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Roundtable Review: Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad was one of the most anticipated film releases of the year, and it’s undeniably spectacular marketing campaign gave DC fan’s across the globe some serious wings, promising to fulfill their every squad wish. Then the critic reviews arrived, grabbed everyone by the seat of the pants and promptly brought them back down to earth as they massacred the film with what resembled unforgiving borderline prejudice. The hate for the film right out of the gate felt like overkill, with some even delighting in tearing it to shreds much like they had with 2016’s Batman v Superman. It seemed impossible – did DC and Warner Bros. really mess up twice in a row? And if so, how?

The film and its critical response have prompted the kind of media mess you could only wish on your worst enemies. An angry fan started a misguided petition to shut down ratings website Rotten Tomatoes, which accumulated 22,303 supporters (of which is owned, ironically, by Warner Bros.). Critics, after putting their horror into numerous scathing reviews then developed meta discussions on the future of DC, the company’s standing against rival Marvel Studios, and the film’s R-Rated character stories being disturbingly packaged as a PG-13 summer blockbuster for kids. And more recently, Jared Leto has been getting candid about his disappointment in his part of the film, and there’s been the joyous wide-spread sharing of a YouTuber pulling the film apart one plot hole at a time. The film has also settled at a ‘rotten’ rating of 26% over at Rotten Tomatoes, which officially makes it 1% worse than its franchise predecessor Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice. They say bad publicity is good publicity, but Suicide Squad has been hammered hard.

Despite this, it has surpassed $500 million at the box office and will continue its latest run in Germany for some time before finally opening in Japan in September. It probably won’t be enough to get it past the $1 billion mark at the rate in which its ticket sales are dropping, but it has proven itself a blockbuster hit, even as it continues to get dragged across the playground.

Love it or hate it, a few of us here at Talk Nerdy made our own minds up and discussed our findings. Were the bad reviews justified? Or was it everything the fans wanted? James, Arlene, Traci-Anne and myself talk Suicide Squad below:

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How familiar were you with the source canon going in?

James: I’m only tangentially aware of the comics themselves, updating myself every so often with a quick Wikipedia trip. I know most of the characters, however, from being an avid fan of the various DC TV series in which they’ve been featured. There was an episode of Justice League called “Task Force X” that was absolutely fantastic. CCH Pounder voiced Amanda Waller.

Arlene: Not very. I knew that there WAS a Suicide Squad: But I also know The Way of Canon in Comics – alternate universes, ultimate crisis, Batman, Frank Miler’s Batman. Basically, any writer can justifiably come up with anything in the comics, so if there’s a canon change in the movie it doesn’t bother me.

Traci-Anne: I’ve read some of Gotham Sirens and a couple Harley Quinn comics, but beyond that, I don’t really know the canon.

Sam: I knew fragments from the trailers and pieces of info that had been dropped on me by the comic book fiends I went to design school with. Not that prior knowledge should be necessary for a film like this. If a first-time film needs its audience to have knowledge of its source material to understand it, then it hasn’t done its job.

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Hits – What worked for you?

James: Everything Margot Robbie did was wonderful. She singlehandedly made the film watchable. Very little in the film made sense, but Harley’s psychotic, so that didn’t matter. And all the dudes were hot.

Arlene: Hands down, it’s the cast. Everyone was awesome, Deadshot, Harley, Boomerang, Diablo, Killer Croc, Katana Girl, The Enchantress, Flagg, Waller. Great performances. I have loved Will Smith forever; Margot Robbie is now my favorite actress.

Traci-Anne: I loved the interactions between Harley and Deadshot. The blooming friendship and closeness between them was wonderful. I ship it. And the way Deadshot felt about his daughter was beautiful. He was willing to do anything for her.

Sam: The action scenes, pieces of the humor, and 80% of the cast. The suicide squad themselves were on point and I liked them all enough to want to see it through.

Misses – What didn’t?

James: Oh, boy. I’ll have to watch it again because my friends keep bringing up good points about why the movie isn’t that bad. But from what I remember: The scenes had absolutely no flow. We moved from one moment to the next as the plot demanded. The love story between Col. Flagg and Enchantress was some poor writer’s attempt at answering the question, “what keeps Flagg here?” Except, they never took the time to explore the relationship, so there was no depth. It was the equivalent of your parent giving, “because I said so” as an answer. In the animated series, Flagg was there because he loved his country and that was enough. The characters, in general, suffered from the same lack of depth. We knew their backstories, but we still didn’t know them. They were all doing what they were doing because the plot needed them to in order to move forward. At least Harley made it funny. Jared Leto. I’m not sure how I feel about him. It’s difficult to divest his off-screen antics from his acting, so the Joker just seemed to be Leto’s trying too hard to step out of Ledger’s shadow.

