Suicide Squad was written and directed by David Ayer. It's based on the DC comic book of the same name. This is actually the third live action version of the Suicide Squad. The team previously appeared on Smallville in 2001, and on Arrow in 2012.
Ayer previously wrote U-571, Training Day, The Fast And The Furious, Dark Blue and S.W.A.T. He wrote and directed End Of Watch, Sabotage and Fury.
Take The Dirty Dozen, populate it with comic book super villains instead of convicts and you'll have a pretty good idea of what this movie's about. Unfortunately Suicide Squad is a muddled, murky and schizophrenic mess that can't settle on a consistent tone. I was hoping that this would be the film to finally break the DC Movie Curse, but sadly that just isn't the case.
For the past several years Warner Bros. has frantically been trying to ape Marvel Studio's massive success with their DC Extended Universe films. Unfortunately they just can't seem to get their little shared theatrical universe off the ground.
For reasons I can't quite fathom, Warner Bros. was certain that the relatively unknown Suicide Squad would finally rival Marvel's output. To that end, they hired director David Ayer, who specializes in gritty, urban street dramas, to shoot a gritty, urban street superhero film for them. And that's just what he delivered— by all accounts Ayer's original cut of Suicide Squad was dark and brutal, which fit the tone of the subject matter perfectly.
And then a couple of things happened...
First of all, Warner Bros. executives were absolutely blindsided by the negative critical and fan reaction to the execrable Batman V. Superman. They honestly thought they had a masterpiece on their hands, and were gobsmacked when the film underperformed at the box office after the public rejected it for being too grim and joyless.
Meanwhile, Fox Studios released a little superhero film called Deadpool, which, despite the fact that it was about a violent mercenary, was fun, lively and upbeat. Audiences obviously loved its irreverent feel, as it grossed a kaskillion dollars.
These incidents sent the Warner Bros. executives into a panic. Knee-jerk reactions are always the best reactions, dontcha know! Fearing disaster if they released yet another grimdark superhero film, they ordered extensive reshoots on Suicide Squad to lighten its tone and make it more fun. This of course made perfect sense, because lord knows a Superman film should be grim and violent, while a movie about a team of expendable killers should be cheerful and airy.
They then began assembling several different versions of the film with wildly different structures and tones, in a desperate attempt to see which scored better with test audiences.
You don't have to be a film scholar to tell that the final product's been extensively recut and shuffled. Storylines that were obviously meant to happen in "real time" were cut down considerably and used as brief flashbacks, while the tone varies wildly from scene to scene. This gives the film a patchwork, disjointed feel that I have a feeling wasn't present in the original cut. It's a Franken-film!
Nowhere is the schizophrenic nature of this film more evident than in the marketing. Just look at these various posters! I'm not seeing anything here that screams "edgy, gritty street drama." With their bright colors and pop art aesthetic, they look more like ads for the next Pixar cartoon. Or some Japanese kawaii girl group.
I have a feeling that Suicide Squad was meant to be DC's answer to Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy. Both movies feature a team made up of outlaws, criminals and assassins who spout humorous one-liners and quips, along with soundtracks packed full of 1970s hits. Heck, Suicide Squad even uses Norman Greenbaum's Spirit In The Sky, which appeared on the Guardians soundtrack as well! Talk about blatant!
The music in Guardians had a reason for being there, as it was actually integrated into the plot. Unfortunately Suicide Squad is nowhere near as clever, as the film simply blares song after song over various scenes, with no discernible rhyme or reason. "Hey look, the Squad's gearing up! Let's hear Bohemian Rhapsody! Oops, the scene's changed! Let's switch to Fortunate Son! That song positively screams 'team of mercenaries!"
When DC announced Jared Leto was cast as the Joker, fans predictably lost their collective minds and took to the internet to register their outrage. I have to say I'm with them on this one.
Leto plays what is possibly the worst version of the Joker in cinema history. It's a given that Heath Ledger would be a tough act to follow, but Leto can't even hold a candle to Caesar Romero! The filmmakers obviously intended Leto's Joker to be chilling and terrifying, but he looks for all the world like adult Macaulay Culkin smeared with white greasepaint. And about as threatening!
