Suicide Squad is the most frustrating movie I’ve seen in 2016.
For the first 25 minutes or so, there’s a better than average chance you might like Suicide Squad, written and directed by David Ayer (Fury, End of Watch). The film opens with Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller pleading her case to a bureaucrat that, after the death of Superman (the film picks up after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), extreme measures need to be taken to ensure the safety of the fictional citizens who live in the DC Extended Universe. This extreme measure involves the use of criminals as a motley team of heroes. Everything about this premise, as a movie, sounds fun.
We are then treated to a series of scenes, using flashy graphics, to introduce us to this future team. First up is Deadshot (Will Smith), who is so good with firearms he never misses a shot. After this you’ll probably think, That seems like a pretty “grounded in the real world” talent, I can buy that. When we meet Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), a thief who is good with a boomerang, you’ll think, Okay, that seems like an esoteric talent, but, fine. When we meet the Joker’s girlfriend, Harley Quinn, you will most likely think, Margot Robbie seems to be having the time of her life, this will be fun.
Sure, when we meet Jay Hernenadez’s El Diablo, it’s a bigger stretch because he has the ability to shoot flames from his body. But, hey, this is a superhero movie. And, yes, Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) looks like a human crocodile. But, still, this all works. Every single one of these villains is self-explanatory. And they are all going to be led by a no-nonsense special ops soldier named Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman) whose job is to keep everyone in line. At this point, right now, we’ve got the makeup of a pretty good movie.
Which leads directly in to Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller explaining to a room of government officials, “Oh, and our last member is June Moone. She’s possessed by a 6,000-year-old supernatural witch spirit called Enchantress. But don’t worry; I have her heart in this briefcase, which allows us to control the witch. Look, she’s going to be great. Trust me.” That’s when I started to have that nervous, “Uh oh,” in my head. You know, that feeling when you just know a movie is about to go off the rails.
It was about 20 minutes later I leaned over to a colleague sitting next to me and asked, “Does any of this make sense? I don’t know what’s happening?” And he replied, “None. No sense whatsoever.”
I am going to try my best to explain what happened around that mid-movie moment the best I can. (Please bear with me, there’s a point to all of this.) One night, June Moone (Cara Delevingne) turns into Enchantress and teleports to Midway City. She finds a stranger in a train station bathroom and turns him into her brother. (At no point is it ever mentioned that she has this ability.) In almost the next scene, Rick Flagg and June Moone (they are in love, by the way) are both in Midway City on a mission to destroy Enchantress’ brother with a bomb. Moone becomes Enchantress and double crosses Rick. Amanda Waller starts stabbing Enchantress’ heart, but it doesn’t kill her because Enchantress’ supernatural brother has the power to fix all that. Then, in the very next scene, Rick is back in Louisiana training the Suicide Squad like nothing just happened.
It’s the most baffling thing. Enchantress and her brother then spend the rest of the movie dancing around a train station, building some sort of portal (it’s unclear if the portal does anything except spin in the sky) and turning citizens of Midway City into blob monsters with an end goal of taking over the world. (At least I think that’s the goal; it’s a little unclear because they never really get far from the Midway City train station.) And that becomes the Suicide Squad’s first mission: To rescue an unnamed important person from Enchantress, whom most of them never even got a chance to meet even though she was briefly a team member. (Which all sets up an ending that is remarkably similar to 1984’s Ghostbusters, but not in a particularly good way.)
Okay, I mention all that because it is unbelievable to me not one person involved with this movie at any point said, “You know, we have a pretty good thing going here, but maybe our villain is all a bit much? Does our villain have to be a supernatural dancing witch? How about a Russian terrorist instead? Or, hey, you all realize Joker is in this movie with not a lot to do, right? What if he was the villain? Doesn’t it make more sense for the Joker to be the villain than a dancing CGI witch?”