“One must do the same subject over again ten times, a hundred times. In art nothing must resemble an accident, not even movement.”
– Edgar Degas
Written and Directed by David Ayer
Distributed by Warner Bros
When we think of the best comic book villains, it’s generally agreed that DC Comics have the winning hand – not Marvel. We need only peek at The Batman’s rogues gallery; it’s a genuine freak-show of twisted, broken minds that not only have their own elaborate – and often tragic – backstories, not only their own motivations and quirky style; they hold up a mirror to the fractured psyche of the Dark Knight himself. Two Face is a shattered personality of dark and light, reflecting Batman’s own alter egos. The Riddler’s brain-shredding puzzles are complex enough to test even the Dark Knight Detective’s intellect. And the thrilling cat-and-mouse chases involving Catwoman have enticed our hero so often, you wonder why he doesn’t just pack up the cape, cowl and cool toys and take off with her to find a nice little cafe in Florence, on the banks of the Arno… The list is great. The potential even greater. Villains. They’re important. The hero is only at his best when compared to his worst villain.
Joker. In the DC world (hell, let’s go out on a limb and say the entire pop culture world) there are only a few baddest of the bad that smile back at you through the darkness and give you the willies. And not the wet kind (unless it’s with a finger that hides a scalpel). He’s the ultimate wild card. The only killer clown. That manic, insane, darkly funny psychopath that has been the biggest thorn in the batsuit since the very beginning. Batman’s one nemesis. You could even go so far to say his only true equal. The near inhuman discipline; the grueling physical training; the scientific knowledge; the art of criminology; the limitless resources… All of it means nothing when faced with an unpredictable sociopath who just wants to watch his world burn. For a laugh. Like any casting decision of an iconic role, when Jared Leto was announced as the Pale One – there was some anxiety. He has his fans, sure. But let’s not talk about 30 Seconds to Whatever. Let’s keep this positive for now. He won an Oscar for playing a trans woman in Dallas Buyers Club. He’s a very good actor. Some say (probably him) that he’s “method”. And so the near-mythic tales of behind-the-scenes strangeness of Suicide Squad began. A psychologist was brought in (apparently to prevent the actors from becoming real psychos). Leto sent “gifts” like dead rats and used condoms to fellow cast mates. A deleted scene features Deadshot killing a hundred men while doing the ‘Gettin’ Jiggy’ dance. (Ok so I made up that last one but admit it, it would have been amazing). Then the first trailer hit and blew fanboys’ and girls’ collective fan minds. After the cold shower in the middle of winter that was named Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice – it looked like we were about to have some genuine fun.
Well, yes and no folks. Because the story doesn’t end there. David Ayer (“Fury”) was given six weeks to deliver a script for Suicide Squad – the rag-tag band of DC mercenaries, thugs, killers (and one definite psycho). Six weeks. When the film was tested against an audience, the reception was as luke warm as a jar of Granny’s peach tea. And the studio panicked. Reshoots were ordered (not uncommon) to make the film more like the trailer (uh, quite uncommon) and another director was reportedly brought in to not only reshoot it, but reshape it in the edit (very rare indeed…). Ayer himself admits he was really making an “art film”. I don’t know about you, but I’ve taken a year to write a 12 minute script I was remotely happy with, and that was designed purely to entertain. But six weeks is all you need to make a 2 hour art film. Remember that.
Getting to the film, you’ve probably either seen it already (twice if you really love Will Smith and/or sparkly hot pants), you have no desire to see it, or you’re still on the fence because of all the bad reviews. That’s not fair: try ball-achingly painful kicks to the film. Deadshot himself would be impressed with the amount of bullet-riddled damage film reviewers caused. But for good or bad, the film is what it is. It’s a chopped up, rejigged, tonal mishmash of a film that wants to be so many things – but ends up being something we’ve seen before. And all because of a six week script, the horrible reviews of another film and a frightened studio rushing in to second guess the world. We will probably never see Ayer’s “art film”. Why a man decided to make art out of a Dirty Dozen of DC anti-heroes – I will never guess. The film has grossed enough for Warner Bros globally that it will probably see a sequel. It probably won’t do BvS numbers, but then BvS didn’t do BvS numbers, so who knows? Justice League is on the way next year, which shows a glimpse of promise. Wonder Woman also, which shows even more. It’s clear to see that Warner Bros is scrambling after the recent BvS fallout, and though Zack Snyder has done his best to assure the media that next time they’ll get it right… this ‘DCU’ has squandered much of its potential and good will already. And we’re three films in. And by the time Superman returns (again), that rollicking, passionate, cohesive vision some call The Marvel Cinematic Universe will still be dominating the box office and the gap between Marvel and DC will widen even more before Warners can catch a break.
I know what you’re thinking. There’s a LOT of set-up in this review. There’s a lot of fluff, mixed with some pop culture references, some sprinkles of darkness and scrappy fun, but not a lot of meat on the bone. The writer seems distracted. His focus is split between telling stories about a number of people and events but ends up not actually saying much in the end. His worst enemy is probably himself. He needs a good editor. I know, I know. You wanted more Joker stuff. You wanted to hear about Harley. Less about Will Smith dancing. I’ll admit, this review is kind of a hot mess. I’m sorry about that. It’s just a set-up without a punchline, I know. It had so much promise. But all of the potential was wasted on one-liners and flashbacks and well… it’s hardly art.
But then I only wrote it in a few hours.