4 Aug 2016

We need to talk about how bad Suicide Squad is

9:42 am on 4 August 2016

Yes, it’s as hideously incoherent as you’ve heard.


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Photo: Roadshow Films

Remember when Taylor Swift put out Bad Blood? For months maybe, years it seemed, she released poster after poster of her squad, introducing their super girl personas. “Lena Dunham is ‘Lucky Fiori’”; “Cindy Crawford is ‘headmistress’”; “Ellie Goulding is ‘Destructa X’” etc etc. And after a lifetime of promo, the trailer was just a long sequence of introducing these people all over again, culminating in a weird nonsensical battle intro where nothing really happened. I remember. I was reminded of it distinctly by Suicide Squad.

It feels like Suicide Squad has been in production forever, and though it was only announced in 2014, the promo machine has been in motion ever since. New trailers! New pics of the Joker! New glimpses of X super-person! And all the while we were growing and changing and going about our lives.

It took seemingly an eternity of promo to get Suicide Squad to the screen, yet by the time we arrived at the premiere last night, word had already travelled across the globe that it was not a good film. This is correct.

It has been widely agreed for a while now that this is Marvel’s world and we’re just living in it, and the pressure on DC comics to produce a rival franchise must be huge. Confusing. Debilitating even. Perhaps this can explain why they have now released a movie of inconceivable coherence with which to kick off this VERY IMPORTANT business venture.

In a post Batman v Superman Gotham, Superman is dead (but not really) and a secret government agency is concerned that, in his absence, some other alien or mutant or what have you will come along and cause a stink.

Posed with this predicament, lead secret government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) comes up with a plan: to pre-emptively combat any – completely hypothetical – nefarious super-powered “meta-humans”, they must immediately release several particularly bad criminals from jail, gather them all together, send them off with some military dude and… something?

To be totally honest, I didn’t really follow Suicide Squad, not because it was complicated and DEFINITELY not because I kept phasing out. It just doesn’t make any sense. Why is this a good option? Why has Waller employed an archaeologist possessed by a witch to help her? Was this soundtrack chosen 10 years ago?

Even the squad line-up, on whom any future franchise and many millions of dollars rest, are blah. Are these really the wisecracking anti-heroes we are supposed to come to know and love? With powers including: making fire; being a human-reptile sludge monster; being crazy; being Australian; and being good at guns, there must surely be better options. And even though half the movie is spent introducing them and their personas to us Bad Blood style, they are hardly the most memorable bunch. Even Will Smith, who plays the defacto main character by way of being the most famous, is tragically washed here.

Of all of them, Margot Robbie stands out the most, but mostly due to the bold stylistic decision to train every camera on her half-naked body throughout the film. Rarely is a male gaze so acute, and it gets old quick. Perhaps that’s unfair: she is a very watchable actress, and one of the few cast members in the film who is able to inject any energy into Suicide Squad at all. But with every shot of her from behind, dressed in fishnets and undies carrying her sexy baseball bat prop across her shoulders, it becomes crystal clear what she’s there for. And with each lingering close-up on her butt, Laura Mulvey’s life force is drained a little more.

Around them is a supporting cast of so many people, I didn’t even notice Hopper from Stranger Things was one of them, and the performances range so wildly in quality it’s hard to believe they were all on the same set. Viola Davis is understated, chilling and capable of imbuing complexity into a character who seems otherwise very stupid. On the other end of the spectrum, Jared Leto’s Joker is total build-ups, and after hundreds of years of promo images of him in costume, all he does is show up occasionally to look weird and do a truly shabby Heath Ledger impression.

Another ensemble comic book franchise is hardly what the world needs, yet with Marvel’s monopoly on Hollywood so pervasive, there is a case to be made for a chaotic, crazy version of their efficiently formulaic oeuvre. It’s a last remaining gap in a truly overdone and oversaturated genre and Suicide Squad fails entirely to fill it. Sadly for DC, that gap may have closed next time around.

Based on this film, the response it’s getting and his hilariously delusional sense of humour, it’s not a great time in the life of writer-director David Ayer. So much money. So much importance. SO MUCH TIME. And this is what he came up with? A hideously incoherent film which glorifies gun violence and slapping women around. Great.