Plus this Joker doesn't even have any disturbing facial deformities! Jack Nicholson's Joker had a permanent smirk as a result of botched plastic surgery, while Heath Ledger's version mutilated his own face into a twisted smile. Leto's Joker has a mouth full of capped teeth. Ooh, scary! This Joker, with his tatted-up body and Hot Topic aesthetic, is obviously supposed to be edgy and chilling, but honestly I've seen more extreme-looking specimens in the grocery store.
DC fanboys were reportedly incensed when the film received middling to poor critical reviews, especially from the Rotten Tomatoes movie review website. One disgruntled fan— Abdullah Coldwater of Alexandria, Egypt— was so incensed over Rotten Tomatoes' alleged poor treatment of the film that he accused the site of having a vendetta against DC films, and started a petition to have it immediately shut down (!). Gosh, it's nice to see people exhibit such passion over things that truly matter, like movie reviews.
What Mr. Coldwater doesn't seem to understand is that Rotten Tomatoes is an aggregate site. They don't actually write the reviews on their site, they compile them from all over the internet. If Suicide Squad is only getting a 27% positive rating, then that's just the general consensus around the web— it doesn't reflect the opinions of Rotten Tomatoes at all.
Plus Rotten Tomatoes is actually owned (in a roundabout way) by Warner Bros. If the site was really full of falsified and biased reviews, wouldn't they all give the movie a glowing recommendation?
Another angry fan, this time from Scotland, is suing Warner Bros. for false advertising, as the trailers made it look like the Joker was the main villain in the film, when in reality he's in the movie for under ten minutes.
Sadly, these various lawsuits are far more entertaining than the actual film. Better luck with Wonder Woman, DC! Maybe in ten or twenty more years, you may finally make a superhero film as good as Marvel Studios.
This may be the one time when the Asylum Studio's "mockbuster" actually outdoes the source material…
In the end, it doesn't really matter what I think of this film. Against all logic and reason it's already grossed almost $500 million worldwide! We're never going to get better movies if the public keeps rewarding studios for making terrible ones.
SPOILERS, I GUESS!
After the death of the Man Of Steel in Batman V. Superman (everyone who believes he's really dead, stand on their head…), the government is worried about the escalating threat posed by rogue metahumans. Government agent Amanda Waller (played by Viola Davis) comes up with a brilliant plan— to assemble a team of dangerous supervillains to send on covert missions to counter the metahuman menace. Why she doesn't recruit a group of more easily controlled superheroes instead is apparently none of our concern.
Waller's squad consists of Colonel Rick Flag (played by Joel Kinsman), a special forces operative, Deadshot (played by Will Smith), a deadly assassin who never misses, Harley Quinn (played by Margot Robbie), psychotic girlfriend of the Joker, El Diablo, a gang member with pyrokinetic powers, Captain Boomerang (played by Jai Courtney), an Australian career criminal, Killer Croc (played by an unrecognizable Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a half man/half amphibian monster, Slipknot, a criminal "who can climb anything (?) and the Enchantress, a powerful ancient goddess. They're joined by Katana, a Japanese superhero who carries a soul-sucking sword and is there to keep eye on the villains. Each of the villains has has a miniature bomb implanted in their neck, which can be remotely detonated (with a phone app!) by Waller or Flag if any of them gets out of line.
Flag is romantically involved with Dr. June Moon (seriously— that's her name), an archeologist who's been possessed by the highly dangerous and unstable Enchantress. Predictably, the Enchantress soon takes complete control over Moon, turns on the team and escapes. She summons her demonic brother Incubus, and the two begin attacking Midway City, turning the citizens into faceless, zombie-like monsters and constructing a world-ending machine.
Waller activates the Squad and tells them they'll be countering a simple terrorist attack in Midway City. As they're helicoptered into the city, the Joker texts Harley Quinn (?) and says he's on his way to free her. Suddenly the chopper's shot down and crashes. Miraculously none of the Squad members suffers so much as a bruise. Boomerang talks Slipknot into making a break for it, which he does. Waller activates the bomb in Slipknot's head, instantly killing him, and convincing Boomerang that their "leashes" are real. The Squad is then attacked by the Enchantress' minions, but they manage to make short work of them.
