For superhero movie fans like us, it's hard to not view this film in the context of other DC movies. Honestly, we're a bit relieved with what we saw in “Suicide Squad”. Earlier this year “Batman vs. Superman” (aka BvS) set the bar for expectations pretty low for films in the DC cinematic universe, with its kooky spin on Lex Luthor, the “Martha” moment, and just by cramming in too many stories and characters into a single movie. “Suicide Squad” was a marked improvement, with a better grasp of storytelling and a much better set-up of things to come.
Though still character-heavy, the film was a lot more cohesive compared to BvS. The characters' motivations are clearer, the movie makes more sense, and it's a lot more fun. This time around, the major characters all receive a background story so that the audience knows who they are. Some characters receive more attention than others--at times the story feels like it's really about Harley (Margot Robbie) and the Joker (Jared Leto), and at other times it feels like a story about Deadshot (Will Smith). This is to be expected in an ensemble film with that has a handful of A-list actors in lead roles, and it doesn't detract much from the film's overall coherence.
That being said, the film doesn't really live up to the hype—but only because there has been so much hype for this film. Had we never heard of the film before, it probably would have been a very pleasant surprise. However, Warner Brothers has been hyping every little detail of the film for some time—with pictures “leaked” from the set and rumors swirling on social media. Most of the hype centered on Jared Leto's performance as the Joker—which in the end wasn't a very big part of the film. Leto makes a handful of appearances in Harley's origin story, as well as a few other points (see the spoilers section below for details, if you dare). He is mostly in the movie as a supporting character, and likely setting up things to come. The performances of both Leto as the Joker and Robbie as Harley Quinn were good, and in some ways were a nod to the versions of their characters seen in “Batman: the Animated Series”. Will Smith, Viola Davis, and the rest of the cast delivered strong performances as well. Even the handfull of Killer Croc lines left an impression. Cara Delevingne's performance as Enchantress was very creepy, and looked really amazing.
Overall, the film was pretty good--the best DC Universe film so far. It didn't blow us away, but it was a definite improvement on BvS, and offers a promise of good things to come from Warner Brothers. It had a few moments of cheesiness and some scenes that left us a bit confused, but it also had some great laughs that showed us that not everything coming from DC is dark and gloomy. We did feel that a few things felt a bit tacked on at times—like the Joker's role, but overall the movie works. We give it a generous 7 out of 10. You'll probably enjoy it if you're a comic book fan, like we are.
Oh, and make sure you stick around for the mid-credit scene. Now, if we haven't convinced you to go and see it yet, but you still want to find out what happens, then read on.
The film starts with our “heroes” in a secret maximum-security prison. We're soon introduced to them through at a meeting between government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), and other high-ranking military officials. Waller fears that since Superman's death in BvS, there is no one to protect earth from an attack by a super-powered terrorist. She goes through the files of Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman), and Enchantress (Cara Delevingne). Each gets a concise vignette explaining their background—some including neat little cameos by Batman and the Flash. Waller visits the prisoners to discuss a possible deal in exchange for their cooperation.
Not long after, Waller's attempts to head off disaster become counter-productive. The Enchantress, who is a centuries-old witch under the control of Waller, breaks free of her magical bonds while on a mission with her lover, Rick Flagg. She slips away and frees her brother—himself a magical being—by putting his soul into a man's body. The two then wreak havoc Midway City, in a sequence that develops very quickly with little of the carnage appearing on screen—which goes very nicely with the lack of information our characters have going into the action.
From there, the heroes are forced from their prison cells and injected with remote-control bombs that Waller is capable of detonating should trouble arise. The group is to go into Midway City to help with a rescue mission. They are joined by Katana (Karen Fukuhara) and Slipknot (Adam Beach), who quickly helps demonstrate just how powerful those bombs in their heads are...
The group encounters some of Enchantress' minions: normal people turned into an army of mind-controlled beings from another dimension, who are tougher and stronger than normal humans. After fighting their way through, they make it to target site, where they fight their way through and find the person they are to rescue: Amanda Waller! What a twist! As they try to flee the scene, the group encounters the Joker in a hijacked helicopter, who tries to rescue his beloved Harley. His foolish attempt is cut short by a military air strike. Harley survives the attempted escape, rejoining the group as Waller is captured by the Enchantress, and forced to give up her knowledge of military secrets as the Enchantress attempts to take over the world.
A lull in the action follows as the group realizes that they've been used and they don't feel like carrying on. But after they re-group, it's on to the final fight scene. They locate the Enchantress, and launch their final attack, with Killer Croc going in through a flooded subway tunnel with some explosives, and Diablo sacrificing himself to take out the Enchantress' brother. The party struggles as Enchantress plays with their minds, but the group comes to its senses, and takes her on—with Harley delivering the final surprise blow.
In the end, the heroes are rewarded and we find that the Joker has cheated death as he comes to rescue Harley. What's better is that we find in a mid-credit scene that Waller has survived long enough to make a deal with Bruce Wayne, who is interested in assembling his own group of heroes to fight off the next major threat. The scene makes for a much more satisfying set-up for the coming DCU movies than got from BvS, that actually piqued our interest in the upcoming “Justice League” movie.