(Review) Suicide Squad: The solid C- for your honor roll expectations

maxresdefault[BASICALLY NO SPOILERS]

As ludicrous as the idea of shutting down Rotten Tomatoes is, the butthurt fandom of the internet has a point: RT can be pretty hard on movies. (The stylish, thoroughly entertaining Smokin’ Aces is sitting at a criminal 29%.)

With a rotten 26% rating based on 265 reviews, here is the website’s Critics Consensus:

Suicide Squad boasts a talented cast and a little more humor than previous DCEU efforts, but they aren’t enough to save the disappointing end result from a muddled plot, thinly written characters, and choppy directing.

I would rewrite that as follows:

Suicide Squad boasts a talented cast and more humor than previous DCEU efforts, which are barely enough to save it from a muddled plot, gaudy post-production choices and not nearly enough Joker to justify the hype.

Just to fill you in, Warner Bros. (the studio that brought us The Dark Knight as easily as it did Green Lantern or Halle Berry’s Catwoman) panicked at the negative response to Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. (Say the whole name and imagine an exec going “Yeah!”)

And while Captain America: Civil War was earning our praise with its balance of comedy-drama-action, character motivations and most importantly COHESIVE FUCKING STORYTELLING, the total lesson that Warner Bros. walked away with was be funnier. And so, abandoning all faith in director David Ayer’s vision, the businessmen blindly ordered their respective lackeys to stuff MORE HUMOR into Suicide Squad.

You can read more about that shitstorm here: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/suicide-squads-secret-drama-rushed-916693

I don’t always side with the director, but this sort of retroactive micromanagement has killed many a franchise. Needless to say, I lowered my expectations to the floor; I waited the whole movie for it to suck. And did it? There were some weak links:

  • Too much pop music. Clearly a conceit of the newer edit.
  • Kitana couldn’t be more generic.
  • A flashback that revealed nothing new.
  • The Ghostbusterish threat was some basic, Saturday morning cartoon shit. Very little gravity to said threat or the aftermath.
  • Stop telling us they’re the bad guys and let them be bad.
  • Cara Delevingne. At no point could I forget that she’s a model 1st, an actress 2nd.
  • The slow mo in the climax made it duuuuuumbbbeeeeerrrrrr.
  • We get it! Killer Croc is a black guy! Enough with the minstrel show dialogue.
  • The Joker was barely in the movie. I see why Jared Leto was pissed. He wasn’t even around long enough for us to rank his performance let alone this iteration of the character. What a letdown!

Yet despite its shortcomings, Suicide Squad has plenty of merits that keep it from being a total waste:

  • Will Smith’s bigger slice of the pie was well-served. You know exactly what you’re going to get with him. His Deadshot may be the most interesting depiction of what’s normally a 3rd-tier villain.
  • Margot Robbie was excellent as Harley Quinn. All wackiness and sexiness aside, there was surprising nuance in her performance. Quinn’s many reactions and non-reactions to other characters paint an unexpected picture of her mind in subtle strokes.
  • El Diablo may just be the best pyrokinetic character in any comic book movie so far.
  • This was definitely the best that could be done with Captain Boomerang and the only time I’ve ever liked Jai Courtney.
  • Amanda Waller – Viola Davis is harder than Darth Vader and never overcompensates (unlike Jesse Eisenberg in BvS.)
  • Killer Croc looks great. So there’s that.
  • No one cares about Slipknot. Thanks for not overplaying him.
  • What little we saw of the Joker was a promising take on the character. All those tattoos everyone hated didn’t take away from it.

In Suicide Squad, we wanted another dark horse crowdpleaser falling somewhere between the motley underdog heart of Guardians of the Galaxy and the nihilistic mania of Deadpool. What we got was a cheeky (in more ways than one) installment in a so-far underwhelming cinematic universe that immediately has me waiting for the director’s cut.