Suicide Squad ponders that age-old question that every sociopathic comic book nerd across the world has asked themselves at some point in their lives: can a team of insane super criminals make better heroes than a group of goody two-shoes? Fusion’s own squad of well-adjusted writers walked into a recent showing of the movie in search of the answer. These are the impressions they walked away with.
Charles Pulliam-Moore: So let’s start off with the most basic description of this movie, yeah? Suicide Squad’s premise is fairly straightforward: in a post-Superman world filled with“metahumans,” a shadowy government agency decides that it needs to get ahead of the curve and put together a team of super-types who can get shit done.
Rather than going out and recruiting good guys, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) comes up with the very logical and not at all flawed idea that the government should use known super criminals to function as a covert task force to…I dunno, fuck shit up when necessary?
Katie McDonough: Not unlike the United States arming the mujahideen in Afghanistan! Wow is this movie actually a critique of U.S. foreign policy? (No.)
David Matthews: That is an accurate description of this totally twisted, super messed up movie.
Isha Aran: I still don’t really know what happened to me in that theater. I didn’t really appreciate being yanked around by the plot, which basically felt like a direct translation of a 14-year-old comic book fan pitching their favorite comic to a boardroom at WB. Would not be surprised if the words “Pew Pew,” were in the actual screenplay.
Charles: God, can you imagine? That would have been fun. I wanna ask you guys: did you like this movie? Like, did you have fun watching it?
Katie: I enjoyed like 20 minutes of the movie, mostly Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and Will Smith as Deadshot. The rest I felt like I was maybe being punished for something that I couldn't remember doing. It felt confusing, plot-wise and character-wise, to the point that I leaned over to David multiple times throughout and asked: "What happened?"
David: I think Superman had died and Ike Barinholtz had done something. I had a lot of fun watching the movie because I was hanging with my skwad. I don’t think I will watch it ever again unless a director’s cut is released, though.
There are so many elements of a good movie here: the ragtag group trying to make right, various delightful performances (Jay Hernandez is back, baby!), and action sequences of various coherence. I wanted this movie to be good because I feel so bad for Warner Brothers (they’re trying really hard!), but woof. I think my review is woof.
Isha: The color scheme was a great departure from the gritty reboot palate DC movies have been sticking to. But other than that? Not a great movie, but a great launching pad for Harley's character.
Katie: But if we're going to talk about Harley, we have to talk about Mr. J. The Jokeman. The Joker. Jared Leto himself.
Very strange, in all of the press discussion of Leto's method approach to the role—sending dead pigs full of bullets to his coworkers!—never once was it mentioned how he definitely watched The Mask on repeat for six months straight until he got his Jim Carrey impression just right.
Isha: Jared. Jared Jared Jared, what are we going to do with you?
David: I think it’s because the movie is a lie. The movie tricks you into thinking you’re getting Gritty Ocean’s 11 With Headshots And Cussing, but it’s actually What If We Wasted A Quarter Of The Movie On Introductions And Then Just Remade Black Hawk Down And Tacked On The End Of Ghostbusters.
Katie: Charles, reliable narrator, can you walk us through what these rag tags are fighting?
Charles: *Deep breaths*
In order to even try to make sense of what’s going on in this movie, we’ve got to bring up newly-minted actress Cara Delevingne who plays June Moone, a meek archaeologist who becomes possessed by an ancient witch one day while on an archeological hunt in some very spooky looking caves in what looks like South America. Sidebar: what good archeologist wanders into a cave and then BREAKS OPEN A CLEARLY ancient relic?
Katie: Yeah, I'm not an archeology expert but pretty sure that the first class covers how not to immediately break the shit you find.
David: If I learned anything from this movie (I did not), it is that archaeology is the practice of breaking things in spooky tombs.
Charles: Where were her toothbrushes to brush off the dust ever so gently?
Anywho, the witch (who goes by “Enchantress” because comic book naming schemes are patently bad) possesses June and becomes the movie’s Big Bad because why the hell not? She takes over a city with…mud mutants (?) and the Squad are sent in to stop her and her minions.
Isha: Well see that's the main glaring problem in a giant pile of problems! After nearly an hour of Waller defending the loyalty of Enchantress to multiple boardrooms of Very Important White Men, Enchantress does exactly what everyone expected!
She transports around, assaults a commuter who turns into some kind of Egyptian god creature, and suddenly makes a vortex that will usher in the end times? All under her boyfriend’s nose! What?!
Katie: In this process of trying to bring down sultry voiced Enchantress, the Suicide Squad—a team of sociopaths considered too dangerous to be in the general population of the comic book prison they are being incarcerated in—learn the value of friendship.
