For as much as I like Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, I would never call them “fun” movies. They both establish a very serious tone for the DC Extended Universe, and while some have heavily criticized this, I’ve not minded it. It’s a good way to set this universe apart from the MCU. How odd, then, to say that Suicide Squad is the most fun I’ve had at the movies all year.
The DC Universe is often regarded as having the best villains, so making a movie starring those villains–all of them new to film with the exception of the Joker–is a slam dunk idea. Writer and director David Ayer (Fury, End of Watch) proves to be a good fit for the material, providing a great sense of style.
Suicide Squad is set after the events of Batman v Superman. With Superman now dead, ARGUS suit Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) wants to assemble a task force of the most dangerous people on the world to combat metahuman threats. “What if the next Superman doesn’t share our values?” she asks. She bullies the government into allowing her to assemble her Task Force X.
To this end, she brings together Floyd Lawton (Will Smith), aka Deadshot, the deadliest hitman on the planet who never misses a shot; Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the Joker’s deadly, psychotic girlfriend; Waylon Jones (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), aka Killer Croc, a monstrous man with a skin condition that makes him look like a giant crocodile; El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), an ex gangster with the power to conjure and manipulate fire; Digger Harkness (Jai Courtney), aka Captain Boomerang, an Australian bank robber who uses various boomerangs as weapons; and Slipknot (Adam Beach), a guy who can climb anything.
Also in this outfit is Dr. June Moon (Cara Delevingne), an archeologist who’s housing the spirit of an ancient witch, the Enchantress, within her. She’s romantically involved with Captain Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), who Waller assigns to lead the Task Force X. Waller manipulates their romantic connection to hold power and leverage over them both. Lastly, there’s Katanna (Karen Fukuhara), Flag’s second in command. She wields a sword that traps the souls of those who die by its blade. Her late husband’s soul is trapped inside said sword.
The whole cast is a delight, but the true standouts are Will Smith and Margot Robbie. Will Smith as Deadshot is the real surprise in my eyes. I didn’t think I was going to like him in the role at all, but he was perfect. Smith injects the character with style, wit, and vulnerability while still managing to be intimidating. Honestly, seeing Will Smith as a villain probably presents Smith with the hardest challenge he’s had in years, and he looks like he’s having a lot of fun doing it.
Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn is the other standout role. She and Deadshot are the true heart of the Squad. Robbie’s performance is unhinged and unpredictable. She shows a range here unseen in previous performances. She’s funny, deadly, scary, sexy. She seems born to play Quinn.
Suicide Squad pulls off something amazing: it makes Jai Courtney cool. I’m serious! His Captain Boomerang is an absolute scene stealer.
El Diablo’s emotional arc is the most interesting and engaging subplot the film offers. Killer Croc is good, but I wish we’d spent more time with him. The prosthetics are shockingly good; I’m glad Ayer went this route with Croc instead of using a huge CGI character.
Amidst all of these faces is Jared Leto’s Joker. Ayer adapts the Joker as a modern gangster, an interpretation not new to the movie. Leto shines in the role, but his screen time is limited. For all the buzz surrounding his inclusion in the movie (and the absurd fact that Leto has second billing among the cast), the Joker probably doesn’t even have fifteen minutes worth of material. It’s a shame, but I look forward to seeing him play against Ben Affleck’s Batman.
Speaking of, Batman does pop in for a bit in the beginning. His scenes are brief but very cool. The world building is more nuanced in Suicide Squad than it was in Batman v Superman.
If the characters offer one major dud, it’s the villain, a criticism that plagues almost all superhero movies. I won’t spoil too much regarding the villain’s identity, but they’re boring and used as a means to an end, that end being uniting the Squad and watching them kick major ass in a way that allows a PG-13 rating.
As violent as Suicide Squad is, it pulls off the PG-13 because the plot is infused with a touch of Ghostbusters. The supernatural army of mindless minions they battle don’t bleed or spout gore when dismembered, but crumble like rocks.
Suicide Squad‘s greatest success lies in its tone and style. The film manages to be fun and comical and still stay within the more serious confines the DCEU has established for itself. The cast is given plenty of humor to work with.
The style Ayer attaches to the film is my favorite part. Beyond the grittiness and the humor, Suicide Squad has the lightest tinge of class, from Deadshot’s fedora to the Joker’s nightclub. The entire climax, while unexceptional narratively, is an abundance of the kind of style I’m talking about, and to say more would be to spoil things.
Much like Guardians of the Galaxy, Suicide Squad uses a soundtrack full of pop music. This is a little jarring in the beginning, when songs flip quickly as we’re introduced to new characters, but it settles into a good groove roughly half an hour in. My favorite music choice was an Eminem classic inserted when the Squad is allowed their weapons and costumes back. It felt, to me at least, inspired.
The best thing Suicide Squad does for the DCEU is leave you wanting more of these characters. I’m now dying to see Will Smith face off against Ben Affleck, something I never would have imagined before. I definitely want more Joker and Harley Quinn. I even want to see Jai Courtney try and battle the Flash, believe it or not. Suicide Squad injects the DCEU with a load of interesting characters and a ton of fun, and in doing so, becomes the best movie yet in the franchise.