Saturday, August 6, 2016


They blew it. The trailers promised something anarchic and exhilaratingly amoral, and for some that promised redemption for the "DC Extended Universe" after the "no fun" sturm und drang of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Instead, David Ayer delivered a tedious slog that is considerably shorter than Dawn of Justice yet seems interminable by comparison. Rumors of editorial interference have been swirling, but I doubt whether any alternate cut could improve much on what I saw. Suicide Squad is a failure on almost every level. The filmmakers wimp out on the promise of the trailers by trying too hard to make characters sympathetic and copping out whenever they have the chance to be hardcore, but they apparently hope you'll be distracted from the truth by the heavyhanded oldies soundtrack. After all the hype surrounding his off-camera pranks, Jared Leto shockingly gives us a boring Joker, neither especially funny or particularly scary -- merely a gangster with an odd fashion sense. Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn, who for marketing purposes is the reason this film even exists, never coheres into anything more than a collection of tics and quips, and the movie, telling her origin in truncated flashback form, skips over what should have been terrific scenes between smitten psychologist and psychopath seducer like a pebble on the surface of a lake that sinks well short of shore. Most of the other characters aren't even that well developed. Will Smith tries hard as Deadshot to project the correct badass attitude but is weighed down by a conscientious-dad subplot that no one really could have wanted. But I suppose it was inescapable in as generic a mismatched-buddies picture as Ayer has delivered, one where all our psychopaths and sociopaths apparently come to think of themselves as friends -- if not, gad help us, "family" -- and step up to do the right things in utterly predictable fashion.

Nor does it help things that Ayer came up with possibly the most incompatible menace for all his antiheroes' skill sets and made that menace absolutely uninteresting. Perhaps I should take that back. If anything, he made the menace less than uninteresting by tying it to another unwanted romantic subplot. An uninteresting menace leads to uninteresting fights, this time pitting the Squad plus anonymous army guys against a horde of literally faceless foes. These scenes expose Ayer's lack of the sort of epic visual imagination Zack Snyder possesses or the creative action choreography of Marvel Studios. Ayer prefers close-quarters combat, repetitive and roughly edited and thus ultimately tiresome. Warning that the villain's antics are putting the world in jeopardy seem like the filmmakers' desperate last appeal for our attention, if not an insult to our intelligence, since it now seems reasonable to ask why, should this be so, Wonder Woman, Batman and whomever they've gathered up so far don't show up to make short work of it. Ben Affleck shows up often enough as Batman to beg the question why we -- and, more importantly, Warner Bros. -- are bothering with these losers instead of getting on with a Justice League movie. It was Ayer's job not to let us ask that question and he blew it. Fortunately, I doubt whether word-of-mouth on Suicide Squad will do major damage to the overall DC movie franchise, since its irrelevance, rather than the hoped-for irreverence, should be self-evident to anyone who sees it. I doubt anyone will want to see Wonder Woman any less because Suicide Squad stinks, but let's not deny the truth for the next movie's sake. I notice I didn't really spoil a lot despite my Spoilervision promise. The fact is, I can't be bothered to describe what passes for a plot here in any detail. If I've spoiled anything, I suppose it might be some fans' hope that the critics were wrong again. Sure, some of those reviewers are biased against the whole superhero genre, but even a broken clock is right sometimes, and you shouldn't blame the clock for that.

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