When I saw Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn in the trailers for Suicide Squad, it was love at first sight. She seemed to be effortlessly nailing cheery murderousness. Here’s the moment that won me over; “Just kidding. That’s not what they really said.” Between that and her adorable pout when Rick Flagg ignored her warning that she was known to be quite vexing, I was looking forward to all-Harley, all the time.
The good news is that there will be a movie which will be all Harley, all the time, but this is not it. And with hindsight, I should have known this going in. Suicide Squad was directed by David Ayer. I’d been looking forward to another sarcastic bash-fest like Deadpool or Guardians of the Galaxy, but this was brought to us by the guy who made Fury and Sabotage. Under the supervision of Zach Snyder. Yeah, I was being way too optimistic.
Harley is pretty much as advertised, and she fits into the movie like Ronald McDonald at Nelson Mandela’s state funeral. This is a criticism of the movie, not Margot Robbie. I wanted to see a whole film tuned to her performance. That’s what the trailer had left me expecting. That’s not, of course, what Ayer and Snyder had in mind.
So it’s a big grim superhero mission movie as the ill-assorted anti-heroes are sent in to do something about a monster which will destroy the world if they don’t stop it. This is what comes of killing Superman, dudes. I know it’s annoying that he can just solve any problem that comes up, but killing him isn’t the answer; the answer is to come up with problems where Superman doesn’t know which side to help, or just plain thinks are beneath his dignity. You can send your low rent heroes off to deal with that stuff.
So, if you’ve seen any superhero movie, ever (and if you haven’t, please tell me how you managed it, because I want to live your life), you will find the plot of Suicide Squad and its climax tiresomely familiar. Ill-assorted team trying to pull together to tackle bad guy? Yup. Happening in a city being flattened by supernatural powers? Yup. All seems lost until someone sacrifices himself? Exactly.
Meanwhile there’s a perfectly serviceable origin story playing in the background for Harley Quinn, featuring as little Joker as they could get away with. Apparently there’s a whole lot more Jared Leto Joker on a cutting room floor somewhere, but a) Jared Leto seems to have spent the production getting on everyone’s nerves and b) Ayer was trying to make a horrible movie and the Joker might actually have been fun. To give you an idea of how little real effort went into getting this movie right, the Suicide Squad are all carefully introduced, and then have bombs put in their necks to keep them in line. And then, just as they get on the plane, a whole new squadmate is thrown on after them, without the slightest effort to give him a back story. They might as well have put a red shirt on him. Five minutes later, he’s had his head blown off so that we all know the bombs are real.
Now, when Batman v Superman tanked at the box office and appalled the critics, they released a new cut on DVD with 27 extra minutes of footage. So it’s always possible that we might get an enhanced Suicide Squad with more material. But it will be more David Ayer material, which is to say more doom and gloom and bleakness. So for maximum enjoyment, just watch the trailers, and pretend that one day they’re going to make THAT movie. It will be great. As long as David Ayer isn’t let anywhere near it.