The comic that introduced the Suicide Squad, also known as Task Force X, was a Brave and the Bold comic in 1959 – but then they got their own run in 1987.
Essentially, they are an assembling of some of the villains in the DC comics universe; promised time off their sentences for good works done operating out of the Belle Reve Penitentiary under the iron-fist rule of Amanda Waller. Waller became increasingly suspicious of the Justice League members, wondering what would happen if they ever went too far in taking the law into their own hands, and turned against the people of earth. In assembling a group of expendable ‘bad guys’ with explosives in their heads to keep them in line, she created a terrible, controllable army – if they failed, it didn’t matter, she could wipe them out and no one would miss them. The Squad has from time to time had most of the villains from the DC Universe among its ranks, but some of the most notable are Deadshot, Bronze Tiger, Enchantress, Captain Boomerang, Nightshade, Plastique, Killer Frost, Slipknot, Paraite, Speedy, Vixen, and King Shark!
It’s an interesting setup, and really allowed some of the more interesting villains in the DC universe to shine in their own anti-heroic moments. In the animated TV show Justice League Unlimited, Waller was introduced, and basically owned everyone and everything as she did what she felt was necessary to keep the heroes in line. She was voiced by the incredible C.C.H. Pounder.
The Squad was also introduced on the TV show Smallville – where Waller was played by the legendary Pam Grier.
Incidentally, Rick Flag on Smallville was played by Ted Whittall. More on why I’m mentioning him later.
They were actually also done pretty well in an arc on the TV show Arrow.
Waller was played by Cynthia Addai-Robinson, and their version of Deadshot played by Michael Rowe gave the line that Will Smith gets in this movie, also yes, Michael Jai White as Bronze Tiger, Sean Maher from Firefly as Mark Scherffer/Shrapnel, and voice Actress Tara Strong voiced Harley Quinn and was prepped to do much more with her.
That arc began and ended very quickly, which seemed strange, as they had been building towards it for the majority of that season. It was later revealed that because the Cinematic DC Universe was making a Suicide Squad movie, upper level DC/WB execs decided they were not allowed to be used in the TV DC Universe, and had to be eliminated. A bad move on top of several other bad moves by the DCCU.
This new Suicide Squad movie was plagued by some pre-release movies, having to go back and do reshoots after principle filming was finished earlier this year. The rumor was that after the success of Deadpool as an R-rated comedic anti-hero movie, the DC head honchos wanted more humor added to Suicide Squad, contrary to the previous DCCU grimness and non-humor existence. The story builds on the universe built in Zach Snyder’s Man of Steel and continued in his Batman Vs. Superman earlier this year. The government in general and Amanda Waller in particular is a bit spooked by the power that Superman has displayed, and so they are contemplating what to do should he (or the next ‘superman’) turn against them. Well, Waller has been collecting terrible Meta-humans in Belle Reve, and she’s ready to move forward with Task Force X. The first third of the movie is introducing the characters by way of her dossier of folks that she uses to convince Admiral Olsen to give her the green light to go ahead with the project, and we get long intros on Deadshot and Harley Quinn, and abbreviated intros on the others (Diablo, Killer Croc, Captain Boomerang) – hey, the movie knows who you’re there to see, or thinks it does. Each intro gets its own song.
In explaining her plan to him and his cronies – she also introduces them to Dr. June Moone who is currently inhabited by ‘the Enchantress’, a legit witch from a long ago and far away civilization that Dr. Moon accidentally let loose. Waller gets her green light after the Enchantress proves to be useful in stealing things from armed vaults across the world, and if she tries to get an attitude, Waller just jabs a couple of pokes into the Enchantress’s heart, which Waller keeps in a lockbox. Olsen and co. are won over, so Waller tells Col. Flag (who just happens to be in love with Moone, which Waller implies she orchestrated), to get Belle Reve to collect her folks, and inject explosives into their necks to keep them in line.
Spoiler Alert from here down – but really, it almost doesn’t matter.
