Suicide Squad (2016)

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I am going to try and remain as civil and professional as I can here – in the end, to make any sort of film is difficult, and to produce something that is seen by even a dozen people in a monumental achievement, and everyone that works on a film should be proud that they have worked on something that will be seen by the general public, regardless of how good or bad their film is, it is something at least. However, when thinking about Suicide Squad, I feel the need to discuss one simple fact – Suicide Squad is a messy, jumbled and convoluted mess that I honestly wish had been as good as the hype around it was.

In March of this year, I endured one of the most unpleasant experiences in a cinema ever – I watched Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a film that I felt didn’t even deserve the price of the paper the ticket was printed on. Overly long, complicated and utterly dull, it was one of the most excruciatingly boring and painful films I have ever had the displeasure of watching. I vowed I would never allow myself to have to sit through something that bad ever again, and I didn’t think the DC Cinematic Universe could sink any lower. Let me assure people who enjoyed Suicide Squad that the film is definitely not close to being as bad as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but it most certainly was not much of an improvement. While Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was admittedly a bad film, Suicide Squad is more of an imperfect film. It would be very easy for me to join the myriad of voices that spew hatred for this film, but I need to admit to the fact that beneath some truly troubling aspects, there is a good film lurking underneath Suicide Squad, and I have to be perfectly honest – it is a step in the right direction. But rather than being a tremendous leap over the dull and pointlessly bad Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad was just a little skip, and I do worry about the state of the DC Cinematic Universe, because they seem to be unable to get their act together.

Rather than being bad, Suicide Squad is mediocre. Personally, it seems bizarre to be writing that, because the mediocrity is more of a balance between the incredibly great and the mind-blowingly terrible aspects of this film – and throughout it, I found myself both enjoying and despising this film, for a variety of reasons. By the time the film ended, it wasn’t clear to me whether or not I leaned more towards this being a good film or a bad film – and I don’t quite know even now. I wouldn’t call Suicide Squad a failure – I’d call it a mess, and a jumbled collection of tonal inconsistency, but I do think it achieved what it set out to do – it just set out to do something that wasn’t good enough, and the root of each and every problem can be found in both the pre-production blunders and post-production disaster – which is very strange, but not unheard of.

Let me address the biggest issue right from the outset – Jared Leto. Now I don’t mind Jared Leto – he is an actor who gave some powerful performances throughout his career (and ignoring the fact that his insanely popular band is not very pleasant to listen to), he is a talented man. As much as I do like him, he was not the man for The Joker. It wasn’t long ago when I watched Batman: The Killing Joke and predicted that Leto was going to do a poor job with the character – and he most certainly did. The Joker is undeniably the greatest comic book villain of all time, and while many may have differing opinions, we can’t deny the brilliance of Jack Nicholson (as the classy and maniacal egomaniac) or Heath Ledger (as the insane and psychopathic criminal genius). Jared Leto may seem like someone who could’ve done a good job with the character, but he just went too far, and while it was clear everyone involved wanted a new and revolutionary angle on the character, what we received instead was an interpretation of the character that is so completely distant from what we’ve seen before, it loses all meaning to the character.

Honestly, I am all for a new take on a character, but when you take The Joker, a character that is mischievous, evil and above all, classy and turn him into something that we don’t recognize, it ruins the character’s legacy. Instead of mischievous, Leto’s Joker is childish. Instead of deranged, Leto’s Joker is ludicrous. Instead of being a sophisticated and highly intelligent criminal genius, Leto’s Joker resembles a mentally incompetent drug addict who enjoys the banality of laying amongst neatly arranged knives and acting like we are all supposed to understand his insanity, which often just looks like a temper tantrum most of the time. Leto is a good actor, but here, he quite simply did not do the character even an iota of justice – his speech was mumbled, his acting over-the-top and utterly forced, and his screen presence was out of a terrible Disney Channel Original Movie. Leto’s performance here made Jesse Eisenberg’s despicably bad performance in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice look like calm and dignified acting. Yet, he still doesn’t give the worst performance in the film – and he was pretty horrendous.

