Suicide Squad is finally out - but instead of being the fun, anarchic flipside of the DC Films' universe, it's been relatively savaged by critics (with an almost identical Rotten Tomatoes score to Batman v. Superman) and tales of behind-the-scenes chaos and tinkering has dominated the conversation over the past week. In short: it's not quite the film promised by the Ballroom Blitz trailer.
The chaotic editing process and whatever the heck happened with reshoots (added to the fact that director David Ayer apparently was only given six weeks to conceive and write the film) has left us with a frustrating movie - one filled with great performances but stuck with a script and editing process that's left us with a mess of a movie. That being said - if you liked it, more power to you. But as an insufferable nerd, I had a lot of questions:
The entire premise of Suicide Squad hinges on the question: "What if Superman had been a bad guy?" What would the government have done? They're hopelessly outgunned and outmatched for the superpowered metahumans that are popping up, so naturally Ms. Waller decides to create Task Force X - a group of metahumans that she controls to fight off metahuman threats. But immediately after establishing this premise, the movie undercuts it completely by having 4 out of the 6 members have no powers at all.
Deadshot is really good with guns, Captain Boomerang is pretty good with boomerangs, Slipknot is good with ropes (I assume?), and Harley Quinn is...kinda crazy and okay with a baseball bat. But mainly, none of them have superpowers or are any more fit to battle "an evil Superman" than any normal soldier. Really, the only superpowered hero is El Diablo - Killer Croc is pretty strong and can swim well, but not that much more than some rando athlete. And even El Diablo would be no match for Superman.
All I can really say is: thank you, Amanda Waller, for not including Lex Luthor in your group of mostly powerless bad guys, because I don't think I could've sat through another Jesse Eisenberg monologue.
Everyone gets a flashback in Suicide Squad - even friggin' Katana, who serves virtually no purpose in the finished film and I'm still not sure why they bothered giving her backstory - except Slipknot, who is theoretically one of the six baddest baddies ever and a core member of the squad. Of course, Slipknot dies after saying mayyybe two lines of dialogue, but the moment has basically no weight to it at all since the movie made it glaringly obvious he wasn't important. Couldn't they at least have TRIED to give the film the slightest amount of tension by giving his character some context?
Or at least, to explain why your team being sent to stop a pair of gods bothered to recruit a "rope guy."
One big problem Suicide Squad has throughout is wasted and underdeveloped characters - and there may not be a bigger culprit than Killer Croc, played by the great Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. He's literally an alligator man and the heavy of the group, but he barely speaks two sentences for the first hour of the film. And what really sucks about this is that once Killer Croc DOES get to say anything that hints at his character, it's kinda great - "I'm beautiful." It's hinting at Killer Croc reacting to his hideous appearance by embracing his monstrous look and allowing himself a healthy amount of self-esteem that's mostly unexpected - that's so fun and interesting! WHY DIDN'T YOU GIVE HIM THAT KIND OF CHARACTER WORK FOR MORE THAN 30 SECONDS OF THE ENTIRE FILM?!
Basically, between this and Thor: The Dark World (where he played the insanely forgettable Kurse), Akinnuoye-Agbaje has carved out a weird typecasting for himself as "comic book movie side character buried under uncomfortable makeup who doesn't get to do anything."
In preparing the Squad for their first mission, Flag's men drop off crates that contain their own personal regular-life outfits - but why? Why wouldn't they all be provided some body armor and similar weaponry? Captain Boomerang is wearing a tracksuit, El Diablo is wearing a varsity jacket, and Harley Quinn is wearing a t-shirt, bootyshorts, and high heels - none of these people are at all prepared for any kind of combat situation (except Deadshot). Harley Quinn is even provided all of her makeup?
Even weirder, not all the Squad members are given weaponry - Deadshot is obviously given a whole bunch of ammo and guns, but El Diablo and Killer Croc get nothing, Harley Quinn gets a handgun and a baseball bat, and Captain Boomerang is juuust given his special boomerangs (including a recon camera one?). Like, just to ensure survival, maybe don't let these psychopath criminals dress themselves and make sure they're decently-armed enough to fight off the HORDES OF ZOMBIES THEY'RE ABOUT TO FACE.
The entire conflict of the movie is set up by archaeologist June Moone whispering "Enchantress" at an inopportune moment, transforming her into the wicked Enchantress and freeing her brother from the clutches of Amanda Waller's closet (ugh). But...why does she transform herself into Enchantress in that moment? Literally every time we see June transform, she does it because she has to and it's a very conscious decision (in the military roundtable and in the subway). She's like the Hulk, except with TOTAL control over her ability.
Did she just whisper it by mistake, or as part of some dream? And if that's the case and just saying the word "Enchantress" transforms her, SHOULDN'T THEY HAVE MORE PROTECTIONS ON HER? She can literally teleport anywhere in the world in an instant! Maybe having her powerless boyfriend near her isn't enough anymore, huh Waller?
