Actually, Most of the Cast Is Pretty Good

Robbie isn’t the only bright light in Suicide Squad, however. Deadshot is a little darker than the good-guy roles that Will Smith is generally known for, and the gamble pays off. Deadshot isn’t an antihero, exactly — he’s too coldly efficient for that — but he’s not a mustache-twirling villain, either. Deadshot is more subdued than some of the other Suicide Squad characters by design, but Smith’s quiet confidence and natural charisma ensure he never, ever feels dull.

Also excellent is Viola Davis as Amanda Waller. In less capable hands, Waller might be a thankless role. She’s the professionally attired, non-superpowered straight woman against a gang of colorful crazies. But Davis rips into the role with a steely intensity that’s certainly much scarier than anything Jared Leto’s Joker could come up with (more about him below).

In a smaller role, Jai Courtney gives a performance that suggests Hollywood has been using him all wrong this whole time — he’s bland as oatmeal in leading man roles but adds just the right dash of spice to Suicide Squad as the hilariously irreverent Boomerang.

SUICIDE SQUAD - Joker and Harley Quinn

Jared Leto’s Joker Is… Fine

After all the hype and drama surrounding Jared Leto‘s performance as the Joker — the knee-jerk scorn unleashed by fans when that first image dropped, the endless stories from the cast and crew about Leto’s super-intense method process — it turns out his version of the Clown Prince of Crime is just… fine. He’s not terrible, and Leto and David Ayer deserve credit for trying to make the character their own, but Suicide Squad‘s Joker certainly isn’t giving The Dark Knight‘s Joker a run for his money.

Maybe we’ll get a better sense of what makes this version of the character special in future films, especially since Leto has said he’d love to play the Joker again. But he’s not onscreen all that much here, and when he is, he’s underwhelming. So frankly, I don’t care to stick around and see more of him. My biggest question about Leto’s Joker at the end of the movie was “All that trouble… for this?”

SUICIDE SQUAD - Cara Delevingne as Enchantress

Suicide Squad’s Place in the DC Universe

At a time when so many big-budget films get tripped up in the obligations of franchise-building (yes, Batman v Superman, I’m talking about you and your third-act teaser trailers), Suicide Squad feels refreshingly standalone. It’s entirely possible to enjoy this movie without having seen a single frame of Man of Steel or Batman v Superman. As long as you understand the basic concept of superheroes and supervillains, and have a general idea of who Batman is, you should have no trouble understanding Suicide Squad.

On the other hand, those who love seeing connections between shared universe films will find plenty of references to DC’s other films. An expositional conversation places Suicide Squad after the events of Batman v Superman, with one character musing, “The world changed when Superman flew across the sky and then changed again when he didn’t.” Batman shows up briefly, as promised in the trailers, and another famous DC character gets an even shorter cameo (click here if you want to know who it is), but neither sticks around long enough to distract from the story at hand. All in all, Suicide Squad does a pretty good job of finding the balance between belonging to the DC universe and feeling beholden to the DC universe.


Do We Want More Suicide Squad?

Suicide Squad‘s story may be messy, but it more or less wraps up before the credits roll. If you never returned for another DC movie, you’d still feel like you got a complete tale with Suicide Squad — well, give or take an end-credits stinger. But what Warner Bros. hopes, of course, is that audiences will want to come back. Suicide Squad more or less succeeds on that front. It’s far from perfect, and I hope Suicide Squad 2 (or whatever the next chapter of this story ends up being) will fix some of the issues of this one. But the characters are lovable, the world they live in is intriguingly weird, and all in all Suicide Squad offers a playful alternative to DC’s more straightforward superhero films. Can Suicide Squad singlehandedly save the DC cinematic universe? No, probably not. But it’s an encouraging reminder that yes, DC knows how to have a good time.

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