The narrative being constructed by critics and fandom right now is that of a battle between DC Comics' Extended Cinematic Universe (DCEU) and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). While Marvel's started back in 2008 with the first "Iron Man" film and is plotted through 2019's "Avengers: Infinity War - Part 2," DC is still in the early stages with only "Man of Steel," "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" and "Suicide Squad" released.
If there is a battle between the two companies, Marvel is the easy frontrunner, not just because they've been at it longer, but because of the quality of filmmaking and world-building on display with each movie. As director of "Man of Steel" and "Batman v. Superman," Zack Snyder has shepherded the DCEU with his bombastic filmmaking style, leaving the films pretty to look at but empty of anything below the surface.
After the absolute critical drubbing of "Batman v. Superman," eyes were on "Suicide Squad" to be the film that started steering the DCEU toward calmer waters. The first thing the film has going for it is the absence of Snyder in the director's chair, which means it might have a sense of fun and adventure that his films lack. Director David Ayer ("Fury") adds some color and humor to the DCEU with "Suicide Squad," but has also made something so hilariously bad that it's kind of amazing. This movie doesn't save the DCEU as much as it proves that it's one sequel away from shaving its eyebrows and yelling at people on the subway.
"Suicide Squad" tells the story of a bunch of bad guys with government-mandated explosive charges in their necks being sent on a black ops mission to save the world from an insane witch queen, her angry brother, and their army of bubble-faced soldier demons. It also introduces Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Deadshot (Will Smith), Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and The Joker (Jared Leto) to the DCEU.
The spine of the film is Harley and her love for The Joker. She was once a psychiatrist who tried treating The Joker, only to fall in love and be physically and psychologically tortured by him. As she goes on her mission for the U.S. government, she's secretly waiting for Mr. J to break her out of their control so they can run off together and be abusive and insane forever. The viciousness and cruelty of Leto's Joker means that Harley's imagined happy ending is a very sad and disturbing one.
"Suicide Squad" is entertaining for every second of its running time, but not always for the right reasons. Smith, Robbie, Hernandez, Davis and Leto are always fun to watch, even when saddled with some of the worst dialogue from a movie since...well, since "Batman v. Superman." The villains are straight out of the 1987 "Masters of the Universe" movie but with even less motivation and fewer interesting qualities. The film feels like every scene that works is immediately followed by one that doesn't, so the entire movie feels like a cookie jar that you get slapped for reaching for.
The relationship I have to "Suicide Squad" is similar to that of the dysfunction of Harley and The Joker. I know the movie is bad for me and isn't remotely healthy, but it makes me laugh and maybe it understands me. Maybe if I give it another chance it'll be better. Maybe this time it will be different.
Dir. David Ayer
Now playing at Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX