The highly anticipated Suicide Squad has finally opened in theaters, and a lot of fans are wishing they were still waiting in anticipation. It’s probably better than the disappointment that’s washing over us.
Across the board, critics and the common fans alike are finding the same problem. I quickly discovered that my passionate explanation immediately post-film about how “the actors were all very good and the characters were a fascinating, well-rounded group but the story was such a chaotic shitshow” was echoed in review after review after review. Most fans, even several people who thoroughly enjoyed the film, seem to recognize the failings of this movie. They’re glaring. Sloppy storytelling, nonsensical structuring, leaps of faith that are too large for even the most intuitive audiences–the list goes on. Opinions concerning Jared Leto’s Joker are also mixed, though I suspect that has far more to do with the character’s complex and very involved past in the hearts’ of fans. Margot Robbie absolutely slayed as Harley Quinn, Will Smith surprised many with his incredible performance as Deadshot, and Viola Davis was a delight as the truly undelightful Amanda Waller. Diablo. Killer Croc. Captain Boomerang. The little we got from Katana. As a matter of fact, there was really no bad acting in the lot. Individually, the characters were fascinating (with the exception of Rick Flag, who I found to be kind of a wet noodle). The most honest and enjoyable moments came when the Squad was left to their own for a brief time, allowed to be the despicable rascals with clearly human motivations that make them so interesting to viewers. You’ll find few complaints of acting and character development here.
But the plot. The story. The weaving, winding, inconsistent tones. Now, there are rampant rumors about the existence of two films and which scenes exactly were cut/reshot, and whereas I am personally dying to see the other version for comparison, I feel more inclined to dismiss the other cut’s existence in order to discuss the film that we were given.
I won’t disagree with the fans who are touting the plot as “straightforward” and direct, because at heart, Suicide Squad is relatively basic. What we get for the main brunt of the film is Enchantress, the powerful ancient being that possesses Ms. June Moon, seizing control and starting a random blood war with the new gods, machines, in order to regain the love and worship of humanity. June gets a few minutes of timid screentime with her guardian-turned-lover Rick Flag before being taken over by Enchantress, albeit in the coolest effect of the movie. So Enchantress wants to regain her status in ancient times. By destroying everything and transforming humans into grotesque blobby beings. Sure. She’s mad. She’s destroying things. She needs to be stopped. Sociopath Amanda Waller has an idea. Bad guys gonna save the world. Boom. Plot.
Mix in a side story in which the Joker launches his plan to free Harley Quinn and a bonus June Moon/Rick Flag romance to round out our subplots (status: currently crying about the missed opportunity here).
Yeah. We can say that the “straightforward” descriptor is earned.
Here’s the problem: most of the action of the film is inexplicable and just doesn’t make much sense.
As an audience member, I generally appreciate it when a film assumes I’m clever enough to make subtle connections and find the thread connecting seemingly unrelated moments. But when Suicide Squad does it, it just feels like they forgot to finish filming a scene. Especially when it came to the Joker. Seriously, what was he even doing in the movie?
(Aside from providing a big, recognizable name that would fill seats. Shhh.)
If you spend more than 3 seconds thinking about it, the Joker’s involvement in the movie not only added NOTHING to the plot progression but also made zero fucking sense. No, really. None. Most of the nonsense stems from these insane leaps of logic we were expected to make.
When did Joker give the order for a phone to be delivered to Harley? How did he know that a Suicide Squad was being put together? How did he know their plan of attack and movement timeline?
The groundwork for these answers is there. But instead of making a connection, it felt like I was making an excuse so I could accept the non sequitur and move on with the movie.
Joker knows the precise movement of the Suicide Squad and the actions leading up to the formation of the Squad. Therefore, we must assume that he has a very powerful connection on the inside. Otherwise, how is he privy to the super top secret orchestrations being put on behind the scenes? I mean, this dude even knows the manufacturer of the death chips our Squad is implanted with.
We must assume that his connection exists, in order to justify the knowledge he should otherwise not have. However, we have not even the slightest reference to Joker having a man on the inside. No indication that he has an informant or even a powerful web that reaches into the branches of the government and keeps him at the top of his crime scene. All we get are a few scenes filled with batshit crazy exposition and some vague torture scenes–and suddenly there’s Joker popping up in the precise location the Suicide Squad is in with complete knowledge of not only their plans but also which copters will be hanging around ripe for the taking.
Oh, and don’t tell me his big powerful connection is the guard he assaulted–the one who’s sweet on Harley. Please, try and convince me that dude knows shit about Amanda Waller’s orchestrations. He probably got the call that she was visiting like 5 minutes before her plane landed and watched, mouth agape, as she ordered these deadly criminals to be carted off and set loose upon the world. Let’s just not go there.
So the dude is obviously powerful. He’s obviously extremely well-connected. But it’s radio silence concerning his acquisition of this knowledge. All we get is his obsessive, overwhelming love for Harley and the message that he’ll do anything to get her freed. This lovesick puppy just wants to get his Harley back. And maybe it’s more a matter of Joker not liking his toys taken away; maybe it’s the obsessively insane drive to reclaim what he considers his and nothing else. But that’s not how it plays out on screen. And that’s worrying on an entirely different level, especially for those with any knowledge of Harley/Joker’s relationship.
Speaking of relationships, the dramatic, heart-wrenching love story between June Moon and Rick Flag was, well, neither of those things. I’m not sure I’ve ever been less sold on a romance. The movie basically told us ‘Hey these two are in love’ and just expected us to roll with it. What was supposed to be a passionate love story torn apart by the reemergence of great, ancient evil was a lackluster tool meant to keep the plot afloat. Warner Brothers had an opportunity to tie in the Joker and present a true all encompassing romance here, and they failed on both counts. It would have made far more sense to juxtapose June Moon and Rick Flag’s honest, natural love with the abusive, crazy passionate terror that is the Joker and Harley. Watching Rick Flag struggle with June’s possession and following the desperate plan to get her back could have played so nicely against Joker’s possessive quest to attain Harley once more. Look at that, a reason for the Joker to be in the movie! But that’s none of my business.
Look, I really, really wanted to like this movie. I’ve been waiting in anticipation for ages. And I tried. It wasn’t all bad. But the plot was overwhelmingly awful enough to force a blanket feeling of disappointment walking away. I know they said this was the final cut…but I’m still holding out hope for a director’s cut, or at the very least some deleted scenes.