Suicide Squad: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

 

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If I had to put it to numbers, I’d say that Suicide Squad is approximately 70% “my thing”.

The 30% that isn’t is largely comprised of the following: violence against women being brushed off or used as humor, most of the male/female relationships (and the fact that there are no positive female friendships or relationships in the squad), Katana basically not getting to do a lot beyond fight scenes and a few emotional moments, Slipknot being killed off within minutes of his introduction to prove a point, how David Ayer reframes Harley and the Joker’s relationship (and her characterization), and the Joker himself.

Had Suicide Squad come out in 2007 when I was a fresh-faced high school senior, I would have loved it entirely from the start. Of course, 2007!Stitch wasn’t as focused on picking out the problematic elements in the media they consumed as 2016!Stitch is.

As it stands, I actually enjoyed Suicide Squad almost as much as 2007!me would have. I went into the film kind of hopeful, having read several reviews that were really critical of the film but trying to will DC into having better luck with this film than with Batman Vs Superman (which I saw in theaters and hated but then, when I got the Ultimate Edition, came to understand it a bit more).

And you know what? It was entertaining as hell to watch.

It was a messy, murky movie with way too many close-up shots of Harley Quinn’s ass, but it was also fun, surprisingly sensitive in several parts, and had a pretty fantastic soundtrack that I can’t stop listening to.

Now, I’m an expert at writing overlong reviews (just look at my Spectre recap for an example of me at my most long winded), but I figured that the easiest way to get everything across without boring y’all to death would be to look at the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of Suicide Squad.


The Good

I love the soundtrack and have been listening to it on repeat since I saw the film on the fifth. WOW! Highlights are “Heathens” by Twenty One Pilots, “You Don’t Own Me” by Grace ft. G-Eazy, and “Slipping into Darkness” by War. (The soundtrack could’ve used more Black women but as I think this about literally every piece of media I consume… No surprise there.)

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I didn’t expect to love Deadshot as much as I did. I’d known of him from various animated film appearances and from following Briton (whose Tumblr username escapes me at the moment), a huge Deadshot fan, but again, that’s about it. I straight up fell for Will Smith’s portrayal of the characters because I felt that he got the best treatment out of everyone in the film. He got to be a badass gunslinger (SERIOUSLY MY TYPE) and a sensitive dad who loves his little girl Zoe more than anything and anyone on the earth. He also really made the Deadshot mask work. I wasn’t expecting that, but dayum.

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I think I saw parts of Assault on Arkham when it came out but you know… tried to wipe it from my mind as best as I could. It wasn’t my thing. I remembered that Harley/Floyd was a thing in that animated movie but that it hadn’t been done well.

Suicide Squad does it well.

At the very least, it lays the groundwork for really lovely Floyd/Harley where they care about and respect one another (and do the sex all the time).

Straight up, Ayer keeps trying to tell us that the Joker really cares for Harley but yo, Deadshot actually does. They’re friends and they’re equals and I love love love Margot Robbie’s chemistry with Will Smith. It almost makes me want to watch Focus.

I’m super hopeful that future films get rid of the Joker from that particular role in Harley’s life because Deadshot is actually a pretty great guy (you know… for “a serial killer who takes credit cards” a la Rick Flag) and they had some fantastic moments throughout the film that could have and should have been read as flirtatious if not outright almost romantic.

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I love Chato. Seriously. Jay Hernandez played him so perfect and I just —

Okay, clearly, David Ayer had certain characters that he liked better than others. Many of the other characters suffered as a result.

But not Chato. Look. He had a complete arc, a compelling backstory that explained his current behavior, and I like that at the end of the film in his big moment, he was fucking kick ass as El Diablo (like seriously, the first time I watched Suicide Squad, I made such obnoxious noises because HOLY FREAKING SHIT. That fight with Incubus (which is just an unfortunate name and character) was basically one of the best scenes in that movie and the end – oh boy. The end. It really just hit me hard and I hope that if (when) Suicide Squad gets a sequel, he’s in it.

