Despite barely being in the film, Jared Leto’s Joker is pretty emblematic of Suicide Squad as a whole. Both take themselves far too seriously, have little to no self-awareness and end up being incredibly destructive to those around them (both narratively and in real life).
A lot is going on within Suicide Squad (that’s part of the problem), so let’s dissect the story a little bit. Although the posters and trailers hint that the movie would focus on the formation of the not-so-aptly named squad, there are three major plotlines here:
- Deadshot (Will Smith), an insanely good sharp-shooter, wants to get out of prison so he can take care of his daughter.
- Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) was in an abusive relationship with the Joker (one that the film is emotionally apathetic towards – so it’s just very uncomfortable) and is recovering from constant prison abuse and a desire to reconnect with the Joker.
- Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is trying to assemble a crime-fighting bad boy squad (because they couldn’t find any other vehicles in the department), but things go wrong as an evil spirit that was going to be part of the squad escapes and tries to destroy the world. The rest of the bad squad then has to become the good guys and save the world.
These three plotlines are not inherently connected, and so the movie feels a bit disjointed as it is constantly shifting focus. This problem is exacerbated by the addition of roughly 17 other characters and their struggles. The result is a film that doesn’t seem to have any purpose.
With a theme that essentially amounts to ‘bad guys are bad but family is #squadgoals’, the movie has to double down on the thrill factor, because there’s no lasting point beyond that. Unfortunately, Suicide Squad goes a little too far in this department. The movie is all style and no substance. Cutting out everything except for the bare essentials, the film feels a lot like a trailer at times (which makes sense because the movie was recut by a trailer house (this feels like Fan4tastic all over again… and the movies are certainly both incredibly painful to sit through)). The problem is that there’s a reason trailers are only a few minutes long.
So while Suicide Squad might be a fun movie to watch in short bursts, it is so incredibly tedious to watch in one sitting. There are only so many song cues one can sit through. While the (messy) structure is evident, there is no emotional investment for the audience. None of the characters grow, and so as the lives of the squad (and the world) are put at risk, the audience doesn’t have any reason to care.
The actors all do a fine job, but there’s not much any of them are given to do. Even more of a shame considering many of them were emotionally abused by cast mates and David Ayer, the director. Not that good art is ever an excuse to hurt those you work with, but it’s clear that the filmmakers spent much more time focused on being edgy than remembering the essentials.
There’s a nice energy to the movie, but a film can’t sustain itself on just being fast-paced. When the plot isn’t dynamic, and the characters don’t grow, one has to ask, “What’s the point?” For Suicide Squad, there isn’t one. Other than making money, of course. That’s why Suicide Squad feels more like a robbery than a service. It’s taking away from the audience rather than giving to them, and that’s the biggest crime of all.