Suddenly, the movie seems to skip the second act and go right to the third act as the Enchantress tricks Flag, frees her brother, and decides to build a ‘machine’ to destroy humans because they love machines and are no longer worshipping her and her brother. Seriously. She takes over most of New Orleans, and Task Force X is called in. Suited and booted, the Squad leaves Belle Reve and heads down to New Orleans with Flag in charge, but not before Slipknot is dropped off to join them – he gets zero intro aside from Flag saying, “Slipknot, the man who can climb anything.” Katana also suddenly joins them as Flag’s enforcer?
They are told they are there to rescue a high-priority target. Meanwhile, Enchantress is … I’m not entirely sure what she’s doing, she’s wiggling in front of a swirling circle of debris that has darkened the city while her brother is now like 10 feet tall and destroying anyone and anything that comes near. They are also turning people into an army of sorts – covering them what looks like computer generated ink with eyeballs. That’s really the best description I can give.
That created army gives the movie an excuse to have the Squad drop in and battle some easily defeated foes, to remind you that Harley is crazy and Deadshot is a really great shot. Oh, and the Joker seems to be on his way to get Harley, I guess? Boomerang tries to get Slipknot to run off with him, leading to Slipknot getting his head exploded – so literally this character was added in maybe 10 minutes prior to this point gets a line and a half – then gets exploded. Flag eventually comes clean about Dr. Moone (they didn’t know this already?) with the squad as they sit quietly in an abandoned hotel bar bonding.
The Squad heads into the building where the target is being held – pretty easily get up to the top to rescue their target, who – surprise – is Waller. She kills the entire team she was with, because they weren’t cleared for any of this, and they head out. The Joker has stolen a helicopter – and has the technology to turn off Harley’s neck-exploder – so he grabs her. Waller asks Deadshot to kill her, but he misses (on purpose), so she asks their forces on the ground to shoot down the copter – which they do, and Harley falls out as it crashes – trying to make you think the Joker didn’t make it. But you’re not fooled by that nonsense for a minute. In any case, another helicopter shows up and Waller gets on, saying she’ll send another one for everyone else (which you know is a lie). Well, that one is taken out by the brother, and Enchantress snatches up Waller and uses her brain to locate some satellite and military targets to eliminate.
So, the squad decides to go after Waller and the Enchantress and put a stop to this, they head down to the street where Harley is waiting after falling out of a helicopter, and enter the building to fight the witch. Croc swims up underneath with part of the military that is left to plant a bomb under the brother. The Enchantress asks the Squad to join her – and gives the Squad members visions of what their life could be…their happiest ideas, but luckily Diablo sees through this, and helps clear the heads of the others. He then takes on the brother – turning into what I can only describe as an ancient Aztec Fire God? – because he already lost his family, he’s not going to lose this new family (what? When did they have the chance to bond that much? These are bad guys, they don’t bond fast.) Well, he eliminates the brother, but doesn’t make it through that, and the others battle Enchantress - finally able to defeat her as Harley fakes her out by saying she’ll take her up on her offer to join her. Luckily – Flag destroys the heart, thinking that will also cause him to lose Dr. Moone, but no worries, all she has to do is peel off the slime left by the Enchantress disintegrates, because they’ll kill off awesome folks like Diablo and Slipknot (to be fair, he wasn’t around long enough to know if he was awesome), and annoying folks like Dr. Moone need to be saved.
Waller shows back up (where was she?) and reminds them all she can still blow off their heads, but they get to make some demands and have lighter prison sentences. Deadshot gets to see his daughter, Croc gets BET, and Harley gets an espresso machine. Of course, only until Joker comes to bust her out – surprise, he’s not dead.
