Movie Review: Suicide Squad

I actually went to see Suicide Squad on 09 August and am only just now getting around to writing the review for it. One of the reasons is due to time and other reasons are due to me not really knowing whether or not I wanted to actually talk about this movie.

“Figuring they’re all expendable, a U.S. intelligence officer decides to assemble a team of dangerous, incarcerated supervillains for a top-secret mission. Now armed with government weapons, Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc and other despicable inmates must learn to work together. Dubbed Task Force X, the criminals unite to battle a mysterious and powerful entity, while the diabolical Joker (Jared Leto) launches an evil agenda of his own.”

I had mixed feelings about going to see this movie. I’d purposefully avoided watching the previews or discussing what I thought might happen with the intent of going into the movie without any preconceived notions. If left to my own devices, I probably wouldn’t have actually gone to see it, but it was included as part of a desired birthday celebration and so I went.

I was concerned about this movie because I had a feeling that it would be a movie designed to cater to the male audience with Harley Quinn’s character. I was nervous about the movie destroying her as a character, especially when most of my recent awareness of Harley as a character is from what I read online. There are a couple of different posts I’ve seen about Harley acknowledging that her relationship with the Joker is toxic and how she moves past it to become a better person. She leaves the Joker and starts living her life a lot differently. If you’re curious about Harley’s story, you can read some of the posts here.

If you don’t feel like scrolling through all those, I’ll give you a very basic rundown. The main comic features Harley Quinn and Black Canary fighting. During the fight, Black Canary is revealed to be pregnant and Harley then refuses to fight her and they have a discussion about some of Harley’s back story. In future panels, Harley visits Black Canary in the hospital immediately following the birth of Black Canary’s son, wherein Harley then gives some very cute and very practical gifts to Black Canary.

The main point, though, is that Harley was in an abusive relationship with the Joker and eventually, she realizes that fact and leaves. And while the movie touched on a small part of the fact that Harley Quinn was once Doctor Harleen Frances Quinzel who was a psychiatrist working at Arkham Asylum who fell in love with the Joker, the movie does not go anywhere near the full character development and true strength of Harley. The movie does exactly what I feared it would do, which is to romanticize the relationship between Harley and the Joker. Doing so took away Harley’s power; it made her a slave catering towards the male audience by removing Harley’s ability to be her own character, independent of her relationship with the Joker. Harley’s character in the movie was intended to be sexy eye-candy for the male audience and to show devotion to her abusive partner, which seems to be some sort of a fetish for that same male audience – a hot chick who will do anything for you who you can abuse whenever you wish and she’ll still be loyal to you. It makes me sick.

Which brings up yet another concern with this movie (and with most movies in general, to be honest) – I can think of exactly five women and one girl in this movie. While over 50% of the Earth’s population is female, movies seem to be unable or unwilling to cast women into the stories, even as extras. The five women I can think of in this movie are Harley, Amanda Waller, Enchantress/June Moone, Katana, the woman who escorts one of the Suicide Squad members from the truck and is back-handed in a blatant display of unnecessary violence against women, and Zoe Lawton, Deadshot’s daughter. The way the movie portrays these women is through violence and mostly through their relationship to men. Harley is only significant because of her relationship with the Joker. Enchantress/June Moone is only significant in her relationship with Colonel Rick Flag. Katana is only motivated to do what she does because of the spirit of her husband trapped in her sword. Zoe Lawton only exists in this story to provide motivation for Deadshot. The only woman in this movie who doesn’t appear to be some sort of character requiring a male attachment in the movie is Amanda Waller, and I would say that she is the true villain of the story. While she might have good intent at first, her methods are extreme and her actions cause destruction to the lives of citizens who simply want to live their lives in peace. I can’t even remember seeing any other women as extras throughout the entire movie. Not in the background as soldiers, not working in clinics as doctors, not even walking along the streets as extras. Is it possible they’re there and I missed them? Sure. But for the majority of this movie, the only woman who stands on her own is the actual villain of this movie, Amanda Waller.

I could write a lot more about the treatment of women in this movie (and most other movies, too), but I think those who don’t understand the sexist undercurrent of our entire society are unlikely to sympathize or acknowledge the issue, while those to whom this is a fact of everyday life already empathize with what happened in this movie.

This was probably the worst version of the Joker I’ve ever seen, and I’ve watched the animated cartoons, the older movies from the 80s and 90s, read the comic books, seen the video games, and am overall very familiar with the different versions of this character. This version of the Joker was so off-character that every time Joker showed up on the screen, I actively cringed and wanted him gone as quickly as possible. There was nothing about this version of the Joker which remained even remotely true to the actual character. And, yes, I do understand that each actor wants to remake something with their own spin on it, but this was such an inaccurate version of the Joker that it was painful to watch. I was excited when his helicopter crashed and then angry when he attacked the prison at the end. Harley was clearly doing a lot better with Joker dead.

So what did I like about the movie? The one character who actually carried the entire movie was Deadshot. His story was interesting, his motivation was realistic, and his discussion with his daughter at the end of the movie concerning math was easily worth the entire ticket price for the matinée. If the movie had removed the Joker completely, I would have really enjoyed Harley’s character, too. But in the movie, just when you start to like her as a character, the Joker comes back on-screen and ruins the whole thing. I also liked El Diablo’s character arc because he was the one criminal who was actively seeking redemption for what he’d done.

Overall, I’d say this movie is a one or a very low-two on my rating scale, which is probably the lowest rating I’ve ever given anything I’ve reviewed. The only way I might be willing to spend money on this movie is if in the DVD version, they offer a director’s cut that removes the Joker completely. That *might* make it worth buying. Maybe.

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About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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