9 August 2016

Suicide Squad review

I can't believe we are living in a world in which Man of Steel - a staggeringly mediocre film throughout - is still the best that the DC Extended Universe has to offer. Despite being positioned as the saving grace of the DCEU, Suicide Squad is actually anything but - it's one of the most poorly made films I've seen in a year with more than it's fair share of poorly made films, a movie so flawed at a fundamental level of film-making that it's almost impressive. Warner Bros/DC had every chance to make a genuinely good movie here, and their inability to do that makes me more than a little concerned about the future of this franchise.

Because it isn't hard to pinpoint what went wrong with Suicide Squad - it's a film with all the hallmarks of a very troubled post-production period, one that seems to have been caused by extensive studio interference. Various reports indicate that the version of Suicide Squad in cinemas is a conglomeration of a few different cuts, and I'm inclined to believe them - it's a horribly edited movie, full of inconsistencies and oversights that end up making Suicide Squad feel more like a rough cut than a finished product.

Subplots are picked up and dropped seemingly at random, characters arcs are started but never finished, set up takes place without later pay off and pay off exists without ever being set up - there is simply no sense that whoever edited this movie had any real idea of what the final product was even meant to look like, and the result is a film that is so unstructured and scattered that it's almost impossible to actually give a shit about the story it's apparently trying to tell.

On top of that, Suicide Squad - the opening half in particular - is trying way too hard to be "fun", presumably another problem caused by post-production meddling. I assume that Suicide Squad will have to make at least a billion dollars just to cover the cost of all the songs it needed to license - there's an unbearable amount of on-the-nose music cues littered liberally throughout the first half of the film, as if someone involved with the movie saw Guardians of the Galaxy and assumed that it was the soundtrack that made that film popular. It's almost embarrassing how out of place these songs are - it's clear as day that these scenes were not filmed with any of these songs in mind, and the speed with which Suicide Squad jumps from song to song quickly gets tiresome.

Admittedly, the second half suffers less from this horribly forced style, replacing it with what is effectively a standard military movie in which some of the characters are slightly more eccentric than usual. Suicide Squad becomes more coherent here, taking on some semblance of direction, but that doesn't stop it from being an entirely bland, personality-free affair that contains some of the most poorly shot, unexciting action scenes I've ever seen in a superhero film. I disliked Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice for a lot of reasons, but at least that contained some fun beats during it's action scenes - there's nothing like that to be found here.

All of which is to say that Suicide Squad is a total mess, one that doesn't even have the common courtesy of being an interesting mess. There are virtually no redeeming features here - it's just boring throughout, even when it comes to our would-be characters. Despite the focus that the marketing for Suicide Squad placed on the titular group, the characters we follow throughout barely even qualify as characters, with just a couple of exceptions in the form of Deadshot and Harley Quinn. Even here though, full credit needs to go to the actors themselves rather than the material they are given to work with - it's very much a situation where good performances are elevating paper-thin writing, making them... well, not interesting characters, but at least functional ones.

On the other end of the performance spectrum comes Jared Leto's version of the Joker, who despite his prominent placement in the marketing for the movie may as well not even be the film. Watching him chew on the scenery as he gurns and prances his way through the very few scenes he's actually in is both a trauma and it's own reward - he's that edgy kid from your high school who thinks that being "random" and "crazy" will make up for his complete lack of personality, the personification of "it's not a phase, mom!". There is no aspect of his performance that could be considered threatening or scary; how Warner Bros plan to convince anyone that this preening wannabe is the greatest nemesis of a man who went toe-to-toe with Superman is anyone's guess.

Chuck in a pair of villains that make Thor: The Dark World's Malekith look like a well-developed character and some of the most blatant, unabashed "male gaze" you're likely to see in a big budget movie this year, and Suicide Squad ends up being just a terrible movie all-round. Maybe there is a radically different cut of Suicide Squad that is as good as we all thought it might be, but as it stands, Suicide Squad is nothing more than a hollow, unfocused disappointment, something that works better a feature length rebuttal to the notion that DC have better villains than Marvel than it does a coherent, capable movie.

I bet they really regret that "Worst. Heroes. Ever." tagline, huh?

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