What it's about:
With the rise of superheroes and super villains, a secret government agency enlists a group of some of the America's deadliest killers, thieves and madmen as their own defence against god-like villains and renegade heroes.
What we thought:
For the first third of Suicide Squad, it looked like DC was finally well on its way after the major failures of Man of Steel and Batman V Superman. Sadly, the film doesn't end there and goes on to squander its potential for another 90 minutes after that.
The overall grey colour palette and murky lighting is still a problem (at least it certainly was at the cinema in which I saw it) but at least it's shot through with a bit of colour this time. More importantly, the dour tone of its predecessors is somewhat counterbalanced by a sense of the absurd and something that might actually be an honest to goodness sense of humour, as we are introduced to our group of colourful anti-heroes in a series of fun vignettes, each accompanied by their own “theme tune”, ranging from the Rolling Stones to Kanye West.
It also does a far better job of setting up the larger DC Cinematic Universe than either of Snyder's “Superman” films with a number of references to the recently departed Superman and a couple of fun appearances by Affleck's Batman, a visit to Arkhum Asylum and our first full, on-screen look at Ezra Miller's Flash (who, as it turns out, looks set to be quite different from the Flash TV show's Grant Gustin). There's just an ease to the expanded universe here that was very much lacking in Batman V Superman.
Unfortunately, most of this potential is squandered by the rest of the film. There's still some fun stuff to be found in the final two acts of the film, to be sure, but they're a small reprieve from the onslaught of bad storytelling decisions, wonky pacing, incoherent action scenes and truly terrible “Gods of Egypt”-like villains.
The main villain is introduced early in the film as having taken over a certain part of the city for thoroughly vague baddie reasons and most of rest of the film concerns Task Force X (Suicide Squad, as they're officially known) fighting through waves of minions to get to the heavily CGI-enhanced big bad. It's an approach that worked brilliantly for the Raid and Dredd but it is significantly less successful here.
For a start, the villain is really, really badly conceived, in everything from design to motivation to the specifics of what they're actually doing so it's hard to care at all about the Squad's first mission on even a basic level. It's even harder to care when frankly dull, confusing and badly lit action scenes in this nondescript city setting are ineffective in their own right but also take precious time away from developing the members of the Squad beyond Will Smith's Deadshot and Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn.
This is all the more the pity since Deadshot and Harley Quinn are a lot of fun and give Will Smith and Margot Robbie plenty to work with. Robbie, in particular, is just wonderful as Harley Quinn, who is largely very faithful to her cartoon ad comics counterpart – though I still prefer the take when Harley was a more sad, pathetic figure who falls in love with a psychopath who can never love her back, rather than the more conventionally reciprocal (if still insane) relationship with the Joker she has here.
And speaking of the Joker, Jared Leto is very simply, the worst screen joker ever. He's no Heath Ledger, obviously, but it's hard not to long for even just a bit of the sheer entertainment value of Mark Hamill's iconic animated version in Leto's more “realistic” street-tough take. Mind you, it's presumably not his fault so much as it is the writing but al the method acting he indulged in for the role sadly added up to a take on a classic villain that is so bad, you can only breathe a sigh of relief when his screen time turns out to be mercifully brief.
Unfortunate then, that the solid conception but poor execution of the Joker is so emblematic of the film itself. Ah well, maybe Wonder Woman will finally put DC on the right track. As a lifelong DC Comics fan, I certainly hope so.