There is a reason why DC comics, and the characters spawned within them, have always been at the forefront of both my childhood and adult reading. It's not necessarily they're heroic qualities, the outlandish adventures, or the obvious gritty allure; it's the fact that they are so divisive – drawing different opinions, ideals, and creating endless debates.
This is what sets DC above the bar. They're not just narratives for fans, they're historical texts; transcripts to be poured over, and over again, with precision and passion.
What is troubling me, along with many others, is why critics have decided not to take even a small slice of this into their reviews.
The battering Zack Snyder's Batman vs Superman received was so overwhelming. We all felt, if not for the sake of click-bait alone, the essence of the movie was lost through a plethora of torrid opinions. A glaring spotlight shinning ever so brightly on the negative, with little to no mention of the metaphorical ideals, and socio-political reflections, placed carefully within the narrative.
Is it because, in today's world, journalists are required to have their reviews up so quickly, it negates any deeper thought to be translated into print? Or has it become a fad to slander anything that doesn't follow an easily digestible formula?
With my children asleep in their beds, my fiancé at home, and my nerd-alike friend by my side, I sat down at my local cinema ,with my over-sized Suicide Squad cup full of sugar, and soaked in the very first villain movie of our time.
This is my honest appraisal.
Clearly it is too much to ask for people to enjoy a spectacle in today’s world. Before you can see the film a smorgasbord of negativity will have seeped through your psyche, with reviews popping up all over the internet slamming David Ayer’s bad versus evil narrative. If you can stay objective and ignore the negative dross then you will be presented with a fun, charismatic thrill ride which opens up a larger sense of the DC extended universe.
There is an inherently different direction, and formula, that DC and Warner Bros. are taking with their films. So to compare this to their comic-book era rivals, even to its brother movie in Batman v Superman, is a fool’s errand. The director has outwardly expressed that the film was made for the fans, and this term should be taken literally – fanatical. Having a deeper understanding of the characters and the world they inhabit elevates the film. This is not to say those who are not fanatically entrenched in DC comics will dislike it, but the nuanced subtleties will be overlooked.
Admittedly, I had a certain knowledge before viewing the film. These are characters which I grew up with, and have a deep love for. I have read nearly all of these characters in multiple settings, with different origins and motivations. I was therefore intrigued, and believed it placed me in great stead, to see whether or not the actors, and the director, translated this to film.
I believe so.
Margot Robbie nails fan favourite Harley Quinn, with a tragically unhinged performance. You feel a true sense of empathy for the love-struck crazy; a normal life with The Joker is the unattainable desire she cannot stop chasing. Will Smith commands the screen, oozing arrogance and charisma, and has a fantastic to-and-fro with Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag. Again, Ayer invokes the audience’s empathy with short, cleverly constructed backstories, giving us a peek into these characters’ lives and inviting us to see them beyond the normal scope of the bad guy, with Deadshot’s motivational factor being his young daughter.
Thematically, the opening scenes and action sequences are masterful. The establishment of the Squad, where they’ve been, and how they’ve come to be chosen by Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller is perfect. The momentum built at the start adds leverage to the fast-paced thrill ride that bonds the rag tag villains as a team. The pacing does become slightly stagnant towards the end, culminating in a somewhat rushed ending – an unfortunate outcome, but not a deterring factor for the overall film.
The real strength of this film lies within the relationships developed, with a particular focus on The Joker and Harley Quinn.
Any comparison between Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning Joker portrayal and Jared Leto’s take on the clown prince of crime is unjust and unfair. There is no debate that Ledger gave a remarkable performance tailored to the world Christopher Nolan created. Leto’s Joker exists in a fundamentally different world – one that, in my view, is actually closer to the comics than anything we’ve seen before. The Joker has been written about for more than 75 years, so to see a fresh ideology expressed on film was exciting.
As mentioned in the previous paragraphs, the subtleties of his performance might go over some heads but he encapsulated a much truer comic-book Joker than we’ve seen – combining the old notion of Joker’s mob-boss stature with the new-style look, almost directly adapted from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s new 52 Batman comics. Yet despite this fanatical, fine-point detail, one point was universally clear: he entranced and unnerved the audience.
Everyone in the house was wide-eyed when Leto was on screen. At face value, his relationship with Robbie’s Quinn seems quite straightforward. He is madly in love with her and wants her back by his side. Pay close enough attention to certain details, however, and there is a more sinister agenda at play. On the flipside of the coin, Harley’s devotion to her crazed soulmate draws us in to the tragic co-dependency to which she clings.
If you are after the same puréed, spoon-fed, existing action flick, then I advise against viewing this film. If you are fan of comics, and of character-centric stories, then I plead with you to make the time to get to a cinema and view this charismatic, fun, thrill ride.
Suicide Squad represents a step in the right direction for the DC franchise. Its humour, action, and thought-provoking performances are a credit to what is being built for the DCEU, and I, for one, am excited for what the future holds.
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