UK Release Date – 5th August 2016

Suicide Squad had been fiercely promoted for the best part of a year prior to its August 5th release this year and the trailers displayed encouraging contents. Initial reviews have been significantly more negative than one might have expected, however, and this review will not buck that trend.

While certainly not a bad film, Suicide Squad lacks a certain panache throughout. The premise is a good one: an ensemble of captured villains is covertly created to fight any extra-military threat that may arise, allowing them to be ‘thrown under the bus’ should anything untoward occur. The cast is also not short of big names; Will Smith (Deadshot), Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn), and Jared Leto (Joker) all feature. Quinn’s character in particular is well-written, and Robbie succeeds in presenting an incredibly manipulative and highly dangerous character whose outward eccentricities make her unpredictable and thoroughly entertaining to watch.

The main problem with Suicide Squad is the lack of a clear and believable storyline (yes, believable in a world of metahumans). As previously stated the premise is clear enough and gave hope for an action-packed two hours of film. While there was plenty of action, it was often difficult to understand exactly what was happening and why. The character of Enchantress (Cara Delavigne) is poorly developed and her background is never really explained in the same way as other characters’ backgrounds are. The ruthless Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) states that little is known about Enchantress, presumably to give the writers a greater degree of artistic licence. Such a namby-pamby character development is lazy and highly damaging to the film’s credibility. Even in a reality where we are happy to accept that people can fly or be some sort of Crocodile/Human hybrid (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Killer Croc), just saying that someone is ‘magic’ in order to justify them having unspecified powers doesn’t quite cut it. Enchantress’ transition to the main antagonist of the Suicide Squad seems to happen without any kind of prompt and her motive seems far too feeble to be taken seriously (taking over the World because humans no longer worship her).

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“this film had the potential to be much better than it has turned out to be”

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Despite lacking in direction for large parts, Suicide Squad is a highly enjoyable film to watch. The action scenes are filmed and choreographed well and are certainly exciting. This having been said, the level of action seems to go from 0-100 in the blink of an eye, something which would have been better if it had been more gradually introduced. The interactions of the members of the squad are quirky and funny, making the film more light hearted than it might otherwise have been. Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) in particular provided a rugged kind of humour that fitted well with the film’s overall style. The bar scene towards the end of the film has the effect of breaking up the action, so as to prevent it from seeming relentless and is an effective directorial decision to stop the film feeling like a mindless action film and to give it some kind of emotional substance.

In reviewing Suicide Squad, time was always going to need to be set aside to compare Leto’s incarnation of the infamous Joker with that of Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. Ledger’s performance as Joker is to my mind a yardstick by which all others should be measured. Gritty, dark, and relatable, Ledger’s more reserved and calculating Joker contrasts stiffly with Leto’s efforts. Leto’s Joker could easily be some sort of Mafioso kingpin, lacking the subtle insanity of Ledger’s Joker and replacing it with an overt display of psychosis. While not as engaging as Ledger’s performance (Leto spends the majority of the film out of shot) Leto’s Joker provides a useful and intriguing cameo that fleshes out the lack of plotline elsewhere in the film.

In conclusion, Suicide Squad has its moments. Far from being devoid of any character, the film is lively, funny, and entertaining. The plotline is, however, woefully underdeveloped and it seems as if so much more could have been made of a film with such a promising and intriguing premise. The film is enjoyable to watch, but is far from a masterpiece and should certainly not be considered a must-watch film. With a more thoroughly thought out plotline and a more tangible antagonist, this film had the potential to be much better than it has turned out to be.

Pete Bartholomew

3/5

Image: Warner Bros. 2016

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