|Film Review Oh, the raging war between Marvel and DC. DC Comics have been trying so hard to play catch-up to Marvel’s successful cinematic universe that they just don’t really seem to care how well they do in their attempt. Things got off to a bumpy but decent start with 2013’s Man of Steel, but things quickly derailed this year with its first, long-time-coming follow-up, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (as if it even needed a subtitle). As I said in that review, Marvel has been patiently and methodically planning out its cinematic universe since 2008’s Iron Man film and it’s really paid off nicely. Their solo superhero entries all came to a glorious smash-up with 2012’s Avengers and the series has continued to build and evolve since then. At their most disappointing, Marvel films are still pretty good, but so far, when a DC movie is bad, it’s pretty terrible. The first follow-up to Batman v Superman is the super-villain-centric Suicide Squad. The film is a star-studded effort at giving us an anti-Avengers sort of story, but the end result is hardly what you’d really want or expect from a blockbuster like this.
Now, first of all, I don’t think Suicide Squad deserves all of the bad rap it’s been getting, but it isn’t a very well made film. And this is surprising considering the care director David Ayer took in making this movie, and also considering he wrote the movie Training Day and directed films like “Fury” and “End of Watch.” But, in case you’re wondering, Suicide Squad does follow the events of Batman v Superman and is treated more like a result of that film. Viola Davis plays the ruthless agent Amanda Waller who, in the wake of us losing Superman, decides to assemble the worst of the worst to be led on a sort of suicide mission. The story’s narrative is painfully unclear about what events happens when (although it comes together a bit after you see the movie and think on it), but you soon realize that this team was mostly doomed to fail from the beginning. What’s oddest, however, is how the scenario is SO bad and yet NO ONE else besides the “suicide squad” seem to attempt to save the day. If we have a world here where Bruce Wayne has been assembling the Justice League to fight by his side, then why haven’t ANY of them showed up in the midst of a catastrophic (and anything-but-subtle) event that could bring about the end of the world? It’s the same problem that some of the Marvel movies have when things get so BIG that you have to wonder why other Avengers have not shown up to pitch in (which was one complaint I read about the events in Iron Man 3). In the DC universe, the fate of the entire world was really in the hands of the few members of the Suicide Squad?
The problems are most certainly not rooted in the cast or cast of characters. Will Smith is excellent as Deadshot, while Margot Robbie is brilliant as Harley Quinn. Jai Courtney is inspired as Captain Boomerang, and Jay Hernandez really makes you feel for him as the tormented Diablo. Viola Davis is menacing as Waller, but I didn’t care much for the character (although, I don’t think you’re supposed to). I didn’t like Joel Kinnaman all that much as Capt. Flag, although he played the military role pretty well. And lastly, I just didn’t buy Jared Leto’s Joker. He certainly dove into his character headfirst (the cast and crew said he didn’t break character off-camera either… which is a littler disturbing), and I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I just didn’t care for his take on Joker. For one, it’ll be tough to beat Heath Ledger’s rendition, but making Joker this overly flamboyant gangster just didn’t work… at least not with Ayer’s script and direction anyway.
The best moments in Suicide Squad are when the team is interacting with each other and helping one another deal with their inner demons a bit. And while the movie does tend to meander a little while the Squad is walking (and walking and walking…) around the city, it’s the character growth that each character brings out of one another that makes the film enjoyable at times. The action scenes are just OK; some of them really give standout moments to different characters (the first one to Smith’s Deadshot, the second to Robbie’s Harley, for example), but they’re hardly as fun as something you’d see in Avengers or Captain America: Civil War. The effects are usually very good, but with the fantastical elements — like open portals with swirling debris and a gigantic Egyptian-type monster — some of it doesn’t look as good as the rest. The main minions of the villain in the movie are what the filmmakers call “E.A.’s” or “Eyes of the Adversary.” They’re humans that were taken over by the villain with their bodies covered in black tar and their heads covered completely in hundreds of eyes (Although, I must add, I never got the impression they were eyes until I heard them talk about it on the Blu-Ray extras). They’re treated in the same way the chitauri were in Avengers or orcs were in Lord of the Rings, or the hordes of mummies were in the finale of the 1999 film, The Mummy. These creatures exist only to give the Squad things to smash, punch, kick, shoot up and blow up (or in Katana’s case, cut in half). It’s ultra violent, but not especially gory since it doesn’t look realistic.
