First things first. I have a question for the rabid comic book fanatics that are so crazed in anticipation for the opening of their latest over-priced blockbuster entry, that they engage in silly ventures like threatening to shut down an aggregate critics website, in order to suppress the negative notices for a violent cartoon fantasy. Primarily…what’s wrong with you? Next, as a fan of Marvel, as a childhood reader of DC comics, as one of the FEW champions of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (4 viewings, so far, and I enjoy it more each sitting), do you really believe that I wanted to attend “Suicide Squad” and find it sub-par? No…absolutely not. I wanted to LOVE IT…just like you. But I couldn’t, because it lacks a true identity. Good stuff? Sure, there’s some of that. But in the apparently not very able hands of writer/director David Ayer, there’s simply not enough of it.
So, if you’ve been paying attention, this is the third film in the ever-expanding DC Extended Universe, after 2013’s “Man of Steel”, and this year’s “BvS”. “Wonder Woman” arrives in June 2017, with the first “Justice League” film a few months after that, so…they’ve got to set up some bad guys. And gals. First up is sexy psycho Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie, for better or worse, lighting up every single scene she’s in). Harley is the former psychiatrist of, and current paramour too, the legendary Joker (a wildly over-baked Jared Leto). Floyd “Deadshot” Lawton (Will Smith…damn good) never misses with a bullet, gets to battle Batman (Ben Affleck, cool extended cameo), but also has a familiar, clichéd back story, about his unshakeable devotion to his young daughter. The great Viola Davis is malevolent government official Amanda Waller, who’s bent on teaming up the villains for a big mission. So, we meet Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney…continuing his streak of stinking up franchises), El Diablo (a tortured Jay Hernandez, literally throwing fire into the proceedings) Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje…well, you figure it out), and Dr. June “Enchantress” Moone (Cara Delevingne, memorable…I guess). Then, after this collection of trailers, scored by recognizable pop and rock classics…we got “the plot”. If you want to call it that. It’s where the ideas never take off, and when the film just stops in this case. Really.
There’s other important characters too, but I’m not going to write about all of them. I mean, that’s how the screenplay feels, so why shouldn’t I? It gets to a point where “Suicide Squad” desperately mimics better movies, and that’s my main beef. You’ll probably have a difficult time summoning much interest in what exactly is going on in the film’s central story thrust, but many of you will easily detect it mimicking cult classic “Escape from New York” at midpoint…and then morphing into 1984’s comedy classic “Ghostbusters”. As if one weak retread of that this summer, wasn’t more than enough. Hey, it’s his baby…so, it all falls on Mr. Ayer. BIG, LOUD, COLORFUL, 3D, IMAX…it takes more than that. Editor John Gilroy (“Nightcrawler”, “Warrior”) usually cuts with a more even hand, but here isn’t given anything to let gel. You’ve probably heard about the misogyny. Yeah, it’s there. But…I’ve seen worse. Harley Quinn was obviously set up to be a pubescent fantasy in the trailers, so it would be silly for me to get upset about it now. But sure, she’s a feminist’s nightmare. I’ve been around the block a few times. My take is that fanboys will defend it now, claim indifference somewhere down the line, then dismiss it when the other DC entries arrive. “Suicide Squad” will have a short shelf life. Plus, I’m certain you’ll get more Joker next time. And Mr. Leto is fun. But he’s not exactly making anyone forget Nicholson or Ledger. “Suicide Squad” is boisterous, with plenty of flash to spare, but it’s also a clunky behemoth, that barely skims the origins of its characters. And, in mustering the highest possible grade I can for it, I’m probably being a bit too kind.