Suicide Squad is not as bad a movie as its rotten rating would have you believe. It has enough positive elements — particularly when it comes to its lead performances — to save it from being a total trainwreck and at the end of the day, it is marginally better than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which remains one of the worst movies of the year. That being said, the finished product is much worse than expected, as the film’s trailers marketed it as the antithesis to the grim and dour Batman v Superman.
So confident was I in this being a good movie that I even wrote about how it would be the best DC movie since The Dark Knight; a low bar to be sure, but still an achievement worth getting excited about. And while Suicide Squad is probably the best DC film since The Dark Knight Rises at least, it’s only marginally so. Here are ten ways that Suicide Squad ultimately disappoints.
10. Jared Leto’s Joker Is Dull
The Suicide Squad marketing machine has been hitting us over the head for months about the extreme lengths Jared Leto went to get into character as the Joker, from sending used condoms to his costars, to staying in character so much that Will Smith claims he never actually “met” Jared Leto on set. With that kind of dedication, you would expect that Leto’s Joker, good or bad, would at least be captivating to watch; even more so when you consider that he doesn’t actually have very many scenes in the film. Unfortunately, the only truly memorable thing about Leto’s performance is how forgettable it is.
Ever since he was cast, people have been wondering how Leto would compare to Heath Ledger’s iconic portrayal of the character in The Dark Knight, but Leto does nothing to distinguish himself as being worthy of comparison. His “Scarface” Joker is outclassed by Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn at every turn and he lacks the danger and chaotic nature that Ledger had in spades. It’s actually depressing to think that this is the Joker we’re stuck with for the foreseeable future in the DC movieverse because this clown prince of crime feels more like a C-list villain than Batman’s archvillain.
9. The Tone Is Inconsistent
Suicide Squad can’t decide whether it wants to be a grim, nihilistic comic book film for adults or a fun and comedic tale about a team of misfits, a la Guardians of the Galaxy. It exists in some awkward middle ground between these two wildly different tonal directions, which makes it a haphazard viewing experience. It’s as if someone crammed two different versions of the movie together and said “there, now there’s something for everybody!” (hey, that sounds familiar). Admittedly, there are moments where both of these styles stand out and hint at a more coherent movie. There are some great jokes spread throughout (most of them delivered by Robbie’s Harley Quinn) and some of the actions scenes pull off the wildly kinetic style teased in the film’s trailers; whereas the bar scene that sees the squad share their sad, dark personal stories fills in some badly needed character details (even if it does grind the film to a halt). All in all, Suicide Squad probably would have been much better off it had just stuck to one guiding tone rather than try to be something for everybody.
8 Overstuffed Cast
One of the main problems with Suicide Squad is one that the DC movieverse as a whole has been guilty of from the start, which is that it’s trying to run before it can walk when it comes to introducing its heroes and villains. Suicide Squad introduces about a dozen new characters and just goes for it, which is admirable but doesn’t exactly make for a coherent viewing experience. Almost a third of this film is spent on character introductions, a framing device that not only becomes tedious but doesn’t even do an adequate job of establishing all the characters! Do we really need to be introduced to Deadshot three separate times when characters like Katana and Slipknot pretty much show up with no explanation? Hell, this film casts Scott Eastwood as a no-name soldier just because it can (a disappointing conclusion to speculation that he was playing a secret role). It’s not as if superhero films with large casts can’t work, but Suicide Squad definitely falters under the weight of all of its characters.
7. Choppy Editing
If I didn’t already know that Suicide Squad had a troubled production (at least, that’s the narrative that’s being reported), I’d probably be able to tell just by what’s up on screen. Suicide Squad is riddled with plot holes and continuity errors, to the point where it feels like entire scenes are missing that would have helped explain certain things. For example, there’s an early scene where something happens to Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) in a subway tunnel, prompting the formation of the titular Suicide Squad. This all feels like it happens in the span of a day, but later on when Flag is explaining what happened to the rest of his team, he says that it happened three days ago! Another scene shows Captain Boomerang ditching the rest of the team, yet in the very next shot he’s standing shoulder-to-shoulder with them. Suicide Squad reeks of being frantically cobbled together and it’s choppy editing really doesn’t do its already incoherent plot any favors.
