Margot’s Movie Jettisons the Joker:
This third event of the DC Extended Universe has had a lot of pressure on it after the lacklustre response to Man of Steel, followed by the outright, frankly bizarre, hostility towards the flawed but underrated Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
For me, writer-director David Ayer’s Suicide Squad contained quite a few surprises, mainly because I was unfamiliar with the material.
The conceit here (and in this it works as a direct sequel to BvS), is in the premise put forward by ruthless government operative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who is as much of a psychopath as anyone in the film, blurring constantly the entire hollow idea of good guys and bad.
She sells her superiors on the idea that with Superman they lucked out, in that he cared about people; but that the next time – and with a rising number of metahumans (love that word) being detected – they may not be so lucky. To this end she takes a group of imprisoned wrong ‘uns and in shades of Escape from New York has an explosive implant injected into their necks which ensures their very reluctant obedience.
The Sad Old Bloke Finds Love
One of those surprises I mentioned came in the unlikely form of Will Smith as the lethal assassin Deadshot. Smith is an actor who generally makes me grind my teeth and utter lots of four-letter words due to his patented brand of phony, smug, ‘loveable charm’. In Suicide Squad that charm actually comes across as real and works because it isn’t as self-conscious as it normally is. And the rapport between him and fellow prisoner Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is marvelous and genuinely affecting.
And where do I even start with this character? She was formerly a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum where she was supposed to be treating the untreatable Joker (Jared Leto) and instead fell in love with him. We see absolutely NO reason as to how on Earth this could happen. We’re just left with a very unsatisfying ‘love is strange’ option. From being supposedly normal she is now utterly demented, extremely dangerous and yet capable of feeling deeply. As she might have put it herself, she is hardly ‘a typical textbook sociopath’.
As played by the gorgeous Robbie she is mesmerizing. Not only because she is so breathtakingly beautiful but also because this woman can really act. She is the very best thing in the movie and when she was onscreen it was impossible for this Sad Old Bloke to take his eyes off her.
Is That the Joker I See on the Floor?
Now…the Joker. What happened here? I’ve done my best to avoid reading the advertising blitz on this that seems to have started at least a year ago (and in fact hadn’t even watched the trailer until yesterday) but it has been impossible to avoid the photos of Leto in character. And I can’t say they overly impressed me.
Those frigging tattoos, for a start. I just could in no way imagine the Joker sitting still for long enough to have that kind of neat, planned look to him. Well, time to wipe the egg off my face because I now see just what the actor was trying to do.
This is an entirely new Joker – it’s not Nicholson and it’s certainly not Ledger – who comes across more as a genuinely frightening control freak than as an emblem of anarchy. Yes, I could imagine this methodical character having those tattoos or meticulously writing HA! HA! HA! over the walls of his room. In a strange sort of way you could almost say that Leto was playing him contained and straight. He’s cold and manipulative and to my eyes the love between Harley Quinn and himself was just a little on the uneven side: she’s really a bit of a Joker-accessory to him.
And there is one truly powerful image when this disturbed maniac lies surrounded by meticulously arranged weapons. In that moment he doesn’t look comic book insane; he just looks insane.
But that’s it! We are horribly short-changed considering that Jared Leto as the Joker has been one of Suicide Squad’s big selling points. And I can only imagine how the actor (who stayed in character throughout the filming and supposedly never even met Will Smith) feels. We really needed even just one big scene to cement him in our minds in the way that Nicholson or Ledger are. But there’s nothing. I just feel that an awful lot ended up on the cutting-room floor. Why, I don’t know.
And here’s another thing: the editing throughout is odd. The set-up where Waller explains each villain is clunky in the extreme. The whole first hour or so is highly entertaining but we could have been introduced to these people far more deftly. The single best scene may have been in the deserted bar. These characters are really comfortable with each other; and despite being mainly solitary types they really are a good team, even down to the devolved human Killer Croc, played by Mickey Rourke without makeup Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaie – and there’s a name that doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue.
Honorouble mentions, by the way, to Jay Hernandez as el Diablo and Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerang. Cap could have been just another Australian stereotype – strewth, mate, put another shrimp on the barbie — but instead he would be a scene stealer if my girl Harley Quinn weren’t in it with him.
Yeah…anyone who has read this far has now noticed that I’ve been staying away from the plot, something I’m going to continue to do because I actually rather enjoyed this movie — but that pretty much goes out of the window with the mention of plot. Suffice to say that it brings in the supernatural in a complete mis-step and descends into the usual CGI, suspense-free, explosion-filled nonsense that always seems to let these movies down. And before I forget, I was really pissed-off at one point when for no discernible reason the audience got talked down to by a totally unnecessary recap in case we were all brain dead.
God, now I’m thinking of it. I mean, I have nothing against the Enchantress and Cara Delevingne is just fine in the role but exactly what is the point in creating repulsive Lovecraftian Deep One-looking things if all it takes to kill them is a damned baseball bat?
But as I say, there were a lot of strange decisions with the cutting of this movie. In fact, I would have been prepared to believe that Ayer was forced to change and chop a lot, but for the fact that he says it is his movie and he’s happy with it. And I kinda like the guy for that.
So…overall? I preferred Batman vs. Superman because I like dark chocolate; but there’s no question that Suicide Squad is a hell of a lot more fun. And it’s got Margot Robbie in it. If she were playing Wonder Woman next year I would have started queuing already.
Oh…and Powers that Be? After his cameo here, you really HAVE to give Ben Affleck that standalone Batman movie. Simple justice demands it.