“Suicide Squad”: The World Of The Antihero Has Rarely Been This Much Fun

Accompanied by a perfect collection of pop music, David Ayer’s Suicide Squad delivers on its promise to bring DC’s antihero super team to life.

This film is probably the biggest release of the summer, and after the disappointment of Batman V Superman, the DC film universe has a lot riding on this. Suicide Squad is also now impossible to discuss without recognising the critical backlash that has come with the film’s arrival. However, please do not despair, this film is nowhere near as bad as you have been led to believe. Firstly, it is a better film than Batman v Superman. Yes it has flaws; the antagonist that the group of villains take on is slightly weak with a nondescript world-destroying plan leading to a CGI heavy finale, but the journey there is a lot of fun. The film boasts a unique colour palate that echoes the comic book origins, and you are rewarded with movie experience the trailers sold, complete with a great jukebox soundtrack.

The real heartless villain of the piece is government hard-ass Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) who wants to assemble Task Force X to protect national security from meta-human threats. The film’s opening launches into a collection of introductions for the members of Task Force X aka the Suicide Squad who are currently inmates at Belle Reve.

There is Deadshot (Will Smith), the world’s greatest assassin; Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), an ex-psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum who fell for her patient the Joker (Jared Leto); Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), whose drone devices return to him; the fire-conjuring Diablo (Jay Hernandez); the sewer dwelling man-beast Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje); and witch Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), an ancient force who takes over Dr. June Moone and boasts a creative visual aesthetic.

This ramshackle team are led by ace military man (and Dr. Moone’s boyfriend) Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman). After their assembly they are quickly choppered into a burning and evacuated Midway City to fight an unspecified, world-threatening evil, and to retrieve the mysterious HVT1.

The main characters, Smith and Robbie, are garnered with more than one introduction. Some may find the quick set-up tonally jarring but I really enjoyed it. They are like mini-music videos and despite so many characters the process of assembly is entertaining. Predictably the character that doesn’t get a proper introduction might not last too long but it does provide a great comic moment.

Many reviews have claimed to see grubby studio fingerprints all over the film, but director David Ayer has reassured us this is his cut. He further revealed the lighthearted and comic moments weren’t added after the Batman v Superman reaction. I tend to believe Ayer as the ludicrous nature of the premise and the characters would be difficult to sell in an all-out dark and gritty tone. Harley Quinn is the best example of this as an almost perfect interpretation of a famous comic book character finally making her debut on the big screen. Her energy and quips allows Margot Robbie to steal the show whilst not overtaking it. Killer Croc has some fun one-liners, but the character of Captain Boomerang is the comic highlight. I never thought I would say this, but Jai Courtney gives a great performance that I wanted to see more of. There is nothing about this character’s portrayal that would fit into a dark and gritty film. Boomerang is anarchic and his self-preservation make him a proper hoot to watch. The film may borrow the use of a pink unicorn from Deadpool, but it still produced a big laugh at the cinema.

Finally Will Smith has finally rediscovered his star power; let’s be honest when was the last good film by the former Fresh Prince? The suicide squad are villains, but as an audience you have to want them to succeed. The film has suspect methods of humanising them, especially Smith’s background regarding his daughter, however, there is never any denial of the fact he is a bad guy. He enjoys killing people, he is good at it, he enjoys earning money for it and he enjoys firing guns especially in one lovely scene of demonstration. We are reminded these are not nice people and they revel in their acts of violence unlike heroes, which is what makes them more fun to watch as a team.

Many have compared it to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which is unfair as this is not a space romp and has many more characters to introduce. Also Guardians was hardly the first film to use a successful jukebox soundtrack. Yes, James Gunn’s film is better, but there is still plenty to enjoy in Suicide Squad. The opening third with the hyper-styled writing during the introductions has a high level of comic sensibility and fun. The characters are really allowed to enjoy the violence even if the film fails to properly capitalise on its brutality in the closing act. Diablo does try to avoid using his violent power due to his past actions, but it looks spectacular when he does unleash it. Part of the villain’s arc within the film is to accept their past villainous actions, which produces mixed results.