I’d also like to shout out to Desiree Rodriguez who, in addition to being one of my favorite writers in and out of fandom, wrote a series of really great tweets about Chato and what he means to her and for Latinx representation. (Tumblr post of her tweets here on her blog.)

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There’s a moment in the film where Deadshot calls Amanda Waller “one mean lady” after she shoots several FBI agents in the head because they didn’t have the clearance to know about what they were working on and seriously, that’s the perfect descriptor for her.

Waller is terrifying and mean and kind of awful but you know what?

She’s the kind of morally ambiguous that Black women – especially dark-skinned Black women – don’t get to be. While I still have grouchy thoughts on how Waller’s been thinned down over the past six or so years, I feel as though Viola Davis really captured everything that I liked about the character. She’s cool under pressure but she has a temper (like her response to Enchantress slipping her leash was to stab the shit out of her heart like… wow). She also has a dry sense of humor and I like that it’s not snarky or sassy humor either.

Waller has always been the kind of character who’d do bad to make sure something good (for her country) could come of it. And that’s the character we see in this movie.

My only complaint is that I could have used a bit more action with Waller (like more scenes where she shoots machine guns and maybe something with a machete because those are very useful in killing the technically undead). Hopefully we’re going to see more of her in the future because Viola Davis is lovely in general, but the second she opened her mouth as Amanda Waller and played those politicians like a fiddle I was ready to fight for her. She is my favorite and I love her.

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While I STRONGLY disagree that the squad) came together as a family (maybe the deleted scenes will clarify things a bit more because the movie takes place in like 24 hours like… I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the motion of them being familial unless I squinted), they made a good team. I love that at the end of the day, they banded together and did the fucking thing. They’re officially a team of badasses and they didn’t actually have to give up their identities or morals in order to save the day and be friends/friendly.

Now I hate to compare this movie to any in the MCU (but whatever, I’m doing it anyway), but I feel as though this movie had more genuine teamwork and team-building than something like Civil War or Age of Ultron where they kept pushing at it but it didn’t quite stick. I felt like they were fighting for each other more than they were fighting for a mission, you know? The exploration and evolution of their dynamics was fresh all the way and it made me excited to see them fight.

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My favorite (entire) fight scene in the entire movie was the one where they were going to rescue Waller and they took out the floor full of bad guys and then Chato used his powers for the first time in ages. It was so good – I’m talking well-choreographed and entertaining). I did wish that the soundtrack had used “Ballroom Blitz” for this scene the way they did in the trailer because it would have been more fun to watch, but it was fine without it I guess.

The Bad

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(I chose a blurry image on purpose because it makes Batman look like a cryptid…)

I legitimately didn’t see the point of this movie having like three Batman sightings.

First of all, the Deadshot one was BS because you’re going to have Batman put Deadshot’s darling dumpling of a daughter in danger. Really? I mean, after everything Bruce went through in an alley, that’s something that smacks of a good idea? I get that it was there to set Deadshot up as someone who’d do anything for his daughter but seriously, it was a bit much and it didn’t make Batman look good either. (Note that in the mediocre novelization, Bruce waits until after Zoe is with her mom to jump after Floyd.)

Second, the Harley Quinn thing.

Look, that entire scene with the Joker trying to live out his cuck fantasies through Common’s character Monster T and then speeding off with Harley into the smoggy Gotham City streets was weird. It was weird and uncomfortable and unnecessary. So he chases them, Joker drives his car into the bay despite Harley being unable to swim. While he ditches her, Harley has been flung through the windshield and seems unconscious. Of course, she’s not and tries to slash at Batman with a knife.

So he punches her.

Dudes in the audience (both times I watched this movie) thought that moment was the funniest shit in the world. That reaction is a huge problem. Ugh. (I’m not even going to get into the CPR-turned-smooch thing because even though Harley initiated it, it was still skeevy as hell.)

