wreaking havoc, and the duel nature of Enchantress -- coupled with a completely over-the-top sappy subplot involving a love story between her and Rick Flag -- is what does set Suicide Squad apart, even if it's not exactly executed in the best way. A hero in love with the villain? That's a cool idea, and we wish it was better executed. 

 

Suicide Squad is far from a perfect movie, and it's stuffed with a lot of weird decisions, but similar to Batman v Superman you're left wanting more of this ensemble because the chemistry is on point. And if they ever put Deadshot in a Batman movie as the villain, it's going to create a fascinating dynamic we've never seen in a superhero movie before, in that it'll include a hero and villain we're mutually invested in. That's the kind of stuff that excites me about Suicide Squad. Its structure is messy & its storytelling is incoherent at times, but it looks good, sounds great and pushes the genre forward in some neat ways.

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