Suicide Squad is a hot, hot mess. There’s some good stuff on offer here- the best that DC have been able to cobble together since The Dark Knight– but it’s muzzled by a checklist military hodgepodge plot and a film student editing job that makes the Margot/Smith mega-movie more music video than film. Luckily, because of the bitty puzzle-piece plot, it’s not too much of a challenge to separate the good from the bad. And the very bad.
Ayer’s antihero flick is a bipolar blockbuster of binary halves: half a good cast, half a bad one; half a good script, half a bad one; half an original idea, smothered in its bed by a pillow stuffed with cash. And as that metaphor implies, none of this is a surprise. The film is a mess because the production was a mess, and the production was a mess because of the massive financial pressures and expectations that the film’s grossly overblown marketing budget and tortured production cycles ultimately precipitated; a vacuum for an empty film to fill.
Essentially, DC couldn’t have picked a tougher adaptation to sell, and a worse time to try to do it after Vancity Reynolds blew in from Nowhere and punted them into the fucking Marianas Trench; hence the reshoots, rewrites and competing cuts that turned a simple adaptation into an impossible project with too much to do and too many people to please.
But, like I said, there is a lot of praiseworthy stuff here. Jared Leto’s Joker is a personal standout; Leto manages to echo Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning 2008 turn without overrunning or aping it. He does his own thing, and I think it works. He’s a Joker for the iPhone age, with silver grills and tats and a Sony tablet with Steve Stephensian Periscopes on standby. Margot Robbie is a bit of a blood diamond. For the most part, she’s a lot of fun and brings a lot of life to an otherwise dead and done-over cast. But almost every other laugh gets a flop for a chaser, and every bit of badassery is disappointingly checked by a perturbing and frustratingly persistent sexual infantalization that caters to the creeps and fucking no one else. Think ‘BB Talk’ on a Sony lot.
NB: there is something seriously wrong with the baby/daddy talk of modern sex. Why is it sexy for Harley to blabber and blubber like a toddler? Is that the fantasy? For her to be physically developed and mentally arrested? And if so, why? Or maybe I/we don’t want to know.
In short, the film tries to juggle too many balls. The film turns on 175 million dimes from crocodile Sambo to empowered African-American power-player Amanda Waller; daddy’s lil’ nymphomaniac to daddy’s lil’ archaeologist; Eminem to royalty-free rouse #4 with no semblance of self-awareness or irony at–fucking–all. I’m sure Ayer had a solid idea of what he wanted the film to be, and I’m almost as sure that his first cut, before the test screenings and corporate screenings and, of course, Deadpool, had a consistent style. And I say that not just because he’s the guy who wrote Training Day, but because most of what is wrong with the film lies in the way that it’s cut, and that means post-production. It’s less a movie than a bunch of random scenes on shuffle; a dislocatory Janusian shambles thrashing around in the deep-end of the Deadpool. What a shame that we all saw coming from miles to the power of googol away.
But real talk… WHERE THE FUCK WAS BATMAN?