Suicide Squad: Suicide squad, indeed

What Marvel achieved by painstakingly releasing film after film to establish its superheroes, DC tries to do with hyper-stylised minute-long intros for the dozen characters that populate—no, crowd—Suicide Squad. Here’s Deadshot (Will Smith); he’s a hired gun who has never missed a shot. You nod in glee, excited to meet the next one. Here’s Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie at her maniacal best); she is a former psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum who got too attached to… The Joker, and ended up becoming a ‘crazier, more dangerous’ form of him (Ha, like that were possible!). But you nod along anyway, and don’t quite care that they never explain where she gets her abnormal agility from. Next. Captain Boomerang. Next. Killer Croc. Next. The Enchantress. And on and on it goes before you give up in fatigue and wonder why they had to cram so many characters into the film in the first place.

Director: David Ayer
Genre: Superhero
Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto
Storyline: A group of supervillains have to function as a team to thwart a deadly enemy

Part of the enjoyment in watching these films is seeing how the interpersonal relationships between the superheroes—in this case, supervillains—play out. What happens when Iron Man’s vaingloriousness clashes with the dedication of Captain America? What happens when the rage of The Hulk meets the mental resilience of Black Widow? That’s why the bits I liked in the film concerned Deadshot and Harley Quinn, who share a unique friendship, a relationship so important that he doesn’t mind missing his target, even if it means suffering a loss in reputation. Even that rushed track of the love story between Harley and The Joker, as crackpot as it may be, is deep in a way that much of Suicide Squad isn’t. Alas, such moments are sparse in the motley, bungled, cacophonic mess that is the film. And devoid of them, the action scenes seem quite inconsequential… especially those concerning the zombie-like creatures created by the villains, The Enchantress and her brother, Incubus.

Heroes are only as good as their villains, and the ones in this film are no good. The Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) is an ancient sorceress out to destroy the world because she doesn’t quite appreciate how civilisation is too obsessed with machines to pay obeisance to her. Somewhere along the way, she discovers what appears to be a voodoo doll, and manages to revive her brother. It’s all quite hazy, and you absorb all of this in resigned fashion. Towards the end, there’s a scene in which she’s shaking and shivering, like those posessed in our temples do, and tries to appear dark and menacing. It just leaves you fighting an urge to laugh out loud.

As for our villainous heroes, they are too easy to control. When Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) first brings them together, you don’t envy her task. Surely, it cannot be easy to make a group of dangerous sociopaths work together. But she implants small explosives into each of them, and apparently, that does the trick. The occasional threat from any of them is quickly quelled by her showing a mobile phone app (everything The Enchantress stands against), and threatening to detonate the bombs. I couldn’t believe that somebody as maniacal as Harley would let herself be manipulated by such a threat. The Joker definitely wouldn’t, and isn’t Harley supposed to be more unpredictable and dangerous? While on The Joker, Jared Leto is criminally wasted in the measly part. In a film about a bunch of deadly villains ganging up, it’s inexplicable that The Joker, that master of wanton destruction, doesn’t have much to do.

Towards the end, there’s supposed to be a warm moment when Harley, who pulls a ridiculously predictable trick on the braindead Enchantress, refers to those in the Suicide Squad as friends, but you feel nothing. You never understand why she wasn’t lusting for revenge after The Joker is thwarted by the ruthless Amanda Waller, but you ask nothing. You know it’s ridiculous that while her brother is being burned to a crisp by El Diablo, The Enchantress stands watching, belying no emotion, but you say nothing. None of it matters. You recognise by then that Suicide Squad had long lost its plot, and there is but little point in securing quality medical attention for a dead person.

This review was written for The Hindu. All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to this page if you’d like to share this review.

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