Having been a fan of comic since the ‘Silver Age,' I have watched as many characters, heroes and villains come and go, seeing iconic superheroes have their powers wax and wane. There’s one thing that has remained constant for those decades, the constant rivalry between DC Comics and Marvel. While DC built its reputation on most of the traditionally iconic characters such as Superman and Batman, Marvel secured its position in popular culture through the creation of characters, both good and evil, that represented fully formed and suitably flawed people allowing them to be conducive to forming strong emotional bonds with the fans. Superman may have been the bastion of truth, justice, and the American way; readers found a greater common ground with superheroes like Spiderman who was prone to get a highly visible zit before the prom. The current incarnation of this feud has escalated the stakes to the most intense and lucrative forum possible, the cinematic box office. Marvel has dominated the medium with its multi-level, all-inclusive Marvel Cinematic Universe. They have dedicated many years carefully building the individual components of characters and plot elements. DC has been desperately attempting to match that level of success but thus far has retained its hold on second place. Only recently has DC been trying to create a cohesive cinematic universe with limited success. The most recent addition to this valent effort is the film under consideration, ‘Suicide Squad.' There was a cursory attempt to introduce this team of the worse criminals, but DC has eschewed the format proven by Marvel establishing continuity between their cinematic and television universes. This version of this villainous cabal designed as a puzzle piece in the new Justice League of America franchise. Unfortunately, the film did not attain any degree of success in reaching the goals set by a hopeful studio. The audiences may have flocked to the theater grossing over $750 million, but in contrast the critical community found little to cite in support of the movie’s overall craftsmanship.
In the aftermath of the exceptionally destructive battles depicted in ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,' the authorities were forced to address concerns raised by public outcry. The epic battle between Superman and Batman was in response to the unimaginable collateral damage seen in ‘Man of Steel,' it became evident to both Batman and the U.S. authorities that some means of protection and safeguarding of those in possession of superhuman abilities. It does mirror rather precisely a major theme found in the current MCU. This is something often ignored in the comics, the epic battles between superheroes and inevitably leaves staggering devastation in its wake. When the smoke cleared, the loss of property exceeds and natural disaster and the loss of innocent lives are dreadful. While Bruce Wayne/Batman is addressing this issue by creating a league of super-powered individuals, the government is exploring another mean to achieve the same goals. Intelligence Coordinator, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) devises a contingency play known as ‘Project X’ or more informally, ‘The Suicide Squad.' It was composed of the most dangerous group of psychopathic criminals possible. This rouge’s gallery of powerful, resourceful and devious villains but thanks to a surgically implanted, remote control explosive device in their necks that will separate the head from should in a heartbeat at the first indication of the rebellion of attempt to escape. In keeping with the long-established rules of cinematic engagement, one of the motley crew is sacrificed to demonstrate the severity of the punishment to the group and give the audience of the much violent and provide the audience with a taste of the violent and graphic content that served as the incentive to watch in the first place.
There is an acknowledged problem inherent in an origin story. Such a significant portion of the narrative bandwidth is required to establish the character and introduce them into the environment of the story that microscopic is left to propel the tale forward. This is one reason why Marvel’s approach forged such a solid foundation. Films involving the assembled teams had movies devoted to the individual origin stories. With this effort from DC practically the entire first twenty minutes is a montage of roots covering the numerous members of the squad. This stunted the pacing at the start increasing the difficulty of reestablishing it.
With the membership of the squad many were added but only a few mattered. One of these less consequential with a degree of interest is Chato Santana (Jay Hernandez) also known as El Diablo. He can summon an inferno and when pushed too far transformed into a giant, horned fiery demon. The interesting aspect of this character thread is he has embraced his spiritual side and has vowed never to use in powers to cause harm of destruction.
The one character that everyone was excited about was The Joker (Jared Leto). Following the late Heath Ledger in interpreting one of the iconic villains in the DC universe, Mr. Leto faced an unenviable task of distinguishing his performance after such an iconic presentation that redefined the character. He made the wise decision to forget all other incarnations of the Joker and reinvent him on his terms. This choice gave the story a genuinely psychotic individual that is unburdened by any internal censor. The only other person he has any regard for was his lover/apprentice, Dr. Harleen Quinzel (Margot Robbie), is a psychiatrist in Arkham. The Joker’s charisma was overpowering, eventually deconstructing her personality and rebuilding it his image as Harley Quinn. There has never been a sexier, psychopathic killer ever portrayed. Ms. Robbie’s performance was mesmerizing, captivating the undivided attention of the audience with every singled frame that contains her. She embodies the bizarre mélange of prototypical dumb blonde, clueless free spirit and homicidal maniac presented in a sexually enticing body with a predilection to the minimal deployment of clothing.
The only other villain that manages to carry a portion of the movie is the former king of the summer blockbuster, Will Smith. His trademark dismissive attitude and disdain for authority was perfect to play the master assassin and mercenary, Floyd Lawton better known by his nom de guerre, Deadshot, the man that never misses. Representing the establishment is Amanda Waller behind the scenes and on the onsite commander, Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), who controls the switch that can detonate the implanted devices. For his backup, he brought along the enigmatic, Tatsu Yamashiro / Katana (Karen Fukuhara), with the agility and tenacity of a ninja a sword that steals the souls of its victims. The main villain starts out as a member of the squad, archaeologist and Egyptologist June Moone (Cara Delevingne). She had been possessed by an ancient evil that turns her into the incredibly powerful Sorceress. She has a romantic relationship with Flag that affords him simple control over the Enchantress expressing her personality. When she is allowed out for a mission, she refuses to return instead wreaking havoc as she prepares for the ancient rite to summon her godlike evil brother. Her destructive rampage may be less than the previous films, but it certainly was significant. Ms. Delevingne is the latest in the ongoing trend of models turning to acting. At least her dialogue is kept to a minimum and the dominant contribution to the film is exuding sex appeal while wearing a very revealing outfit accompanied with exaggerated thick makeup and an outlandishly large and elaborate headdress. For once an MTA, model turned actress fund an agent that procured a role that plays to his client’s abilities, a canvas face makeup, a mannequin for insane outfits and minimum lines of dialogue to commit to memory.
As is the case with most new films this the film was released on disc in several formats including the choice between Real 3D and 4K UHD. I received the 3D version for preview, so my final observation is restricted to that version. The use of 3D is better than many of the live action blockbuster comic book movies, indicating the director/screenwriter, David Ayer, possesses a degree of inherent understanding of using 3D as a tool in the art of storytelling. It is non-intrusive particularly in the non-action sequences adding visual details that reinforce a sense of reality. During the many epic action sequences, the illusion of depth is well deployed enhancing the dynamic nature of the scenes. The film is off from the current bar set for comic book derived films, but it serves as a good popcorn flick.