A big red flag the film may have for some is the presence of Enchantress. She’s a witch with a dark presence and the ability to possess someone and take over their spirit. It turns out that her magic has a lot to do with the film’s plot, but, especially in her earlier scenes, there’s something unsettling about her. I definitely felt spiritually uncomfortable with her character. As the movie progressed and her character got more over-the-top and ridiculous, the feeling subsided, but there’s definitely something dark about her character. If you’re at all spiritually sensitive to things involving witchcraft in films (even if it’s not being shown in a positive light) — and I realize everybody reacts to things differently — then I recommend steering clear of this movie. The more disturbing moments are a small part of Suicide Squad, but Enchantress and her origins are overall a big part of the plot.
The content for Suicide Squad is pretty rough. It feels like they knew they had to make it edgy since it’s a movie about super-villains, but in some areas, they surprisingly hold back. The worst of the content is the language. There’s 1 “F” word in a song lyric that’s featured prominently when Joker and Harley are sharing a moment. The rest is a whole lot of uses of the “S” word and other colorful language. There’s no sex, but there are several instances of sensuality, like flashbacks of Harley dancing in a revealing outfit in a club, and grinding with another woman. Moments later, Joker offers Harley to another man who refuses her (since she’s Joker’s girl) and so Joker shoots him in the head. There’s plenty of other similarly rough violence, including a bomb blowing a man’s head off (but it’s shown at night in a dimly lit area in the distance), and another scene is a little shocking when a person turns on a room full of comrades and shoots them all dead before leaving. There’s a great deal of other violence, but most of it is fantasy action violence. Harley Quinn is also a rather sexual character alone, as her shorts are so small you always see the bottoms of her bare butt cheeks, and she’s often contorting herself into sexy poses. Finally, in one scene, she’s shown changing her shirt in front of a group of soldiers and we briefly see her in her bra.
Regarding the film’s Extended Cut, there are about 11 minutes of added footage in the Extended Cut. I did not see the original cut in theaters, so I only watched the Extended Cut here. I did look up some of the differences between the two after I watched it, mostly because I was curious about what was added in, and it looks like mostly character development and little things to flesh out previously truncated scenes and moments. And everything I read about being added seemed only logical to have included in the first place, so I can’t imagine those moments cut out (except maybe having to watch Killer Croc throw up). In that case, I’d recommend the Extended Cut over the theatrical.
Suicide Squad is a mess. It’s not a complete loss, but it’s a movie that could have been as great as its trailers teased that it could be. The fact that the previews didn’t reveal the story’s grand plot and villain probably helped keep people’s interest in it, but it also made it appear better than it turned out to be. It’s not a movie for the family, and I’m tempted to say it’s worse than the Marvel movies in that respect. It’s dark, violent, and vulgar, but I suppose we really shouldn’t expect anything less from a movie all about super-villains in the DC universe.
– John DiBiase (reviewed: 12/11/16)
Blu-Ray Bonus Features Review
Suicide Squad 3D – It’s clear that a lot of the movie was made with 3D in mind, so if you like 3D, Suicide Squad is a good one to watch for it. With stuff flying at the screen and some neat camera angles, I recommend this one for 3D fans.
Suicide Squad is available in a 3D Blu-Ray/2D Blu-Ray/Digital HD combo pack, on 2-disc DVD, a 2D Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack, and in a 4K/Blu-Ray/Digital HD combo pack. It’s also available digitally through the usual Digital HD providers. On the 2D Blu-Ray disc are the following features:
Task Force X: One Team, One Mission (23:08) – This one is really cool because it delves quite thoroughly into the Suicide Squad‘s comic book history. It goes through each major character (in and out of the squad) and details their comic book origins. It’s really cool to see where these characters came from. (3 “a” words, 2 “s” words, 2 “p*ssy,” 1 “d*mn”)
Chasing the Real (9:37) is about director David Ayer’s desire to do as much of the film practically as he could. They strived for real sets, trying to ground things in reality. Here they also address character tattoos… and some of the cast getting real ones! We also learn a little about their training, the E.A. creatures and the characters’ wardrobe.
