From writer/director David Ayer (Fury, End of Watch, Training Day, The Fast and the Furious) we receive the next DC Comic adventure to take on the Marvel universe, Suicide Squad. The question is, can it deliver where so few have managed? Can it take on Marvel?
The premise of Suicide Squad is straight-forward; a bunch of bad-guys, some not quite as human as you or I, are locked away in a maximum security, middle-of-nowhere prison, and are given a chance at redemption. All they have to do is follow orders, enter a war zone with someone else who’s not quite human (dubbed meta-human) and save the world…or die, either of which everyone else seems happy with.
The story is as simple as it sounds. The only slight twist is that the really bad guy, or woman in this case, happens to be the girlfriend of the army soldier in charge of the Suicide Squad, Rick Flag, played by Joel Kinnaman (Robocop, The Killing). The woman in question is June Moone, aka Enchantress, played by Cara Delevingne (Paper Towns, Pan).
So let’s get down to the Suicide Squad themselves. Will Smith plays Deadshot, a man who never misses with a gun. Smith is more toned down than usual in the role though you do get the sense of having seen it all before from him. He has, by far, the largest role in the film. Viola Davis (Prisoners, The Help) plays Amanda Waller, the woman in charge of the Suicide Squad, the bureaucrat if you will, who seems to be about as mental as they are sometimes. She has one of the largest roles in the film.
Jai Courtney (A Good Day to Die Hard, Terminator Genisys) is next up as Boomerang. A knife and sharp edged boomerang man who likes drinking and pink unicorns. He doesn’t say much really and doesn’t get involved in the action all that much either. But it’s a good performance from Courtney as he’s nearly unrecognisable. Jay Hernandez (Hostel, Quarantine) is Diablo. He’s a gangster, covered in tattoos who can also call up fire whenever he wants, and sometimes whenever he doesn’t. He can’t control this ‘power’ he has and has accidentally killed his wife and children with it. A likeable character (odd thing to say I know) who you wish you could have seen more of.
British actor Adewale Akinnuoy-Agbaje (G.I. Joe, The Bourne Identity) plays Killer Croc, so called because, well, he is part crocodile. Most of him in fact. He walks and talks like a human but looks like a croc and can swim like one too. I think he says about four words in the entire film which is a shame as he looks like a fun character to see more of.
Then we have the aforementioned Cara Delevingne who has quite a big part in the film. As Dr June Moone she is fine, doesn’t say an awful lot other than ‘Enchantress’, but it’s fine. It’s as Enchantress when things get…well…funny, and not in a good way. You see Enchantress has walked the Earth for over 6000 years, apparently her and her brother used to be worshipped by humans, now, not so much. So she decides to kill them all. She does this by creating, then standing in front of, a giant swirly thing with, what looks like, big white sheets being waved about and doing a dance that can only be described as someone who is covered in ants. It’s comical, about as scary as a fluffy bunny and doesn’t work on so many levels.
Next up, and not part of the Suicide Squad but in the film for…fun I think, is Jared Leto’s (Dallas Buyers Club, Requiem for a Dream) Joker. You may have heard the rumours that Leto’s part is little more than a walk-on. It’s not quite as bad as that but he isn’t in it a lot. And when he is he’s all about saving his girlfriend Harley Quinn (more on her in a minute), which reduces the Joker to someone a bit sad. Infatuated with his girlfriend, in this movie it’s almost as if it’s that which has sent him crazy. Leto is good in the role but he isn’t given an awful lot to work with and what he is given isn’t great. It’s a very different film and part to Heath Ledgers Joker so it would be wrong to compare them but inevitably people will so I will! Ledgers’ Joker is a lot more menacing, a lot more believable and not just reduced to someone who follows his girlfriend around the city trying to break her free.
So let’s talk about Harley Quinn, played by former Neighbours actress Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street, Focus). Harley Quinn is, by a country mile, the best thing in Suicide Squad. A former Arkam Asylum psychiatrist, she was put in charge of curing the Joker and instead ended up falling in love with him. He then sent her as mad as him with things like electroshock therapy.
The result, and a character Robbie makes her own, is a batshit crazy woman who cares not a jot for hers, or anyone else’s, life. Robbie provides the much needed comedic moments throughout the film, with some fantastic reactions to situations not just lines. But Robbie also brings the vulnerability out in Quinn, a woman who just wants to be loved and will do anything for her man, it’s just that her man in this case is the crazy Joker. It’s no surprise then that Quinn has been given her own spin-off movie already.
The new Batman turns up a few times throughout the film. Affleck actually has a bigger part than some of the Suicide Squad (stay till after the credits to see him in a rather pointless end bit given the Batman teaser has already been released…oops DC!) which about says it all really.
We get a few other glimpses of DC folks too with The Flash turning up, played by Ezra Miller (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Perks of Being a Wallflower), Slipknot, played by Adam Beach (Flags of our Fathers, Windtalkers) who lasts about five seconds and Katana, played by Karen Fukuhara who is great in her first major role and, again, a character I’d like to have seen a whole lot more of.
I think the takeaways from Suicide Squad are this: David Ayer said he ‘made this for the fans’ and he’s right, he probably did (even though that’s what directors say when a film gets panned or doesn’t do very well generally), however I’d argue how many people in the world actually know the story and back stories of the Suicide Squad compared with say Superman, Batman, Iron Man etc, etc?
Whilst I’m the first to bemoan a remake of something coming out and once again telling the back-story of the character (how many times do we need to see Batman’s or Spiderman’s for example?). When those characters aren’t that well known outside of the DC universe / graphic novel I think those back stories do need to be told, and better than they are in Suicide Squad with just a hand full of minutes in flashback.
It’s not easy to give a whole bunch of characters the right amount of screen time in a film like this, but, after watching this, you appreciate a whole lot more the great work Joss Whedon did with the Avengers movies which feel a lot more sympathetic to the characters than this.