Cara Delevingne honestly put the “suicide” in Suicide Squad. I am not quite sure the last time I saw a performance this bad in a major film like this. There is absolutely nothing good about her performance, and the fact that she turns out to be the major villain makes it even worse – in a film, which features familiar and beloved characters, the fact that Enchantress is not only the main villain, but the performance is absolutely terrible just speaks to the fact that DC needs to really sit down and consider what they want to achieve, because if making a good film actually is their aim, they need to go back to the drawing board. Much like with Leto, I actually do like Delevingne – and even though she is a model, I haven’t found her presence (and the few films she’s acted in) anything other than delightful – and I thought Suicide Squad would offer Delevingne a platform to actually have an acting showcase. I cannot express the level of hatred I have for her performance in this film. Her acting was beyond terrible, and it was so bad, it was elevated to a realm beyond anything I have ever seen before – there is not a single individual, living or dead, that deserves to have to endure what Cara Delevingne did in this film. Unlike with Leto, it was not entirely Delevingne’s fault – the writing was terrible, and her character was just developed badly. The special effects were on the level of something you see in straight-to-television action films, and the entire arc with her character just made me cringe. I am not one to throw out extremes, but if I was forced to choose someone who I think gives one of the worst cinematic performances of all time, Cara Delevingne would be a definite contender. Truly a grotesque and awful performance, and when the time comes for technology to be able to erase memories, her performance will be the one I ask them to get rid of, immediately. I feel like a piece of me has been lost after seeing that film – and while this does sound like hyperbole, it is far from being an exaggeration – Delevingne is just that bad.

Leto and Delevingne were enough to completely ruin this film – and they were the biggest problems with this film. However, there isn’t any reason to not recognize the good aspects of this film – and there were definitely very strong elements within Suicide Squad. The breakout star of Suicide Squad was undeniably Margot Robbie, who I have had a strange fascination with since her breakout in The Wolf of Wall Street. I can criticize DC and the creators of this film for the enormous failures in making it, but casting Robbie as Harley Quinn was admirable – funny, endearing and delightfully evil. Robbie is enough reason to pay for this film – and while her character is unfortunately over-sexualized a lot of the time, Robbie’s performance rose above it, and she delivered something very good. Viola Davis was far too good for this film, and I wish she hadn’t been in it – her performance as Amanda Waller was pitch-perfect – dry, malicious and violently entertaining, I thought she gave a performance far better than this film deserved.

Davis is one of the most talented actresses of all time, and I hope as the DC Cinematic Universe improves (and it has to, because it can’t continue like this), that she will continue to be present in the universe. Her performance and character deserve it. I don’t want to say too much about the rest of the cast, but I will say that it is great to see Will Smith putting some effort in again, even if he still doesn’t quite reach the highs that his career has seen in the past – while the Will Smith of fifteen years ago could give a performance like this in his sleep, the current Will Smith actually had to put effort it. I wasn’t the biggest fan of his performance, but he was passable and wasn’t terrible. Hardly anyone else in the cast deserves mention, which is somewhat of a blessing, because that means that none of them were bad enough to be mentioned, but not good enough to be noteworthy. Hopefully they can do better that this film. However, I do want to mention Jai Courtney – apparently he was in this film, but he is such a vapid and dull screen presence, I forgot that he was in this film, even when he was on screen.

Suicide Squad has elicited some extreme responses – and while I wouldn’t go as far as to call it absolute garbage, it most certainly was not a good film. The characters deserved better, and the DC Cinematic Universe needs to figure out where they are going, because I don’t like the incarnation of these characters I grew up loving, and this represents 2016 being a year of absolute disaster for DC, with this being their third consecutive film that does not come close to doing justice to the source material. I do think that it did have a lot of potential, but it hardly ever reached it, and the best parts of this film even deserved to be in better films – and hopefully, great performances like Margot Robbie and Viola Davis can find their homes in better DC films in the future, so succeeding generations don’t have to sit through this mess to see their solid performances. I am very disappointed, and I wish we had been given a better film, because this just does not do it for me, and I feel we all deserved better.

P.S. Excellent soundtrack though. A soundtrack that deserved to be in a better film.

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