Joker & Harley: “It” Couple of the Underworld (14:29) – This focuses on the characters of Joker & Harley Quinn and delves into just how much actor Jared Leto had immersed himself in the character on and off camera. It then shifts gears to focus on Harley and her craziness. (1 “h*ll”)
Squad Strength and Skills (9:00) – It’s truly impressive how much training these actors went through. It’s all about trying to ground the film in the real world. Joel even worked directly with the military to train for his role as Flag. And we learn here that some of the actors earned yellow belts in karate by the end of training! (1 “S” word)
Armed to the Teeth (11:48) is all about the film’s weapons, props, and the actors adjusting to their individual weapons. This featurette focuses on each character and what their weapons of choice are.
This is Gonna Get Loud: The Epic Battles of Suicide Squad (10:54) talks more about shooting practically with real sets and explosions and effects, especially with how they filmed the “E.A.’s.” (1 “s” word, 2 “a” words)
The Squad Declassified (4:19) evaluates the action scenes of the movie with the individual character profiles and weapons. This feels more like a commercial that reiterates mostly what was touched on in earlier featurettes.
Gag Reel (2:04) – This really short gag reel is made up mostly of lines being messed up and the cast goofing off on set (3 “S” words, 1 “J-sus” and some bleeped out “F” words)
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 12/11/16)
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content
Sex/Nudity: We see Harley in jail wearing a small, tight outfit. She seductively licks her cell bars; We see Harley dancing sensually with other girls in a club. Joker calls her “the fire in my loins, the itch in my crotch.” He then offers her to a thug and he refuses; Batman tries to give Harley mouth-to-mouth to revive her and she kisses him back; Diablo watches a sexy, female shaped flame dance in his palm; Enchantress wears a small, tight bikini type outfit. And we see her in this throughout the whole movie; Harley wears really short shorts during most of the movie, so many times we see the bottoms of her bare butt cheeks; A man asks that if he dies, to have someone clear his browser history; We see June lying on a medical table with her shirt open, revealing her bra; We see Harley in just a bra while putting on a shirt; We see the female shaped flame dancing in Diablo’s palm again; Flag mentions sleeping with June; Enchantress causes the team to have visions. We see Flag in bed with June (but they’re just lying next to each other). Diablo has a vision of his wife telling him the kids are in bed so they can spend time together.
Vulgarity/Language: 1 “F” word in a song, 29 “S” words (1 in a song), 3 “g*dd*mn,” 10 “a” words (1 in a song), 2 “Oh my G-d,” 9 “H*ll,” 5 “d*mn” (in a song), 2 “S.O.B,” 1 “d*ckhead,” 1 “J-sus,” 3 “G-d” (3 in a song), 1 “*ssh*le”, 4 “b*tch” (1 written in subtitle), 2 “cr*p,” 1 “d*ck,” 2 “p*ssy”
Alcohol/Drugs: We see people in a night club and there are some drinks around; At one point, the Squad gathers in a bar and has some drinks together; Diablo talks about having been using drugs at one point in his life
Blood/Gore: We see a giant skinless goat lowered into an underground cell for Killer Croc to eat; We see the inside of a bloody, slightly gory meat kitchen with guy in the background repeatedly hitting meat with a cleaver; We see June lying on a medical table with a tube with blood in it running from her arm; We see Killer Croc throw up chunks on a helicopter ride; Slipknot tries using a grappling hook to get away, but Flag detonates the bomb in his neck. We don’t see much, but there’s an explosion and then we see Slipknot’s lifeless, headless body hanging upside down. It’s all in the dark, so it’s not very graphic; Many of the characters have scrapes and cuts on their body throughout the movie. At one point, Harley has a scrape on her forehead; We see an abrasion on Floyd’s head.
