“Suicide” Blitz: Did David Ayer Save DC Movies?

Well, a LOT of us saw “Suicide Squad” this weekend. And a LOT of us didn’t like it all that much. Alex Kirschenbaum, Armani Barron and TJ Morrison break down why.

Alex: My rating: ** 1/2 stars out of ****. This was disappointing, if not as awful as so many folks have claimed it to be. I had no expectations for “Batman v Superman” when it came out in March, but “Suicide Squad” really looked like a winner. From enlisting David Ayer (writer/director of solid adult action movies like “Fury” and “Dark Blue”) to casting charismatic movie stars instead of, you know, Henry Cavill, right down to its great trailers, “Suicide Squad” looked to be a real rebound from the first two Zack Snyder entries into the DC Extended Universe cannon. Instead, its incredibly erratic pacing

Like “Batman v Superman” and “Man of Steel” before it, the most generous thing you could say about the story of “Suicide Squad” is that it’s mildly coherent and loosely plotted. It’s really more about establishing its characters and world building, and that’s not such a horrible thing in principal before things totally devolve in the third act. That’s when we’re confronted with the meat of the conflict, which is such a boring, typical digital slugfest that it’s a massive downgrade. Some of the main baddies-turned-reluctant good guys are pretty fun, but it’s so overcrowded a movie that it wears on you.

There are a lot of erratic tonal choices, from darkly wacky to strained attempts at poignancy with the Will Smith character. Some of it does work, Margot Robbie’s demented Harley Quinn and her on-again off-again “puddin,'” Jared Leto’s demented gangster Joker being the most fun characters. As a fan of the Bruce Timm/Paul Dini “Batman: The Animated Series” and its various spinoffs in the ’90s, it was really cool to see Harley Quinn so fully realized as a live action character. Robbie, in her second big-budget summer flick (after “The Legend of Tarzan,” a relative failure that nevertheless has generated $312.5 million worldwide), almost reaches Michelle-Pfeiffer-as-Catwoman levels of awesomeness her. As a fan of Batman in general I really dug seeing Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) in the flesh. I’m not sure how much of his getup was CGI and how much was makeup, but the effect is spectacular. He isn’t given much to do at all, and he’s so loosely established that we have no idea of how he turned out the way he did physically, a scaly reptilian half-man/half-crocodile. Come to think of it, we also have no idea what he did to join the ranks of Quinn and Will Smith’s Deadshot as “the worst of the worst,” a crook so bad that squad founder Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) had to “lock them in a hole and throw away the whole.” Some of the characters we stay with are set up with a similar fleeting carelessness, while others are established in minute detail. But hey, at least everyone has self-consciously “cool” intro. music, mainly ’60s and ’70s classic rock (plus “Black Skinhead”). That’s pretty damn grating.

The main plot with the distractingly thick-eyebrowed model-turned-actress Cara Delevingne’s witch character, Enchrantress, was awful, her transmogrified minion creatures had digital makeup that would have made the hand-made makeup artisans of the original “Star Wars” TV series blush, and her graphic effects display was so shoddily realized that it wouldn’t have looked out of place in a movie from 1996. But in 2016… yikes. She’s also an awkward fit tonally with the Suicide Squad’s gritty street baddies.

It was cool to see Ben Affleck’s Batman here and there arresting bad guys in flashback sequences, and I’ve got to say, I’m really looking forward to the Ben Affleck-helmed spinoff movie, provided it boasts The Joker and Harley Quinn in some capacity. I’m also looking forward to those two, Deadshot, and Killer Croc as returning figures in the DCEU. There is promise here, with fantastically gaudy production design and character get-ups, fun camerawork (until the indecipherable digital battles after the midway point), and the aforementioned interesting baddies-turned-temporary-goodies. But “Suicide Squad” ultimately can’t get out of its own way. It’s clear that giving Ayer just weeks to write a shooting script really hurt; I also don’t see why this couldn’t have been an R-rated movie. “The Passion of the Christ” was a hard R and it raked the cash in. Compromising the product to make a PG-13 rating feels short-sighted.

Armani: First I want to touch on the sloppy intro to each character. It felt extremely rushed, yet also really slow. They spent 7 minutes on Deadshot’s run in with Batman (Ben Affleck), but were 1000 times more effective with providing you with a 45 sec Katana backstory. Overall the pacing just didn’t make sense.

Also I didn’t like the backstory narrated by Viola Davis. Like why not just let the flashbacks happen?

On a Harley Quinn note we don’t know if her powers come from the electric shock by the Joker or the toxic waste she fell into. Actually as a whole their relationship has moved in a completely different direction than the comics. In reality the Joker could care less about her and she was more a devoted follower than anything. This whole love story is basically more fanfic then rooted in history.

The fact that Enchantress was the villain was also a huge let down. Like why did she even want to destroy the planet again? I did like the hand turning effect that was used in her original appearance. I agree that they should have gone a more naturalistic effects route with her. It would have been alot better to have Cara covered in mud and just moving around weird than super unnecessary polished CGI.

…Actually now that I think about it 90% of this movie was flashbacks.

Hahaha. Yeah there was a VERITABLE POTPOURRI of flashbacks with highly disparate lengths for sure. And they were sprinkled throughout the movie, right up to the end where we get a SECOND El Diablo motivation story. That was kind of hard to get behind. I didn’t mind the Viola Davis explanation, stuff like Croc and Katana wouldn’t have been a great fit if we didn’t get a little context.