The new incarnation of the Joker hangs on the periphery of the film and there is little more of him than what was shown in the trailers. The Harley Quinn connection is fun, but her origin is not completely satisfying. Leto does play him as an unhinged gangster pimp that couldn’t be further removed from Ledger’s unsettling portrayal, but it fits into the sensibility and tone of the film. His brief scene with Batman is fun, but we haven’t quite seen enough of him to properly pass judgement. Hopefully he will appear in the Batman stand-alone film that is rumoured to be set in Arkham Asylum.

Crucially, director Ayer shows a better understanding of Suicide Squad’s comic book origins and character motivations than Snyder in his misjudged Batman V Superman. DC does villains much better than Marvel and unlike its rival comic book giant has avoided repeated origin stories. This is a fun summer blockbuster that works well as a standalone film but also fits into the extended universe. The Marvel universe generally produces quite similar films, but DC so far is not afraid to let its big screen adaptations have their own stamp. Both approaches have their positive and negative aspects.

I would recommend seeing this as there is plenty to enjoy. I can understand people thinking it is just okay, but the score on Rotten Tomatoes is nonsensical and so was the fan response to try and close the page. However, just compare the score to other films released this year, apparently The Legend of Tarzan, Independence Day: Resurgence and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows all score about 10% higher. For me this does highlight a collective flaw within the critical community. The urge to be “part of the conversation” will drive many people to the cinema to see it and I hope they do.

Suicide Squad four stars

Written by Lyndon Wells

Directed by: David Ayer
Written by: David Ayer
Starring: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ike Barinholtz. Scott Eastwood, Cara Delevingne
Released: 2016 / Genre: Superhero
Country: USA / IMDB
More reviews: Latest | Archive
About the Author
A film geek and cinephile masquerading as a Doctor, husband and father. With my dog Bilbo by my side I seek to prescribe a healthy movie experience through accurate diagnostics. Find me on Twitter: @lwellsfilm

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  1. Callum Reply

    Great stuff. I didn’t see why Suicide Squad would be so heavily criticised by the critics. I liked it a lot. Thought Smith was excellent. It was nice to see DC being a bit more fun, especially with its great villains.

    • Lyndon Wells Reply

      Agree, a long overdue return to form for Smith, far from a perfect film but plenty to enjoy and not deserving of its very harsh critical reception.

  2. dee Reply

    I haven’t seen it yet but my son said it was very good and couldn’t believe he’d seen the same film as the critics. Glad there’s one critic who has seen the merits of this one.

    • Lyndon Wells Reply

      I agree I enjoyed it much more than I was led to believe I would from the critical reception. It is a flawed film but there is plenty to enjoy!

  3. Courtney Reply

    The RT score is definitely nonsensical, but you can’t blame critics. While I enjoyed the film/was entertained, I can undoubtedly say it was a poorly crafted film 🙁

    • Lyndon Wells Reply

      Agree the RT score is ridiculous, I just find the collective critical reaction overly harsh. It is far from perfect but there is plenty to enjoy and the big screen debut of Harley Quinn is great.

  4. CineGirl Reply

    I kinda agree with critics who have highlighted the films flaws. Suicide Squad could and should have been so much more. It feels like a missed opportunity which makes it even more disappointing. DC aren’t doing themselves any favours in their battle with Marvel. It’s an understandable commercial ambition but Marvel’s achievements look even rosier given DC’s forgettable theatrical efforts.

    • Lyndon Wells Reply

      I love the Marvel films, I gave Civil War five stars, but there is definitely room for both and the DC method has produced mixed results so far. Despite my disappointment with Batman v Superman I still got excited watching the comic con Justice league trailer!

