Film Review: Suicide Squad

So. I just got back from a preview screening of Suicide Squad here in Sydney. My smart smart sister managed to procure two tickets to the event through a competition. And we went. Not only did you get a free shot of whiskey, every single seat was supplied with a mega-sized box of popcorn and a drink. They also gave away an Xbox One for best cosplay, but sadly we didn’t win it.

(ETA: Since some folks over on Reddit and Neogaf (thanks for linking guys!) are concerned about spoilers, I’ll say there that this review is spoiler free. You may read without peril).

Oh, how was the film?

It was pretty damned amazing.

It’s easily one of the best superhero films around. It’s the absolute epiphany of grunge, the alt-punk aesthetic dripping from every frame. It leans towards the unconventional and stylistic, especially towards the beginning where all the characters are introduced to use by way of a montage. It’s bursting with psychedelic colours; it’s in your face and down your throat and it’s proud of it. As much as I love the gritty urban realism of Nolan’s rendition of Batman, it’s a breath of fresh air to see the zaniness leaping off the screen.

That isn’t to say that it isn’t intense or dark or visceral; it’s all of those things and more. It pushes the “PG-13” rating to the limit and then some (some day I’ll actually be able to process US-ian rating systems – or anything the US says or does – through my Aussie brain). The action is razor-sharp and just as wild and insane as you’d expect, although sometimes it’s so chaotic that untangling the cacophony makes your head hurt.

But it’s not the straight-forward story, by-the-by scenario, or even the (somewhat lackluster villain) that makes the film inciting: it’s the characters. They’re constantly hurling razor-sharp remarks, deflecting the verbal blows and bouncing it right back. There’s a chemistry here that can only be compared to magnets: opposites attracting in the most warped of ways. These guys are insane and they know it. And they don’t care. They relish it.

At least half of the cast has a compelling personal history and/or demons looming over them that drive their motivations – if they don’t constantly pop up through the film they loop around by the end. Make no mistake: this is about as character-driven as a superhero film as ever been. In all other Marvel and DC films the camera is distant and detached, more interested in the space around the characters than themselves. The opposite is true here: we get treated to close ups and medium close ups of the entire cast, peeling back their layers and their histories and motivations. The camera cares about these people and their attachment as a group, as by extensions so do we. There’s a point around 3/5s through the film that I was waiting for, when their relationships all started to cement, their personalities evolving. There’s one incredible extreme close up at the film’s climax that sent shivers down my spine, the relationships and banter and collective charisma building up right until this point and executing it flawlessly. Easily some of the most fleshed around characters that any superhero film has ever offered up. The highlights were Deadshot and (of course) Harley Quinn, but I would have loved more backstory on Killer Croc and Captain Boomerang, although we did learn one of them has a fetish for pink unicorns. Have a guess which one.

The film isn’t without it’s solid flaws. Leto as the Joker was underwhelming, particularly with the character being given minimum screen time. The film also went through re-shoots and they stick out like a sore thumb if you’re looking hard enough. The pacing is somewhat inconsistent, and to say that the villain is meh is an understatement. Leto’s Joker doesn’t hold a candle to that of Ledger (RIP), but we all knew that from the start.

But these are small flaws in what’s certainly one of the better superhero films to grace our screens. The characters are a sadistic joy to watch in all their gory train-wreck glory, the action is solid and the dialogue top notch. Highly recommended.


 

ETA: Whoa, 25,000 views in less than twenty hours. You guys are amazing and I love you all for reading my rambling, incoherent mess that is somehow a review everyone wants to read. If you liked the review please do check out my other published short fiction (mostly science-fiction) and critical reviews, all catalogued over here on this page under “Bibliography”, it’s all free to read, and it perpetuates my fantasy of being a writer/critic. So if you checked that out it would be awesome. PS: I also co-edit a podcast.

Feel free to leave your responses in the comments. I seem to be getting a lot about Leto’s Joker. By all means, keep ’em coming (and thanks again for reading, it means a lot to me!)

