Suicide Squad (15.)
Directed by David Ayer.
Starring Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Cara Delevingne. 123 mins.
Here endeth the summer of meh, the summer of mildly disappointing or mildly enjoyable blockbusters, the summer when every choice between a two/ three star rating has been a coin toss, now concluding with this nothing special supervillain version of the Dirty Dozen. Let's put on a big smiley Joker face and admit that this is nowhere near the funeral dirge that was Batman Vs Superman and if you are in a generous, forgiving mood you may quite enjoy it. Putting on a grumpy Killer Croc face you'd have to say that it is visually undistinguished, surprisingly small scale, not particularly funny and asks us to spend time with some of the dullest, least engaging comic book characters imaginable in a story that is both underdeveloped and badly told.
But never mind that, what's Jared Leto's Joker like? Well, hardly in it for starters, though his presence may be indicative of the film's wider issues. In his preparation for the role he supposedly sent rats and used condoms as gifts to his cast mates, and researched sociopathic behaviour. That all shows admirable commitment but also makes it seems like he's overcompensating, that's he's trying a bit too hard. Trying too hard is the mayor issue with this film, and all the fledgling DC superhero films. Warner Bros used to be quite a classy operation, investing in films with bold, clear and distinctive visions. Now it seems to be clattering around like some desperate reality star, drumming up lots of noise to grab our attention but then stressing out and falling to pieces when people turn to look.
The flaws in Suicide Squad are all exactly as you'd fear them to be. Basically it's too early to make this film, probably about a decade too early. You need to really establish your brand, as Marvel did, before you try these big ensemble pieces. (And lest I be damned as a shill for a Marvel, I can think of a few Marvel films that are worse than this.) So you spend around a third of the film introducing your cast of characters because no one's seen them before in the movies, and then none of them turn out to be interesting anyway. Because Will Smith is in it, his character becomes the centre and though Smith is fun to watch his character, Deadshot, is just a master assassin and deadly shot, which is very dull indeed. It's like casting Channing Tatum as Hawkeye, and making him the leader of the Avengers
Margot Robbie's turn as Harley Quinn, the Joker's girlfriend, gets the most attention but I think if you put any half decent actress in that costume, you'd get much the same effect. The same may be true for Leto as The Joker, which as a role is both poisoned chalice, and open goal: Nicholson and Ledger are almost impossible acts to follow, but the role is so strong (the best comic book character ever?) that you can't really miss. Possibly the best performance is from Jai Courtney, as Captain Boomerang who basically does Tom Hardy with Australian accent. Of course, the fact that he's playing someone who robs banks with a special Boomerangs may be at the heart of the film's problems.