Movie Rewind: Suicide Squad

Updated: May 1, 2020

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn recently debuted to surprisingly decent reviews, even though it sports the most ridiculous title in cinematic history. I know it is generally being shortened to Birds of Prey, but it's clear the studio is trying to wash off the stench of Jarred Leto's less than stellar performance as the Joker from the beloved character of Harley Quinn.

Anyways, despite some moderate critical success, Birds of Prey has failed to meet the financial standards set by other DC Extended Universe (DCEU) films. To be fair, fans should be wary of shelling out $15 a ticket for DCEU films as few have lived up to lofty expectations, except for Wonder Woman and Aquaman and even those two had their detractors. With that in mind, it feels appropriate to look back at the film that launched Birds of Prey into reality, Suicide Squad.

Suicide Squad was supposed to be Warner Bros.'s answer to Disney's surprise hit Guardians of the Galaxy. The premise was simple: a group of antiheroes saving the day with stylized violence and a cool soundtrack. Suicide Squad wouldn't be beholden to the family-friendly constructs of Disney, allowing the film to take a gritty and violent approach. Even after the less than successful Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (okay Warner Bros., can we please figure out this whole title thing already!), fans anxiously awaited the arrival of the squad.

Unfortunately for the studio, Suicide Squad was met with universal disdain upon release. Critics panned the film for its lack of plot, poorly developed characters, and underwhelming direction. Over the last few years, Suicide Squad has developed a small cult following among DCEU fans who believe critics are wrong about the movie. So, was Suicide Squad just a few years too early? Or was it just a poor knock off of another studio's hit franchise? Let's look back to see if Suicide Squad is worth a rewatch.


Following the death of Superman in Batman v. Superman, intelligence officer Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) proposes the formation of a group to fill the void left behind in his absence. This group, officially named Tasked Force X, consists of imprisoned supervillains charged with completing missions so dangerous, it would be suicide to even try. To keep the team from growing too unruly, Waller has small explosive devices implanted in their necks that would explode should they try to escape.

Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) is recruited to command the team which consists of hitman Deadshot (Will Smith), flame thrower El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Australian thief and beer lover Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), reptilian humanoid Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), mercenary Slipknot (Adam Beach), and former psychiatrist turned sociopath Harley Quinn (Margott Robbie). Quinn is also the girlfriend of the Crown Prince of Crime himself, The Joker (Jarred Leto), who is determined to free Quinn from her captivity. Flag's team is rounded out with Navy Seal Lieutenant "GQ" Edwards (Scott Eastwood) and bodyguard Katana (Karen Fukuhara), a widowed expert martial artist whose sword traps the souls of its victims.

The prized jewel in Waller's chest, however, is Flag's girlfriend, Dr. June Moone (Cara Delevingne) who is possessed by an ancient witch known as the Enchantress. Waller has imprisoned the Enchantress by keeping the heart of the demonic being in a briefcase, threatening to destroy it and subsequently killing Enchantress if she doesn't do Waller's bidding.

For those of you who have not seen the film or forgot about the basic concept of Suicide Squad, this is a good place to stop so you can re-read all of that. Yes, it is as bat shit crazy as it sounds, but that's what made the idea of the film so appealing. The premise was so ridiculous, the film should have worked as long as Warner Bros. just got out of its way. The fact they weren't able to find a modicum of success truly speaks to how poorly the story was managed.

Alright, back to the regularly scheduled programming. Of course, Waller's plan to control the Enchantress backfires and she escapes her captivity. To exact her revenge, the Enchantress hatches a plan to end all humanity with a mystical weapon. To complete her plan, she firsts summons her brother Incubus (Alain Chanoine) and turns the population of Midway City into a horde of monsters.