David: All I know is that I am going to try saying "Enchantress" to myself when I need to get something important done.
Charles: It’s her trigger word AND her safe word.
Isha: Same. But here's the thing. What the hell was with her funky spell-casting dance? Of the many confounding moments this movie had, the one that stuck out to me was how dancing like a windsock channels supernatural powers. Because I'll fucking dance if I need to.
David: Enchantress was living her best life. Fuck Amanda Waller and the Seppuku Gang for ruining her day.
Katie: Why did these people who are gleeful villains turn into puppies of friendship in about five minutes?
Isha: Unfortunately the fastest way to get a plot moving is to rely on the Criminal With A Heart Of Gold trope. It never fails. Except for in this movie.
Charles: Yeah. The movie repeatedly reminds us that the Suicide Squad is a team of bad guys who’ve been coerced to do a…”good” thing, right? But I feel like the movie never lives up to the conceit that the characters are bad people. Harley’s “bad” because she associates with the Joker.
Captain Boomerang steals some diamonds, sure, but I never got the impression that any of these people were really the types of folks the world’s superheroes would be concerned about. These are people the cops would deal with. (Batman is BASICALLY a cop, fight me.)
Katie: I feel like the movie manages to establish Deadshot's sense of morality. Diablo's, too. Their families and their remorse keep them anchored to something, like a code. But the rest of the team is presented as either petty criminals with no loyalty to anything or, with Harley, legit sociopaths.
Then they start to play nice without any real explanation. The whole group dynamic feels unearned, which is why I cackled when Harley Quinn stood up to Enchantress by being like, "You messed with my friends!"
Isha: I think the film relies on the fact that these are well known characters, maybe not as well known as Batman or Superman, but they have their own ethos and sometimes fandoms.
So instead of actually demonstrating that they’ve done something bad or that they’re bad people or that they’re the worst of the worst or whatever, they’ve let people assume it because the movie is long enough and there are so many more characters to introduce, each with a more cliche intro song than the last.
Charles: I think we can all agree that Suicide Squads suffers from the fact that there are way too many characters in play and the bulk of them aren’t given enough time to really develop into anything more than flashy bits of fan service with a few so-so bits of dialogue thrown in because this is a talkie.
And that sucks because despite the fact that the majority of the movie’s leads are people of color, it’s really only the white folks who get a chance to be interesting.
Katie: I think Will Smith was given a kind of flat depth, if that makes sense. He was developed along one note, which was his daughter and his desire to get back to her and see her do well.
So let's fix Suicide Squad. I propose that the women in the film—Enchantress, Harley, and Katana—be given reasons to exist beyond the men in their lives. One woman's opinion.
Isha: Let's pour one out for (SPOILER ALERT) Slipknot, portrayed by First Nations actor Adam Beach, whose sole line was a sexist justification of why he punched a woman out ("She had a mouth on her"), just before having his head exploded to demonstrate that the bombs implanted in the Suicide Squad's necks work.
David: Definitely. Amanda Waller, Viola Davis's inherent queen-ness aside, is the cold bureaucrat willing to do Whatever It Takes. We never see when she compromised her morals, did we? She's just, gasp, a bad guy.
Isha: Yeah, I think the film hides behind Davis’ inherent confidence and badassness. They use her “I got this” attitude to cover up all the plot flaws.
Charles: Ok so wait. I’m SO here for Waller being a straight up badass for no reason.
Katie: Yeah, I was into Waller's callous villainy. I think the absence of backstory here—usually women in film have to be emotionally wounded to be bad—is actually one of the film's strengths.
She is just fucked up because she wants to be. Which, again, is more than we can say for the other female leads in this film. Harley Quinn's very reason for existence is her wounded attachment to the Joker. SWORD WOMAN (Katana) is avenging her husband's murder. The only time that Dr. June is autonomous from Enchantress, it's spent in a crying heap in bed next to SOLIDER HOT MAN (Rick Flagg).
Charles: RIGHT! “Oh my husband and children died in a fire!" No. She’s just a fucking sociopath who’s very good at her job. What’s not to love?
David: I literally said, "This movie owns," and I may have meant it in the moment when she straight-up executed several fellow national security/intelligence types.
Isha: That was a great moment.
Charles: So we want the movie’s women to have more to do. What else?
David: It’s so nitpicky, but goddamnit, the music. This soundtrack. I can't even. I’ve seen Forrest Gump a few times and (unfortunately) Watchmen more than once because i am a masochist. I get it. "House of the Rising Sun” is shorthand for ominousness, I guess.
