With the Marvel franchise making money hand over fist it made sense for Warner Bros. to try and tap into that market by moving beyond Batman and Superman and getting the DC universe rolling. The process began in earnest with Dawn of Justice, but it really kicks into high gear with Suicide Squad, a group of DC baddies thrown together to do good.
Written and directed by David Ayer, who pulled the same double duty on films like Fury and End of Watch, Suicide Squad had its work cut out for it, looking to introduce many of us to a largely anonymous group of villains while still scratching that action itch.
Please note this review is based on Suicide Squad: Extended Edition, not the theatrical cut.
Set after the events of Dawn of Justice, most notably the death of Superman, we find Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) looking for the green light to assemble a group of criminals that she can leverage into fighting for our side. Among her targets are Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Deadshot (Will Smith), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney).
Initial resistance crumbles after a display of power by Enchantress, and Task Force X is approved with Enchantress’ handler, Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) as the leader. Waller’s tenuous grip on the unit is almost immediately severed, however, when Enchantress escapes and is able to free her brother to help lay waste to Midway City.
In response, Waller calls in the rest of the team, implanting explosive devices to ensure compliance, and sets them against this newly created threat. Task Force X isn’t very pleased with the arrangement, looking for ways to turn the tables on their handlers while Joker (Jared Leto) hatches a plan to spring Harley from captivity. Now humanity’s hope is that, when the chips are down, this group will come together to get the job done.
Unlike so many of the Marvel characters (the X-Men, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, etc.), DC is working with a low level of familiarity outside of cosplay darling Harley Quinn. Faced with telling us who each member of a nine-person team is and why we should care, Ayer does a solid job informing the audience about at least some of the characters.
Harley and Joker get the most back story, delving into the strange co-dependent relationship between the two of them via several flashback sequences, one of which ties in Batman. Deadshot gets to meet the Caped Crusader as well, leading to his capture. The others don’t get as much — Slipknot gets literally nothing — but most are at least given moments to shine.
There’s some good action in Suicide Squad as the team wades through groups of magically enhanced baddies on the way to their objective. The final battle, which serves as the only real head-to-head action between “meta humans,” unfortunately underwhelms.
Attempting to mix character development, plot cohesion, fan service, attitude, humor and action all into one film proves an impossible task for Ayer, and the result is some pacing issues. The film’s first 30 or so minutes is almost like a big montage, introducing everyone, followed by an immediate crisis that forces the task force into action.
Ayer then essentially shoehorns team bonding into oddly timed lulls of the characters walking from one engagement to the next. It almost feels as though they’re checking off paired interactions: hmmm… we had Harley banter with Deadshot, Boomerang tease El Diablo, then Croc knocked down Boomerang and Katana faced off with Harley so now it’s time for Deadshot to mess with Diablo. Oh, and for all the good those backstory flashbacks do, they can kill the momentum.
We’re not sure who the right person to play Joker is after Heath Ledger redefined the character and then tragically passed away before the film’s release, but it wasn’t Jared Leto. Perhaps with a better look Leto’s performance would feel stronger, but the hipster tattoos and full grill are just too much. He’s a sociopath, but he sat still for a perfectly centered “Damaged” tattoo on his forehead?
THE BONUS FEATURES
As you’d suspect, an extended version means no deleted scenes in the extras (despite there apparently being quite a bit of unused footage). What’s there is pretty standard. Lots of interviews and looks back at the comics to see the characters’ roots. Here, though, those background pieces actually hold real value as we’d assume others are in the same boat in regards to not knowing these characters.
Some of the other stuff — an unfunny gag reel (oh, Will Smith slipped!), an up close look at all of the custom weapons the characters use — isn’t as interesting. Still, we’d classify this suite of supplemental materials as a quality effort.
There are a number of fun moments in Suicide Squad: Extended Edition, and though it certainly could’ve had better pacing we wouldn’t let that dissuade you from checking it out.