      Perhaps the critical backlash set my expectations for Suicide squad lower but I felt I got the film the trailers sold, yes it has a weak villain and closing act but there is lot of fun to be had with it. I can appreciate some people may find it disjointed with a tonal dissonance but I enjoyed its disjointed scattershot approach and enjoyed the performances of Smith, Robbie and Courtney. Its not perfect but it is far from the disaster I was led to expect.

  5. ruth Reply

    Hmmm, this is perhaps one of the few very positive reviews of this movie. I enjoyed it quite a bit but the movie is definitely flawed and that third act is excruciatingly bad.

    • Lyndon Wells Reply

      Agree it is flawed with a weak closing act but there is so much fun to be had on the way. I am looking forward to watching it again to see if I enjoy it as much.

  6. Jordan Dodd Reply

    Great, great post!! I disagree about the final cut, as there are many scenes around on the net of Leto that didn’t make the movie, some even in the trailers!

    But other than that, I’m with you all the way. The score on RT is absurd, proof that critics can’t be trusted. Leto not getting much screen-time really bugged me, but like you said, Will Smith and Margot Robbie really make the movie. They are both excellent.

    Again, great post! Its nice to finally read something good about this film! Finally someone is on my side!! 😀

    • Lyndon Wells Reply

      Thanks- I found a lot to enjoy in the film especially Smith and Robbie. Fair enough the final cut was probably disputed a lot I just don’t believe all the rumours that David Ayer made a darker grittier film with a film filled with characters like Boomerang and Killer Croc. I’m happy to stick my neck out and say I think this is overall a good film and glad you agree!

  7. Derek Reply

    Hit the nail on the head for me, good, solid flick and a nice addition to DC’s armoury.

  8. Greg Reply

    It was good – very good at times – until the final third when it seemed to run out of steam and ideas!

    • Lyndon Wells Reply

      Agree but the journey is plenty of fun!

  9. Rodney Twelftree Reply

    Great article, Lyndon. I’m yet to see this one myself (saving it for the at-home experience) but it seems the disparate opinions about it have not counted for much against the film’s box-office take (which is good).

    The trailers for this were pretty cool, and have since become the “new” popular way of cutting a trailer together (see: Resident Evil’s latest trailer, which goes the SS route as well) but I never got the sense of the film’s story, which is what I was hoping would come through. The trailers looked…. confusing, for want of a better word. Explosive anarchy is fine, but it needed to be rooted in a good story/characters. I wait to see it myself, of course.

  10. Dan Grant Reply

    Terrific article and I’m so glad others seem to like it as much as I do. I loved it and also loved the selection of songs in the film.

  11. Evan Crean Reply

    After Batman v Superman, it seemed like there was nowhere to go but up. Not surprised to hear that Suicide Squad is better. I’ve heard that the villain is weak and that the soundtrack is great. I’ve also heard that Margot Robbie is fantastic. Honestly though, I haven’t been particularly interested to see this film. The things that I’ve heard from colleagues about why it’s a bad movie are enough to deter me despite your praise. I agree that the fan outcry to close Rotten Tomatoes is nonsensical. However I’m not sure why you think that other bad movies scoring higher than Suicide Squad indicates a flaw in the critical community. If critics thought other bad movies are better, then they should score higher.

    • Lyndon Wells Reply

      Thanks for reading, what you have heard is all true but I think you have highlighted the interesting reaction to the film. Like many you seemed to have passed judgement before seeing the film. I happily admit it is far from a perfect film and Batman v Superman did not set a high bar to beat but the scale of the critical backlash is a little unjustified.

      I was comparing scores to other films this year that critics and audiences both reacted badly to that have higher scores than Suicide Squad. Whilst the critical community strongly disliked Suicide Squad this was not representative of the audience, many enjoyed it, the majority thought it was ‘ok’ but audiences have not reacted with complete bile like the critical community. I was attempting to highlight the big expanse between audiences and critics with the current DC films which creates an interesting discussion.

      I would recommend seeing it just to be part of the discussion and if at all possible leaving all preconceived ideas at the door. It is an enjoyable blockbuster that does lose steam in the final act but the journey is plenty of fun.

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