With a title like Suicide Squad, I had high hopes for the film that promised some devilish bad boys and glitzy girls-gone-wrong doing some really bad things, especially since the quote-worthy trailers all seem fabulously depraved. Unfortunately I don’t think the movie delivered on those promises, and here’s why.
Fans of the Suicide Squad comic books are threatening to shut down Rotten Tomatoes because the movie’s been given a “rotten” score. I appreciate fan loyalty to a franchise, but just like the recent female-centric Ghostbusters, the loyalists are weighing in with their opinions before the movie is released to the general public, meaning they’ve formed their strong opinions without having even seen the movie yet.
Suicide Squad isn’t a bad film at all — many of the critics admit this in their reviews. If you love comic book/superhero movies, you’ll likely love this one too. The problem that I and other critics are responding to is that the filmmakers missed an opportunity to make the movie as great as the comic book or as great as the film previews or at least as great as the title.
I’m a huge fan of writer-director David Ayer. As I expressed in my reviews of some of his previous films, I thoroughly enjoyed End of Watch as well as Fury. They are both extremely intense action films that left me breathless as they explored humanity’s gray area between good and evil.
So what went wrong here? Comic books are meant to be fun, especially ones about villains or antiheroes. The Suicide Squad, led by Deadshot (Will Smith), takes itself far too seriously. In the film, Deadshot’s biggest dream is to be a good father and participate in his daughter’s life. A noble intention, for sure, but where’s the madness, the lunacy, the irony of a bad guy wanting to be a good dad? The two don’t reconcile, or at least they shouldn’t.
Then there’s the Joker (Jared Leto). Of course, no one will ever match Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the same character in the Dark Knight films, but Leto’s Joker seemed merely off-kilter and not the fearsome, evil mastermind Ledger created. And the Joker doesn’t make any jokes. What’s up with that? If anyone’s allowed a darkly comic, sinister point of view, it’s the Joker.
Given the perverted pranks Leto played on set with his fellow actors, like gifting them used condoms and anal beads, it sounds as if Leto’s dark creativity was restrained by the script.
Some critics are also complaining about the sexism in the film, but really, there’s no more sexism in Suicide Squad than in any other superhero film I’ve seen lately. Yes, Margot Robbie is barely dressed, but that makes sense for her character, a woman demented by elaborate electric shocks to her brain made by the Joker.
The worst thing Harley does is steal a purse out of a department store window, inspiring her great line from the trailer, “We’re bad guys, it’s what we do.” Watching the trailer, it never would have occurred to me that she’s talking about shoplifting. I would have loved to see her do something really controversial, dark and shocking. Like use her sexuality for evil.
Some critics are saying the film is sexist because Harley taunts prison guards with her hot bod and shows her bra. This is a middle school boy’s version of female sexuality. Because Harley never fully harnesses her sexual power, I think the film could more accurately be called juvenile than sexist.
Then there’s the violence… yawn. I was expecting some bloody Quentin Tarantino high jinks, similar to the uber-violence in The Hateful Eight, where the male characters are truly sexist. But even the guns, knives, swords and pyrokinetic stunts in Suicide Squad lacked any surprising brutality. To be perfectly honest, The Hunger Games, showing teens killing teens, included far more human savagery.
If this is a film meant for kids, then I’m fine with it. But if it is supposed to appeal to adults, as all the marketing suggests, I think it missed the mark.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 27%
RosieMeter score: 17%
Suicide Squad opens in theaters Friday, Aug. 5. Let us know what you think of the film in the comments section below.