Margot Robbie licks her chops as Harley Quinn. There's scenery to be chewed, boys!
Ha! HA HA! HAHaHAHAHAHaHAHAHAHaHAHA!
Oh it’s rich — The kind of surreal heist only the Joker could love. Get this: In its opening weekend Suicide Squad — a qualified stinker — took in $135-million for Warner/DC. $135-MILLION. Now that’s some superdoopervillainy right there. Jesus, we deserve better films. And I don't mean snootier films, I mean we deserve better popcorn-munching comic book romps.
Money in the till notwithstanding, almost nothing about this film is successful. Worse, the on-screen talent’s actually a pretty good match for all the bad guy buddy characters. Solid if never outstanding performances by Jared Leto (Joker), Will Smith (Deadshot), and Margot Robbie (Harley) may leave viewers with a nagging sensation that there’s a much better Suicide Squad lighting up movie screens in some remote corner of the multiverse.
The big takeaway from Hollywood’s latest go at projected pulp: David Ayer is a flat-footed action director. He also wants to fold some Batman '66-era camp into Zack Snyder's overly-grim DC cinematic universe, but can't get the formula right. Instead of flowing into one another propulsively, Suicide Squad’s dueling styles and storylines trip and stumble over one another until they tumble, ass-over-teakettle, into a toxic goo. The primary conflict pits Task Force X — AKA the Suicide Squad — AKA a bunch of lethal villains who do extra-double-plus-crazypants dangerous dirty work for the US Government in exchange for time off their multiple life sentences — against a pair of evil psychedelic demigods from before the dawn of time. That criminally lame story is interrupted now and then by Leto's Joker who’s simply trying to rescue his gal-pal Harley Quinn.
The supernatural siblings may look like they were borrowed from one of Ken Russell’s more hallucinatory films, but their bad guy objectives are never clear so they pale in comparison to a malevolent Joker, who’s living large in his gangsta-clown paradise.
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Ayer likes to drop Leto into heavily art-directed environments that call to mind musical theater elements in films like Kung Fu Hustle, and Moulin Rouge. But he never has the wherewithal to go full Baz Luhrmann. Frankly a “what would Christopher Walken do” dance number, or a full on Busby Berkeley showstopper wouldn’t be completely out of place. One Harley/Mr. J montage already borrows from an animated episode of The Batman where the crazy lovebirds ride around in a long sleek car, performing Hank Williams barn-burner, “Setting the Woods on Fire.” Why not just go for it?
As other critics have already pointed out, Robbie’s the brightest dime in this mud puddle. As the Joker’s psychotic shrink turned sidekick with benefits she very nearly steals the show. But Leto’s foreshortened appearances are a good enough teaser for future crappy movies.
At this point I don’t think it’s fair to expect anything too satisfying from the Snyder/DC team-up. It's an alliance that builds out its franchise at the film’s expense every time. Everything is prologue, and it's never past. But with a $135-million opening, and a full slate of future projects in the works, maybe it’s time to completely reset our standards for these kinds of films. In this one murky, bumpy, intermittently fun shot, Suicide Squad rolled out a lot of potential. It infused the DC universe’s underbelly with grit, character, and color Marvel’s Hydra baddies wish they had. So, in spite of the badly staged action and a soundtrack so painfully literal it really makes you appreciate Guardians of the Galaxy, Suicide Squad appears to have done everything it needed to do. Now, with Wonder Woman and Justice League on deck the question is whether or not DC will ever arrive at chapter one.
The fans are there. There's excitement for the material. But how many feature-length trailers will audiences endure before going all Dr. Manhattan. Which is the comic book version of "going Galt." Which, in the Objectivist parlance Steve Ditko apparently loved, means getting outside the cycle of bullshit (taxes/ticket fees) to live out your life in mutually apocalyptic indifference.