I love a good comic book movie. I also love a bad comic book movie—that’s why I’d never make it as a movie critic.
Luckily, Suicide Squad is a good comic book movie—but not great. Character motivations and plot can be murky, and as usual there are logic questions.
So why did I like it so much? My usual reasons: Characters and humor.
Rumor has it the movie was originally a lot darker, which to me is the kiss of death for a summer-type popcorn flick. It’s people in costumes breaking things; if you’re not having fun, what’s the point? But in the finished product, the humor works for the characters.
And what characters they are, as DC puts together major and minor villains, with hardly a hero in sight. (Batman has a glorified cameo, while a few future Justice League members are glimpsed.) There is Katana, but she’s not your grandpa’s hero: She’s female, not American, and seems to take some delight in killing people with her soul-stealing sword.
On a related note, Katana didn’t get enough screen time. I’d dearly like her to headline her own movie—or at least get an expanded role with a future team.
The setup: A group of villains is assembled for wet work—to go in where the heroes can’t and do bad things the heroes won’t. If it turn out badly? Hey, they’re villains, and over there is a bus to throw them under. (I thought about that when a bus actually appeared in the movie.) In the end the group bonds—more quickly than makes sense—as they face a world-ending threat from one of their own.
When team movies first became a thing, I wondered how so many characters would be handled in the space of one motion picture. The answer is, either well—as with The Avengers—or badly. Suicide Squad is about halfway there, and would have been better had they limited the numbers a little. Katana’s not the only one who got shorted: It would have been nice to see more background on Croc, Joker, and a character who begged for more spotlight, Diablo.
In the end, three characters pretty much stole the show:
The Joker started out a little weak, but got better. Jarod Leto’s version isn’t up to Nicholson or Ledger (or Mark Hamill), but he does well with a small role, and hints of things to come.
Will Smith has had more hits than misses as an actor, and shows why as the hired assassin Deadshot. Although well aware he’s a bad guy, Deadshot has his own brand of honor and his own source of humanity, and Smith gives him depth. This team effort might even be thought of as a Will Smith movie, if not for …
Harley Quinn. The bad guys might be weak and their motivations confusing, the cast overpopulated, and where the heck were the heroes during the final fight? There were at least four future Justice Leaguers running around, somewhere. Was the Batmobile stuck in traffic?
But the price of admission was worth it, just to see Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. (Okay, it was stimulus Tuesday, but still.) Harley tears up the screen with a sexy insanity that really has to be seen to be believed: laughing at the world, gleefully violent, grieving, pulling herself together, sometimes all at the same time. Boy, does she ever deserve her own movie, with or without Joker.
Most of the pro reviewers made good points, enough that I lowered my score half a point. Yes, there are major problems with Suicide Squad. And yet, to coin a phrase, why so serious? Just let your twelve year old self out, and enjoy.
Entertainment value: 3 M&M’s. Just suspend your disbelief and go for it. It’s a superhero movie, for crying out loud.
Oscar Potential: 1 M&M. And not even a good one – it’s like a peanut butter M&M. Truth is, many of the performances were very good—but it’s a superhero movie, and the Academy doesn’t do superhero movies.