I finally relented and saw Suicide Squad. Despite going in with the lowest of expectations after Batman Vs Superman I was pleasantly surprised to see a competent film, much better than recent DC offerings. Unfortunately, Jared Leto’s Joker character is an annoyance that the film cannot get around.
As with all DC films in recent years’, there is a pervading sense of darkness throughout the film. Women are treated badly and the main characters are so unlikeable that you don’t care what happens to them. To counter this Suicide Squad focusses on two likeable main characters. Will Smith’s Deadshot and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. Both are excellent characters for a film of this nature but even they are not without faults.
The story is a simple retelling of The Dirty Dozen. A group of criminals is offered the chance to improve their situation by taking on a suicide mission that no one else would do. The film begins with a quick background characterisation of the individuals in question. Unfortunately, the characterisation focusses only on Deadshot and Harley Quinn. Deadshot is the typical assassin who never misses. He does everything so his daughter can have a better life and never kills women or children. We get a few scenes showing Smith’s prowess with weapons before he is captured by Batman. In order to keep his character strong, he is shown getting the better of Ben Affleck’s Dark Knight before his daughter stops him killing Batman. This leads to his imprisonment and recruitment into the Suicide Squad. Smith plays the character very straight. There is no deviation from the fact that he is an honourable criminal as we are reminded about it at every opportunity. Despite the good performance from Smith the character of Deadshot is one we have seen a million times on film. From Leon to Wanted. He doesn’t add anything to the cookie-cutter formula of the honourable assassin.
Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is a much better character and in fact, carries the film. The origin story of Dr. Quinzel is shown as she interacts with the Joker before becoming infatuated with him. Robbie plays the character for laughs and sex-appeal but also adds a colder darker side that shows how mistreated she has been by the Joker. He abuses her and mentally tortures her making her the female version of him. Unlike the Joker, deep down there is a schizophrenic side to her that longs for a normal life. If she had not become infatuated then maybe she would have the normal life she craved. Robbie fulfills her eye-candy aspect with a number of revealing outfits and one-liners. Despite this, she is fulfilling the character perfectly. There is no grey area with her criminality. She is a psychopath who will kill and maim without a moment’s hesitation. There is no fake honour as there is with Deadshot. Harley will hit you with a baseball bat and smile before blowing a kiss at your corpse.
Unfortunately, the rest of the Suicide Squad are so underdeveloped that I struggle to remember their names. Killer Croc is the stereotypical muscle of the group and Diablo is the psychopath who doesn’t want to unleash his true power. All of them could be interesting if they had their origin stories fleshed out. Unfortunately, they don’t so we don’t care. Carla Delevigne’s Enchantress is a character suited for a more sophisticated film. The main antagonist in the film, she is the weirdest split personality/possessed character seen in recent years. With the utterance of ‘Enchantress’ Delevigne’s normal girl next door look is transformed into the Enchantress, that looks like she emerged from a swamp. She is a witch with more power than anyone, only kept in check as the CIA agent controlling the squad has her heart in a box. Her normal character is in love with the field agent in charge of the military operation Rick Flag. Again an underdeveloped stereotype of a character who adds nothing to the film other than to question Deadshot’s honour and do a bit of alpha male posturing. They are there to serve a purpose but unfortunately are not memorable and hopefully will be dropped for the inevitable sequel.
The question of a sequel brings us to the inevitable tumour in the movie. The Joker. Before I rip him apart, Jared Leto actually gets the mannerisms and characterization of the Joker spot on. In a more murderous, spiteful and abusive version of Heath Ledger’s Joker, Leto plays it well and close to comic books like The Killing Joke and Brian Azzarello’s Joker. Unfortunately all his fine acting work is undermined but the actual look of the Joker. It is horrendous and the one thing that these series of movies will never recover from. All the controversy that people have created since the original reveal of his ‘look’ is justified. He looks as threatening as Justin Bieber with green hair. There is no mystery about the character, no overt reference to his comedic nature and nothing to portray him as what he should be The Joker should look initially curious before he reveals his psychotic nature. Leto’s Joker puts everything out there on his own skinny body. The metal caps on his teeth, the tattoos, the smiling face tattoo on the back of his hand instead of being on his actual face all scream focus group to the viewer. This is a scattergun, brainstormed Joker look without any cohesion. The look is so horrible, that any moment he appears or is involved in the storyline, the image of a metal toothed, grinning, skinny moron appears in your head. It stops any pathos being built up in his horrible treatment of Harley. In fact, he is so bad that when you feel he may not appear for the rest of the film, you breathe a sigh of relief. The Joker should be a central character in any film he is in, yet in Suicide Squad he is memorable for all the wrong reasons. He is only in the film for around seven minutes yet even this outstays his welcome. He looks like a focus group attempt at making the Joker seem ‘gangsta’. You half expect him to say ‘bitch’ at the end of every phrase like Jesse in Breaking Bad.
If you can get past the aberration that is The Joker, Suicide Squad easily is the best of the DC movies so far. It didn’t have much to beat, but it is enjoyable enough to sit through and throws up at least Harley Quinn as an engaging character.
Dude, did you even watch this movie?
Leto’s Joker is spot on. It’s refreshingly demented. The trap in which he kills the “gang banger” for calling Harley a “bad bitch” made an audiences uncomfortable all over the world. Which brings me to your line: “You half expect him to say ‘bitch’ at the end of every phrase like Jesse in Breaking Bad” Did you not see this scene? Thinking that he would add that at the end of his sentences when he kills a guy for saying it … well it doesn’t really show you have much insight to the character played in this movie. Leto’s Joker takes a stand in the “does Joker love Harley or not” question that is ambiguous throughout the comics and animated series. Leto’s Joker wonderfully portrays the craziness with which Harley loves him, but also captures the internal struggle of a psychopath who indeed loves another human.
Thanks for the comment. In case I didn’t get it across. I thought Leto’s character of the Joker was spot on. The issue I have is with the look. It is the look and aesthetic that keeps bringing me to Jesse in Breaking Bad or one of his friends. If Leto’s portrayal was wrapped in a different skin, he would be an excellent Joker. Unfortunately, I can’t get past the look.