Suicide Squad may have been this year’s most anticipated movie. After the underwhelming Man Of Steel and the ho-hum Batman vs. Superman, the trailers made it look like this was the fun, mischievous shot-in-the-arm that the DC Universe needed to really get it up and running, as well as being a counterpoint to the Marvel movies but which wouldn’t be as dour as the previous DC films. However, when the reviews came in, it was generally agreed by the critics the movie was a messy misfire (although it did okay at the box office).
Now it’s coming to Blu-ray and VoD in Extended Cut form, which adds in 10-minutes of extra footage. As with the Ultimate Edition of Batman vs. Superman, the extra scenes do help, but they’re unlikely to change anyone’s overall opinion of the movie.
Following the emergence of meta-humans such as Superman (who isn’t actually human, but never mind), government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) has decided it’s time to enact a previously rejected plan. Locked up in the Belle Reve prison are a group of extraordinary people, many of whom have incredible powers, but who are all inveterate supervillain criminals. Waller knows there’s a chance other meta-humans will emerge who aren’t as benevolent as the Man Of Steel, and thinks the best way to combat them is to assemble a team of the very worst but most powerful criminals.
You can certainly understand why the plan was previously nixed, but after a demonstration using the ancient witch, the Enchantress (Carla Delevigne), who shares a body with archaeologist June Moone, the powers that be give Waller the go-ahead.
Not surprisingly the criminals aren’t initially that co-operative, but they’re not being given a choice in the matter. The likes of assassin Deadshot (Will Smith), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), fire-conjurer Diablo (Jay Hernandez), bank robber Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and the Joker’s crazy girlfriend Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) are enlisted to the new team. Their skills are called upon sooner than expected when the Enchantress escapes the bonds Waller has over her and releases her equally powerful brother. Having once been worshipped as gods, they’re unimpressed with the current state of humanity and decide to destroy it.
Without really being told what’s going on, the Suicide Squad – officially codenamed Task Force X – are sent into Midway City, where they find things are very wrong, and they may be the only people who can sort it out. However, none of them are really that keen on sorting anything out, as despite the promise of shorter sentences if they succeed, the crew are more keen to find a way not to have to go back to prison at all, even if that means dispatching Waller and their all-American soldier-boy leader, Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman). However, Flag and Waller do have one ace card, an implant that allows them to blow the heads off any of the criminals if they step out of line.
There are plenty of ingredients in Suicide Squad that should add up to a fun film. Will Smith is good as Deadshot, Jai Courtney has great fun with the utterly amoral Captain Boomerang, the idea of a gang of baddies being allowed to run riot is certainly intriguing, and there’s a gleeful perversity about everything that’s going on which the film hints at but never fully explores. However, numerous structural problems and a fear of really going wild end up hampering the movie.
The structural problems are probably the biggest issue. The movie has so many characters that it doesn’t want to give short shrift to, that just introducing them all and their back stories takes up over 40 minutes. That’s followed by a mid-section which is decently entertaining, but then reveals itself to be relatively pointless, before a finale with a couple of bad guys that’s somewhat perfunctory and too easily resolved. As with quite a few other superhero movies, the main baddie, in this case The Enchantress, feels like a bit of an afterthought and not desperately threatening.
These issues are related to the other main problem, which is the movie’s fear of really running with its premise. Half the point of the Suicide Squad is that they are a bunch of people who will do things normal people wouldn’t, but in order not to offend and to stay within at least touching distance of typical Hollywood morality, it keeps neutering them. The result is that after 45 minutes of building up what terrible people these are, as soon as they’re out, they don’t seem that bad at all, and it becomes a far more typical superhero flick than you might expect. Allied to that is that, as with Batman vs. Superman, Warner/DC really took to heart the criticism of Man Of Steel that the epic battles would have killed thousands, and so they lower the sense of peril here by making Midway City be completely deserted except for black humanoid blobs that used to be people.
You’ll also notice that in all this, Jared Leto’s Joker isn’t mentioned, and that’s because when watching the film, he appears to be in a different movie to everyone else. I don’t just mean Leto’s completely over-the-top yet entertaining intensity doesn’t quite fit with the other actors, but that he literally feels like he’s in a different film that’s going on to the side of the main one. He has virtually no screen time with anyone except Harley Quinn, and watching the movie, I couldn’t help wondering whether he wasn’t even in the initial scripts until someone at Warner Bros. decided a more famous villain was needed. But rather than write him a fully integrated role, he just shows up around the fringes in ways that often don’t make a lot of sense. In fact, you could entirely cut him out and the only thing that would suffer would be Harley’s characterisation.
The Joker does though add weight to Robbie’s Harley Quinn, who does a great job as the former psychiatrist for fell for The Joker in Arkham Asylum, and then following his rather extreme take on love and hate being two sides of the same coin, became his psychotic, damaged girlfriend. Most of The Joker’s scenes chart their disturbed relationship, as he both attracts and rejects her in his own unhinged way, and she works to finally open up his heart. The Extended Cut adds a couple of welcome additions to this story, as well as allowing Quinn to remind us that she is a trained psychiatrist, and that as well as being nuts she’s also incredibly smart. What it unfortunately never explains is why Harley fell for The Joker to start with, as he treats her abysmally most of the time, and even when she finally gets what she wants, it’s because he acts like she’s his personal property.
The rest of the additions are largely character beats, such as scenes underlining that Flag and Deadshot are counterpoints to one another, and that if their lives had taken a different course their roles may have been reversed. There’s also a little more backstory for Killer Croc and a little extra info about Diablo. They do help but they can’t overcome all the problems, most of which seem to exist because you can feel the weight of fearful studio execs who both want to make an anarchic comic book unlike anything we’ve seen before, but are afraid of both the possible repercussions of the Suicide Squad’s (lack of) morality and of straying too far from the mainstream Hollywood template.
It’s not a complete misfire. Chunks of it are great fun, and individually most of the main characters are interesting and entertaining – to the point there are several I wouldn’t mind seeing an entire movie about – but they’re stuck in a film that doesn’t know quite what to do with them. If you didn’t see it at the cinema, I’d still say it’s worth a watch, but it probably won’t be a movie you’ll feel the need to keep revisiting.
The Blu-ray does have some pretty good special features though, and the film certainly pops in HD.
Overall Verdict: Spending 45 minutes setting up a load of great characters and then not giving them anything that interesting to do, before ending with an underwhelming baddie, rather undermines what could have been a great film. There’s enough peeking through the structural issues to ensure Suicide Squad is not a total dud, but it’s still not difficult to be annoyed that so much potential resulted in something so full of problems.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac