As a casual connoisseur of lackluster teen television and movies, one of the most-recurring tropes that I can think of is that of the “cool parent”: the adult who–when faced with a Season 2 divorce plotline–suddenly starts wearing a backwards baseball cap, using teen slang from at least ten years ago, and saying how much they want to be their child’s best friend, not just their parent. It’s meant to be “cringey”, yes, but oftentimes what’s most cringe-inducing about it isn’t the lame joke that the screenwriters intended. The real embarrassment, nine times out of ten, comes from watching the eyes of the poor veteran actor as they are reduced to selling lines about “hanging with the homies” or “getting the bffs over for a girls’ night.”
Please kill me, those eyes say. I can do so much better. You all know I can do so much better.
Suicide Squad, the latest misfire in Warner Brothers’ abortion of a superhero universe, is one hundred and twenty-three minutes of that pained, horrific expression. Viola Davis wears it every time she has to stop having a character in order to provide exposition. Margot Robbie has it every time her character makes a joke from a T-shirt available at Hot Topic. And man, oh man, does Will Smith have it all over his face in literally every single frame that he’s visible.
I could start by writing about everything positive about Suicide Squad, but unfortunately, I just named the only three things that are. Actually, make that two and a half; Robbie drops and picks up her accent so many times during the film that by the end one wonders if Harley Quinn is from Australia, The Bronx, or the Deep South–or, maybe, if the actress portraying her had to do re-shoot after re-shoot in between so many other projects that it had become humanly impossible to keep everything in line.
Yet all of the last-minute edits and re-shoots in the world could not hide the fact that Suicide Squad is, if nothing else, the ugliest and most repulsive blockbuster of all time. For a film that cost 175 million dollars to make, shouldn’t we expect visual effects that look better than a first-generation PlayStation game? Or, for that matter, that the whole film wouldn’t be shot in such low light that practically nothing is visible on screen? I understand Warner Brothers’ desire to make the DCEU the “dark” alternative to Disney’s Marvel, but that doesn’t necessitate making the films themselves literally dark.
Nor does it necessitate the reduction of every character to a cheap, “edgy” stereotype, particularly when such edginess is often more akin to Shadow the Hedgehog than it is Bret Easton Ellis. I understand that some simplification is necessary when dealing with large casts, but does that really evoke the need for a Killer Croc whose longest line is that he wants BET available in his jail cell? Or for the most visible Hispanic presence to date in comic book films to be a caricature of 90s L.A. gang-bangers?
Such shenanigans, coupled with the film’s (not-so-)under-current of casual misogyny, would make Suicide Squad abominable enough–yet the casting of nearly every supporting character drags the film even further downward. Director David Ayer’s script (which he supposedly wrote in only six weeks) is atrocious as is, but in the hands of actors like Cara Delevingne it reaches the same depths of cornball as last year’s Fantastic Four–and then just keeps going. Nothing hits, no connections are made, and yet we’re “supposed” to care about what little plot is actually happening–despite only “knowing” these characters through continuous dumps of exposition, not actual characterization. Most disappointing of all is Jared Leto’s Joker–on screen for a grand total of ten minutes despite receiving top billing–although maybe his dysfunction in the role is schadenfreude for two years’ worth of press of how “method” and “insane” he would make the role.
We are now three films into the DCEU, and not one of them has been anything approaching “good”. The hype cycle of these films–fantastic casting announcements and amazing trailers followed by actual movies that are DOA–has become so routine that it is impossible for me to be anything other than annoyed by a new DC release. Why get my hopes up anymore if they’re just going to be dashed again and again and again?
The last trailer that played before I saw Suicide Squad was for next year’s Wonder Woman. It looks sleek, tight, and nothing short of absolutely incredible. I’m already dreading my trip to see it.