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13 thoughts on “Film Review: Suicide Squad

  1. hairyson94 says:

    Well written review as expected. I’m glad you liked it and can only hope that critics, audiences and myself enjoy it just as much.

  2. » Sigyn « says:

    «Leto’s Joker doesn’t hold a candle to that of Ledger (RIP), but we all knew that from the start.»

    Your bias is (sadly) showing.

    Nope, **we** don’t knew that from the start. There are people out there that can accept another (and different) Joker and even like it as much if not more. Also if as you said Leto’s Joker had “minimum screen time” I wonder how fair is to try to compare it to a Joker who had more focus ( and therefore given more “breath” ) and was written as the main villain. I’d say it would be more correct to judge his performance in its own merits but I guess it’s hard for those who “knew from the start” to try to actually be objective.

    • jeremyszal says:

      Fair enough. Me, Ledger was almost always going to be impossible to top. Although I went in there with potential for my mind to be changed, Leto fell drastically short of satisfying. And I think the directors/producers knew that, considering how little screentime he gets. Perhaps it isn’t fair, but after Ledger I wasn’t expecting him to reach that same height. Someone might very well feel differently.

      • » Sigyn « says:

        Going into a theatre thinking that an Oscar Winner actor couldn’t top Ledger’s take is hardly going in “with potential for my mind to be changed” … xD

        Anyway, nah, his little screentime has nothing to do with the directors/producers not having faith in his portrayal and everything to do with the fact that the movie is firstly about the Squad ( and him being there principally because instrumental to Harley’s story) and keeping it away from being rated R.

  3. Trey says:

    Great review! Glad you liked it. On the subject of the Joker, I wasn’t expecting him to have a big role anyways. The movie is about the Squad! He only makes cameo appearances in the comics too. I’ll have to watch it before I can judge Leto, but I will say that Ledger was a different take for a different universe, so I’m not looking to compare them.

  4. jshrader392 says:

    Hope you’re wrong about Leto as Joker, you sound a bit biased going into the film. I think he looks fantastic in all the bits we’ve seen so far, far more dynamic with this outing than Ledger’s anarchist role, who was fantastic, make no mistake.

    It’s time to move on and move forward! Be grateful for this awrsome time in which we live for superhero cinema!

    Like Nicholson before Ledger, we had to let him go in the short term to appreciate Ledger in his Nolan-verse present – let’s all do the same for Leto and give him a real chance with his next outing, which will hopefully be opposite Affleck in the solo Bat film.

    Or are we all still of the midset that Christopher Reeve is the best Supes of all time? Nostalgia blinds us all in the here and now!! These new takes on DC legends are actually really well done so far!!!

  5. Chip Wheatley says:

    How much screen time does the joker actually get? I read somewhere that he appears in the movie for about 40 minutes..

    • jeremyszal says:

      Not even close to that. At least, that’s not what it felt like. It’s closer to fifteen minutes of screentime, and even that is stretching it at best. His impact on the actual storyline itself is minimal, so he’s not a main character in the slightest.

  6. Joe Dy says:

    The lack of screen time may have worked against Leto and I also doubt he’d have an easy time topping Ledger. But would you say he’s good enough to be given a chance in, say, a Batman movie wherein he’s the focus?

    • jeremyszal says:

      Hmm. Very possibly. I wasn’t impressed because I didn’t see much to be impressed by, but that could change if he was given more screentime. He came across as wild, disoriented and all over the place as opposed to the in-control, quiet rage that Ledger portrayed. Different envisioning of the character, but I’ll take Ledger anyday.

  7. spike says:

    wow first bad review i read of joker the 20 other I’ve read or watched say quite the opposite and demand more sound’s like you might biased or in the minority!

  8. Suicide Squad says:

    Another comment if anyone watched the movie more than once you can’t tell they changed the chemical bath scene here he delicately tip toes of the ledge in the movie joker throws him self (like he should) and there’s no heart in the chemicals you see fake cgi colors

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