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By Justin Rev Ino Tamang

Suicide Squad is a film with a lot riding on its proverbial shoulders. Given how terribly Batman VS Superman fared, DC is in dire need of redemption. Suicide Squad is where everyone has pinned their hopes up for the franchise, but it ends up a disappointment.

suicide squad

(Fair warning: this review is likely to contain spoilers, although you won’t miss out on much anyway.)

The film begins with government official Amanda Waller planning to create a secret task force composed of supervillains. She chooses “the worst of the worst” and sells the idea to the other bigwigs in government. Waller threatens the villains with death to ensure that they follow her every command. From there, the audience gets introduced to the Suicide Squad’s members, complete with backstory flashbacks.

These origin stories prove to be some of the (very few) strong points of the film. Remember all those exciting clips in the Bohemian Rhapsody-backed trailer? Those are mostly from the backstories. It’s safe to say that most of the “fun” moments of the film happen in its first half.

Now, these segments prove to be amazing individually; collectively, it’s a whole different ball game. Every flashback aims to add depth and complexity to a character, but not all the clips amount to much. Only a handful of the squad members really get backstory clips that improve their characters. The others seem to be merely there for show, just to make a point that all the squad members’ stories origin stories have been covered.

From there, Suicide Squad transitions into one complete mess. Cara Delevingne puts up a sad performance as the one-dimensional villain Enchantress without any compelling reason to destroy the world. She converts regular humans into soldiers that look like blistered blackberries to raise an army, but these soldiers do nothing but serve as cannon fodder to the supervillain task force.

Then there is the Joker, the character everyone is anxious to see considering how masterfully Heath Ledger brought the villain to life in The Dark Knight. The Joker is massively underused, but at least he gets used when the CGI slugfest turns too tedious. In this regard, every appearance of Mr. J proves to be refreshing – because everyone has had enough of these blackberry-looking soldiers getting blown up.

Jared Leto does an okay job of playing Mr. J – and that’s being kind. He gets maybe around 10 minutes of screen time in a two-hour movie; criticizing him heavily would be very nitpicky. For this reason, Leto deserves the benefit of the doubt that he could’ve been much, much better had his Joker been given more time on screen.

“Struggling” is the perfect word to describe Suicide Squad. It struggles to put together a coherent plot and to find a point of focus. It struggles to weave together these themes that are meant to address real life issues. It struggles to be the DC counterpart of Guardians of the Galaxy. As a result, it ends up being a hodgepodge of CGI action and dark antics that don’t make much sense.

It is disappointing how Suicide Squad has no compelling story to tell given its highly interesting premise. Suicide Squad gives very little depth to its characters. The primary antagonist is empty, has no deep and convincing motive; she simply just wants to destroy the world like any other clichéd antagonist. Captain Boomerang and Killer Croc could have been written off and it would’ve barely mattered.

Even Harley Quinn, despite her lengthy backstory scenes, isn’t given enough depth as a character. The movie explores how she fell in love with the Joker, but it is never really explained why she’s so fascinated with Leto’s character in the first place. Her origin story explores how she fell in love with the Joker, but never really explains Quinn’s fascination for the green-haired villain.

Suicide Squad also tries too hard to be the DC version of Guardians of the Galaxy. It attempts to be funny while also injecting some drama and hype where necessary. It shows scenes in slow motion with pop songs in the background. It even uses the song “Spirit in the Sky,” which appears on the GotG soundtrack. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work out as well as the Marvel film.

The movie’s only point of redemption lies in some of its cast members’ performances. Viola Davis plays the perfect personification of Amanda Waller – stern, smart, and ruthless. Will Smith delivers excellent one-liners and showcases a lovable and arguably the film’s only complex character in Deadshot. Margot Robbie is hands down the best choice for Harley Quinn. Her quips and antics inject fun in an otherwise flat adaptation. Everything else, however, is just stale and generic.

There’s just no other way around it: Suicide Squad is a mediocre film. Practically all its good parts are in the backstory flashbacks, characters are either empty or underused, and the story – as a whole – is a mess. Sorry, DC, Suicide Squad isn’t the savior you’re looking for. Better luck next time.

2 stars