At this point, there is no way the people in charge of the DC movie universe can’t be in a state of panic. And they should be. Because “Suicide Squad” is yet another massive misfire for Warner Bros. Worse than “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Heck, it’s a mess on par with “Green Lantern.“
I was annoyed by how badly it missed the mark, in terms of story and impact. It felt slap-dash and made virtually no sense after the first 20 minutes of exposition (which at least the incredible Viola Davis made interesting). As the movie went on, you can practically see the studio executives’ notes on the screen, with forced moments designed to connect this movie with the greater DC Universe (I won’t Spoil it for people going to see the movie, but you can’t miss these moments, trust me). The soundtrack of familiar hit songs only serves to confuse viewers, because it just exacerbates the movie’s schizophrenic tonal issues.
Nearly all modern superhero movies suffer from a villain problem — most not named Loki fall way short — but “Suicide Squad” manages to fumble two bad guy roles in one picture. The Enchantress is particularly weak, with poor Cara Delevingne left twisting in the wind, seemingly having NO IDEA what she’s supposed to be doing. Joel Kinnaman is completely miscast as Rick Flagg. He’s supposed to be America’s greatest special ops soldier — Amanda Waller even says so! — yet Kinnaman has all the presence of an imposing tax collector. I can only imagine how different this character would have been if Tom Hardy wouldn’t have dropped out of the film.
You know who is the biggest disappointment in a movie full of them? Jared Leto as the Joker. His character is basically, as Scott Mendelson pointed out, the Swiper the Fox of the movie. He just randomly shows up throughout the film, without adding anything to the central ‘plot.’
Somehow, despite all the method acting we read about and the weird gifts he sent to his co-stars ‘in character,’ Leto found a way to make one of pop culture’s greatest villains … BORING. Viola Davis was actually handling the villain role of the film just fine, until she suddenly disappears at the same juncture where the audience is left to wonder, ‘wait. What is going on here?!?!?’
Will Smith, Margot Robbie & Jay Hernandez are really good with what they have to work with, but it’s not enough to salvage the movie. Robbie, in particular, has several moments to shine as Harley. And to her credit, she captures in some moments the co-dependency problem at the root of the Harley Quinn character. Because as immensely popular as Harley is as a character — and no less than DC Comics co-publisher Jim Lee calls her the fourth pillar of the DC U — she is problematic to say the least.
She’s a character whose existence is predicated on an undying love for an abusive psychopath. I love the character, I have since her debut in “Batman: The Animated Series.” But as a father of two girls — including one five year-old who loves the “DC Super Hero Girls” Harley — I can’t overlook the dangerous underpinnings of the character and the message she sends out.
That’s a topic for another day, which I will address in more detail. But anyway, credit to Robbie for giving us a glimpse beyond the surface appeal of Harley Quinn. It’s too bad it wasn’t enough to save this movie.
Look, I’m a DC Comics fan. I want their film universe to be as compelling and successful as the Berlanti-verse is on television. So don’t come with the ‘you’re a Marvel fan so you hate DC’ nonsense. Criticizing a bad movie isn’t about an agenda. It’s about criticizing a BAD MOVIE.
And that’s what “Suicide Squad” is, unfortunately. And combined with the fiasco that was “Batman v. Superman,” the DC Cinematic Universe finds itself at a Crisis point. Box office success is fine and dandy, but if nobody likes your movie, then your ambitious 10-year plan for a connected universe is in serious trouble.
I am incredibly jazzed for “Wonder Woman.” This trailer is AMAZING.
But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried we’re being set up for a soul-crushing disappointment, because this has happened before. And Patty Jenkins, as good a filmmaker as she is, may not be able to fend off studio interference.
Like a lot of people, I was encouraged by the “Justice League” teaser released at San Diego Comic Con. But Zack Snyder released a great trailer for “Man of Steel,” too. So I’ll reserve my optimism.
I was talking to a friend about this, but I believe the last great hope for DC’s movie universe to be salvaged lies with Ben Affleck and James Wan. Why?
Because it seems fairly clear by now that there are too many cooks in the WB comic book movie-making kitchen. The only way to fix that is to have directors in charge with the confidence, respect, track record and contractual power to tell the studio to butt out.
Affleck’s string of hits and two Academy Awards should grant him that leeway, and his directing and co-writing (with Geoff Johns) his solo Batman film should come free of the studio interference that doomed “Suicide Squad.”
Same for James Wan. The “Aquaman” director has major juice right now because of his box office success. Fans can only hope he parlayed that into an iron-clad ‘Final Cut’ clause in his deal to helm his DC movie.
Hope. That’s about all diehard DC fans have to hold on to after yet another cinematic letdown. How much more disappointment can they take?