(NEW YORK) — DC Comics has been trying, very hard, to match the cinematic smarts of its rival Marvel for years. Putting a group of super-colorful criminal baddies together with writer-director David Ayer, a gritty, world-class storyteller who specializes in distilling realism from fiction, puts the venerable comics company in a position to, finally, accomplish its goal. DC also learned a valuable lesson from Marvel: hire great actors.
The Suicide Squad cast is mind-boggling. We have Oscar nominee and Emmy-winner Viola Freaking Davis as Amanda Waller, the badass boss of the Suicide Squad. Let’s see: there’s also Oscar-winner Jared Leto as the Joker, two-time Oscar nominee Will Smith as Deadshot and, in all likelihood, future award-winners and nominees Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn), Joel Kinnaman (Rick Flag), Jai Courtney (Boomerang), Cara Delevingne (Enchantress), Jay Hernandez (El Diablo) — the list goes on.
In the DC universe, this story takes place after the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, so (SPOILER ALERT) now that Superman is apparently dead, the government is trying to come up with a way to protect us in case of attack from another interstellar, inter-dimensional power.
That’s where Waller comes in. She’s a tough, fearless, cunning, cold-blooded, calculating, take-no-prisoners taskmaster. It’s her idea to take the most brutal prisoners known and force them to fight on behalf of the good guys — even though Waller’s kind of awful herself.
She’s also overconfident, thinking she can control Enchantress, a witch who’s a few thousand years old and inhabits the body of a young archeologist named June Moone. How manipulative is Amanda? She gets Rick Flag, the deadliest special forces soldier in the Army, to fall in love with June. That way, Flag will protect June while getting Enchantress to do Waller’s bidding.
Waller, of course, underestimates Enchantress, who’s one angry witch and about to wreak havoc on the world.
Ayer does a nice job of introducing us to Deadshot, Harley Quinn, the Joker and company, although those three are the most compelling. If anything, Suicide Squad’s biggest weakness is it has so many characters and moving parts, it doesn’t have enough time to devote to proper character development.
Undoubtedly, fans and cosplayers everywhere are waiting to see Ayer and Robbie’s interpretation of fan favorite Harley Quinn. They won’t be disappointed: Robbie was born for this role. Sure, she physically looks the part, but Robbie’s performance is full of substance and nuance. The same goes for Smith and especially Leto, who time and again has proven any character he plays absorbs the human known as Jared Leto and becomes the most arresting thing you’ll see on screen. Even when he’s standing next to Robbie’s Quinn, which it quite a spectacle itself.
For me, what’s telling is my desire to see some of these characters again, including Jai Courtney’s Boomerang, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Killer Croc, and Karen Fukuhara’s Katana.
Again, there’s a little too much happening here and the script is overzealous in its efforts to fit in all of the characters, including seemingly every bad guy in the DC Comics universe. But Suicide Squad is fine summer entertainment and the closest DC has come so far to keeping up with Marvel.
Three-and-a-half out of five stars.
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