You might have heard by now that Suicide Squad isn’t exactly Citizen Kane. It doesn’t even resemble the zany Guardians of the Galaxy-esque romp the trailer promised. The film, instead, plays as if it were written by an alien who has only the basest understanding of what human films are — character development? Pacing? A clear goal? What are these terms? It seems that the alien-penned script was then passed on to a dozen different editors with conflicting visions, and some of those editors had seizures in the process of rearranging the film.
It marries the least coherent X Men films (The Last Stand and Apocalypse) with the tedious hour-long obstacle course segment of the final Hunger Games film, and sprinkles the combination with hints of an actual good movie. Among the mire are potentially intriguing characters who feel undercooked in their depiction, and those personalities are buried up to their necks in CGI light shows.
Though its trailer was deceptively intriguing, looking back, the signs were all there about what kind of movie Suicide Squad would be. If we examine Jared Leto’s assassination of the Joker (let’s have a moment of silence for the death of a once-great character, may his memory live on the way Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger played him), we see that a mere picture of this clown perfectly encapsulates Suicide Squad as a whole. Warning: minor spoilers ahead.
The damaged tattoo
The Joker’s damaged forehead tattoo is a stab at edginess that is all at once too on-the-nose and egregiously off-base, like a pile of graphic tees at Hot Topic. The result is less of a “wow!” and more of a “…why?” Similarly, Suicide Squad tries to be edgy — characters continuously assure each other and the audience that they are The Bad Guys — but their dynamic hews less towards Nolan-noir and more towards the Care Bears, who define themselves around singular, static traits. As far as “bad” deeds go, Will Smith’s Deadshot is one of the only characters we see actually murder someone. Even then, it’s a mob goon because Deadshot obviously doesn’t kill women and children. It’s probably worth pointing out that Deadshot’s MO feels a lot like Batman’s — it’s almost indistinguishable.
As for the rest of the cast, the movie merely tells us they’re “bad” without showing us why. They reach the “group hug” part of their dynamic much faster than the Avengers do, and give each other soulful sympathetic glances when they hear of their respective relationship ails. These guys are supposed to be The Worst Heroes Ever, and yet any of today’s self-respecting TV antiheroes would eat them alive.
The messy Ha-Has
The Leto-Joker’s chest is emblazoned with a chaotic mess of Ha-Has. Unlike Heath Ledger’s Joker, who demonstrates his taste for chaos through his actions and powerhouse performance, the Leto Joker’s chaotic tattoos are all he has.
Similarly, the movie only gestures, chaotically, at a plot. The entire first hour is spent on an intro sequence that makes The Return of the King’s ending sequence look short and concise. After all that build-up, you’d think the goal would be clear, but no! The second hour disappears down a murky rabbit hole of gunfights with CGI blobs, the highest number of slo-mo sequences the world has seen since The Matrix, and a villain who makes the much-maligned Apocalypse from X-Men seem as intriguing and well-thought out as Hannibal Lecter.
The final piece in the cheesy tapestry making up the Joker’s aesthetic is that damn grill. Like the movie itself, it’s trying to capture a time and trend that never really was. The film can’t decide if it wants Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn to be a Strong Female Character or an object for the camera and audience’s gaze, so it settles on giving her a handful of empowering lines while zooming in on her changing clothes for such a long beat that it feels like there should be a joke or gesture of self-awareness. Only, there isn’t.
The film can’t decide what stance it wants to take on her fucked-up relationship with the Joker, so it hustles it along at lightning speed in hopes that we don’t ask too many questions. Similarly, the movie could work as a winking satire of superhero movies. Oh, so critics say superhero origin stories are overdone? Here’s an entire hour of that! Critics say the villains are too vague and silly, and enough with the circles in the sky? Here’s an even vaguer villain with an even bigger circle! Like the Joker’s grill, it approaches a sense of deliberateness before pulling back and letting these elements just exist.
If you want to know what Suicide Squad is like and whether it’s a movie for you, look no further than the Joker’s face. A picture is worth a thousand words, and his picture perfectly encapsulates this movie. It hits theaters August 5.