A little over a year ago, Warner Bros. unveiled the first trailer for Suicide Squad right alongside a nearly four minute trailer for Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. That movie was supposed to kickstart the DC Extended Universe with a bang, and Suicide Squad was supposed to be able to swoop in and be the cherry on top of the whole thing. An added bonus of sorts. Instead, David Ayer and a group of mostly B-list DC Comics super villains were tasked with righting the ship, and saving the DC Comics movie universe from crashing. So how did they do? Much like the characters the movie centers itself on, they have redeeming qualities, but can't be totally redeemed. There's some grey area.
The plot of Suicide Squad centers on a government agent named Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) who feels that America needs some protection from the next Superman, or "metahuman," who comes to Earth and decides that he or she doesn't want to be one of the good guys. So, her solution is to put together a team of bad guys (and girls) to fight the really bad guys when necessary. When such a threat emerges, the team of villains, led by Deadshot (Will Smith) and special forces operative Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman), is called upon to save the day. Or die trying.
Perhaps the best way to start is by saying that Suicide Squad is definitely better than Batman V Superman, and that most people will probably enjoy the movie. That having been said, it doesn't quite live up to what it felt like it could have been, and there are definitely some problems with it. There was definitely a feeling heading into this movie that it could have been something really special, and potentially very unique. It really isn't. What Suicide Squad winds up being is a comic book movie that is ultimately enjoyable, but not at all a home run.
This is a movie about bad guys, so let's talk about the bad first. Do not go into this movie expecting a spectacular, memorable villain. There is probably a reason that the marketing materials have largely not focused on the antagonist of this movie, because it isn't great. Saying much about it beyond that would be a spoiler, but be ready to be underwhelmed by that aspect of Suicide Squad. Also, the first chunk of the movie is a bit cluttered. There are a lot of characters to introduce, and that takes some time to accomplish. The movie also feels like it is fighting itself a bit. It is grounded, yet kind of silly. It is gritty, yet full of bright, pretty colors. It is trying to be a few things at once, and it never totally settles into anything completely. It is very noticeable, and jarring at times.
Now for the good. For the most part, the cast is absolutely solid. This is the very first time that fan favorite Harley Quinn has been brought to the big screen, and Margot Robbie is pretty much perfect for it. Viola Davis is an Academy Award caliber actress, and she isn't wasted on this movie, which is nice. The rest of the Suicide Squad does a very good job, especially given some of their very limited screen time. Even Jai Courtney is much better than we are accustomed to him being. However, if this movie has one bright, shiney, charismatic and perfect thing in it, it is Will Smith as Deadshot. It has been a long time since we have been treated to the premium, summer blockbuster version of Will Smith of old, and director David Ayer was kind enough to give us that version of him once again. Also, Ben Affleck turns in another very good performance as Batman. We want more Batfleck, and that is still a weird thing to say.
Movies are a subjective thing, and some things aren't as easy to put into a box labeled "good" or "bad." This movie has the first live-action version of The Joker that we have seen since Heath Ledger turned in his character defining performance in The Dark Knight back in 2008. Jared Leto had the impossible task of taking on the role of The Joker in Suicide Squad, and it is one of those things that falls in the grey area, and will be very divisive. It is impossible to say definitively if Leto's Joker is good or bad. If you looked at the pictures and brief bits of The Joker from the trailers for Suicide Squad and liked it, you will probably like it after seeing the movie. If you felt indifferent or negatively about the tattoo clad, Hot Topic Joker that was being advertised, Leto's performance in the movie is unlikely to sway you in the other direction.
At their very best, comic book movies can be some of the most exhilarating, enjoyable and memorable theatrical experiences available to modern moviegoers. At their worst, they can represent everything that is wrong with modern day Hollywood and leave you feeling empty, sad and robbed of something significant. The worst of the worst. The Suicide Squad movie is neither of those things. It is somewhere in the middle. Depending on your perspective and expectations, that will dictate where exactly in that middle ground it lies. This may not be the movie to totally save the DC Extended Universe, but maybe bad guys aren't meant to save the world. In this case, they just keep it from getting totally destroyed, and maybe that's enough. Maybe. Oh, and stay after the credits. Suicide Squad opens on August 5.