Violence: Soldiers hold Floyd down and hit him repeatedly as he kicks at them; They shock Harley’s cell bars, which throw her backwards. She then has flashbacks of being tortured and held in restraints. She then wakes up and runs at the bars, hitting her head and falling backward; Deadshot kills a guy by ricocheting the bullet off a metal plate and shooting him in the back of the head; We see Batman and Floyd fighting in a flashback; There’s lots of shooting machine guns in an asylum when Joker is trying to make his escape, with prison guards and his own thugs getting shot; Joker holds two paddles with currents running through them and holds them to Harley’s temples, shocking her; Joker shoots a thug in the head (off camera); Harley shoots at Batman thru the roof of their car. The car goes off a bridge and she goes thru the window. Batman goes to save her and she slices a knife at him, so he punches her out. He then tries to do mouth-to-mouth to save her; Captain Boomerang hits a thug in the back of the head with his boomerang; We see footage a few times during the movie of Diablo sending out a wave of flames that vaporizes a crowd; Enchantress possesses a female scientist; We see footage of Rick Flag shooting during footage of him on a mission; Floyd keeps shooting many rounds at metal targets getting perfect headshots; We see Joker sitting on the floor surrounded by knives and other weapons while he is holding a gun in his hand; A man gets tazered; Enchantress smashes a guy’s head against a mirror; A man convulses and falls over. His body absorbs a couple people and uses the electricity from the train rails to grow. A train barrels down on this new creature and it sticks its hand out, obliterating the train; Harley attacks guards and they taze her; Killer Croc attacks soldiers; We see each Squad member tied down as they inject a bomb into their necks; A gift basket explodes, presumably killing a man. People then enter and shoot up a facility. Joker shows video to a man of a his wife with a knife held to her throat. Joker then injects the man in the neck with a nearby injection gun; The new monster villain slices up soldiers and smashes them with its tentacle arm; We see the roof of a building explode with a surge of energy. The monster’s long tentacle arm destroys a helicopter in the sky, as well as other things nearby; Boomerang punches a man and is then restrained; Slipknot punches a woman in the face; We see a flashback of Katana slicing thugs out of vengeance with her swords (no blood or gore); Killer Croc throws up on a helicopter ride; The helicopter gets shot up and we see it crash land really hard; Boomerang and Slipknot fight soldiers as they try to escape. Slipknot is able to use a grappling hook to get away, but Flag detonates the bomb in his neck. We don’t see much, but there’s an explosion and then we see Slipknot’s lifeless, headless body hanging upside down. It’s all in the dark, so it’s not very graphic; Killer Croc hits and knocks Boomerang down; There’s a major shootout and brawl with “E.A.” creatures. We see lots of faceless heads exploding and getting sliced up/hit by the Squad; In a flashback, Harley crashes her bike in order to stop the Joker; Harley shoots down a truck driver in cold blood and then holds the gun to Joker’s head; Harley shoots an “E.A” creature in the head and beats another with a baseball bat; Another big shootout/brawl with the creatures takes place in an office building; Diablo uses his power to incinerate a group of E.A.’s; In a flashback, Harley falls into a vat of Acme acid for Joker. He jumps in after her; An agent shoots up a room full of other agents, killing them; Joker’s helicopter uses a large machine gun to shoot up a rooftop; Dead shot shoots at Harley, but misses on purpose; We see a helicopter get hit with missile and catch on fire. As it goes down, Harley falls out and lands on a rooftop; E.A’s take down Waller’s chopper. She then shoots at them with a machine gun; Enchantress gets her heart back and attacks Waller with magic; We see a moment of Waller repeatedly stabbing a box that has Enchantress’s heart in it; We see a flashback of Diablo surrounded by fire as he cradles his dead wife; Enchantress causes the team to have visions. Deadshot sees himself shooting and killing Batman; There’s a big finale battle between the Squad and the monster and Enchantress; Katana cuts off the creature’s hand and it grows back; Diablo tries to incinerate it; An explosion destroys the beast and another Squad member; Another explosion releases the swirling debris; We see a wall of the prison explode and a group of armed thugs come in, shooting up the place.