In response, Waller dispatches Task Force X to Midway City to stop Enchantress and extract a high-level contact. For those who haven't seen the film, we won't spoil the ending but suffice it to say, that the mission does not go according to plan. Not only does Task Force X have to deal with Enchantress's monsters, but the Joker further complicates things by trying to rescue Harley while on the mission. The team fails, putting Task Force X on the brink of self-destruction as they find themselves with front row seats to the potential end of the world.

As the movie pushes towards the third act, the ending is never really in doubt. We won't reveal how they are able to band together, but the audience is never left wondering if they will overcome their differences because they have too. The problem with shared cinematic universe films is that films almost always have to end with the team winning. How can you destroy the world if you want to make a Justice League film or another Wonder Woman film? There are few stakes in movies like these other than those who live and die. And by the end of the film, the audience could care less about the fate of most of the characters.

What Works

Oh boy...not a lot. The only real bright spot of the film is it's cast despite having very little to work with in terms of plot or character development. Playing Captain Boomerang, Jai Courtney provides a surprisingly fun performance as the films comedic relief. The script's comedy largely falls flat, but Courtney exudes a natural charisma that helps Captain Boomerang stand out.

Will Smith is his usual steady self as Floyd Lawton, aka Deadshot. Deadshot is one of the few characters given any development, which allows him to serve as the heart of the team and film, a role Smith excels at. Smith isn't returning for the sequel (more on that later!) but they chose to not recast his character, an indication the studio has plans for a future outing.

Finally, Margot Robbie steals the show as Harley Quinn. As a beloved character in DC comics and cartoons, fans had lofty expectations for the first live action portrayal of the character. The outstanding Robbie is up to the task and perfectly embodies the unpredictable, charismatic, chaotic, and charming qualities of the character. It is no coincidence the character was given her own movie.

What Doesn't Work

Outside of a few good performances, not much else works for the film. The script, written by director David Ayer, is paper-thin. Despite a two hour run time, there is very little happening on the screen that feels consequential to the story. The script does have a few genuinely humorous moments between the ragtag group of villains; unfortunately, these are few and far between. Ayer far too often employs lazy cheap humor while providing little character development outside of Deadshot and Harley Quinn. Ayer reportedly only had six months to write the script, so perhaps some of these issues would have been smoothed out had he been given more time.

Enchantress was the wrong choice for the film's main antagonist. Cara Delevigne is completely miscast as Dr. June Moon and isn't convincing as Enchantress. It almost feels like the studio designed the character's look first and then cast an actress who they thought would look good in the outfit. It doesn't help that Delevigne looks so you in contrast to Joel Kinnaman who serves as her romantic interest in the film. The two have zero chemistry and their arc suffers for it.

Of all of its problems, the film's greatest flaw is its handling of the Joker. This is the fourth major portrayal of the character on the big screen and the first since Heath Ledger's iconic performance in The Dark Knight. To Jared Leto's credit, he tried to bring deranged chaos to the character, something other portrayals had not seen before. What ends up on the screen is a cartoonish version of the iconic character. Leto's over the top performance offers little nuance and is mostly laughable.

There is very little reason for the Joker to be included in Suicide Squad. The character chews up a decent amount of screen time which should have been given to other characters. More importantly, his plot could be removed from the film altogether and very little would change. His inclusion, while marginally important to Harley's back story, merely serves as a minor intrusion on the main action of the plot.. It's ironic Leto chose to have "Damaged" tattooed across the Joker's forehead because he caused the most damage to the overall story of Suicide Squad.

Is It Worth A Rewind

Honestly, this is just a terrible movie, so please don't waste your time by watching it. It very well may be the worst entry into the DCEU. The overall plot is weak, there is no real character development, and the handling of majority of its characters is suspect at best. What was supposed to be the answer to Guardians of the Galaxy ends up feeling like a bad rip off.

Despite the negative critical response, Warner Bros. greenlit a sequel. It should be no surprise than that Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn was tapped to helm the project. While fans should temper their excitement for Suicide Squad 2, perhaps Gunn will bring some charm and a whole lot of fun to the next installment.

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