The Squad makes it to the top of a skyscraper and catch their breath. While there, they learn that the mission is actually to rescue Waller herself, who's trying to cover her involvement in the whole Enchantress mess (which she caused). The supervillains are incensed at being misled (and rightly so), but Waller threatens to blow their heads off if they don't comply.
They escort her to the roof for extraction, but they find the Joker's commandeered the chopper and uses it to rescue Harley (whose neck bomb has been deactivated— just go with it). Waller's men shoot down the chopper. Harley leaps to safety while the Joker seeming dies in the crash (uh-huh). Apparently having nothing better to do, Harley rejoins the Squad (!). Waller's then captured by the Enchantress' minions.
With the mission a spectacular failure, Flag destroys his remote and tells the Squad they're free to go, and sets out to rescue Waller by himself. Amazingly the villains decide to help him, in an effort to "prove themselves" or something.
Meanwhile the Enchantress uses the power of her machine to target and destroy military installations around the world, threatening the entire planet.
They locate the Enchantress, Incubus and Waller in an abandoned subway station. Playing to his strengths, Killer Croc volunteers to plant a bomb in the flooded area below the station. El Diablo reluctantly unleashes his full power and attacks Incubus. He manages to wrestle him over the bomb, which explodes, killing them both.
The rest of the Squad battles the Enchantress, but she easily disarms them. She uses her powers to give each of them their fondest desire, if they'll only join her cause. Harley accepts her offer. She gets close enough to embrace the Enchantress, and then reveals she was lying and cuts her heart out. Deadshot detonates explosives inside the Enchantress' machine, destroying it. Flag takes the Enchantress' heart and crushes it, which kills her once and for all. Fortunately this frees June Moon from the evil goddess' influence, and she's back to normal.
With their mission a success (well, more or less), the Squad members figure they're now free to go. Not so fast, says Waller, as they only get ten years deducted from their sentences. What a gyp!
At the end of the film we see Harley Quinn enjoying a latte in her prison cell, when the Joker and his "SWAT" team bust in to rescue her.
In the mid credits scene, Waller meets with Bruce Wayne, who agrees to protect her in exchange for her files on all known metahumans.
By the way, if this synopsis seems choppy and incoherent, it's because it's trying to summarize a choppy and incoherent plot.
• Nearly every one of the supervillains in Suicide Squad is written as a sympathetic character. Deadshot may be an assassin, but he'd do anything for his young daughter. Harley Quinn's a psychotic killer, but she's devoted to the Joker. El Diablo's filled with guilt and remorse after accidentally killing his family. And on and on.
I am not a fan of this modern take on comic book supervillains. Why can't we simply have a villain who's a plain old evil bastard? Why do they always have to have some sort of justification for their villainy? Why can't a villain just be an asshole who likes to cause trouble?
When you give a villain a tragic and compelling backstory, you end up neutering them. They're no longer evil, they're just misguided.
I suppose this trope was necessary in Suicide Squad, since most everyone's a bad guy. If the characters weren't sympathetic then the audience wouldn't care if they lived or died, and then there's no reason to watch the film. That still doesn't mean I have to like it though.
Suicide Squad is hardly the first film to do this. In Batman And Robin, Mr. Freeze steals diamonds to cure his dying wife. In Spider-Man 3, the Sandman only turns to crime to raise money for his daughter's operation. In the X-Men films, Magneto wants to punish those who persecute mutantkind.
• At the beginning of the film, we're told that the Suicide Squad is necessary in order to fight the rising threat of rogue metahumans in the DCEU. In fact a senator even says, "What if Superman had decided to fly down, rip off the roof of the White House, and grab the president right out of the Oval Office. Who would have stopped him?"
Setting aside the fact that Superman pretty much did something like that in Man Of Steel, what the hell good would this particular team be against such a superpowered opponent? They're all normal people! Diablo's the only squad member with actual superpowers! The rest of the team is made up of a sharpshooter, a guy who throws boomerangs, a crocodile man who may or may not have super strength, and— brace yourself— a girl with a baseball bat. Whew! I feel safer already! I'll bet if Superman were still alive, he'd be quaking in his boots after seeing this team of heavy hitters!
