Suicide Squad would be better if it didn’t reek of desperation

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Why are we here? To make money for Warner Bros? Oh OK. (credit: Warner Bros)

Suicide Squad, a candy-colored tale of supervillains saving Gotham, is the latest “metahuman” adventure brought to you by the world of DC Comics. After the abysmal performance of Batman v. Superman earlier this summer, a lot is riding on Suicide Squad for DC. But this ramshackle exploitation flick clearly was never meant to be a tentpole. Slapdash, uneven, and unintentionally silly, the movie is a cynical froth of dumb cliches. Which is no surprise, given the studio’s last-minute editing to punch up the pace and humor. All that said, I’m not going to lie. It was still kind of fun.

The main problem with Suicide Squad comes down to one, basic error. It has the premise of a cheap exploitation movie, with the production and marketing budget of a blockbuster. Set in the days after Superman’s supposed death in Batman v. Superman, it’s about a world that is so bereft of hope and so politically cynical that the government is willing to use criminal supervillains to fight “terrorists.” Viola Davis is incredible as Amanda Waller, a heartless covert ops manager who puts together the “suicide squad” out of the jail/sewer where Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), and various other baddies are kept. A frenetic opening sequence introduces us to our band of bad guys, whose superpowers include things like “shoots well,” “sexy in shorts,” “secretly an Aztec god,” “weird teeth,” and “climbs fast.” If Robert Rodriguez were directing this in a condemned nightclub, I would be all in. It’s the perfect premise for a bloody, sexy, fire-soaked brawl.

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But DC Films, owned by Warner Bros, wants Suicide Squad to be something more. And can you blame them? Batman v. Superman underperformed, the latest in a string of expensive misses that go all the way back to Green Lantern. Marvel Studios, for all its flaws (and we can chant them together later if you want), has had a string of hits like Avengers, Civil War, and Guardians of the Galaxy that makes DC look like they’re standing still. As Hollywood Reporter‘s Kim Masters reported in a fascinating article this week, Warners studio head Kevin Tsujihara worries that the DC brand is “damaged.” The studio needs Suicide Squad to be a hit, to prove that they can get back to the heights of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

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