There’s a lot riding on Suicide Squad, the third entry in Warner Bros.’ DC Extended Universe. Both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman made a lot of money, but polarized fans. Among the chief complaints? That the DC films were too grim, too gloomy, and not nearly “fun” enough.

Which is where Suicide Squad comes in. With its zippy pop tunes and its neon color scheme, the Suicide Squad marketing campaign has been all about fun. The trailers and posters promised a movie that’d finally bring jokes back to the DC universe, not to mention a welcome shot of comic book weirdness. So does Suicide Squad get the franchise back on track, or send it veering further off the rails? Read our Suicide Squad spoiler-free review after the jump. 

Suicide Squad cameo

Suicide Squad Is Fun…

If you’re tired of the supreme self-seriousness of the two DC superhero films so far, the good news is that Suicide Squad is definitely having more fun. David Ayer is armed with an obvious but irresistible soundtrack that must have cost Warner Bros. a fortune to put together (yes, “Sympathy for the Devil” is in here, and so is “Bohemian Rhapsody”). The characters come prepared with cheeky, off-color jokes — the kind you’d never catch grim Batman or earnest Superman making.

And where Zack Snyder’s DC films have worked hard to maintain a sense of “groundedness” despite the fact that Superman is an actual alien, Suicide Squad feels just fine about diving into the stranger corners of the comic book universe. (It’s impossible to avoid going there when one of the characters is an honest-to-God witch, anyway.) Suicide Squad is not especially deep, and doesn’t try to be. It’s just here to have a good time. And it succeeds more often than not.


… But It’s Got Some Issues

Unfortunately, Suicide Squad suffers from a lot of the same issues that have kneecapped many of this year’s other similarly sized blockbusters. The pacing is wildly uneven, as the film moves from a relatively zippy first act to a virtually nonexistent second act to an endless third act. Action is often prioritized at the expense of emotional beats or character moments, and too much of the dialogue feels like explanatory or expository. At one point in the climax, one character turns to another to explain the plot point we’ve been watching play out for the past 20 minutes. My audience laughed at how ridiculously clunky it felt.

And the plot itself doesn’t make a ton of sense. While Suicide Squad is not as stupidly complicated as Batman v Superman‘s, the developments don’t really feel organic. Nor do the relationships. The cast has such great chemistry that they almost sell the Suicide Squad’s tight-knit camaraderie, but there’s too much telling and not enough showing. I’d have gladly traded away several minutes of punching and shooting for more scenes of the characters bonding or bickering.


Margot Robbie Kills It as Harley Quinn

In a core cast featuring about a dozen major characters, Margot Robbie stands out as a definite highlight. Her Harley Quinn makes an indelible impression. Amanda Waller explains her early on as “crazier than the Joker and even more fearless,” and Harley spends the rest of the film living up to that description. She’s aggressively annoying, and this may be the first time I’ve ever meant that as a compliment — Harley’s appeal is that she lives to please herself, and doesn’t give a fuck what anyone else thinks. If we’re drawn to villains because they function as wish fulfillment, well, Harley is the perfect embodiment of that.

But what elevates Harley Quinn is that Suicide Squad also takes pains to show that she can be vulnerable and even sweet, when she wants to be. Her origin story is still a bit queasy, and I’m not entirely sure what to make of her relationship with the Joker, but as an individual character, Harley Quinn is deliciously complex. Robbie nails Harley Quinn’s psychotic energy and her Brooklyn accent so well, it’s almost easy to forget she’s acting. The Wolf of Wall Street helped Robbie break through. Suicide Squad should make her a bonafide star.

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