Enchantress has a lot of vaguely-defined magic abilities - so vaguely-defined, that it's really never made clear why she's unable to get her heart out of Amanda Waller's case. After all, she can teleport to friggin' Iran in the blink of an eye, you'd think she'd be able to teleport her heart out of a box or, uh, just MURDER Amanda Waller and swipe the case. Is Waller's case linked to Waller's heartbeat or something too? Why doesn't Enchantress just chop off her thumb to open the case?
Also: WHY THE HELL DOES AMANDA WALLER KEEP AN ANCIENT GOD STATUE ON A SHELF IN HER CLOSET AT HOME? SHOULDN'T THAT BE IN SOME KINDA GOVERNMENT BLACK SITE?!
One of the more intriguing bits of the movie is WHO exactly the Squad is trying to extract in the 2nd act of the movie - a mysterious figure whose survival is the squad's entire goal. And then it's revealed to be...Amanda Waller herself, who got stuck in the city for basically no reason. As one of the more important government higher-ups in the world, it's sorta insane that Waller wasn't evacuated - and even more insane that she trusted her own survival to a group of criminals so untrustworthy that she had bombs implanted in their necks.
When Rick Flag is first introduced to the concept of the Suicide Squad - notably the actually-superpowered El Diablo and Killer Croc - he's shaken and weirded out. But then later on, we find out this Regular Military Guy has a personal bodyguard named Katana, who wears a mask and wields a katana that traps souls within it. Her introduction is pretty oddly placed (not arriving until right before the Squad enters Midway City) but even more weirdly, SHE NEVER GETS TO DO ANYTHING. She doesn't get any interesting action beats, the fact that her sword traps souls is never relevant, and the one thing that her presence does accomplish (when Harley Quinn uses her sword to cut out Enchantress' heart) could have been accomplished by any random knife. Why waste time on ANOTHER character when characters you've already introduced are being underdeveloped?
For some reason, Deadshot checks out the wreckage of Amanda Waller's shot-down helicopter - where he finds the Task Force X dossier, revealing that the squad had been misled from the beginning about the nature of the threat facing Midway City (which, by this point in the movie, no duh - you've already fought off two waves of zombie-monsters) and the plan to blame it all on the Squad in case things went awry. Why is he so mad at this moment? He's already keenly aware it's not run-of-the-mill terrorists (YOU'RE WALKING TOWARDS A LIGHTNING MACHINE WITH GARBAGE FLOATING IN THE AIR) AND the idea of "pinning" this on the Squad is legitimately stupid - sure, the lightning machine and zombies were caused by a rope guy, a gun guy, a boomerang guy, and a sexy clown lady. There's not a person on Earth who could believe that at all, and even then it's ignoring the fact that - in order for Waller to NEED patsies to blame everything on - Enchantress and Incubus' plan would need to succeed, meaning the WORLD WOULD BE CONQUERED BY TWO DEMI-GODS. Probably wouldn't matter much who took the blame at that point?
Also: Deadshot's able to read all of this (in the pouring rain, no less) in about 20 seconds (even including a bit about how Flag was tricked into falling in love with June Moone). So he's great at speed-reading, shooting, AND math - why isn't anyone complaining Deadshot's a Mary Sue?
Ya know, I'm sure there's a coherent cut of this movie out there somewhere. One where things make sense scene to scene and there's a general flow to the movie that works - but that is not the version that was released in theaters. A perfect example of whatever tinkering WB did with the movie is a pretty baffling moment when Captain Boomerang leaves the squad after Rick Flag smashes his detonation device (this in and of itself is a funny, good character moment) and then - in the VERY NEXT SCENE - is back and a part of the squad as they do their slo-mo hero walk towards certain doom.
There are some people on the internet who have convinced themselves this is actually a character arc and/or a purposely-made joke (like a boomerang, he returns immediately!). And maybe that would be something I could buy if they gave ANY explanation or weight to it in the film, even with a throwaway line where someone realizes he's already back. But they don't - and it's pretty clearly some sloppy editing, and a cut line or scene would have it make some semblance of sense.
It's...really weird that Incubus is able to be killed with a regular bomb. As far as we're made aware, he's an ancient and basically immortal god with creepy CGI tentacles that can tear anything to shreds instantly. Killing him with a simple bomb feels WAY too simple, and doesn't jibe with anything we've seen so far in the film.
What would have made more sense to defeat him would have been "the thought of a decent CGI budget" because HOLY CRAP he looks like something out of The Mummy Returns.
"HEY! The witch completely betrayed me! Better slightly annoy her by stabbing her heart a few times instead of just destroying it and finishing this before it gets out of hand!"
The motivations for a lot of the characters throughout the movie are all over the place - why does Boomerang return to the Squad after the bar scene? Why does Killer Croc give a shit about staying with the Squad (they definitely haven't bonded enough for any of them to consider themselves a "family")? But one of the weirdest ones is Harley Quinn's decision to return the Squad after the Joker's helicopter is shot down.
