I think we tend to overlook the importance of individual actors or characters in an ensemble movie. There are so many of them that even the standouts don’t really have a significant impact on the film as a whole. Or, at least, I feel this is the perception. When it comes to Suicide Squad, that’s nearly an impossible opinion to have. It is elevated so heavily by one actor—one character—that I can’t imagine coming away from it without feeling like the whole project would be taken several steps down without their inclusion.
If you’ve paid any attention to the marketing for the film, you probably already know who I’m talking about. Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), despite not being the leader of the group, is by far the most important part of the movie. Her live-wire act and crazy energy keep things engaging even when they have very little reason to be. Movies don’t always have an MVP, but Suicide Squad has a clear one.
The story takes a long while to set up but isn’t especially complicated. A government official named Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) has decided to put together a team of villains as a “break glass in case of emergency” last resort for when things go wrong. The theory being she can threaten and blackmail them into working together for long enough that they’ll stop a threat worse than them. Almost immediately, such a threat presents itself in the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), a witch who has awakened after a slumber that lasted thousands of years, isn’t happy with how we worship machines and not her, and has decided to, in essence, reshape the world into the one she envisions. It’d be bad for humanity, let’s put it that way.
So, the aptly named “Suicide Squad” is assembled and sent into ground zero under the pretense that they have to rescue an important asset that is being trapped in a building there. Of course, you know they’ll also have to defeat Enchantress and save the world. It’s not like this is the DCEU where other superheroes exist. Except it’s exactly that. Superman is dead, but we see Flash and Batman in this very movie. Whatever. Bad guys fighting worse guys. It’s fun! Allegedly.
Suicide Squad is a mixed bag that
isn’t a disaster but also
isn’t anywhere near as fun
as it should have been.
Most of the action scenes are similar, with the Squad using their powers of punching and shooting to defeat faceless human-like enemies at every turn. It gets repetitive and is one of the film’s biggest problems. The enemies are almost all identical and pretty dull. The same tactics work over and over and the “heroes” don’t have an especially diverse skill set with which to work.
The members all have their own personalities and a couple of them get enough development to be called “characters” without sarcasm. At the very least, we can tell who’s who and what each one wants, so at least Suicide Squad avoids that ensemble trapping. And their interactions are usually moderately enjoyable. When not punching and shooting faceless baddies, that’s what the film has to fall back on. And if that part wasn’t fun, we’d be bored and likely angry. A lot of the jokes fall flat, but some of them work and the characters mostly endear themselves to us by the time the credits roll.
So, where does that leave us? Well, we’ve got an action movie that takes an incredibly long time to set up a basic plot, samey action scenes that become dull way before they’re over, and decently fun interactions between the main cast members? Anything else? Oh yeah, we’ve got Jared Leto as the Joker showing up every 20 minutes to remind us he’s in the movie. His interpretation of the character is … “interesting,” but the biggest issue is he doesn’t add anything to the movie. He’s in it just enough to be annoying and not enough to be consequential. Suicide Squad doesn’t commit to the character which makes his inclusion frustrating for us.
Suicide Squad is a mixed bag that isn’t a disaster but also isn’t anywhere near as fun as it should have been. It takes too long to establish its plot and takes too long to tell a pretty simple story. Its action scenes get repetitive, in large part because of a weak villain and assortment of henchmen. The characters are fine, and their interactions are mostly enjoyable. And the live-wire act that is Margot Robbie makes up for a lot of shortcomings. It’s a mediocre movie.
Conclusion: Suicide Squad is a mediocre movie that had the potential to be great.
Recommendation: If the premise intrigues you, you might get something out of Suicide Squad.
- Rating - 5/105/10