Imagine that you are a fly on the wall in the upper echelons at Warner Bros, awaiting the reviews to come in for Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. The embargo has been lifted and the champagne is ready to be popped as surely everyone would love seeing their two favorite superheroes put on screen. Then, the unthinkable happened. Critic after critic slammed the film, calling it out for many different reasons and killing all the hype. This plus the terrible word of mouth meant that BvS failed to break the billion mark, something that seemed certain at the start of the year. Warner Bros needed something to save their DC Universe and all that pressure was heaped on Suicide Squad.
With Superman now dead, the government are forced to to prepare solutions to if another super-powered person appears and it is actually evil. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis, The Help) comes up with the idea of forcing the bad guys they have arrested over the years being forced to work for them, and this gets approved and put to work when an incident happens in Midway City.
Immediately, it is pretty obvious that DC are seeing this as their dark and twisted version of Guardians of the Galaxy. And by pretty obvious, I mean slammed down your through. In the opening three scenes where we briefly meet Deadshot, (Will Smith, Men in Black) Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie, The Wolf of Wall Street) and Amanda Waller, about five different well known songs are played back to back. Someone saw the response everyone had to the soundtrack to Guardians of the Galaxy‘s soundtrack and just wanted that BUT MOAR! And it’s just too much. None of the songs are bad, heck if anyone of you fancy getting me a present for Christmas this year you can buy me it because it’s a hell of a playlist, but it’s just too much too quickly, and it’s very try-hard.
Actually, try-hardiness is a big issue with the film in general. As you might be able to tell from the film’s marketing, this film really wants to be a rebel. The naughty kid in the back of class that flicks spitballs at the teachers and makes smart arse comments that makes everyone else laugh. It does that through its bright greens and purples, the way big bold letters come out and give you a quick bio of the characters, including Harley Quinn’s which you have to look out simply because it sent the internet crazy back in August, and the way everyone insists they are the bad guys. This doesn’t come off as the amusing naughty kid, but his try-hard mate who thought by hanging around the naughty kid and repeating his jokes made him cool and rebellious. Instead though, it marked him out as a prick and that’s how this film comes off.
That’s not to say the film doesn’t have its fun moments, because it certainly does. The entire cast have good chemistry and is set up well enough to make sure that when they do interact with each other. Will Smith is once again basically playing a version of himself again, but he does it so well you can’t be angry like you should be and end up being charmed by him. Margot Robbie is also fantastic as Harley Quinn and manages to get her madcap ways out there in such a funny and amusing way, yet it is worth mentioning that the tragedy of her situation as a Stockholm Syndrome lackey to the Jokey (Jared Leto, Requiem for a Dream) isn’t played down and she plays that well to. Oh and any film that some how manages to make the usually charisma free Jai Courtney (Divergent) one of the funniest things in the film deserves all the credit you can possibly give it.
However the one person none of the cast has any chemistry with is the villain, which is the Enchantress (Cara Delevigne, Paper Towns). I suppose telling you this is a bit of a spoiler, but to be quite honest you know this by now and it’s not the biggest twist in the world. And this villain is possible one of the worst in comic book film history, potentially rivaling Sharon Stone’s character in Cat-Woman where she tried to take over the world using evil makeover. When she gets loose, she wants to kill everyone which is standard villain stuff, but why? Well apparently we used to worship her but now we don’t, so everything has to die. And not only does she have a terrible motivation, but she tells us this motivation through the most generic, cookie cutter dialogue you can possibly think of, because this film honestly didn’t care about making her a threat. And to rub salt in the wound, the weapon she creates to destroy the world is, as Deadshot puts it, ‘a swirling ring of trash in the sky’ which has been done in so many superhero films now it ranks as one of the most irritating clichés you can put in one, ranking just ahead of parents killed as a child. that bad. Oh and if you are wondering why I haven’t mentioned Jared Leto’s Joker in this part, well I’m giving him as much time as the film did. None.
But the most egregious error this film makes is in the tone. I’ve already mentioned how this film tries really hard to be a rebellious cool movie, something remarkably different from not only other blockbusters but other films in the DC Universe. Well, it’s very obvious that this was an idea very late into the process as like the others in this cinematic universe, it was originally intended to be a dark and dingy affair. The complete lack of morality from Amanda Waller, Harley Quinn’s transformation from doctor into crazed girlfriend, the story of why Diablo (Jay Hernandez, Hostel) gave himself up to the police. These are very obviously leftovers from a film that was meant to be very depressing with the story of the movie going to be a redemptive arc for these truly nasty people who had the tiniest bit of hope left. Then the executives saw how Batman v Superman did not hit expectations, how Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy were surprise hits and that the film they were going to release was nothing like the cool trailers everyone released. Then re-shoots and re-edits happened, and it made the film a Frankenstein sort of thing. And now I must repeat what I always say, commit. If you have a dark script, shoot it darkly and believe in the product because we’re not opposed to darkness by default. You give us a great dark film, we’ll love like we did The Dark Knight. Just do it properly and not just bail at the first sign of trouble.
You know it’s weird, because I could go on about the flaws in this film as there are far more. The shocking editing at the start of the film which ruins what could potentially be a very exciting chase scene between the Joker and Batman (Ben Affleck, Argo) is galling and really gets the movie off on a bad foot, which is very tough to recover from when you have many other flaws to deal with. Yet despite that, I can’t say I hate this film. It’s amazing about a very talented cast can do to elevate a movie and I would be very happy to spend more time with these characters, even if they are bad guys. The action is pretty decent as well, other than the climactic one where you can barely tell what’s happening because of the amount of rain and smoke. So you might enjoy this one, as I certainly enjoyed plenty of it, but there are still a lot of flaws which means this isn’t the one to sell us on the DC Universe. It’s up to you now Wonder Woman.