Let me get some things out of the way…first: I have never written a movie review before so bear with me on this. I’ll hopefully get better at analyzing and studying movies each time I post a new review, so this one may not be too great. Second: I am not an avid comic book reader (or a comic book reader at all), so my views on the subject are based solely on the film itself (writing, directing, editing, etc.). Third: I am not a superhero movie fan, so this review may be a bit biased. It takes a lot for a superhero movie to impress me, such as The Dark Knight and even Captain America: Civil War, but for the most part I find that each film follows the same formula mixed with interchangeable heroes. This being said, I was excited for Suicide Squad. In fact, I couldn’t wait! When I saw the first Comic-Con trailer around this time last year, I was impressed. This looked like a movie within the superhero sub genre that was going to be different. It was centered on villains, after all. This trailer was dark, edgy, menacing, original, and looked like it could be taken seriously, which was how I originally envisioned the movie. See it below.
Then the next trailer debuted. It looked a little something like this.
An incredibly different tone is displayed while advertising the same movie. This does not come without reason, though. Director David Ayer was forced to re-shoot many key scenes to give the film a “lighter” approach after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, its DC Cinematic Universe’s predecessor, received criticism for its “dark” tone. In my opinion, I didn’t think Dawn of Justice was that dark – especially not to the point of changing another movie because of it. This is where Suicide Squad‘s first mistake was made: the tone of the film felt so lighthearted when the subject of the story itself wasn’t. The film centers around a U.S. intelligence officer rallying up a group of super villains to use as disposable soldiers in dangerous missions. It seems like a different approach to the typical superhero film, yet it still has many similarities. The protagonists are not traditional heroes. They’re not exactly willing to go on these missions and their initial goal is to be freed from their prison sentences once the job is completed. They do accomplish their mission, however, in an “epic” CGI-heavy battle that looks all too familiar.
While the plot itself falls a little flat, the actors do not. I thought Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, and Joel Kinnaman among others excelled in their roles. As I previously stated, I am not a comic book reader, so many of these characters were introduced to me for the very first time. However, I was familiar with Harley Quinn, who was portrayed perfectly by Margot Robbie. I couldn’t imagine any other actress to play her, and apparently neither could the casting directors – Robbie was their first choice for the role. And of course, we cannot forget what may have been the biggest draw (and for a time, controversy) surrounding the film: Jared Leto as the Joker. After seeing’s Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight, I think everyone could have agreed the next person to play the Clown Prince of Crime had some rather big shoes to fill (no pun intended). He’s no Ledger or Jack Nicholson, but Leto gave us an interesting spin on the Joker, differentiating himself from the two previous big-screen portrayals of him. My main complaint was that he was not a threatening character, but I imagine they will establish that better in the next film he’s in. Though I know he’s not a member of the Suicide Squad and didn’t really have much to do with the whole movie, I found the Joker’s scenes to be the most enjoyable. I understood why he wasn’t as prevalent in the film (like he was advertised), but a large part of me wished he could have been. And he could have.
When the studio insisted that David Ayer make cuts and re-shoot scenes, they made him change the entire movie. Jared Leto himself said, “I think there’s probably enough footage in this film for a Joker movie. If I were to die tomorrow maybe the studio would roll something out. [There’s] a rated-R or a rated-X performance in there somewhere.” This gave an explanation as to why the tone of the film had changed so much from the Comic-Con trailer to the first “official” trailer. It seemed as if Ayer had been going for a darker movie, even finishing up filming it, but the studio wanted to play it safe and give it more of a “fun blockbuster” feel. This decision didn’t bode well with critics, who mostly reviewed the film negatively. But it didn’t hinder audiences wanting to see it as it has made $267 million at the box office so far. Ultimately, that’s what the major film studios seem to care about: the millions of dollars these movies make. Meanwhile, filmmakers are forced to change their vision to adapt with the studio’s and churn out a typical “safe” superhero film when they most likely had something else in mind. I wanted the Suicide Squad that I saw in the Comic-Con trailer. A part of me believes that was the Suicide Squad David Ayer wanted, as well. But it’s not what we got.