I had a major epiphany about this movie during this particular rewatch.
Since Suicide Squad was released in August 2016, it’s been one of the movies that people either really liked for whatever reason or really hated for another reason. It was inarguably a commercial success with $745.5 million earned worldwide at the box office without a release in China, and tons of people loved the soundtrack and the casting of the movie overall, but the critics set fire to this one almost the same as they did Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which led to this negative perception of the DC Extended Universe that was going to prove difficult to shake if ever.
My epiphany though, was the realization of exactly what kind of movie this is instead of what I thought it was from the beginning, which hit me during one of the added back dialogue scenes in the Extended Cut.
Suicide Squad is not an action movie. It’s a character study.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s filled with action sequences across the board, some a lot better than others, but the movie is ultimately less about the plot and more about the characters affected by it, particularly Will Smith’s Deadshot, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag and Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller. The movie is largely about those four characters and their performances, with everyone else lending strong support to them.
Deadshot is a cold and cunning hitman for money that accepts what he’s good at in life, but wants to do right by his daughter despite being a killer. His motivation throughout the whole movie is his daughter and proving to her that he isn’t a failure. It’s a noble sentiment of humanity within a villainous, Batman-hating personality.
Harley Quinn is in love with The Joker and let her passion and desire to have a wonderful life with him transform her into a crazed monster, and she knows it. All of her evil deeds and murderous actions come straight from her love and devotion to one of the most dangerous psychopaths in the history of villainy, and while she is fully aware of what it has done to her, she is unwilling to let it go because it’s still what she really wants.
Rick Flag is a by the book soldier that gets tossed into the muck out of manipulation for the only woman he has ever loved, Doctor June Moon AKA The Enchantress. He knows the difference between right and wrong, but he learns that it’s not nearly as black and white as he always thought it was his whole life and begins to understand the shades of gray that occupy the world and its actions.
Amanda Waller is a maniacal opportunist and the true villain of this entire movie. She uses the life and death and Superman to manipulate the powers that be into building her a team of crazies, all the while using that team for her own selfish ends to monitor and study the behavior and abilities of The Enchantress for potential weaponization down the road. It goes south on her, the team cleans it up under the mantle of cover-up, and she lives to play mad manipulator another day.
Looking at the movie through those terms instead of reconciling the plot itself, which while structurally isn’t bad does have issues here and there in a sense of logistics, gives me a different perspective on Suicide Squad as a whole. This is another case where the Extended Cut is better than the Theatrical, but not quite as jarring as Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. With Suicide Squad, the extended cut fleshes out those character moments more and makes the pacing of the movie much less frenetic in nature, which is a good thing because it allows you to understand where everyone is coming from.
That’s not to say that the supporting cast isn’t solid as well, because they all have their moments. Jay Hernandez as the remorseful El Diablo, Jai Courtney as the comic relief Captain Boomerang, and Jared Leto as the mob boss kingpin version of The Joker desperate to get Harley back in his arms are all solid and have strong moments in the movie. Killer Croc is still pretty one note though, which is a shame given the quality of Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s acting more often that not.
Enchantress played by Cara Delevingne and her brother are plot device villains, plain and simple. Like I said, if you view Waller as the ultimate villain of this movie as she is, you get past that and see the manipulation being done throughout the film.
Suicide Squad is a movie that has gone up in my estimations of its subjective quality, which is awesome given the raw deal that it had from being the movie that was directly altered immediately in the wake of critical reaction to BvS. Fortunately for David Ayer and his crew, there wasn’t enough time for that particular braintrust at WB to make them reshoot the entire movie. If only that had been the case with a certain other movie down the road as well.