“Spirit in the Sky” was in Guardians of the Galaxy (it was not but just go with me here) and this movie desperately wanted to be Guardians of the Galaxy. There are so many songs in the world! No one needs to hear John Fogerty ever again. They had a perfect opportunity to have a new Will Smith rap song over the end credits, would would have solved all the movie’s problems retroactively, and they duffed that, too. Bad soundtrack, bad.
Katie: Wow David I am going to dissent here and say that I love "Spirit in the Sky" whenever I hear it. But agree on all other counts.
David: Amanda Waller walked in slow-mo to "Sympathy For The Devil." I know David Ayer has directed three films, but has he ever seen a movie? Every movie has the Rolling Stones!
Isha: You can’t introduce a character with the lyrics, “Please allow me to introduce myself.” I won’t allow it. I think the soundtrack to this movie also proves that it was a rush job. The soundtrack was Forrest Gump meets The Longest Yard, meets the bass of a trap song you hear when you’re standing outside of the club.
Charles: I’m sure Harley Quinn listens to nothing bus Leslie Gore.
Katie: WAIT A MINUTE. I just tried to Google a character name and learned that Boomerang is not played by Tom Hardy.
Charles: Nope. That’s Jai Courtney.
Katie: Who the fuck is that?
Charles: Jai Courtney Of Divergent fame. First of his name. Living proof that beards can be deceptive as fuck.
Isha: Tom already had his DC comics moment.
David: Jai Courtney and Tom Hardy are different people, as evidenced by them spelling their names differently and inhabiting separate bodies.
Katie: Good, you know what? Good. I was really sad that this was sullying Tom Hardy for me.
David: Assuming we're not just allowed to excise Captain Boomerang (what did he do?!) Who would have been better than Jai Courtney?
Isha: He drank! Because he's an Aussie! That's very important. He also threw at least two boomerangs that never came back to him.
Charles: We are allowed to excise Captain Boomerang. And we will.
David: Ok, so ordered: all his lines go to Adam Beach and Slipknot (which, ugh) actually climbs something after being introduced as a man who can climb anything.
Charles: I think that ultimately, the one thing that could have saved this movie from being a candy coated oil spill would have been to let it just be dark and sad.
Isha: That’s interesting because the one criticism that always gets launched at DC movies is that they’re too dark, too gritty compared to the much lighter and entertaining Marvel movies. But even when they try to go light, it’s just strange and jerky. The dialogue didn’t sound like conversation, just pull-cord dolls saying catchphrases at each other.
Charles: Right, this movie leans into to its PG-13 rating WAY too much. That scene in the bar where Harley, Boomerang, and Diablo go at one another is fantastic. It plays on this idea that these people can’t really see the fault in their own pasts, but can’t stand the fact that the others are have done shitty things.
I want to see a Suicide Squad where everyone’s lowkey trying to get the teammates “accidentally” killed because they’re bad guys. It’s what they do.
Katie: Can we pause for a second to talk about this sick burn I discovered.
Isha: DAMN THAT’S COLD
David: Final thoughts: That movie’s fine. There have been worse movies made in the past and there will be worse movies made in the future. Also: I need a GIF of Jay Hernandez writing “BYE” with fire and I need it now. Also we should all get "skwad" tattoos.
Katie: I cannot believe that Deadshot's sweet daughter put herself between a bullet and Ben Affleck. Do not die for Ben Affleck, Zoe Deadshot Jr! I would like Killer Croc's velvet hoodie to wear in the Fusion office. This movie was bad but I still think it was a fine thing to do at 9:30 a.m. on a Friday morning with my own personal Suicide Squad. (I am our Jared Leto!!! Surprise!)
Isha: The best part of this movie is Jason Momoa’s appearance in a file after the main credits. Jared Leto’s Joker was like Insane Clown Fosse. Yes, like Bob Fosse, just go with it. Somehow, despite Cara’s spastic dancing and subpar mouthing of her lines while a talented voice actress spoke, I still think Enchantress is a bad bitch. And I’m certain that if you picked up all the footage from the cutting room floor, there’s a good movie in there somewhere, but unfortunately, this wasn’t it. So excited for our Skwad tattoos!
Charles: All snark aside, I don’t think this is a bad movie. It just isn’t a particularly good one. You shouldn't walk into Suicide Squad looking for a story that’ll make you think about the nature of heroism or what it truly means to be good or evil. You walk into this movie to see a glitzy adaptation of a comic book that has a silly premise. Would you send in a bunch of crazies with guns and a baseball bat to fight an immortal witch?
No, no you would not.