Suicide Squad review: Surprisingly good

ONE CAN BE forgiven for going into superhero movies these days with low expectations, especially a DC movie, particularly after the shambling failure of batman vs superman. I must admit I wasn’t expecting much when I took my seat to see suicide squad.

 Fortunately it’s quite good.

 Not excellent, it’s certainly not the “evil avengers” that some people hoped it would be, but it’s also far better than any of the recent attempts to adapt DC properties for the screen since the dark knight.

 The film does suffer from a number of flaws. Firstly it definitely seems like it has been re-written a number of times, some of those in a rush. A number of scenes seem out of place and somewhat disjointed, particularly in the first half of the film. For example the film doesn’t seem sure about how it should go about introducing its formidably large cast. Some characters get fairly expansive scenes and back-stories, while others show up without us even having heard their name before, despite a briefing scene which seems as though it would be idea to clue the audience in on who everyone is, which is instead used only to string together some introductory scenes of varying length for only a few of the cast, leaving the rest an underdeveloped mystery.

 It also don’t seem sure about how it wants to start, with three of the early scenes all feeling like they wanted to be the opening scene. While, because of this, all of these scenes are certainly attention-grabbing, it gives the odd feeling that the film considers the preceding scenes to be false starts, either that or each scene was shot/ and directed by different units, all of whom were under the impression that theirs would be the opening.

 Once it gets going, if you can set aside the lopsided way it chooses to introduce its cast, it’s really pretty fun. Its got a fairly simple plot, but the fact that the nature of the mission changes and the existence of the joker as a third party with his own agenda mixes things up enough to keep things from becoming a dull predictable slog. Humour is present, in a balance reminiscent of Guardians of the Galaxy, but the film doesn’t seek to mimic Deadpool by becoming reliant on it. This means that the film don’t become a humourless grey misery-fest like Man of Steel, but also don’t become as hit and miss as it could have if it chose to rely on one particular comic sensibility.

 There is also so pretty good character development, backed up by some fantastic performances, particularly from Will Smith whose portrayal of Deadshot is top notch, if somewhat let down by the editing and script at points. However some of the character development is cut short or appears from nowhere perhaps due to the multiple re-writes. But what is there is still enjoyable, even verging into social commentary at times, which was certainly a pleasant surprise. However some characters do feel under developed, and some character arcs which could have been really interesting do go nowhere. Harley Quinn, portrayed excellently by Margot Robbie, is unfortunately an example of this. In the comics Harley is a genuinely interesting character, with depth, nuance and a moving arc. They may have been saving this for future instalments in the series, but the absence of these features here is profoundly disappointing. She isn’t bad in this movie, but it does focus on the least interesting aspects of her characters. And while I’m not against the portrayal of female characters as sexy/highly sexual and aware of it, I do wish that writers would realize that these traits are not substitutes for complexity or an actual personality. Unfortunately there is very little to her in this movie, something which Margot Robbie somehow manages to compensate for with a top notch performance full of energy and charm, despite the writers neglecting to give the character any more personality than “manic and sexy”.

 The soundtrack is… ok. Its got some fairly good use of licensed tracks, but the original material present is utterly forgettable, feeling as though it was pulled out of a box labelled “generic comic book movie score”. It isn’t bad, it’s just nothing new, interesting or even worth caring about. While the movie would be worse for its absence, it fades into the background to the point where a viewer may never notice it, never once being moved or inspired by it.

 It is frustrating in many ways, as despite being good and enjoyable, there are glimpses of genuine greatness, but they seem to have been edited out or erased by re-writes. Suicide Squad could have been one of the best comic book movies ever made, as it is it is still pretty darn good, definitely in the top 10, but nowhere near as good as it could have been.

 Is suicide squad worth seeing? Sure. I would recommend it for anyone interested in the characters or fans of comic book movies in general. While your favourite character may not get the development they deserve, aspects of the film can be genuinely enjoyable, particularly compared with recent efforts to make films out of DC properties. While I do talk more about the flaws of the film, this is because without them the movie could have been truly spectacular. As it is its pretty darn good, probably worth a look if you are interested.