And lastly, the mid-credits scene with Bruce and Amanda that was basically “if you wanted to know how these characters all get together in Justice League, Amanda gave him their files”. Something that most viewers probably had already guessed. It’s not really a scene hat’s worth sticking around for.

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The goofy weirdo on the right is not the main villain in this film. Despite what the trailers try and make you think.

The disjointed editing really bugged me, as does the way that the film leaps around at times. I feel like they had to cut a lot of scenes and so there are clearly missing pieces and moments and it just feels a bit sloppy. I’m fine with how the Joker is only in the movie for a small amount of time but it felt like some of the interactions we could’ve had got chopped in the process too.

Also: I’m still annoyed that the trailers frame the Joker as a big bad in this film and he’s basically… not that. Like in the third trailer specifically, the Joker is framed as the villain while Enchantress stands there being creepy and not as cute as I’d wanted.

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So Katana and Slipknot basically didn’t do as much as I expected.

I think that Adam Beach’s Slipknot suffered the most as he died within like ten minutes of his first appearance —which involved him hitting a female agent who snarked at him because she was “mouthy” (something that was kept out of the novelization) – because he conspired with the most mediocre Captain Boomerang in the Multiverse before getting his head blown off.

Katana barely had any lines in general (although I liked her willingness to murder the hell out of the squad if they so much as got chatty, that was fun).

Karen Fukuhara clearly brought her A-game to this film and I really hope that we get to see her backstory and some freaking closure in the next film. There’s a scene where she’s crying over her husband-sword and my heart just broke for her. She’s an amazing actress and I just need to see her in everything. (Also she’s just so cute like I just feel so positively about her!!)

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I have thoughts about how Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Killer Croc/Waylon Jones is positioned for the audience.

His “ugliness” is connected to his Blackness and both are treated like jokes. He’s another character I felt should’ve had more to do (because I apparently want a three-hour long film) – although he is absolutely integral to the takedown of Incubus that ends in Chato’s death.

It’s super disappointing though because everyone was like “this movie humanizes Killer Croc” and um… not really. Now at the end of the movie, when Waller asks if anyone else has concerns after Deadshot reads her the riot act, all he asks for is BET.

Like… If I was interested in reading into this film, I could probably get a really good paper out of analyzing Black bodies and the portrayals of a stereotypical and monstrous Black masculinity. But I don’t have time for that right now. Hopefully, someone else will so I can read about it and link it here.

I’m not sure if this movie fails the Bechdel test as it’s used. Like I know there are some two-liners exchanged between like Harley and Waller and Waller and June/Enchantress but they’re so small that I think counting them would be to ignore a major fault of this film – that for much of it, Harley is the only female character onscreen and with a voice.

(The clip I include above is one of the few instances of two women speaking near each other in general in this film. And I honestly don’t know if i’d count it for Bechdel Test entries as Katana doesn’t acknowledge Harley outside of asking if she can kill her…)

Harley is basically “on” the entire film. She’s not allowed to be “ugly” even in moments where she’s hurt or humiliated. There’s always this focus on her sexuality and her being sexual (and like in the novelization, she’s rendered hypersexual due to trauma from the Joker’s torture and it’s one of the things that makes him keep her around).

Even after she’s shot down and thinks that the love her life is dead, she’s still framed as “beautiful”. When she’s hurting in the prison, the camera still lingers in a way that is set to remind us that yes, Harley is so hot especially when she’s in pain.

The Ugly

The racist, misogynistic, ableist prison guard who’s played for jokes pisses me the entire hell off. I don’t know what possessed Ayer to write the equivalent of the racist uncle into this movie but every single time Ike Barinholtz is on screen as Griggs, I pray for something bad to happen to him.

But it never does.

He’s literally the stereotypical (and typical) prison guard right down to gleefully participating in the humiliation and harassment of female inmates and inmates of color. I literally hate him. But nah, the narrative keeps wanting us to laugh at someone who never stops with the ableist comments, takes a selfie while Harley is being force-fed through a tube in her nose, makes racist comments to Chato, and antagonizes Deadshot endlessly because he thinks it’s funny.