Arlene: The pacing at the beginning. The set up was a bit of a slow burn, and I was worried at first, but then it did definitely pick up.

Traci-Anne: They made it seem like the Joker was going to be the main antagonist when he was in like 5 minutes of the movie. And the plot of rescuing Amanda made no sense. Who were they rescuing her from? She was in charge of the whole op. Was it just a test?

Sam: The film’s basic storytelling – or lack thereof. Some of the punch lines fell flat. The casting of Enchantress. The story and the visual effects around Enchantress. And whoever elbowed their way into the editing room and thought they could do better. The editing made this film feel like a series of necessary story chunks had disappeared into the ether.

What was your favorite part of the story?

James: Watching the team together confront Amanda Waller and then immediately go to the bar.

Arlene: The way they made “bad guys” human, i.e. the relationships. Deadshot’s relationship’s with his daughter, Diablo’s tragic loss, Boomerang’s pink unicorn. They way Katana talked to her sword. Even Harley’s weird love for Joker. Robbie really sells it. Also, I liked the way they bonded throughout the film.

Traci-Anne: Definitely Harley and Deadshot’s interactions. Every time they talked to each other was amazing.

Sam: Watching the squad work together as a team out of their own self-preservation, then as they worked together as a team because they kinda wanted to see each other prove the world’s assumptions about them wrong. Even if this particular development seemed to come out of thin air.

What was your least favorite part of the story?

James: Everything else, especially El Diablo’s reveal as this, like, Aztec god. So you’re telling me that technically, he and Enchantress are from the same region of South America, both humans possessed by magical beings, but he still loses? Ike Barinholtz’s character being blackmailed. Why is he even in this movie?

Arlene: Once again, I’m going with the opening set up; it was slow and choppy.

Traci-Anne: How small of a part Katana actually played. I was really looking forward to more of a story behind her and her husband, but it was just a passing sentence.

Sam: The dud villains. They weren’t scary, or intelligent, or even particularly motivated. They were just two butthurt entities throwing a tantrum. They weren’t half as useful to the film’s plot as the filmmakers thought they were.

What was you favorite part of the production?

James: The costumes were absolutely stunning. The cinematography of the opening scene, featuring Harley doing gymnastics with fabric was just… marvelous.

Arlene: Loved the costumes and character designs especially. And loved all of the soundtrack and how they used the songs.

Traci-Anne: The point when Diablo transformed into that giant fire beast was amazing. That fight sequence was one of the best parts of the movie.

Sam: The cinematography. Each shot was nicely designed, even if the editing chopped at the flow of things.

What was your least favorite part of the production?

James: I don’t notice production aspects all that much, truth be told. I’m more of a story/character guy. Unless it’s particularly bad or fantastically good, I don’t notice.

Arlene: Whatever it was the Enchantress was building — most of the time looked just like the sky in Florida before a hurricane. It didn’t look or feel threatening until late in the film.

Traci-Anne: That god awful movement Enchantress/June was doing was so awkward and unnecessary.

Sam: The god-awful editing. I have a feeling that a lot of necessary plot markers were left on the cutting room floor.

What could the film have done with more of?

James: Character development. We needed more time to connect with each of these villains to understand their actions, to root for them beyond the Hollywood reason “because they’re the main characters”.

Arlene: Katana. What a great character. A few more laughs – Marvel knows how to cut up during even their most serious moments.

Traci-Anne: Having an actual cohesive plot would have done a lot to improve the movie.

Sam: Equal character development for all. Suicide Squad may as well have been named The Deadshot and Harley Quinn Show. Which is fine, cause I liked them. But it ended up overlooking Katana who I would have liked to see more of, and Boomerang, and Diablo. There was a lot of dead weight they didn’t utilize. The film probably could have done with more time too. A lot of things felt like they were missing half of their explanations. Allowing more time would have remedied so many things.

Anything the film perhaps should have left out?

James: Ike Barinholtz. Not his character. Just him.

Arlene: I think it had already done it – trimming back Jared Leto’s screen time as the Joker was smart. He could easily have become overbearing and obnoxious, even for the Joker.

Traci-Anne: I can’t think of anything the film should have left out because all of my issues were that there was not enough of stuff. So many things were glossed over.

Sam: I’d agree with Traci-Anne there. There wasn’t enough stuff in there, to begin with.

