Suicide Squad (2016)

I really, really wanted to love this film. I thought “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” was legitimately masterful, and I also loved “Man of Steel”. I thought this film series, the “DCEU” (DC Extended Universe), might be a series I could love every instalment of. The first two films were so suitored to my tastes that I thought perhaps the whole series would feel individually suited to me too.

I recognise in hindsight there’s not a great deal of sense behind that thought. Yes, Zack Snyder is still a key figure in the development of the DCEU films he doesn’t direct…but that doesn’t change the fact he doesn’t direct them. Of course there’s no guarantee they will be similar to his work. That’s not necessarily a bad thing of course – the upcoming Wonder Woman film shows promise, and I love what I’ve been hearing about James Wan’s upcoming Aquaman film – but I did expect some sort of promise of shared quality and thematic unity between the films.

Unfortunately, Suicide Squad’s main inheritance from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is atrocious editing.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice succeeded on enough levels that even in the theatrical cut, I could look above the myriad of bizarre editing choices to the greater achievement of the film. I can’t do that with Suicide Squad. The film doesn’t reach high enough to excuse its choppier elements in favour of ambition. I hope there’s some different cut of the film on the home release (even just adding in the clearly cut Joker scenes would help, if they don’t commit to substantial re-editing), even though I dislike the practise of the films we get in cinemas not being the most superior version of a film.

suicide-squad-movie-poster-first

I don’t hate this film. Far from it. But it wasn’t what I was hoping, or expecting. If I approach the film on its own terms, as a dark comedy by David Ayer, not as an entry in the surprisingly deep series of superhero deconstructions by Zack Snyder, it works better, though still far from perfectly.

The editing is a huge problem. The first quarter or so of the film is a series of short, readily discarded music montages. It’s a frankly bizarre amount of music montages. Something like a dozen songs. I actually thought this was a pretty neat section. Certainly not something you see regularly, and it played into the frenetic feel of the film. It was fun to see the characters all set-up, see some interesting flashbacks (Deadshot’s and Harley Quinn’s being far and away the most compelling), and see the character conflicts begin.

Things got a lot dodgier as the film went on. The plot is surprisingly straightforward and dull. Extremely workmanlike. I really liked Cara Delevingne’s strange performance as the villain (my favourite part being the unexplained dancing she begins doing in the third act whenever she talks), but you really need to buy into the shlock to enjoy it. Still…the plot is essentially boring. The film plods along from setpiece to setpiece, the flashbacks being the rare flashes of fun.

There’s a good movie in here. There’s a lot of fun with the music, some of the characters are delightful, and there’s all kinds of suggestions to a better film (not just in terms of scenes that were clearly cut out, but character relationships and conflicts set up that aren’t followed up on as well). But it doesn’t come together, and the dark cloud of the terrible editing hangs above it all. I give it two boomerangs, and a katana.

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