Review: Suicide Squad is a Fun, Character-Driven Film Thriving with Untapped Potential

We’ve managed to reach the third entry of the DCEU, and the overall verdict on the cinematic universe is… poorer than we had hoped. So where does Suicide Squad stand in all of this?

This is a mostly Spoiler-free review, and I’ll actively try to be as vague as possible to not ruin any plot points or details for people who want to see it. Any spoiler I state will have an additional warning right before it.

Perhaps some individuals are still reeling with their disappointment with Batman v Superman. Although a majority of the grievances said by others are indeed valid in my opinion, this film is not half-bad. I’d actually encourage any fan of Superhero cinema to give this film a try; it’s not perfect by any means but it is fun, entertaining, and thriving with potential.

I said this movie was not half-bad. 30%-40% bad would be a more accurate assessment of my overall verdict. The first act is extremely strong with a colorful look into the DC Expanded Universe, particularly Batman’s corner, channeling vibes from both comics and Bruce Timm’s animated universe. Each villain is unique, with Will Smith’s Deadshot and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn shining the brightest out of the cast.

This is probably Will Smith’s best role since… I don’t know, I Am Legend? Hancock? Deadshot is cool, charismatic, hilarious and sympathetic, and he also managed to grab one of the coolest scenes in the movie (in my opinion). It’s essentially the classic Will Smith characterization, which is funny because when the initial footage and trailers were released last year, many of us (myself included) complained about the character coming off as “too Will Smith-ey.” But it turns out, that was actually what we needed from the character.

Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is also very strong, although her delivery of certain lines like “Mr. J” and “Puddin’” were undeniably cringe worthy. There have been general critiques about the portrayal of Harley and Joker’s relationship and the fact that the toxicity of said relationship isn’t really addressed as much as it should be. Even though it’s pretty clear the relationship is one of abuse and manipulation, some feel it’s not actively regarded as such by the narrative of the story. While I do think these critiques are valid in their own right, I’m personally not bothered by it. We’re reaching an age where, in comics, Harley is coming into her own, breaking away from the Joker’s toxicity and forming new relationships with folks like Poison Ivy. There’s even a moment in the animated series where she essentially gets tired of his nonsense and attempts to kill him, but when it fails, they embrace each other and its back to the same old criminal activity.

While some feel like the relationship was glorified, I personally don’t agree. What I saw on film didn’t glorify the relationship any more than most other portrayals of the Joker x Harley dynamic. The subject of abuse and Harley’s eventual escape is one that usually takes more time to develop, and while she was a BIG part of this movie, there still wasn’t really enough room to develop her that far, especially considering this is her cinematic introduction.

But let’s talk about Jared Leto’s Joker. I do not like Jared Leto. I think he’s over-hyped and I highly disapprove of his method acting techniques that have been detailed behind the scenes. All that said, I think his Joker also has a lot of untapped potential, but his 10 minutes of total screen time didn’t allow it to come through. The writing also didn’t exactly lend itself to the characterization either. The look grew on me, and I like his laugh, although his voice is definitely a cross between the Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson incarnations (which isn’t inherently bad). The biggest flaw is probably the most important aspect of the Joker, and that’s the comedic timing. Every incarnation of the Joker is more or less “scary” and those fearful elements are accentuated with bits of comedy, whether it’s dark or light. We heard it with Mark Hamill, we saw variations of it with Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, and Heath Ledger, but we don’t see it here. But, as I said, this is a flaw that can mostly be attributed with the writing of the film itself instead of the actual performance. I look forward to seeing where Leto takes this role in future films.

Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller was as impressive and intimidating as we all expected. I was impressed, but I also wasn’t. While this Amanda Waller incarnation was perfect, especially compared to the young supermodel incarnation on Arrow, the character was almost an exact Copy/Paste of Annalise Keating from How to Get Away With Murder, just with more political power. Again, this is perfect for the character, but I can’t help but wonder how the role would’ve been handled with a less obvious choice, like Retta of Parks & Recreation fame.

Jai Courtney was also in this movie, and apparently he… sucks in everything else? I don’t know him, but I liked his portrayal of Captain Boomerang, who was probably the most lighthearted character in the ensemble.

The film handles other characters like Killer Croc and El Diablo (played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Jay Hernandez respectively) interestingly… there are things to like such as the visual aesthetics, characterization, and backstories, but then there are problems that persist throughout the movie in regards to racial stereotypes, and I’ll get to that later. Karen Fukuhara’s Katana also suffers a similar fate.

The first act is arguably strong, with a bright and colorful look into each important character within the team. It’s most definitely some obvious exposition and I do think the overall presentation is an acquired taste, but from a visual standpoint, I loved it. The whole beginning of the film is pretty strong and thriving with the ability to be something truly unique in the market.

And then that just… didn’t happen. The second half of the film hit every predictable beat I could think of. This is definitely mild spoiler territory, so continue reading this paragraph at your own risk. What we’ve seen in plenty of other summer blockbusters most definitely makes an appearance in the second act of this film. It’s a shameless copy/paste of a formula we’ve seen more than enough times, from fighting faceless hordes, to stopping a blue beam of energy shooting from the sky into the city, to the part where the team disbands because an upsetting secret is revealed, to the part where they come back together and suddenly they’re a “family.” It’s boring, it’s lazy, and it’s really disappointing, considering how strong this film could’ve been.

Another problem is race. Killer Croc is obviously a black man, and is hammed up in some stereotypes more aggressively than Deadshot. Most of it is in how he speaks, but there’s a joke at the end of the movie that was most definitely proof that no actual black people were involved when it came to writing this script. El Diablo is also a pretty stereotypical West Coast Latino “gangbanger,” and this is most obvious in the way he speaks. I’m not Mexican, so I may be wrong about this, but I don’t think they say “esé” after every sentence. Katana is the quiet, honor-driven Asian warrior with a sword and a Japanese flag on her mask.

This film is also filled to the brim with pop music. In a lot scenes it works, but it mostly felt forced, like the movie was pandering to its audience. “The kids like these songs, let’s force as many of them into this movie as we can!” It’s not a major flaw, but when comparing it to a film like Guardians of The Galaxy, which used similar devices, it just doesn’t work as well. The music had a narrative purpose in Guardians, while this seemed to be begging for cool points with its audience (although I did like most of the songs they chose).

I didn’t like the villain(s) and I don’t want to spend too much time talking about them to avoid more spoilers, so I’ll just say this: at the beginning, there was some cool stuff happening, but ultimately their presence, narratives, and arcs weighed the film down more than they should have.

Overall this movie had a lot of promise with a strong opening act, interesting visuals, and really fun characters to interact with, but it ultimately fell flat with racist tropes, cliché storytelling, and an irritating villain. It’s an enjoyable and fun film that doesn’t manage to become anything more, unfortunately.

I give it 6.5/10. Would I recommend giving it a watch? Definitely, but I wouldn’t recommend doing so with crazy high expectations. If you want to have a good time, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy this.

Author: Mike Tré

Mike is the co-creator of BLKBOARD who’s a creative professional and writer with an interest in Superheroes, literature, gaming, politics, food, and anything else he can think of at the given moment.