Back to Harley Quinn — it seems like HQ’s zaniness was sort of encouraged by both the electroshock stuff and the acid. I thought dipping into that would scar her face a bit or something, but instead I guess just swallowing that much stuff might have just… affected her mentally, or something? I dunno, that was pretty unclear. You could also read it as her just proving her commitment to the cause, and it didn’t really have any permanent after effects. Yeah, the Joker in “The Animated Series” and the subsequent comics was more apathetic about Harley Quinn. For example, I watched an episode of the original show last night after seeing the flick, called “Harleyquinade,” where the Joker (voiced by Mark Hamill) plans to blow up the entire city, and clearly hadn’t made any plan to rescue Harley Quinn (Harlene Sorkin, current wife of Christopher Lloyd) built into his escape timeline.

Rolling Stone’s David Fear seemed to find Quinn simultaneously the best and most disappointing thing about the enterprise, because her ceiling is probably the highest. He bemoaned the fact that she’s a bit underutilized (he thinks she’s really underutilized, but I respectfully disagree). I’d agree, it would have been great to see more of her, and I’m really glad that she’s been pencilled in for her own spinoff movie.

BUT they’re planning on overstuffing the spinoff movie with too many characters, apparently.


Don’t blow your wad all in one place, WB. These are characters with years and years of comic book back story to exploit! Monetary opportunities will be missed! Speaking of the comics, in that medium Harley Quinn has become an empowered feminist super-villain, although she’s in a weird relationship with the Joker that follows a pattern of systemic abuse. In the comics, she’s also an anarchic lesbian with a mean streak, a fascinating web of contradictions.

Another thing that really bugged me — why the hell is Cara Delevigne playing an archaeologist (the body that Enchantress inhabits)? She looks 15! Which makes her romance with Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) quite disturbing. I dunno. I also thought the resolution of their romance was a severe cop-out.

Armani: Honestly this whole thing was a missed opportunity. It would have been nice if their powers had been rooted in reality and there was actually blood and gore. Like thinks how great it would be if they had actual cuts and bruises by the time they finally made it to enchantress? Like couldn’t one of them just be injured? Aren’t they all just humans after all (except Killer Croc, whatever he is)? That’s what these movies need. To be rooted in something approaching reality. If no one ever gets hurt then no one cares. The most interesting part of the entire movie is when Deadshot “shoots” Harley Quinn…and only because there were actual stakes (we know how much Deadshot wants to be reunited with his daughter).

Allsssoooo like why did they have to pretend to be rescuing another group of army men when they went to Midcity? Like it was a “twist” that didn’t need to happen…Also like you’re gonna tell me the monsters couldn’t get into the room Viola Davis was in when they were coming through the fucking ceiling?!

Rick Flag = annoying. He votes against his best interests like a poor Republican. Why did any other normal army guys come with them?

Also what happened to that native american villan?

We could have gone the whole movie without the Aussie.

Also wouldn’t you assume that El Diablo can’t be killed by a bomb?

I’d give this move * 1/2 / **** stars. 1 because I liked the soundtrack. 1 more because I actually liked Jared Leto as the Joker. If anything I wish we could have just gotten more of HQ and the Joker in their daily life. Like what did their apartment look like?

Wait I just remembered that Enchantress says a line that literally makes no sense. It was a modern day word and I can’t remember, but ughdgjdksf it was so stupid.

TJ: I think my issue with this movie lies there in microcosm. This movie took every opportunity it had to be good, and instead used it to TRY to be cool. In some cases, it succeeded. In most cases it failed miserably. Also, the plot was aggravatingly brutal. I tried to give a shit, I really did. I actually felt invested in Will Smith’s Deadshot. He was dope… The pimp get-up on his daddy/daughter date was a bit much, but there’s comic book justification for it. The point is, I liked him. And I liked Harley. I even like the more sideline members. I liked Leto’s Joker a lot more than I thought I would. I liked so much about this movie, and I still could not bring myself to hand over a single shit. And that makes this even more frustrating. So yeah, the try-hard vibes coupled with the snooze-inducing plot made this a huge bummer for me. Also, it needed an R rating, and it could’ve worn it like a badge of honor. Kids would’ve seen it in (more? just as many?) droves.

My verdict: ** stars out of ****.

Did 50% of the budget for this flick go to the music?

Armani: I think the real issue with super hero movies like these is that they go too heavy on the supernatural route. Like in Dark Knight its has exciting because we relied on the more human elements to drive the plot. Way less superpower exmachina. A

For example. When Enchantress read Viola Davis’s mind wouldn’t it be cooler for her to be levitating in just a contorted position and you see her eyes frantic? But no we got some dumbass led wire going to her brain.

And why did Enchantress need to build a machine? Can’t she just witch up some lightening?

I mean if we wanted to see any super hero special effects it needed to be Katana’s soul stealing AND the effects of it. Like does the person go to hell? Is their spirit trapped in her sword?


Alex: Well if we’ve learned anything from this movie it’s that Harley Quinn loves alcohol and coffee.

I totally agree about the supernatural element. It’s a horrible fit, a square-peg-into-round-hole situation. David Ayer’s heart clearly wasn’t in this element, which is a problem because it’s supposedly the main conflict of the movie. And like you said Ayer and co. exhibited zero creativity in his they showed any of the magic elements. It just obliterated the record for an August opening weekend, PS.

And I concur that they blew a LOT of money on unnecessarily “cool” music that’s been overused in movies since at least 1996. 20 years later, it feels like a choice that’s just as lazy as whatever the hell they were doing with the Enchantress.

Anyway, we’ve rambled on long enough about a movie none of us liked all that much. Any final thoughts?

Armani: I just want to say, I hope they learn from this when we see the next Joker movie.

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