Chris Nolan changed the face, and altered the tone of the superhero genre, crafting a triumphantly dour trilogy of films, grounding his tale in realism, and tying the story of Batman into a world we know and recognise. Since then, however, we’ve seen the genre revert back to a more irreverent approach, with Marvel offering a pure sense of entertainment, with features such as Ant-Man steeped in comedy, while Deadpool affectionately ridiculed, and deconstructed the genre as we know it. The real world is bleak enough, and this escapist form of cinema is what audiences crave at present.
(Non Spoiler) Video Review
The latest entry into the DC universe is Suicide Squad, which seeks to thrive where Zack Snyder’s all too sombre Batman v Superman struggled, and offer a far more playful and adventurous endeavour. Though certainly resourceful and creative in that respect, it’s all too contrived, and while BvS was hindered by being too serious, this David Ayer production is hindered for trying so hard not to be. Suicide Squad is like the misbehaving, problem child in the DC family, it doesn’t follow rules, nor abide by any formula – but in turn is a challenge to understand, and sadly, one you just want to ignore.
A secret government agency fronted by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is becoming increasingly perturbed by the increase in uncontrollable monsters threatening the planet, and with Superman out of the equation, a means of defence is required. So in a bid to fight fire with fire, Waller poses the idea of releasing several of the most dangerous criminals from their maximum security prisons, to complete missions on the government’s behalf, with the lure of a pardon, or at the very least, a few years off their current sentence.
Wanting nothing more than to be reconnected with his daughter, Deadshot (Will Smith) obliges, and he’s joined by Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) to form the band of dangerous misfits tasked with protecting the world they once sought to destroy. But not all super-villains are as easy to control, as the Joker (Jared Leto) remains on the loose, and determined to be reconnected with his lover, Quinn – while the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), though in the possession of the government, has supernatural powers that deem her a constant threat.
Aesthetically, Suicide Squad is a treat, with an indelible neon glow, illuminating the screen consistently. The music too has been well implemented, with a great song selection to boot. But it’s all style and very little substance, as Ayer struggles to overcome the challenges posed when crafting an ensemble featue. There are simply too many characters involved and it’s difficult to adhere to each of their respective arcs. In The Avengers, for instance, we knew the majority of the superheroes already, many of them have had their own seperate franchises, whereas in this instance, with a myriad of new characters we’re meeting for the first time on the big screen, too much is being asked of the audience to emotionally invest in each, or any of their causes, while compromising certain figures, like Killer Croc and Boomerang, who are completely under-explored.
For a film made-up of villains, it’s somewhat ironic too that the picture is devoid of any palpable threat, nor antagonist we can believe in, and fear. The stakes are not high enough, and perhaps allowing the Joker to take centre stage would have rectified this. But that said, Leto disappoints in the role, and having been a character once perfected by both Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger, Leto is too self-aware. The Joker has no empathy, he’s unhinged and unpredictable and had a vacancy behind the eyes which is terrifying and callous – and Leto struggles to quite master this notion.
On a more positive note, Robbie excels as Harley Quinn, the only character we’d welcome a spin-off movie for, while Smith brings a subtlety and nuance to Deadshot, in a film otherwise devoid of any such thing. But the greatest misgiving is the convoluted narrative, and despite the striking, captivating opening act, as the story progresses tedium kicks in, and by the close of play you end up with far more questions than you do answers, which isn’t exactly what you hope for when leaving the cinema.