• It would have made a lot more sense if the Squad faced off against a realistic, street level villain. Like a drug kingpin or a group of terrorists, for example. Pitting them against a supernatural foe like the Enchantress was a huge misfire, and completely changed the tone of the film. It's like two completely different movies clumsily mashed together.
• Once again we get another superhero film with a woefully underdeveloped villain. That's fast becoming the new normal these days. The Enchantress is about as lame a foe as you can possibly imagine, and her motivations are as usual, practically nonexistent. What exactly does she want? To destroy the world? Then what? Where's she gonna keep all her stuff?
When I saw the movie I was very surprised to find out she was the actual villain of the piece. Based on the trailers, I expected the Joker to be the big bad that the Squad needed to take down. That certainly would have made more sense, and would have made for a much more compelling film.
Plus making the Joker the main antagonist would have given him something to actually do, and a reason for being in the movie. He's in it for maybe a total of ten minutes, and never does much of anything except try to look menacing and laugh. You could cut out every one of his scenes and it wouldn't affect the plot one bit. It's obvious that the only reason he's in the film is to introduce him into the DCEU.
• For months before the film premiered, there were numerous on-set reports that actor Jared Leto threw himself whole hog into the role, completely submerging himself into the character. He reportedly shaved off his eyebrows, watched torture porn videos and stayed in character at all times during the shoot. He even went so far as to mail dead rats and used condoms to his cast mates (!). How charming.
I've always been suspicious of these extreme method actors. Yes, I'm sure there are times when one needs to get pumped up or energized before a difficult scene. But actors who insist they have to actually be sad in order to act sad... eh, I don't know. To me that says they're just not a very good actor.
There's a famous (and probably apocryphal) story about Dustin Hoffman and Lawrence Olivier during the filming of Marathon Man. Olivier came into the makeup trailer and noticed Hoffman looking a bit rough, and asked what was wrong. Hoffman said his character was supposed to have trouble sleeping, so to that end he'd actually stayed up for several days straight. Olivier was amazed and said, "Why don't you try acting, dear boy?" That's pretty much how I feel about the whole thing.
In the end Leto's antics were much ado about nothing. He's barely in the film, appearing for under ten minutes. And even when he is onscreen, he never seems like much of a threat. He's all flash, with no substance. Hell, Amanda Waller seems like she could probably take him out singlehandedly!
Supposedly Leto filmed a ton of Joker scenes, but almost all of them were edited from the final cut. Would more of the Joker have made the film better? Eh, I doubt it. I don't think anything could have helped this mishmash.
• Much has been made in the press over Leto's patented "Joker Laugh," and how he arrived at the unique chortle. In an interview, Leto said, "I worked on the laugh walking around the streets of New York and Toronto, and I kinda would walk around the streets and see what laughs would get under people's skin… I tried them out. And I got to a place where I would laugh and people are always turning around like, 'Who is this creepy guy behind me?"
For the record I didn't find his laugh the least bit unsettling or terrifying, mostly because it sounded almost exactly like Phantom Of Krankor from Prince Of Space.
• Call me old school, but I like Harley Quinn's original costume, which looked like, well, a harlequin. I am not a fan of the "crack whore" costume she wears in the film.
Her original costume actually does show up in a couple of very brief blink-and-you'll-miss-'em scenes. I wish they'd have just skipped it altogether though, because throwing it in without having her wear it for the whole film felt like a tease. Don't show it if she ain't gonna wear it!
I can't blame the movie for her new look though, as it's just following the comics. She's been dressing like a skank for quite some time now on the printed page, as apparently no one at DC understands what "harlequin" means.
• Harley speaks in her trademark Brooklyn accent a couple of times early on ("Hoiya, Mistah J!") and then completely drops it for the rest of the movie.
• During Harley's on screen "stats", it briefly flashes that she assisted in the murder of Robin, whose costume we saw in the Batcave in Batman V. Superman.
• The biggest casualty of the studio meddling is the Joker/Harley relationship. Supposedly in the original cut of the film, their affair was very one sided. Harley was deeply in love with the Joker and worshipped him, while he couldn't possibly care less whether she lived or died, and even showed outright contempt toward her.
Their abusive relationship supposedly gave test audiences icky bad feelings, so the numerous reshoots completely changed the nature of their dynamic.
