Suicide Squad is Mostly Dead on Arrival

Anti-heroes are the new heroes. There is a fantastic complexity to characters who have a constant internal battle between what they consider "good" and "evil." It shatters the perception that a hero is someone who is never tempted by the dark side. Guardians of the Galaxy showed a team of mercenaries, assassins and just outright killers banding together to save the universe. Earlier this year, we were blown away by Deadpool and his tale of revenge that lead to him averting a potential world-ending crisis. In that vein, Suicide Squad was born, but there is little good about this group of baddies.

Suicide Squad teeters precariously between two opposing tones that clearly separate both halves of the film. The first half comes off as a popping, teenage boy’s fantasy complete with over-sexualization and bright colors. There are a few laughs in the first half and the briefest of introductions to the characters we should later feel some emotional connection to. Almost right in the middle of the film, the energy drops and the color palette dulls into darker tones. Suicide Squad was unable to keep its stamina through until the end, so it feels like two completely different films.

The second half of Suicide Squad feels closer to director David Ayer's film style, which makes sense considering the film underwent re-shoots to add more humor. After the vibrant glimpse at something dynamic and original, like what the trailers promised, this film takes a predictable turn and falls into every cinematic comic book film trope. Every action becomes obvious and every fight scene takes a nostalgic form turning this into a typical comic book team-up action film that feels less like the consistent Avengers and more like the cheerless Fantastic Four. If the first half felt like an enlivened music video, the second half comes off as more of a concert for a band you've seen dozens of times before, complete with light show and an action-filled final number you know by heart.

The problem with introducing so many new characters into a cinematic universe is that it is basically a free-for-all when it comes to screen time. Suicide Squad's has its obvious favorites when it comes to camera focus, like Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), Deadshot as Will Smith as Deadshot (because of Smith's overpowering/overwhelming personality) and Harley Quinn's lower back half (Margot Robbie). For everyone else, writer David Ayer gives a short backstory exploration that feels like a page flip in Amanda Waller's binder of baddies. In the case of Harley, the extra attention never felt like it equated to anything more than a fetishization. Robbie played her role with a contagious energy, but the film's objectification of her character turned her into nothing more than a sexy cardboard cut-out. Despite all of Harley’s sexualization, there is no mention of her bisexuality, which would have been the only redeemable feature to come from how plagued by the male gaze her character is.

One of the best aspects of the film comes in the diverse representation of ethnicities. I'm not just talking about changing the race of Deadshot (which was awesome and worked well), but the representation of characters like El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and Katana (Karen Fukuhara). While remaining true to their comic book origins, as stereotypical as they may seem, Suicide Squad introduces anti-heroes that no other film franchise has yet to deliver. The "villain" that I'm talking about is El Diablo and he was the best character in the entire film. Aside from being the closest representation of a Latino hero/anti-hero we have ever seen cinematically, his character was given depth, emotional impact and great importance in the story, saving the day during the film's climax. The Joker (Jared Leto), on the other hand, just felt like an unwelcome guest to the story. His appearance came off as the studio's attempt at drawing in a bigger audience by introducing a familiar character, even though he had no importance to the story and actually made the film worse.

Lightning doesn't always strike twice, no matter how many times you try to recreate the original conditions (unless you're The Flash and need to get your powers again). We may never know how Suicide Squad would have turned out if the studio (Warner Bros.) hadn't stepped in to change Ayer's original vision. Trying to recreate the spark from Guardians of the Galaxy ended up dooming Suicide Squad. Despite the film's occasional vibrancy, their overthought in the soundtracking and some great performances, Suicide Squad was not the film we had all hoped it would be. Hopefully this isn't the end for some of these characters, namely El Diablo. We'll likely see them again in the sequel or some standalone film if they haven't given up on creating a DC film universe since the results so far have been less than impressive.

Quality: ★★ (2/5 stars) Queerness: ★ (1/6 Kinseys) Despite the great diverse representation in all of the cast and characters, there is little in the way of representation of any kinds of relationships except for the heterosexual ones. In fact, there are several scenes where Harley Quinn is used as a sexual object either by the director or other characters. She is even offered up as property to another person by the Joker. There aren't even any non-male involved conversations, especially since Harley Quinn's character is trying to find a way to her "Puddin'" the entire film.