Director: David Ayer
Starring: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akkinuoye-Agbaje, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood, Cara Delevingne, Karen Fukuhara, Adam Beach, David Harbour
Run Time: 123 mins
(POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD)
‘Suicide Squad’ is one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year and is the third film in the DCEU. Although the comic book genre continues to become more convoluted, ‘Suicide Squad’ looks to breathe new life as this time, the film is from the villain’s perspective. In the director’s chair is David Ayer, who is a perfectly suitable director and has done some very good work in the past, particularly with 2014’s ‘Fury’ and the film has comprised a brilliant cast featuring Will Smith as Deadshot, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn to name a few, but most interestingly, Jared Leto as the Joker who is under a lot of pressure following Heath Ledger’s posthumous Oscar win for his performance in Christopher Nolan’s, ‘The Dark Knight’. After ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ received rather negative reviews earlier on this year (I quite liked it), ‘Suicide Squad’ underwent reshoots to try to add more humour to the film due to the very serious tone that ‘Batman v Superman’ had. This is not the first time and most certainly not the last time a film undergoes a reshoot process and just by having reshoots, it doesn’t automatically mean that the film is doomed. In good cases, we have ‘World War Z’ for example which reshot its entire ending but reshoots can also notoriously go horrifically wrong as was the case with 2015’s ‘Fantastic Four’. However despite being one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year and after all the promises made by DC to the fans that ‘Suicide Squad’ would right the wrongs that ‘Batman v Superman’ has caused, the film opened to negative reviews, again, with many citing the reshoots ruining the film and the film that David Ayer originally set out to make had drastically changed.
‘Suicide Squad’ is unfortunately, a disappointment compared to the promise of the trailers that have preceded the film for the past year and half. It is quite noticeable that this film has been tampered with by the studio – the film often feels like a music video in its editing and the whole film feels incredibly disjointed and its humour feels very forced at times. The story is virtually non-existent – it is paper thin and the characters are solely put first. Now whilst this all may seem very negative, there are large portions of the film that David Ayer seems to have made that are left in the film and there are some outstanding sequences buried in this middling adaptation and Ayer does well in developing the characters enough for audiences to care about them and warrant a sequel. The cast assembled here have clearly put in a lot of effort into their roles and the performances clearly pay off. However, ‘Suicide Squad’ is ultimately nowhere near good enough as it should have been and is further evidence of a director’s vision being compromised by the studio.
The story is one of the main reasons why the film cannot hold up – there is absolutely no narrative here and instead Ayer chooses to focus on the characters. After setting up these characters, they literally spend the second hour walking through the streets and fighting enemies and it dawned on me half-way through that virtually nothing of importance was happening. What also aggressively holds the film down is the choice of villain, which I won’t spoil, but surely when a big-budget film is being made by a big corporate company it must have clicked that this wasn’t the right choice. The famous saying states that a film is only as good as its villain and whilst in this case, due to the strong characters it is better than that, the film’s villain severely lets the film down.
The film’s tone also has a lot of problems due to the studio’s tampering with the film. There are many sequences where you can tell that this is what Ayer originally shot and these sequences are generally outstanding with his signature gritty, violent and character-driven scenes. If you watch the trailers in the order that they were released, it’s very noticeable that there is a clear shift between the first trailer which promises an adaptation of these characters in a David Ayer film and the subsequent trailers that promise a more humorous, pop song-driven film bearing similarities to Marvel’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, a similarly oddball film within their brand. What is in the finished product is an awkward mix between the two and whilst at times, it works, ultimately the film that David Ayer made is the film that should have been released into cinemas and would probably have been a film still with narrative issues, but a film that would have been better received.
What anchors the film and allows it to ultimately be worthwhile is the cast, who most seem to have really delved into their characters and have created interesting and engaging interpretations of these beloved characters. Will Smith is excellent here and although his characters is never as bad as he should be (he makes a good-hearted villain a lot of the time), he is good fun and has great chemistry with the rest of the cast. Margot Robbie also stands out and really makes the character of Harley Quinn her own, as does Viola Davis who makes an icy and calculative Amanda Waller. Surprisingly normally poison for a film, Jai Courtney is actually really good here as Captain Boomerang and Ike Barinholtz also gives a career best performance and interacts with the cast very well. Although Jared Leto’s Joker has been scrutinised for not having enough screen time, where he is in the film is excellent but this is a very different interpretation of the Joker than what has been on-screen before and his performance has received mixed reviews. Jay Hernandez as El Diablo and Adewale Akkinuoye-Agbaje are unfortunately underused but what is here is promising from them and hopefully their characters will be developed in a sequel. Of the cast who don’t gel, Joel Kinnaman’s performance is sometimes great but sometimes he feels out of place in the film and his character never really gels but it’s Cara Delevingne who surprise, surprise, gives a dreadful performance – please everyone stop giving her roles in film, she cannot act!
The music plays a big part in this film and unfortunately, the constant use of predictable, cliched pop songs used in the film aggressively detract from the film and do not compliment the film well – it’s a major problem and one that I hope will be addressed in a sequel. This was such a big issue in the film and this is displayed by the fact that by the first ten minutes are up, the film has already been through five songs. Conversely, the score by Steven Price is wonderful and is exactly why he was always a good choice for this film. The cinematography by David Ayer-regular, Roman Vasyanov is great and there are some creative shots in this film that are stunning.
It’s a real shame that ‘Suicide Squad’ isn’t exactly the pick-me-up that the DCEU needed after the mixed reviews of ‘Man of Steel’ and the negative reviews for ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’. However, the important lesson to be learned here is when a film is tampered with to this extent by a studio, you know you’re in trouble and this isn’t the first time that this has happened. Look at last year’s ‘Fantastic Four’ for example – a film that similarly got reshot and re-edited by the studio however the key difference is how the director’s have reacted to this – Josh Trank famously trashed his own film but David Ayer seems to be supporting the studio which I would suspect would be because he wants to return for a sequel and also wouldn’t want to harm his career. However, an individual that has been vocal about this film is Jared Leto, who has warned viewers that there is a lot of footage missing (which you can tell from the trailers) and that he was duped into taking the role. I just hope that this hasn’t cost him this role in future DCEU films as he is excellent here and he has the potential to continue this excellence perhaps in a solo Batman outing. Although ‘Suicide Squad’ has a number of problems in its paper-thin plot, villain, muddled tone and its incorporation of pop music, the performances and character development mean that this film is ultimately worthwhile and there are some outstanding sequences in it, but the film is never as good as it should have been and I hope this is the last time a studio try and compromise a director’s vision – sadly with the way the film industry is, I suspect there will be many more films that will suffer this same problem.