Some of the various changes:
In the original cut, the Joker actually shoves Harley into the same vat of industrial chemicals that transformed him. In the final version, the Joker politely asks her to jump in to prove her love.
In the original cut, the Joker and Harley get into a heated argument and she pulls a gun on him. He then sweet talks her into lowering the gun, and when she does, he backhands her across the face. They then kiss.
In the original cut, the Joker rescues Harley in a helicopter. They get into yet another argument and he shoves her out of the chopper in a fit of rage, as she seemingly falls to her doom. The copter then gets shot down with the Joker onboard. In the final version, the chopper is shot down first, and the Joker pushes Harley out in order to save her.Obviously these alterations were made to soften the Joker and make him less abusive toward Harley. This was a huge mistake, in my opinion. It's not that I like seeing violence toward women, but we're talking about an evil, psychotic supervillain here. Of course he's going to knock his girlfriend around! Making him a loving and tender partner completely neuters him, and eliminates any sense of menace he may have had. Who the hell wants to see a likable, touchy-feely, politically correct Joker?
• Deadshot spends at least 99.9% of the movie without his trademark white mask. He's shown picking it up and carrying it a couple of times, but I don't think we ever actually see him wear it (I'd have to see the movie again to make sure, and that ain't happening).
I expected this the second I saw they'd cast Will Smith in the role. There's no way in hell a studio's going to pay millions for a prominent actor and then cover his face for the entire film.
• Is there any reason why, whenever we see Deadshot in his civilian clothing, he's dressed like a 1970s pimp?
• Just think, Will Smith passed up Independence Day: Resurgence to star in this film (although to be fair, I doubt his presence would have saved that film either).
• Credit where credit's due— I actually liked the scene in which the Squad members geared up, and Deadshot demonstrated his sharpshooting abilities by firing every round in a machine gun clip through the same tiny bullet hole. Kudos!
• Dr. June Moon has to be the world's worst archeologist. In a flashback we see her exploring a remote cave, where she finds a small clay idol. She picks it up and for no good reason whatsoever, immediately rips its head off. This releases the Enchantress' life force, which then possesses her.
Jesus, Indiana Jones was pretty reckless, but even he wouldn't have been that stupid.
I suppose we could say the Enchantress' spirit somehow compelled Moon to tear off the idol's head and free her, but I don't see why we should.
• When the Squad members are all fitted with neck bombs, Captain Boomerang isn't convinced they're real, so he talks Slipknot into trying to escape. When Slipknot gets his head blown off real good, Boomerang's finally convinced.
This scene was lifted almost word for word from the Suicide Squad comic. The only difference is that there the team all wore high tech bracelets that would blow off their hand if they strayed too far away from Rick Flagg. Well done!
Of course I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't point out that the whole neck bomb thing was done first in Escape From New York.
• Speaking of Boomerang, he was definitely the most useless member of the team. He didn't do anything but bitch and whine! Did he even toss a single boomerang in the entire film?
• I assume Boomerang's bizarre and poorly-written obsession with pink unicorns was thrown in to make him seem quirky? I'm also betting it was a lame attempt at making him more like Deadpool, who had a similar fetish.
• On their first mission, the Suicide Squad is traveling by chopper to a rendezvous point. Harley whips out her cell phone and sees she's got a text from the Joker (complete with a pasty-skinned, green-haired emoji!).
Many viewers— including myself— wondered where the hell she got a cell phone. Apparently this is (poorly) explained in the film. The Joker's men abduct sleazy prison guard Griggs (played by Ike Barinholtz) and hand him a cell phone. He then supposedly slipped the phone to Harley before she left on the mission, when we weren't looking.
Why they devoted so much valuable screen time to this minor little detail, I have no idea. Especially when virtually nothing else is explained! They could have eliminated the Griggs scene entirely and clarified the situation by simply showing Harley brush up against one of the prison guards or soldiers and expertly pick his phone from his pocket.
Now where exactly she was hiding the phone after she got it is another question entirely, especially considering she's wearing hot pants that are all of three inches high.
• Say, I almost forgot— Batman's in this movie, in a flailing attempt to remind us that this is a shared universe just like Marvel's! Unfortunately Batman (played once again by Ben Affleck) only shows up in a couple of brief flashbacks— to arrest Deadshot, and to rescue Harley from a sinking car (as well as punch her in the face!).
