Give it about 25 minutes into Suicide Squad, with its heavy-handed soundtrack and 400 over-stylized fonts meant as a shortcut to introduce you to to its 62 main characters. It’s about then that you’ll realize you’re basically watching someone else play video games. I’m gonna use the trope that it’s a boyfriend, because this is something I’ve done before. And your boyfriend is David Ayer and his dumb and bro-y friends you hate are the studio execs who made him do this to his film. The second controller is busted, so you cannot play even though you want to, and he’s not trying to share. You should really dump him soon.
Suicide Squad looks pretty, and expensive. There is a lot of shooting and other forms of killing. There’s alternately not a lot of plot development, owing to the fact that there are around 62 main characters, but at the same time there’s so much plot development it’s dizzying, like an amateur YouTube highlight reel of six full seasons of a television series. While watching someone else play video games is, for me, among the most annoying social activities, occasionally the video game is well constructed enough that doing so is like watching a movie, and it’s okay. Suicide Squad is almost there. It has a steeper music budget—there is a highly recognizable song playing over almost every inch of it, in case you felt like you really needed to hear a note-perfect cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” by fucking Panic! At the Disco.
Amanda Waller (the ever-excellent Viola Davis) is a ruthless government official who thinks that it’s a good idea to harness a boatload of supervillians at a Guantanamo-style facility and make them fight for the country. She does this because “what if” the next Superman is evil (Superman in this film is dead, I think) and the only way to fight evil is with evil, illuminating the muddy thinking that goes down in the highest echelons of the Pentagon, CIA and FBI, and also the muddy scripting that went into this film. We are introduced to each of these 5000 supervillians via a short montage with funky-font chyrons atop their portraits explaining to us who each one is, what their powers are, and why they’re bad, an early indication that there are so many characters in this movie, even the screenwriter (director David Ayer) didn’t know how to wedge them in.
The thing that’s so frustrating is so many of these characters are GREAT, and could easily have sustained their own individual films. Will Smith is, typically, full of charisma and pathos as Deadshot; Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was a blast, although I found her Australian-Long Island accent a little peculiar; Jay Hernandez’s El Diablo is the secret star of this film and I would watch three hours of just him. Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress looked so cool even though I’m still unclear about her acting abilities, and Karen Fukuhara’s Katana was another badass who needs her own franchise.
The main plot, I think, was this ancient witch (Enchantress) went crazy with ego and decided to eradicate humanity because they stopped worshipping her and started worshipping “machines.” The Suicide Squad had to rescue humanity, but not before doing an inexplicable sort of drill proving to Waller they could do it, during which humanity got chopped down by about a quarter by the ancient witch, whose hurricane of destruction looked remarkably like the lightning storm evoked by the Gatekeeper and the Keymaster in the first Ghostbusters.
At a certain point, after your boyfriend has just blasted his 600th demon adversary and wonders distractedly if you guys should order Seamless, you start wondering if you should just go in the other room and try to watch Focus again. For me, this part was around the time military guy/the Enchantress’s boyfriend Rick Flag looks at a building the Squad has to scale to rescue someone, and actually fucking says, “It’s Miller time.” DOG. Even “it’s Hammer time” would have been cleverer, funnier and made more sense, unless you all know something about the Miller-to-machine gun ratio I do not. The writing is so bad! One good thing is that Jared Leto’s Joker is so absurd, his acting so try-hard, you will spend a good amount of time watching this film distracted by the fact that he has won an Oscar.
For months, my Jezebel coworkers have been asking, “What is Suicide Squad even about?!” The answer, as you probably know by now, is that Suicide Squad itself doesn’t even really know what it’s about. That said, I didn’t think it was as grotesque or even misogynistic as it was purported to be, other than constant boring/typical objectification of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and one very disturbing line in which Will Smith’s Deadshot casually tells Rick Flag he should go “smack up” his girlfriend a little; that the quip was meant as a laugh was insight into the dark, banal, bumbling mindset that went into this movie. But that was the least of its problems. Nevertheless, it made nearly $132 million this weekend, and that is because people like me dropped $20 on 3D because we imagined our boyfriend to be better than this.