Suicide Squad: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (spoilers)
- Most of the performances. Will Smith and Margot Robbie were the highlights among the Squad, which is probably why so much of their footage survived cuts and/or was added in reshoots, but most of the actors were good, even the ones who had to work through bad writing.
- Ayer did well at balancing the grimdark thing DC/WB is doing with humor and levity. It didn’t feel jarring when it went from serious or dark or emotional moments to comedy.
- The visuals were overall good. Ayer really went for it stylistically and it mostly paid off. As with the tone, the balance of light/colorful and dark/grimy worked.
- It was an overall entertaining movie. I wasn’t bored, and most of my laughter wasn’t at the movie like I expected.
- The decision to assign each character a designer and have their clothes either inspired or made by those designers (Harley with Jeremy Scott, Croc with Haider Ackermann, etc.) was a good way of establishing their identities visually.
- The Joker’s henchmen had cool costumes.
- The reshoots were obvious. Anytime they had a scene that was too long because Will Smith was improvising for several minutes (which, granted, was still entertaining because Will Smith is great) or where the dialogue suddenly seemed like it was written by a five year old (actual line from Deadshot in the third act: “YOU’RE AN EVIL LADY!”).
- Between things that were inherent to the story Ayer was telling and things that were clearly reshoots, there were several points where things got muddled or didn’t make sense or continuity was broken. The most jarring was the first time they encounter the tar men (don’t know what they were actually supposed to be called, but they look and act identical to creatures called that from Robert Brockaway’s The Unnoticeables) and the moment when Captain Boomerang leaves but is there in the next scene without ever being shown coming back. Some things don’t need to be explained, but for a lot of the movie, we’re just like, “Okay, I guess that’s happening now.”
- Cara Delevingne does a good job for most of the movie (and the whole third act mess is not her fault), but casting her as an archaeologist is a stretch.
- David Ayer’s worldview leaking into the movie is mostly in the Ugly category, but the “old man yells at cloud” aspect of Enchantress’ plotline (”They worship machines now, so I will build a machine to destroy them!”) and slipping in of conspiracy theory bullshit (the government talking about how we don’t need the Suicide Squad because we already have so many secret weapons and put fluoride in the water to control people–like, come on, dude).
- The government dudes being like, “They got our main satellite!” like we only have one.
- Rick Flag. I like Joel Kinnaman but holy shit was that not a good performance. A lot of that was the script, but then again, other people made it work.
- The Joker’s various bits of visual flair that make no story sense, like his fake prison guard uniform saying Joker. The Joker typically does use things in his plans that are totally unnecessary and require extra work, but they usually have plot significance in some way rather than just being stupid.
- The fucking Joker. Jared Leto’s Joker demonstrates that neither he nor Ayer understand that character at all. They think the Joker is supposed to just be as crazy and evil as possible, but the best versions of the Joker are out to be funny in the messed up way the Joker thinks of humor. He’s not taken seriously until he does something to show he should be. And this version of the Joker, as seriously as he and the other characters take him, does nothing to really demonstrate that he should be taken all that seriously. On top of that, Ayer took the Burtonian “Joker as mob boss” thing in a direction that absolutely does not work. The Joker should not just be a regular part of traditional underworld organized crime shit. People shouldn’t be coming up to him in the VIP section of a club and going, “Good to see you, J.” That’s not a thing.
- The relationship between Harley and the Joker. In TAS and the comics, he genuinely loves her but doesn’t know how that’s supposed to work, or how human relationships in general are supposed to work, and that makes him abusive. His abuse in those things works the way abuse really works most of the time, where the abuser shows love but uses that love to manipulate and harm the other person. In this, he wants her as an object, treats her as a slave, doesn’t demonstrate love at all. The movie’s stance seems to be, “Why doesn’t this abusive person leave?” rather than actually looking at what abuse is and does. This is made worse by Harley’s “Property of the Joker” tattoo and “Daddy’s Lil Monster” tee.
- The myriad ways David Ayer’s brogressive sexism manifests. He thinks of his Harley as empowered because she can fight and because she “chooses” to be hypersexual, as though he didn’t write her and she just made these decisions on her own. He has every male character call her hot-but-crazy at least once, and most of them do it five or more times. She doesn’t do anything that (contextually) crazy beyond saying things that come across as jokes about how other people perceive her. Amanda Waller, after doing a million things that could be her “badass” moment, is given that moment in the form of her calling Enchantress a b****. When Batman punches Harley in the face. When Harley gets kicked in the crotch and you can just tell Ayer’s script probably referred to it as a “c*** punt.” The goofy-ass way Enchantress’ final form involves her constantly shaking her hips like she’s White Aaliyah From Queen Of The Damned But In A Shakira Video. Ayer thinks he’s being pro-woman because he gives women a lot of screen time and powerful roles (in that they have power, not in that the roles are powerfully written), but he clearly has issues with women that he doesn’t realize or acknowledge, and they permeate the film.
- David Ayer’s weird racism. It luckily doesn’t affect Deadshot or Amanda Waller too much, but the whole “Killer Croc wants BET as his reward” thing is garbage. Slipknot being killed so quickly and unceremoniously. And the way he uses cultural signifiers and archetypes typically associated with black people–grills, flashy jewelry, aspects of gangster and pimp archetypes–to show how evil the Joker is really rubs me the wrong way.
Overall, I’m not mad I went to see it, but I wish there had at least been someone involved with the power and will to veto the bad ideas that ended up in it. And I’m so beyond glad that there wasn’t even one more frame of the Joker than there was.