Back in the ‘80s, when the Suicide Squad first appeared in their own DC book, comics were printed with the four-colour process, a mesh of bright dots that rendered the worlds of superheroes in lurid, eye-popping, pulse-quickening tones.
In its neon colours, its breakneck pace and its brilliant, booming soundtrack, Suicide Squad is the closest Hollywood has come to the experience of recreating that world without resorting to gimmicks like frames, captions and speech bubbles. So while the trend in comic book films has, for some time, been towards the realism and grit of Christopher Nolan’s masterful Batman trilogy, here – finally – is a superhero film that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Where other superhero movies pore over their characters’ origin stories, in Suicide Squad only Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn – who gets all of the best lines – and Will Smith’s Deadshot, an assassin with heart – are fleshed out in 3D. The rest get short shrift, which is fine because they’re all faintly ridiculous. Captain Boomerang? Aussie bloke who robs banks with a boomerang. Killer Croc? Dude who looks like a crocodile and kills people. At one point, we see Katana talking to the soul of her dead husband, who happens to be trapped in her samurai sword. ‘Nuff said.
The brevity is refreshing, but it’s necessary too, because the conceit of the team itself takes some explaining. Essentially, the Squad are a group of super-powered baddies working on behalf of the government in exchange for time off their multiple life sentences. If they refuse to comply, a tiny explosive implant will blow their heads off at the tap of an app, like evil Tinder.
The main issue, really, is what happens once the fast-paced setting up is done, because a problem quickly arises: which ultra-villain do you pitch a team of villains against? The best director David Ayer could come up with is a thin rip-off of Sigourney Weaver’s Gozer from Ghostbusters and an army of monsters made of what looks like moulded sheep shit.
It’s not the only sticking point. The team’s shifting loyalties never quite make sense, Jared Leto, who lives up to the hype as The Joker, doesn’t get anywhere near enough screen time, and there are plot holes bigger than Ben Affleck’s Batman chin. Most of them are spoilers, but a crucial one is this: why the hell is the government resorting to bizarre, drastic measures when we also see snippets of genuine heroes, like fast-as-fuck good guy The Flash? The answer, you suspect, is this: to lay the groundwork for the forthcoming Justice League movie.
But really, Suicide Squad pretends to be nothing more than a fun, fast, daft, superhero movie, and it absolutely delivers. It’s much like those old comic pages then – great to look at, but if you get a bit too close you can see the gaps between the dots.