It’s been a bad year for the DCEU (that’s short for “DC Extended Universe”, which is what they’re calling their cinematic universe, for some reason). First, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice fell flat on its face after opening weekend due to a barrage of poor reception from both critics and fans. So, they decided to course-correct their next big film, Suicide Squad, only for it to do the same thing.
But how could it be so? They fixed it, didn’t they?
Well, unfortunately, they missed a few critical mistakes. SPOILER ALERT (Although I don’t think there’s much to spoil that the movie doesn’t spoil on its own.)
THEIR FIRST MISTAKE: SO MUCH EXPOSITION IT HURTS
All right, so one of the major gripes with Batman v. Superman was that we paid to see an action movie and instead got a buttload of exposition with some action tacked onto the end. Everyone’s agreed on that, right? Okay. Well, apparently DC didn’t hear that complaint, because Suicide Squad is a buttload of exposition with a dash of action sprinkled throughout. Deadshot gets a flashback, Harley gets a flashback, El Diablo gets a flashback. Everybody gets a flashback! They went full Oprah. You never go full Oprah.
In reality, none of that would be so bad if it was done in one of two ways:
- Front-load all of the exposition, and then drop us into the action with no interruptions, or
- Drop us into the action from the start and only give us exposition as it becomes necessary.
Unfortunately, somebody decided that this movie needed to do both. As a result, the action of the second hour gets unnecessarily broken up by information which we’ve already been explicitly given, and the later moments of the movie that seem like they’re supposed to be major reveals are spoiled by the entire first half. I know that exposition is the foundation of a plot, but think of it like baking a cake. If you double the flour, all you’re going to get is a really dry cake.
THEIR SECOND MISTAKE: THE SOUNDTRACK
Now this actually felt like the result of DC’s “fixing” job. After all, the biggest complaint about Batman v. Superman was that it was “too dark”, right? (Actually, it was somewhere between the hypocritical, somewhat nonsense motivations of the main characters and the plot with more holes in it than Jimmy Olsen, but oh well.) Well, DC listened–or they think they listened–and decided to make some changes in the then-upcoming Suicide Squad to make it more fun.
And what say fun more than randomly tossing in pop songs from the 80s? Who cares if it’s appropriate? Who cares if tough-as-nails Amanda Waller marches into the most serious proposition of her life to the tune of a comparatively silly song? Who cares if Eminem’s “Without Me” just kind of gets slapped onto a scene that really didn’t need music to be entertaining in the first place? Who cares if Bohemian Rhapsody makes no sense as the closing anthem to this movie other than the fact that it was in a trailer that a lot of people liked?
I care because it feels manufactured. It feels fake. It feels like it doesn’t belong in the same movie where legitimate character comedy actually exists. Let’s remember Captain Boomerang’s characteristically cowardly reaction to Rick Flag telling the team that they’re all free to go. Let’s remember the scene in which Waller unflinchingly describes the primal–albeit tragically underused–beast that is Killer Croc as she herself digs ravenously into her own steak. Let’s remember just about any scene involving Deadshot, Flag, and Waller. This is a film that any viewer can see has legitimate comedy written into it. The additional pop music only served to establish that the filmmakers were not nearly so confident, and that lack of confidence can destroy a movie’s credibility.
THEIR THIRD MISTAKE: MURKY MOTIVATIONS
I’m only going to say this once: You should never try to apply traditional morals to a film about supervillains being forced to save the world. There is just so much that can and will go wrong.
For characters like Deadshot or El Diablo, it works. They are shown as characters with some kinds of morals and better natures that can be appealed to.
For Harley Quinn, who spent the majority of the movie obsessed with returning to her true love, The Joker (whose surprisingly uninspired performance by Jared Leto deserves its own article), the idea of her turning down the temptation of bringing him back from the dead is just for the most preposterous reason, even for her.
Captain Boomerang came the closest to what I expected from this movie, taking every opportunity to act as selfishly as possible, but even he returns for the final fight without any cheeky explanation. Come on, have him say he “couldn’t find a ride out” or something. Anything would have been better than the bland Magnificent Seven rip-off we were given.
Meanwhile, Killer Croc’s reason for existing in this movie just totally eludes me. The film gives him no motivations, very little personality, and utterly nothing to remember except that he likes BET. He could have not been in this movie, and I would never have noticed. For a character usually as imposing as him, this was devastating.
FINAL NAILS AND COFFIN
The saddest part about Suicide Squad is that there is a reasonably good movie sitting in there, but the filmmakers wasted their opportunity to make it so. They overcorrected in the wrong ways and totally overlooked ways to actually improve the film that they already had.
Oh yeah, and that after-credits scene was made totally unnecessary by the fact that we already had a teaser trailer for Justice League come out, like weeks ago. The post-credits sequence for Iron Man only worked so well because it was such a surprise. You can’t surprise people with something you’ve already revealed. That was a problem with this movie we addressed above, and you kept that problem alive right through the end, DC. Please, for all our sakes, figure out what you’re doing before things get any worse.
That’s just my opinion, though. What do you think? Did I miss anything, or was I too harsh on the movie? (I will say that, despite everything, Will Smith’s performance as Deadshot was top caliber.) Leave your thoughts in the comments below.