'Suicide Squad' Is the Final Nail in DC's Coffin

Is 'Suicide Squad' the final nail in DC's coffin?

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Complex Original

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'Suicide Squad' is the most divisive movie of the year. We couldn't even agree amongst ourselves. To read a completely different take on the film, click here

Abandon all hope. That's the only real takeaway as the credits roll on Suicide Squad, which officially brings the DC Cinematic Universe to an impressive 0 for 3. Withdraw all bets that DC can actually pull off a successful, enjoyable film, or that they will actually establish a film franchise capable of standing eye to eye with Marvel. It's never going to happen.

Suicide Squad is awful—what with its incoherent plot, laughably clichéd dialogue, and archetypal characters—but to be fair, it isn’t without bright spots. While DC’s first brick of the year, Batman v Superman, was a monotonous, joyless slog, SS glides along. Will Smith is always reliable for perfectly-delivered one-liners and looking cool while shooting at things. Margot Robbie is as fun as the trailers painted her to be, even if the script doesn’t even hint at being interested in the inherent fucked-up-ness of her dynamic with her beloved “Mr. J.” (The film’s one shocking moment: Joker’s “I’m just gonna hurt you real bad” is actually him preparing to torture her in phase 1 of her Bride of Frankenstein makeover.)  Jai Courtney is pretty great as the wry drunkard Boomerang, the first time I’ve ever found Jai Courtney’s presence welcome. The movie also made me chuckle a few times.

But despite rumors of reshoots aimed to make the film lighthearted in response to the BvS backlash, Suicide Squad is still a movie where Viola Davis’ no-nonsense secret agent chief remorselessly kills a handful of agents helping her scrub a field office of incriminating intel—just because they weren’t classified to know it themselves—while the soldier who’s supposed to be the film’s moral compass barely bats an eye. 

As the third film in DC’s wildly unorthodox cinematic universe gameplan, Suicide Squad is tasked with introducing audiences to a new Joker, the first-onscreen iteration of his moll Harley Quinn, the existence of espionage agencies like A.R.G.U.S., freaks of nature like Killer Croc, and mystical entities like 6,000-year-old all-powerful witches or samurai-women with swords that hold dead souls (that she can talk to). And boy does it fail.

As adaptations, the best comic book movies are those that work for both people who know the source material well and those who don’t. Suicide Squad doesn’t do right by either.

It’s amazing how many estimations DC totally miscalculates in their movies. BvS opened with the well-worn Wayne parents gunned down yet again; Suicide Squad hits the ground running with one nakedly expository sequence serving as the intro for a bunch of characters making their big-screen debut. Trash though BvS may be, at least it was the result of a gravely misguided hack totally committing to his vision and missing. Suicide Squad plays like a bad roller-coaster: whiplash from narrative and tonal schizophrenia at every turn while the plot barrels forward at a blur with nothing resembling a graceful setup. Sure, writer-director David Ayer had a gargantuan task before him, with added studio interference in the wake of BvS backlash, but there are no excuses. This final cut we’re left with simply doesn’t work. None of the aforementioned characters and rules of this universe are established competently. Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress feels like—SPOILER ALERT—she’s the bad guy in the wrong film. I kept expecting Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz to pop up and vanquish her. Will Smith seems like he’s starring in Hancock 2. And then there’s the Joker.

I was in the camp of people willing to give Jared Leto the benefit of the doubt, curious to see what fresh brand of weird he’d bring to the character regardless of whether it would be as Oscar-worthy as the clown’s previous iteration. But he’s just not good. He talks like a ‘40s noir gangster and sounds like someone doing a bad Dark Knight Joker impression. And above all, he’s the absolute worst thing the Joker can be—boring. Yet, when he weaves in and out of the story, his appearance is a relief—not because of the Jaws effect Ayer was clearly aiming for, but because at least his motivations make sense and his story is streamlined: He wants Harley Quinn back. It’s one-note but not face-palmingly trite, like say, Smith’s assassin Deadshot stopping in his tracks because a group of storefront mannequins positioned as a family reminds him of the daughter he left behind.

Maybe my biggest issue with Suicide Squad though, is the way in which David Ayer simply didn't care to fill glaring holes in his story. Where is Batman, or the Flash, who both make cameos in Suicide Squad's first act? Where is Wonder Woman, who definitely exists as these events take place after BvS? The movie doesn’t bother to explain away their indifference, because this is about the bad guys, man. That's all that matters.

All in all, this film misses the mark by about a mile further than Man of Steel did, to say nothing of BvS, which missed by a city block. The result is a numbing effect—what else can one do but shrug at future DC endeavors like Wonder Woman’s dope trailer or Justice League’s, which confirmed that Hack Snyder actually knows what quips are? Suicide Squad had an inspiring initial trailer too. There isn’t a comic book movie I won’t see—except Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern—but regardless of 2017’s blockbuster pleas, at this point the writing’s on the wall. Three strikes, DC is out. 

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