Puzzle Doctor At The Movies – Suicide Squad

Following in the footsteps of Batman vs Superman…

Following the conclusion of Batman vs Superman, the US government assembles a group of meta-ish-humans to do their dirty work for them – the so-called Suicide Squad. Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc, El Diablo, Enchantress, Slipknot, Katana and Captain Rick Flag are assembled by the manipulative Amanda Waller to sort out a problem in Midway City – apparently Batman and Wonder Woman couldn’t be bothered to sort out a near-apocalyptic event that is being covered on national media…

Suicide SquadIt’s a basic snatch-and-grab mission – a person important to the government is trapped at Ground Zero. Should be straightforward enough…

Well, that was a bit of a mess of a film, wasn’t it? But I did rather enjoy it…

As we may have gathered previously, I was/am a bit of a comic nerd. Haven’t collected them for years, but I still like the films and TV shows. But Suicide Squad was never really on my radar. I generally was a Marvel fan (so I’ve pleased that their films are almost always top quality fun) and my forays into DC never stretched to the Squad. My basic knowledge of the characters is beating up Deadshot and Croc in a video game and watching a couple of Harley’s appearances on the Batman cartoons. Oh, hang on, Katana was in Season Three of Arrow, wasn’t she? I think it was her… So no major nostalgia for the characters anyway…

The problem was twofold for me – first off, the pacing. Loads of backstory for some characters, none for others, although clearly there was content removed. Why was Captain Boomerang carrying a pink unicorn around with him? We only see it a couple of times. What is Croc’s backstory? We basically get that he turned into a crocodile-man… that’s about it. There’s a much longer film that this was assembled from, but it’s not a very even edit. I understand why, as clearly they felt the need to keep as much of Will Smith and Margot Robbie in as possible, but the other characters suffer badly. And unfortunately the not-very-interesting Rick Flag seems to get the third highest amount of screen time, which is a shame. I never ever thought I’d say this about a film but what it needed was more Jai Courtenay. I really enjoyed his little moments as Captain Boomerang (although a note to the director – boomerangs are for throwing. He throws about three in the whole film.) and, given that he’s one of the comic mainstays of the Squad, it’d have been nice to have seen more.

The other problem goes a bit deeper though. These are supposed to be bad guys, but that never really comes across. There is a hint of them being a black-ops team – the actual job that they are sent to do isn’t to fight the bad-guy – but that’s rarely mentioned. In fact, what they do is basically what any passing superhero would do. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the only thing they do that the Avengers wouldn’t is steal a handbag. Deadshot is a hitman but wants to look after his daughter. But the “merciless hitman” bit never really convinces – all we get is a man who cares for his daughter who never misses the target and is a bit of a softie. Harley Quinn never seems to get beyond her role as the Joker’s victim – even when she thinks she is free of him, she is pining for her lost “puddin’”. I know this is part of the character’s early life, but she’s a much stronger character when she’s moved on from “Mr J” and we never get anywhere near that point in the film. In fact all of these characters seem to have a soft centre – it really needed one or two absolute sh*ts in the team. The closest you get in the aforementioned Captain Boomerang who almost gets to do something selfish – I say almost, as the next scene, he’s back with his chums.

It wouldn’t have been hard – there’s an early-ish scene where Boomerang tries something that doesn’t end well for someone else. It could have been written to make him a really devious bastard, but they settle for comical coward instead. I’d have gone for the first option – but I’m not a film director.

I could go on picking flaws with the film, but as I said, I enjoyed it as I watched it. Will Smith plays Will Smith very well, Margot Robbie steals most of her scenes, as does Viola Williams as Amanda Waller and Jared Leto does an interesting version of the Joker, which is certainly different from what’s been done in the cinema before. Don’t assume this is a Squad vs Joker story. I thought the Joker plot which runs throughout the film was well done and I’m curious to see where it goes from here – into the Bat-fleck solo film, I presume. The rest of the cast needed (much) more to do – the curse of having a team film with a couple of stars in it. I’d be very interested to see the director’s original cut – badly re-edited to make it look more like the trailer, apparently – as that might be a much more interesting film. Or, potentially, an overlong dirge-fest. Who knows?

Anyway, should you go and see it? Don’t know. I liked it for what it was, as did Mrs Puzzle Doctor, but it’s no classic and I doubt I’ll see it again. Much better than Batman v Superman, but what isn’t?

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9 comments

  1. I must say, I did not like this film very much. My expectations were admittedly very high — after the disastrous BvS this seemed like a much needed course correction for the DC Cinematic Universe. But the trailers were misleading — almost no Joker, poor Katana was an afterthought at best (she fared much better in season 3 of Arrow) and the movie’s comic tones felt like an afterthought – even Harley Quinn wasn’t stealing scenes like the trailer led me to expect! The best I can describe it is this: this feels like it was meant to be dark/grim/gritty, but after the critical panning BvS got and the praise the first trailer got, they tried to subvert it à la “Guardians of the Galaxy” at the last minute, and only ended up failing on both counts.

    Re: the pink unicorn, during Captain Boomerang’s intro, it briefly flashed out the info: “Fetish: Pink Unicorns”. That was the joke.

    I’m glad you’re doing these reviews. As a big comic book fan myself (especially Batman and Spider-Man) I’m glad to see other mystery bloggers enjoy this stuff. Perhaps I’ll take a cue from your and review these things on my blog occasionally, it would certainly increase the activity on my lately-dormant blog.

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    • It’s funny – from the trailers, I didn’t expect much of a Joker appearance as he never interacted with the rest of the cast apart from Harley in them and the strange things being fought didn’t seem very Joker-ish. I agree about Katana being under-used but on the other hand…

      … if putting in detailed background and character development for every character meant a 150+ minute plus film, then the treatment of a few characters as basically henchmen is fine, with the bonus of making them real characters. But as this was only done for Katana, and arguably Croc, it seems a shame. Why not bung in a couple of other expendables that nobody else would be using?

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  2. Where’s your DEADPOOL review? That’s the only one I bothered to watch recently because it makes fun of the all the superhero nonsense. But only found some of the movie’s black humor intermittently funny. I still have a 14 year-old boy side to my personality that can be indulged if I’m in the right mood, but lately this obscene kind of comic book violence really bothers me in light of what we’re living with out here in Chicago. And I guess all over the globe even more recently.

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    • Ah, Deadpool. Yeah, that was fun. Stupid, but fun. I’ll do a proper review when I watch it again. My film reviews are fairly sporadic – if I reviewed every film that I watch, then there would be some seriously off-topic stuff on the blog – maybe I’ll include something each month in the Puzzly round-up.

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    • I agree about DEADPOOL. I made the effort to go see it in the theater because I’d been lead to believe it was funny but it didn’t strike me that way. Maybe I was in the wrong mood? It just seemed…cold and flat.

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  3. Maybe the problem is that I stopped reading comic books, and none of this new stuff – D.C. or Marvel – is resonating with me. I also think these massive group movies are almost impossible since you get a dollop of each and not enough of any. It all seems to work better on television where they have the time to tell a detailed story. I’ve enjoyed the series on Netflix.

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    • Funny – the Marvel films have enough of “old school” Marvel for me, even when they are channelling the new comics world, such as with Civil War. But the DC stuff – stick to Arrow, Flash & Supergirl. That reminds me – must get round to reviewing those series soon…

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  4. I loved the trailers, but I kept thinking, “I hope the movie isn’t like the trailers because you can’t do that for two hours.” Your review has almost convinced me (again) that I want to go see it.

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