Gosh, it's too bad Waller forgot all about Batman. He might have been able to help against the Enchantress, and would probably have been more reliable than a team of unstable supervillains.
• As the Squad enters Midway City, we see a large digital billboard announcing there's a Mandatory Evacuation Notice in effect!
Apparently Warner Bros. is still stinging from the spanking they received over the massive collateral damage caused by Superman in Man Of Steel. They're now going hilariously out of their way to assure the audience that no innocent blood was spilled this time, as the Squad members are free to battle in a completely empty city.
So I guess the filmmakers expect us to believe that every one of the millions of residents of Midway City was somehow evacuated to safety in the space of an hour or two, or however long it took the Squad to fly there from their prison headquarters (!). I'd have less trouble believing in the Enchantress than I would that situation!
By the way, in the comics, Midway City was the home of the superhero couple Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Too bad they didn't show up to help.
• So the Suicide Squad exists so the government can use them against metahuman threats, and not risk the lives of regular military troops. So of course it makes perfect sense that the Squad is accompanied at all times by a team of highly competent, elite soldiers who seem like they could handle any threat themselves.
• At one point we see that Waller's trapped inside the John F. Ostrander Federal Building. That name probably sailed far over the heads of most of the audience, but comic fans will recognize the name. John Ostrander was the creator of the modern Suicide Squad comic (there was an earlier version from the 1960s that few remember).
• In the 2005 Fantastic 4 movie, the team accidentally caused a major disaster on a bridge. The FF then used their powers to save the citizenry and contain the damage. The media goes nuts, praising them and turning them into celebrities. No one seems to notice that the Fantastic 4 themselves created the disaster in the first place. It's the Bootstrap Paradox— they solved the very problem they created!
Something very similar happens in Suicide Squad. Amanda Waller assembles a covert team of supervillains. Against all logic and reason, she recruits the Enchantress, a highly dangerous and uncontrollable witch. Naturally the Enchantress escapes and goes on a destructive and deadly rampage. Waller's then forced to use the Squad to save the world from the very problem she herself caused!
• After the whole Enchantress debacle, Waller goes into ass-covering mode. She has her people wipe their hard drives and destroy all evidence linking her to the matter. She then coldly and brutally executes her people at point blank range. When a shocked Rick Flagg asks her what the hell, she says they didn't have proper clearance and she couldn't risk them talking.
So she murdered six or seven innocent people to keep them quiet, but she's fine with a group of immoral supervillains knowing her secrets. Got it.
• After Waller's captured by the Enchantress' minions, a disillusioned Rick Flag destroys his phone containing the killer app and tells the Squad they're free to go. Captain Boomerang immediately buggers off and exits the bar, practically leaving a hole in the wall in the shape of his body.
Literally sixty seconds later the rest of the Squad decides to stay and help Flag rescue Waller. Suddenly Boomerang's with them again, as they scope out the Enchantress' hideout.
This flub is a prime example of the studio's meddling and reshoots, and just a sample of the passion and care they poured into this production.
• It was nice to see the Blue Shaft Of Energy™ get some work in this film. The bright, pencil-thin beam has shown up in virtually every superhero movie made in the last ten years or so.
• At the end of the film, the Squad believes they're all free to go. Not so fast, says Waller— they're all going back to prison with just ten years knocked off their sentences. The Squad members balk and start to walk off anyway. Waller then whips out her phone with the killer app and says she'll use it if they don't stop immediately.
Funny thing is, the way she's holding the phone, her fingers are actually touching two of the Squad members' faces on the app! Luckily for them the phone somehow knew not to make their heads explode.
• In the post credits sequence, Waller gives Bruce Wayne a file containing info on all known metahumans, such as the Flash and Aquaman. He thanks her for the info.
Um... why does Bruce/Batman need these files? He already saw (and copied) them on Luthor's computer in Batman V Superman! Why's he need to be handed them a second time?
There's probably a decent version of Suicide Squad lying somewhere in Warner Bros. vault, but their lack of confidence in David Ayers' direction and their irrational desire to turn it into a Guardians Of The Galaxy clone completely torpedoed the project, resulting in a muddled, schizophrenic, nonsensical mess. I give it a C.