In the spirit of full disclosure, let me admit, at the very top, that I’m not a fan of villains. Having experienced some villainy in my up-bringing, I don’t relish wallowing in it at the cinema. While I’ll fantasize about villainy, I never side with it. I’m much more hero-oriented (always the Doctor over Daleks, Bond over Blofeld, Sherlock over Moriarty, etc.). And, on the basis of my research for, and books about, film genres, so are a majority of film-goers.
However, that being said, when I come across a movie that is so stubbornly pandering… so obviously trying to please an audience it doesn’t understand or respect… so cavalier with even the most rudimentary rules of character and story development, that I really don’t care if it’s about heroes OR villains. A badly structured, edited, and conceived movie is a badly structured, edited, and conceived movie whether it’s about Houdini or Hitler.
Of course Suicide Squad had some major issues from the get go. Forget villains or heroes, this baby’s got a full dozen protagonists to present in an effective, equitable way. Having worked on a project with merely half the main characters of that, I know it’s really tough to do well. But Warner Brothers, apparently, don’t want to do the smart thing in the long run, they want money in the short term.
So, no wisely introducing their teams(s) over a period of years in stand-alone, one-hero, movies. No, just take a fistful of popular characters, hurl them at a writer/director, undercut and/or second guess that writer/director, force competing cuts of that movie to race against hastily chosen test audiences, and distribute whatever is left sticking to the response cards.
Sound like a nightmare? That’s what the “finished” version looks like too. It’s not a good sign when the best thing you can say about a movie is that it merely has less plot holes, unfathomable interaction, illogical behavior, and just plain nonsensical scenes than BvS.
Yes, Margot Robbie/Harley Quinn is screwy sexy. Yes, Jared Leto/Joker is a decent sequel to Nicholson/Ledger. Yes, Will Smith tries his concussive best. Yes, Ben Affleck continues to make a fine Batman (pray that the execs leave his cut alone). But a few cool characters among many do not a good movie make. Structure, detail, wit, insight, set-ups, pay-offs, and a sure hand on the steering wheel a good movie makes.
Suicide Squad is not a good movie. Colorful, full of empty movement, heaped with production value, dotted with left field quips, yup. Satisfying, convincing, fulfilling? Nope. Poor David Ayer. He joins the once (and hopefully future) great directors Martin Campbell (Goldeneye, Casino Royale, Green Lantern) and Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men, Superman Returns) who suddenly got really bad on, and were then blamed for, their Warner superbombs.
Whether this sick puppy makes the eight hundred million Warners needs to break even or not, it’s still a continuing textbook example of what Warners does wrong, and Marvel does right. And it ain’t just tone, folks. Worse, on the basis of its track record, Warners compounds the problem by simply refusing to learn, cementing Orson Welles’s old adage: “Hollywood is not about money. It’s about ego.”
The original Suicide Squad comic creators (Ross Andru, John Ostrander, Kim Yale, and many others) are money. The Suicide Squad movie: all ego. Bad, really bad ego.