No thank you.

(Also: Casting diversely is kind of undermined by things like this where you bring in characters to be racist and misogynistic – I feel like there was some stuff with Digger towards Katana that was kind of definitely uncool – to be a bad guy but then frame many jokes around them.)

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The Joker was horrible and I hate him. Jared Leto is a bad joker and I hate everything about him.

The most interesting thing about the Joker in this movie was how you can definitely see the “gay stereotypes as signifiers” stuff I’ve been talking about playing out with him and Griggs (He rubbed his shoulders, made the dude kiss his ring and then straddled him out of nowhere) because he’s once again positioned as extra frightening to the heteronormative patriarchy when he can be read as queer and coming onto a “straight” male character.

That’s it. And I still want to fight him because his laugh was bad, his face was bad, and his acting was even worse.

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One big issue I have is that Ayer rewrites the Joker and Harley’s romance so that he’s appearing to be in love with her and everything he does is because he cares (so they’re in a loving relationship apparently) and it’s freaking ridiculous because the dynamics are rather ugly, we’re just talking about it. Harley is reframed as “crazier” than he is because that is supposed to explain why she stays with him and apparently they cut out the most of the abuse he deals out.

But okay can we talk about how the Joker basically kills Common’s Monster T because he wouldn’t fuck Harley (presumably in front of the Joker). Can we talk about how that’s just super weird and uncomfortable? A black man won’t perform sexually for you and you kill him. Okay. I feel like the Joker probably rants about his cuck fantasies on the villain version of Reddit. It’s creepy, not sexy.

(Also: in the novelization, basically all of the explicit abuse is kept in… It’s gross and also sexualized.)

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And okay lastly, the Enchantress is not a scary villain and Cara Delevingne is not a good actress. What was with that belly dancing thing and her weird voice that sounded like Maleficent but not as cool or as scary?

Also: she and her brother Incubus were found in a made-up Central American cave and yet neither one is able to possess a similar name or actor? They were both a mishmash of stuff but Ayer and co could’ve made an attempt to diversify, you know?


Despite my many complaints, in the end I had fun with Suicide Squad. I think that it’s one of the few comic book movies that I wholeheartedly enjoyed even as I critiqued the hell out of it.

However, one of my biggest issues with the movie (aside from diversity/representatoin fails) was that it felt like a fair amount was missing from it and like I could see that there were things that had been cut. I’m fine with missing the Joker scenes, but I wish that I didn’t know that I’d have to wait for the DVD to get the whole story for the characters who didn’t get as much screentime.

I’m not going to say that Suicide Squad is a good movie because I mean… what even is a good movie?

But I saw it twice.

I loved seeing women kick ass onscreen (even if it involved seeing more of Harley’s actual ass than I’ve ever wanted to see) and it was one of the first superhero-adjacent movies in over a decade to center on this many diverse characters. It’s one of the few superhero-adjacent films with a Black man as a major narrative focus and the ONLY film of its kind to focus on a heroic Latinx character (as far as I know). That’s so important.

For all the bad parts of Suicide Squad, it was still a rather enjoyable film (a true problematic fave) and definitely way better than Marv Wolfman’s janky novelization.

Image sources: Comicbook.com, Screencapped.org, and an imgur user 

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About Zina

Zina writes about comics, nerd history, and ridiculous romance novels when not working frantically on her first collection of short stories and complaining about stuff. One day, she'll settle down and write that novel.
This entry was posted in DC Comics, Movies and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Suicide Squad: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

  1. Brendon says:

    Fantastic break down of the Suicide Squad. I also enjoyed many parts of the movie and others to be horribly offensive / misrepresenting marginalized communities / misogynistic / racist / etc. You post is definitely a great read -> thank you for sharing!

    Like

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