A few weeks ago, my husband asked me to go see Suicide Squad with him. Comic books are not my slice of nerddom, but I appreciate flawed, troubled heroes in conflict with complicated, brilliant villains. As a bonus, the actors genuinely seem to be having a good time. I don’t put a lot of thought into these kind of action movies; I’m just along for the ride. In fact, I was so distracted by the background scenes in Zack Snyder’s Batman trilogy (Pittsburgh, where I went to college) that I completely wasn’t paying attention to the plot at some points.
I didn’t read that much about Suicide Squad, except that fans got so upset about poor reception from critics that they wanted to completely dismantle Rotten Tomatoes, a service that aggregates reviews.
On paper, I should have loved this movie. The characters were nearly all complicated, brilliant villains. The “good guys” arguably were worse than the villains. But after I watched the film, I spent a good two hours trying to process what I’d just seen (my husband liked it, unequivocally) and then woke up a lot during the night, tossing and turning about it.
Here are my thoughts, in random order:
- Too much Joker. The movie was excellent in explaining Harley Quinn’s backstory, and Jared Leto doesn’t eat scenery, which is an easy trap to fall into when portraying the Joker, but half his scenes could have been cut and the movie would have been fine.
- Not enough Katana. Why is she on on the government’s side? Because she’s a vigilante, like Batman? Who is her alter ego? Why does Flag trust her implicitly?
- Too many “bad guys”. The premise of the story is that evil meta-humans are captured and manipulated by the government to become the last line of defense should another meta-human attack the country. The government official in charge of the program, Amanda Waller, is arguably a worse human than the criminals are. Her human deputy, Flag, is slightly better, only because he falls in love with an archaeologist who is the host body of a meta-human witch. (I would have liked to have seen more of these scenes, because Hot Solider Guy falling in love with Bookish, Shy Woman is totally my thing.) All the evil and no one really good makes the movie unintentionally too dark and hopeless.
- Croc is misused. Croc didn’t do anything wrong, except be cast in a DC Comics movie when he should be a character in an X-Files reboot. He just wanted to be left alone (except I think he would have gotten along well with Mulder and Scully), and only became an animal when the government treated him like one.
- The big rescue. The criminals are dispatched to Midway City because the meta-human witch wiggles her way out of Flag’s control, reunites with her meta-human brother, and immediately proceeds to build a weapon to destroy the human race. The ensuing construction zone traps someone important, whom the villains must rescue. They have to get to one of the top floors of the building, and after the target is safely in hand, they plan to escape by helicopter. (You need a bunch of people risking life and limb to help you climb two flights of stairs? Maybe you should invest in some cardio training.) The target is none other than Amanda Waller. I’d been hoping it would have been Batman, whom half the squad wanted to have killed, but it’s the person who least deserves to be rescued.
- Weaponry. The meta-human witch captures soldiers, makes out with them, and they become part of her army. Flagg and his cronies can’t kill the new soldiers with the best artillery Uncle Sam can buy, but Harley Quinn destroys them with her … baseball bat. OK.
- Changing from bad to good. Diablo and Deadshot flirt with the idea of not using their skills anymore for evil. Diablo is riddled with guilt after killing his family in an uncontrollable fit of rage, and Deadshot sorely wants to be reunited with his daughter. But there’s nothing in it for them! Waller refuses to commute their sentences, even after they accomplish their objective and kill the meta-human witch. (Harley, who gets credit for the demise, receives an espresso machine in her Hannibal Lecter-esque prison cell.) Harley encourages everyone to “own their shit” and just embrace evil.
- The hero gets the girl. The Bookish, Shy Woman returns after the witch is killed. We don’t know why this happens. We don’t know what hold Bookish, Shy Woman has over Hot Soldier Guy in the first place, except Waller uses his love to her advantage. In a movie that wants characters to embrace evil and own their shit, true love is a big cliche that seems out of place here, although it’s arguably the only good outcome of the entire movie.