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What performances did you enjoy the most?

James: Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, Will Smith, Cara Delevigne’s weird spastic Enchantress physicality.

Arlene: Harley (Robbie) and Deadshot (Smith).

Traci-Anne: Will Smith as Deadshot and Viola Davis as Amanda Waller. They both showcased a depth to their character that the other characters did not.

Sam: Will Smith. He felt like the heart of the film. Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn was a joy to watch. Viola Davis is a class act and I will watch anything she is in. She managed to sell so many lines that lesser actors would have struggled with .I liked Jared Leto’s rendition of the Joker, too. He was difficult to get a read on which I think was perhaps what he tried to do with the role. 

What performances did you least enjoy?

James: Ike Barinholtz.

Arlene: I wouldn’t say “least enjoy” – I think Flagg needed more to do – and be, he was just “the boyfriend” really. And while Viola Davis was definitely good as Waller, I so love CCH Pounder and I missed her.

Traci-Anne: Cara Delevingne was stiff and uncomfortable to watch.

Sam: Cara Delevingne. She. can’t. act. And the guy that played Killer Croc, but that was mainly to do with the fact that his part was so minimal and unnecessary. The character didn’t add anything to the group physically – the soldiers around them were just as capable of doing what he did. The film even had a special swim unit that made Killer Croc’s whole presence towards the end of the film redundant.

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Had you read any critic reviews before seeing the film?

James: I’d seen headlines.

Arlene: Nope. I started hearing bad buzz almost immediately and didn’t want to know. It also helped that I was out of town at a convention so I couldn’t take the time to look stuff up even if I did want to know.

Traci-Anne: I read tweets and fan reviews, but none from professional critics.

Sam: I did indeed. But a bad film review isn’t going to stop me from seeing a film I want to watch.

Do you agree with them?

James: Absolutely. This film was a hot mess.

Arlene: No. Plot was slow, not muddled, I thought the characters were as developed as they could be in an introductory ensemble film and the end? What was wrong with the end? So, no.

Traci-Anne: I agree that the move is bad, but I don’t think it is the worse movie ever made.

Sam: Oh yeah. The critics weren’t wrong at all, but they did make it out to be far more unwatchable that it was.

Did reading those reviews prior help or hinder your experience with the film?

James: It definitely skewed my experience of the film. I went in expecting a train wreck and what I got was a train wreck, but with zero casualties. It allowed me to more easily focus on what I did enjoy about the film.

Arlene: Not reading them prior, going in with no expectations helped my experience with the film.

Traci-Anne: Neither. I already had feelings about it, based on Jared Leto during promos and the corniness of the trailers.

Sam: I found they helped. Knowing how bad the editing was made me acknowledge it and then put it aside. I enjoyed the film for what it was instead of being disappointed by what it wasn’t. And had I gone in without knowing what to possibly expect, I would have been royally confused and pissed off at Jared Leto’s notable absence from most of the film – though at the same time, I kinda find it thrilling that both the Joker and Col. Flagg appear as boyfriend accents to Harley Quinn’s and Enchantress’ stories. How many female characters in film history have existed purely to further a male character’s storyline? That’s a welcome trope-flip for me.

Overall grade out of ten (and why).

James: 5. Enchantress’ motives were unclear, Flagg and June Moone’s romance was hasty, the entire film (pacing, storylines, character introductions) was slapdash. But it was still a fairly enjoyable summer romp and I’d hate-watch it a couple more times.

Arlene: A good solid 8. Probably the best thing Warner/DC has put out. And the score is mainly for the acting. I just loved the cast.

Traci-Anne: I give it a 4. It was fun and entertaining, but it was also full of plot holes and weak writing. I’ll probably never watch the movie again.

Sam: Imagine this movie is a puzzle. The pieces are made up of the actors, the director, the cinematography, the story and the music. Now imagine that some paranoid Warner Bros. exec panicking over the mess that was Batman v Superman has forced the puzzle’s creator out of the way so he could put this puzzle together himself. In his panic, he’s assembled it with pieces cardboard-side up, others have been destroyed in the fuss, and some don’t even fit and have been forced together with sheer force of will. Despite that, the puzzle still kinda works? But it’s now one hell of a mess. That’s how I feel about this movie. The film is in there somewhere! It’s assembly has simply let it down. It would be interesting to see David Ayer’s director’s cut. I have a feeling it makes a hell of a lot more sense than the film I paid to see. 5 out of 10.

Written by Sam Pedley

I like food, sleep, and binge-watching television shows in place of being productive.

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