Reviewer: Zep the Bear
Suicide Squad (2016)
I’ve been dreading this review.
I first had an inkling that there were problems with Suicide Squad months ago when rumors began circulating that while on set cast members were getting tattoos that read “Skwad.” Some were even letting other cast members act as the tattoo artist. Seriously?
Also, Jared Leto’s wacky antics were leaked. Supposedly, he sent Margot Robbie a live rat. Other cast members received a dead pig, anal beads, a “sticky” Playboy magazine, and a used condom. I mean, how else were filmgoers to know how serious Leto was about the role without distasteful publicity stunts?
All these purported shenanigans smacked of one thing: desperation. After all, the film reportedly cost $175 million. With the average ticket price in the United States at $8.66, that’s a lot off asses to put into seats.
Then Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was released in March. Even though to date it has earned just shy of $875 million, many are disappointed by its performance. Yes, that is a heckuva lot of money but with the merger of the Batman and Superman franchises as a single project, expectations were, rightfully, astronomical.
A major contributing factor to the truncated earnings is the bad word of mouth. Ticket sales topped $166 million on opening weekend. The second weekend saw a 70% drop in sales. By any stretch of the imagination, that’s brutal.
Topping a litany of complaints by both fans and critics was the morose tone of the picture. Not looking for a similar reaction, key cast members of Suicide Squad were called back for reshoots. Apparently, the early cut was pitch-black in tone and they were attempting to lighten it up.
The plot is a murky, muddled mess. I attended the screening with my brother. Upon leaving the theater, the first question he asked me was why the Enchantress (Cara Delevigne) attempted to destroy the world. Even after two hours, it wasn’t entirely clear.
Additionally, with so many characters featured in the film, only Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Deadshot (Will Smith) get any sort of reasonable backstory. Squad members like Katana (Karen Fukihara) get little more than a 30-second flashback as an explanation for their existence. Too many characters were introduced in a 123-minute film.
The pacing and tone of the picture are incredibly uneven. The first 20-ish minutes of the movie feels like an extended music video. After that, the tone settles down into a dark, brooding sludge.
But never fear! Remember the reshoots that I mentioned earlier? Yeah, they are randomly plopped throughout the remainder of the film to brighten it up.
Pretend that all you have to eat for dinner is a giant bowl of cold gravy. To make the dish more appealing the chef stirs in a handful of Gummy Bears to liven it up. Did you stomach just churn? That’s how I felt watching this mess.
However, all is not lost.
I thought that Will Smith turned in a solid performance as Deadshot. He played it straight and it worked.
Margot Robbie was excellent. Without diving into the debate regarding the sexualization of the Harley Quinn character, I found Robbie to be funny, charming, and a genuine bright spot in the film. (I wasn’t thrilled that most of her funniest moments were given away in the trailers, but what’s done is done.)
Jared Leto’s performance has received mixed reviews. While certainly not my favorite portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime, he does a respectable job. His Joker is a combination of Ray Liotta, Marilyn Manson, and RiFF RAFF. I was thankful that he didn’t attempt to ape Heath Ledger’s version of the character. Regardless of his off-screen antics, what made it to the screen was acceptably unnerving.
In all, Suicide Squad isn’t a very good movie. It is clunky and confusing and, mostly, just a bit of a mess. A couple satisfactory performances can’t save it from collapsing under the weight of itself.
After the weekend receipts were tallied, the film grossed an astounding $135 million domestically. At some point, news leaked that a Harley Quinn solo film is in the works. While Suicide Squad has proven to be an artistic dud, I think a Quinn movie that reunites Robbie and Leto, without the burden of copious ancillary players, has a genuine chance to shine.
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