The DC cinematic universe is in danger of collapsing in on itself if its terrible run of big screen duds continues much longer.
Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy may have been a critical and commercial smash for DC and Warner Bros, but its shadow has continued to loom large over its output ever since.
Entrusting the DCU to ‘visionary’ director Zack Snyder was their first and most fatal error. His ponderous and humourless approach mixed with an overtly storyboard style was no doubt a big selling point post-Nolan; however, substance and subtlety are things Snyder hasn’t been particularly blessed with as the misfiring Man Of Steel and this summer’s lumbering Batman vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice have proven.
The critical mauling and patchy box office for Batman vs Superman almost certainly set off panic alarms for DC and Warners, which undoubtedly explains the hasty reshoots that took place for David Ayer’s Suicide Squad to presumably inject the sort of levity that makes much of Marvel’s output so enjoyable.
One can see how the tone of the movie has shifted in its trailers, which started out at the start of the year employing the Snyder formula, before evolving over time to become a far more light-hearted affair. The problem is that in the process of bolting on extra jokes the film’s narrative thread has frayed to the point of incomprehensibility, while the direction chops and changes more than a Donald Trump speech.
Ayer has insisted the cut of the film is entirely his, but it’s difficult to believe from the man who is evidently far more at ease making visceral, uncompromising flicks such as Fury and End Of Watch. There’s the germ of a good movie here and he’s assembled a talented enough cast, but the stink of recuts, drastic editing and compromise sinks Suicide Squad.
The most notable example is in the use of Jared Leto’s Joker. Leto hasn’t been shy in voicing his bewilderment at the sheer amount of footage involving the Clown Prince of Crime that has been left out of Suicide Squad and his extended cameo leaves you wondering what the hell he’s doing in the movie – financial reasoning notwithstanding of course.
Whilst some purists were never sold on Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight, believing him to be too far removed from the comic book origins of the character, Leto’s Joker (in the limited screen time he’s given) is essentially nothing more than a glorified gangster with lots of tattoos and a loose screw. The power he has over his psychiatrist Dr Harleen Quinzel (Margot Robbie) to willingly throw herself into a vat of acid and transmogrify into Harley Quinn is frankly unbelievable.
Quinn, alongside a rogue’s gallery of super villains, including assassin Deadpool (Will Smith), fire starter El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), whose skill is to, err, throw boomerangs, are recruited by the stone cold Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and soldier Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) to carry out super dangerous missions in exchange for leaner sentences.
Their first mission sees them going up against the ancient, powerful Enchantress (Cara Delevigne), who decides the world needs to be destroyed in order to save it (that old chestnut) and builds a huge machine made of trash to make it so.
Suicide Squad‘s influences are front and centre, most prominently The Dirty Dozen and, to a lesser extent Escape From New York, and while certain scenes work, particularly the bar chat wherein the gang take a break from trying to save the world in order to learn a bit more about each other, they are few and far between among the myriad moments that singularly fail to hang together.
Robbie is fun as Harley Quinn, although a bit KER-azy, while Smith exudes an authority over proceedings that the likes of Courtney can’t hope to match. He’s given a run for his money by Davis though, who is the ice queen personified in a role that she digs her teeth into with relish.
The performances are among the only highlights of what is a mess of a film, one which flits about as wildly as its jukebox-laden soundtrack. Even the Joker would balk at the amount of chaos going on in Suicide Squad.