Back when Batman v Superman was released, I wrote an article lambasting the critics who’d panned the movie. Sure, it wasn’t perfect – but the movie was pretty damn good, and the box office haul was still impressive.
Now we’ve been given another reason to doubt the legitimacy of ‘official’ movie critics – I went to see Suicide Squad – which got a similarly brutal critical beat-down – and it was, once again, a pretty damned good movie.
The premise of Suicide Squad is as old as the movies themselves – it’s The Magnificent Seven, the Guns of Navarone, or the Wild Geese just with superheroes. In the opening scenes, shady government operative Amanda Waller goes through a list of baddies who she wants to recruit into a special unit, and we’re given brief bios of Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang and the rest of the gang.
Later, this team is assigned to rough, tough solider Flagg, and heads into a devastated Midway City to rescue a missing operative and eliminate an out-of-this-world magical threat.
I won’t give away the plot too much – but I’ll tell you this: Suicide Squad is, unbelievably, both better and worse than Batman v Superman.
It’s better because the movie delivers some fantastic characterization, and makes the ‘baddies’ both likable and relatable.
Deadshot is a murderous psycho… but he also just wants to be a dad to his innocent little girl. Harley Quinn has lost herself in her obsession with The Joker, but secretly just wants the normal, loving family everybody else has. Diablo, the sleeper superstar of the movie, is tortured by the horrible things he’s done, and the immense power he tries to restrain within him.
The rest of the cast are supporting players, but each have their time to shine. Captain Boomerang – the most ridiculous of Batman’s adversaries – is a cowardly drunk who nevertheless offers sage advice and stoic service when he’s called to. Katana wants to avenge her husband’s murder, and is a lethal middle-man between Amanda Waller and the rest of the squad. Killer Croc is perhaps the most lethal of the recruits – but demonstrates loyalty and resolve beneath his murderous exterior.
And then there’s Jared Leto’s Joker – who appears only briefly in the movie, yet steals every scene he’s in. He’s not the perfect Joker by any means – but his laugh is genuinely unsettling, and he does a good job differentiating himself from Heath Ledger’s iconic performance in The Dark Knight.
On the negative side, though… the actual plot of the movie and the ‘bad guys’ are hokey and ridiculous. Cara Delavigne is utterly wasted as the Enchantress and her innocent looks are completely incongruent with the exaggerated sexuality of this trans-dimensional witch.
Scott Eastwood, too, is pretty meh as Flagg, the leader of the squad. I mean, he’s fine – but the whole plot challenges our suspension of disbelief, which is tough to do in a movie that involves a walking crocodile and a man who can spit fire.
At the end of the day, Suicide Squad is still pretty slick and I think it’ll stand up to repeat viewing. In addition, all the extra scenes cut out of the theatrical release will be a nice treat when it comes out on digital and blu-ray; and like with the Ultimate Edition of Batman v Superman, will probably flesh out the parts of the movie that felt sparse.
It’s far from perfect, but it didn’t deserve the critical panning it got. It’s also a worthwhile foundation in the new DC cinematic universe; and something I have a feeling Warner Brothers will be able to successfully build upon.