6. The Characterizations Are All Over The Map
One of the few things that saves Suicide Squad from being a total disaster is that it features a few excellent performances. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and Will Smith’s Deadshot are the clear standouts, but Jay Hernandez and Viola Davis are also solid as El Diablo and Amanda Waller, respectively. Unfortunately, everyone else gets limited screen time and development, to varying extremes (Adam Beach Slipknot is around for all of five minutes, tops). While some characters are always going to get the short shrift in a large ensemble picture like this, Suicide Squad suffers as a result of only about half of its characters being more than one dimensional. In some cases this is something of a blessing in disguise, as Killer Croc is so painfully bad (and kind of racist) that I would have been totally fine with him being removed from the film altogether. But then there are actors like Jai Courtney, who has a bit of an unfair reputation for being “generic white actor #4,” who is actually doing something interesting with the otherwise incredibly lame Captain Boomerang, but doesn’t get enough screen time to make a big impact. This whole situation could have been avoided if these characters had been featured in other DC universe films before being thrown together on a team here. Hopefully we’ll get to see some of the better characters in future installments because they and the actors playing them deserve better than what they get here.
5. The Music Selection Is Laughably On-The-Nose
The trailers for Suicide Squad made great use of classic rock cuts such as Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” but apparently Warner Bros took that positive reaction and decided to run wild with it because it feels like not a scene goes by in this film that isn’t accompanied by some overplayed song from the ’70s. It’s fun the first few times, such as when Amanda Waller is introduced with “Sympathy For The Devil,” a hilariously on-the-nose selection bellied by the fact that a character literally asks her later on whether or not she’s the devil. But after awhile this starts to feel less like a case of inspired soundtrack choices and more like your dad picked the film’s music. I get that the film is using the tracks as framing devices for new scenes, but when you start trying to guess what the next dinosaur rock song is going to be, it gets to be a problem.
4. The Third Act Goes Off The Rails
It’s pretty much a cliche at this point to say that comic book films have disappointing third acts, but wow does Suicide Squad ever go off the rails near the end. Without going into spoilers, the final half hour or so of this film is a real slog, full of CGI bad guys that look like they belong in 1999’s The Mummy and a ton of unearned character moments. The film’s heroes (villains?) spend a painfully long time engaging the main villain in close quarters combat, only for the whole thing to end with their weapons being taken away with one simple gesture, which begs the question of why the villain didn’t just do this to begin with. The whole final sequence simply feels generic and is somehow less interesting than the final battle of X-Men: Apocalypse, which Suicide Squad actually shares some surprising similarities with (predominantly bad costume design). Oh and the actual ending is super deflating and predictable.
3. The Central Premise Doesn’t Make Much Sense
Suicide Squad makes a big deal about the need for a task force to combat meta-human threats like Superman (who is presented here yet again as a terrifying alien menace, despite dying as a hero at the end of Batman v Superman), but it never really explains why that team needs to be a team of untrustworthy criminals. Yes, this movie is about Amanda Waller’s Task Force X, so it wouldn’t make any sense for it to be about the Justice League saving the day, but it’s never stated why the likes of Batman, Wonder Woman, and the rest of the known meta-humans aren’t called upon. Task Force X deals with a world-threatening event in this film, yet we’re supposed to believe the US government didn’t try to call upon actual heroes first before calling upon their last resort? At least make it clear that you tried Batman first if you’re going to endanger the public by releasing thieves and murderers onto the streets; that’s just good policy.
2. It Teases You With More Interesting Story Concepts
Suicide Squad goes out of its way to tie in elements of the DC universe but unfortunately, these scenes end up being more frustrating than exciting because they’re all teasing more interesting stories. Characters such as Deadshot, Harley Quinn, and Captain Boomerang get flashbacks to help us get up to speed on who they are and where they come from, but the problem is that these snippets feel like teases of much more interesting films. Batman taking on Deadshot and Harley Quinn going out on a “date night” with the Joker are easily two of the most engaging scenes in the movie, which only highlights how uninteresting the central premise of Suicide Squad actually is.
1. It’s Surprisingly Boring
For a film about a bunch of criminals doing battle with a magical witch, Suicide Squad is kind of a snoozefest. The first act, with its character introductions and Batman cameos, is easily its strongest and by the time Task Force X are riding into Midway City in an attack helicopter, it’s hard not get pumped up about what’s to come. Unfortunately, Suicide Squad quickly devolves into a series of shootouts against literal faceless cannon fodder and despite being heavy on action, much of it is uninspired and forgettable. This is a film where you keep waiting and waiting for that jaw-dropping moment that makes you want to stand up and cheer (Batman v Superman, for all its faults, at least had such a moment in Wonder Woman’s introduction), but the secret is that this moment never comes. Suicide Squad is a long, drawn-out journey to nothing, lifted up occasionally by a witty one-liner or fun character pairing.