The credits then roll, all bright colors and neon lights – one of few moments of lightness and color in the movie – and we get a shot of Waller having a meeting with Bruce Wayne, he wants some info, and promises protection, they both make it very clear that they know everything about the other. Here’s my problem with that scene – I loved it, because those two actors are phenomenal and I loved seeing them trying to out-power and out-intelligence each other, but I also hated it, because neither Waller nor Batman would ever come to the other for help or ‘protection’. But hey, whatever, I guess the ones in this version of the universe do, after all, this movie implies that Joker and Harley have a sweet relationship.
Directed by David Ayer – who did Harsh Times, End of Watch, Sabotage (a movie I truly hated) and Fury, the movie is unbelievably choppy, dark (literally and figuratively), and just a mess. Now, that may be more of a result of editing and studio notes rather than something he did or had control over, but based on End of Watch and Sabotage – I know he does gritty, urban, crime dramas. Bits of this felt like they wanted to be that. Again – I legitimately felt that I missed the second part of the movie. Traditionally, movies that assemble a group of heroes (or antiheroes in this case) have act one as the assembling, act two as the preliminary mission, where things don’t go all that well, but we learn more about the characters and they learn to work together. Then act three is them really gelling as a group and taking out their foe (see the Avengers for a really well done example). In this, there was no second act – no preliminary mission, no opportunity for the group to get to know and respect one another. Now, I’m not saying you have to stick to the proven formula – but it seemed really important in this movie in particular, because the movie spent a great deal of time trying to reinforce that these are ‘bad guys’ and don’t care about anyone but themselves – so I really didn’t buy that they were that bonded by the time they go on their first mission (which is the climax of this movie), because they are bad guys and wouldn’t care about anyone else. Maybe because they are villains on borrowed time already, they bond super fast? Still seems unlikely. My issues with the movie are with the directing, writing, and edition – not with the acting. I liked the cast (for the most part) and thought they all did well with what they were handed.
- Will Smith is definitely the lead, and if you enjoyed the movie Focus, which he led and co-starred Margot Robbie (I did not), here’s their big reunion. I enjoyed Will’s performance, I liked the scenes with his daughter, explaining how and why he was caught by Batman. I think it would be interesting to see a Deadshot movie, and Will could certainly pull it off, with less supporting cast forced into the movie, he would have had more of a chance to shine – he’s a leading man, and sometimes ensemble casts don’t work well with leading men. He had the Deadshot mask, but only wears it like twice, because hey – come on, he’s Will Smith, you have to see his face.
- Margot Robbie plays Dr. Harleen Quinzel, Arkham Asylum psychiatrist who the Joker manipulates into becoming Harley Quinn. Now, you can do your own research on the nature of Joker and Harley’s relationship over the years, but it’s always been that she’s madly (emphasis on the ‘mad’) in love with him and he’s far too much of a sociopath to love her. She’s more of a tool or possession to him. So, him being portrayed as a bit lovesick for her in this movie makes no sense. But – Robbie’s performance is pretty good. I hated the outfit, especially since there was one brief scene that she was in the original red and black outfit. But, she does a good job – she’s annoying and vicious, right where Harley should be.
- By this time, you’ve already heard the stories about how Jared Leto stayed ‘in character’ the whole tiem they were shooting the movie, sending bullets and dead animals to his costars (that’s not method acting, that’s just being a dick). You’ve also probably heard him complain about how much of his work as the Joker was cut from this movie. Personally, they could have cut more and I wouldn’t have complained. I didn’t care for his performance, and I didn’t think it was necessary. It was almost confusing to have him in the movie – really he should have only been in the Harley flashbacks. Also – yes, that was Common that he bullies in that one scene for no reason.
- Jai Courtney plays Captain Boomerang, one of the Flash’s villains. He seemed to be the comic relief, or this movie’s attempt at comic relief. He’s just fine, and finally got to use his own Australian accent. He was loud, obnoxious, and entertaining – but I really wanted more actual boomerang action. He didn’t really use them enough. Not mentioning the pink unicorn thing – not sure if that’s from the comics. It seems like a direct Deadpool pull. I will say I was super excited during his flashback sequence, because we saw the Flash catch him – and for a moment, I was happy to see the Flash – but then I remembered it was Ezra Miller Flash, and not Grant Gustin, and I was all disappointed again.
