So here we are again. Critics hate a movie. People who have talents, skills, interests, and friends like a movie. Who do you trust? Us, of course. The happy medium. Nerds who love to hate things but also love to love things. So here’s my review. I’ll try to keep it as spoiler-free as possible, but be forewarned: I loved Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Even more than I loved Man of Steel. Take my thoughts and know that ahead of time. Here are the five main reasons I loved Suicide Squad:
1. The casting. Will Smith’s comeback is a (pleasantly surprising) great combination of bad guy for hire and likable deadbeat dad as Deadshot. Viola Davis pulls off one of the most complex roles in comic book movie history with equal amounts of class and sass in Amanda Waller. Margot Robbie nails her role as psychiatrist-turned-psychopath (and DC’s answer to Deadpool), Harley Quinn. The rest of the ensemble, full of D-list villains and heroes without consciences, are well-cast and not overdone. There’s enough screen time for each to hint at a fun backstory, but not enough to overshadow the main characters. The same can be said for the two Justice League members who make cameo appearances. And then there’s Jared Leto as the Joker. The only thing wrong with this is that he doesn’t have his own film… yet.
2. The story. What’s better than a comic book movie that knows it’s a comic book movie? A comic book movie that starts off as one, but then grows into something bigger, stronger, and smarter. This is my biggest problem with the Disney/Marvel films so far. They have some decent casting, sure (who doesn’t love Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man?). They even have some big name talent behind the scenes. But when it comes to that third act, they’re all the same. Like, exactly the same. This one is different because there’s an actual sense that, you know, everything might not be all right in the end. There are believable character arcs and poignant scenes of bad guy heart-to-heart realness throughout, but it’s that finale that really made me go “Wow… this is different.” In a good way. Think The Dirty Dozen meets superhero, err, villain team-up. And yes, it absolutely works.
3. The special effects. Comic movies require that we suspend our disbelief. But if the final act all hinges on the good guys showing up and effortlessly defeating the villain just in time to set up the next movie, it all becomes a bit boring. So when we have a villain going up against a group of villains who don’t really know what’s going on (or how to stop it happening), it gives the director some wiggle room in terms of ramping up the crazy. And when the villain is as crazy as the one in this film happens to be, there’s even more room. These special effects are fun from an action movie standpoint throughout, but it’s really that final battle that makes it a cut above the rest. Man of Steel and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice were the first time I’d seen a comic book movie with characters I’ve loved since childhood done right on screen. But this is the first time I’ve felt like I was actually watching a comic book on screen.
4. The heart. Marvel movies try to do this each and every film, but fail because they blow it with a cheesy one-liner. This film does that, too. But then there’s the fact that they are all, well, bad guys. It shows good directing when you can take actors who are usually not the most well-received by large audiences. But it shows great scripting and acting when you can make characters this despicable not only likable, but actually sympathetic. Especially when one of them is a giant crocodile and another is a cold-blooded murderer who literally abandons the team to their deaths when the chance shows up. A well-placed joke works when you’re Joss Whedon. But Whedon only directed two of the thirteen Marvel movies. And to be fair, he writes every single character as if they are played by Downey, which, sadly, they are not. DC gets it. If nothing else, they know how to make a comic book movie with actual consequences and stakes. And characters who are true to the source material without being afraid to adapt to large moviegoer audiences.
5. The Joker. I’ve saved him for last because, well, duh. He’s the best part of the movie. And here’s why: Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger were great. Blah blah blah. I get it. And I agree. Ledger gave the performance of of his career. Nicholson is one of the world’s greatest living actors. These are both true statements. But Leto has repeatedly given the performance of his career. Every time he makes a movie. And Leto is also one of the world’s greatest living actors. Which is a sadly dwindling list. And though Nicholson captured the humor of the character (perfectly) and Ledger delivered the scare factor that makes the character timeless (also perfectly), Leto did the unthinkable and not only did both, but with two added bonuses: He did it in less screen time and he also included a sexuality to the character, which simultaneously made him disgusting and, well, fascinating. Never before has an actor been more deserving of an Oscar… if nothing else for his behind-the-scenes method acting antics.
All in all, this was a fantastic film, for comic fans and for non-comic fans. It’s an action movie that has some standout performances, great cinematography, and a stellar soundtrack. It acknowledges previous films, but you don’t need to see them to “get” it. It sets up future films, but not at the cost of the standalone feature’s integrity. Do I want a sequel? Yes. But do I really just want to see Amanda Waller square off against the Justice League and the Joker show up in the upcoming solo Batman film? Absolutely. And you’re lying to yourself if you don’t want those things, too. Even if you did hate the movie and have already stated why countless times from your mom’s basement.
My Rating: 5/5