All we really know about Harley's inner-core is that she's motivated by one thing: her unceasing and unassailable love for the Joker. He uses and abuses her, tortures her, and even abandons her throughout the film, but her dedication to him is never questioned. So when her beloved Puddin' is shot down, you would expect her to desperately run to the crash site - to make absolutely sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that her one true love is, in fact, deceased. Instead, she just shrugs it off and returns to the Squad.
But why? I guess the film wants us to think she wants a place of belonging or something, except she gleefully abandoned them like five minutes earlier - all Harley Quinn cares about in this life or the next is Mr. J. That's it - and with her nano-bomb disabled, she really has no reason to return to the Squad at all. She doesn't view the SS as an extended family or people who truly care about her - she's had about half a conversation with Deadshot at this point, and that's the extent with her relationship to any of them.
Note: the real reason this makes no sense (like a lot of these questions we're left with) is almost definitely due to the insane re-shoots/editing process that chopped away a ton of her story - including a bit where the Joker angrily shoved her out of the helicopter or something, which would make everything fit a little more into place. Oh well!
And speaking of...
Regardless of how you feel about Jared Leto's performance as The Joker, it's hard to deny the movie does the character a huge disservice by basically explaining no aspect of him or defining him in any meaningful way. Who is The Joker? The movie doesn't really bother explaining, and assumes you'll know enough through other media involving the Joker you've consumed over the years, which makes for a huge mistake.
Why does Harley Quinn fall in love with the Joker? What was she like before she fell under his spell? Why is he in Arkham Asylum in the first place? Why does he torture Harley IMMEDIATELY after she helps him escape? What sort of business is he in? Is he an evil pimp or a drug dealer or a gang leader or what? Why does he want Harley Quinn to jump into the vat? What is Ace Chemicals?
The movie assumes you'll fill in the blanks yourself, which leaves the character feeling so ill-defined and uninteresting that it robs him of any impact. Not only that, but the shortcuts taken with this story make Harley Quinn a lot less sympathetic than the movie wants her to be, since we never had a sense of who she was before the Joker took over her mind. From the sounds of it, the huge amount of deleted scenes completely reshapes the Harley Quinn / Joker storyline into something that actually makes sense - but, again, that's not the version we got.
One of two things is going on - either the Joker's contact is saved in Harley's phone as a Joker emoji, or the Joker signs all of his texts by starting them with a Joker emoji. In either case, THE JOKER MADE HIS OWN EMOJI. CAN YOU IMAGINE ANYTHING LAMER FOR THE JOKER TO DO? Congratulations, Joker, you've got the same dignity and level of tastefulness as Kim Kardashian.
Enchantress tries to lure the Suicide Squad to her cause by offering each fantasies of their wildest dreams coming true (ignoring the fact that the Squad has basically nothing to offer an uber-powerful witch like Enchantress who literally just built a machine that could destroy humanity), and the movie uses this really neat concept that could be used for SO MUCH great comedic effect and does basically nothing with it.
For one, we only get to see a few fantasies - Deadshot, El Diablo, Rick Flag, and Harley Quinn. Not getting to see Captain Boomerang's pink unicorn-and-beer filled fantasy world is an outright slap in the face, honestly. But weirder, Harley Quinn's fantasy world involves the Joker turning into Regular Jared Leto and the two of them having regular children and leading a regular life. If we were to believe that Harley Quinn had been cured of her madness and obsession with the Joker and was returned to Dr. Harleen Quinzel state, I might buy this - but she hasn't been. She's still nutty, Puddin'-lovin' Harley Quinn, which means she loves the Joker exactly as he is.
But more importantly, it was the PERFECT opportunity to bring this moment from the seminal Harley Quinn story, Mad Love, to the screen (since it was pretty obvious that it was generally the inspiration anyhow):
The movie had already shown its mild obsession with recreating infamous imagery from DC's past - why not this one too?
If this report from The Hollywood Reporter is to be believed, the haphazard nature of the finished film lays at their feet - they gave David Ayer six weeks to write the film, forced extensive reshoots on him, and allowed the people who cut the (admittedly great) trailers re-edit the film. And the finished result is a big weird mess - tons of Joker scenes (seemingly important ones) were cut, scenes were reshuffled entirely, whole character arcs were lost, and the editing is choppy and weird (the film opens with about 20 minutes of separate flashbacks, something that robs the film of any sense of momentum from the outset).
Thank goodness, this is the last film that was made before Geoff Johns was crowned the Kevin Feige of the DCEU. Hopefully a singular vision that understands to re-work films in PRE-PRODUCTION (instead of post-production) will result in a DC cinematic universe that these characters and stories deserve. This should've (and could've) been a great, fun romp of a movie - instead it was a weird and sorta boring film, and one that may have left the DC films stuck with a lame-o Joker. Luckily, Deadshot, Harley Quinn, and Amanda Waller are legitimately fun characters that I wanna see more of in the near future, so let's hope Geoff Johns sets things right with Wonder Woman.