- Jay Hernandez plays el Diablo – and he was one of my favorite parts. Visually interesting, and morally more complicated than the other characters – he stole the scenes he was in. Not a true supervillain as much as a small time gangster with some uncontrollable pyrokinetic abilities. Again – I was super confused as to why he felt these folks were his new family after about 6 hours together, but hey – I loved the transformation at the end.
- Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje plays Killer Croc, and I loved the look –which is something, considering my favorite Killer Croc is the version from the Arkham games, and he’s like 8 feet tall. I was thrilled they went with all prosthetics and makeup, although AAA (as he’s known) is so beautiful, I would have also loved to see just him. In any case, Killer Croc was woefully underused, he had three lines, one swimming scene, and lots of glaring in the background. He’s so interesting, I really would have liked more on him – he’s a character that suffered because of the overflowing amount of characters in the movie.
- The wonderful Adam Beach plays Slipknot – who again, is introduced in one scene and killed in the next. We learned nothing about the character, who he was, what he was doing, how he was caught – nothing. Such a waste of what could have been a really interesting character – again, really suffers from too many characters.
- Karen Fukuhara plays Katana, who similarly to Katana on Arrow – possesses a sword that contains the souls of all the people it has killed. She shows up in one scene then stays quietly in the background of several others. She gets one flashback – but not much else. She felt really forced in, again – a shame, because on Arrow – she was slowly and carefully developed over an entire system.
- Joel Kinnaman plays Rick Flag – who is manipulated into first dating Dr. Moone, then loving Dr. Moone, then leading this group of maniacs to rescue Dr. Moone, all by Waller. He does a good job, but really, it didn’t require much from him.
- Model-turned-actress Cara Delevingne plays Dr. Moone and the Enchantress, and was boring as Dr. Moone and even more boring as the Enchantress. I can’t figure out why they chose Enchantress to be the big bad of this movie, and I don’t think Delevingne was strong enough to carry the villain role in a movie full of villains.
- Alan Chanoine plays the businessman that the Enchantress turns into her brother.
- Scott Eastwood plays Lieutenant Edwards – who seems to be Flag’s right hand man, but honestly, the movie was so dark, I barely remember seeing him in the movie.
- Surprisingly, Ike Barinholtz is in this movie, and plays the guard at Belle Reve, who is an all-around jerk to all the inmates, and easy for the Joker to manipulate into assisting him.
- Remember how I mentioned Ted Whittall played Rick Flag on Smallville? Well, he’s in this movie, and plays Admiral Olsen, the one who eventually gives Waller the go-ahead with Task Force X. I can’t help but wonder if he said to anyone on set, “You know, back when I was Rick Flag…”
- Viola Davis plays Amanda Waller, and yes – she is that good. She steals every scene she’s in, and really gives Waller the trademark coldness, intelligence, and all-around hard-assness that the character is known for. She was wonderful – and again, I loved the scene between her and Affleck because of her and Affleck, not because of the scene. I hope she’s the through-line in all the DCCU movies coming forward, I think they would al l benefit from her presence.
Overall, I didn’t care for it. I was just a mess of a movie – a lot of potential. It’s a shame, because there were so many interesting characters – which you have to have in this movie – but so many of them felt forced and rushed because so much time was given to Harley and Deadshot. And yes, I get that Will Smith and Margot Robbie are being pushed as the stars of this movie, and I enjoyed both of them, but perhaps to balance the movie better, maybe you needed less well known actors in those roles – to give the other characters more time? I’m not sure. And while the scenes that were edited out may help to clarify the holes and issues I had, honestly, I didn’t enjoy this enough to want to go back and watch more – which is the same reaction I had to the BvS extended edition. I just didn’t care enough to make the effort.
5 out of 10. There were parts I liked, but the problem was that those parts were buried in too much random nonsense.
Bonus – More Amanda Waller v. Batman.