Jan 13, 2020
Suicide Squad (2016): a recap (part 2 of 9)
Last time on Suicide Squad: The Wall got an idea.
An awful idea.
The Wall got a wonderful, awful idea.
She’s smiling because, with Superman dead, it’s the perfect time to pitch this wonderful, awful idea to her fellow Deep State goons. Once she does, you’ll wonder why exactly this idea had to wait until Superman was out of the picture. But that’s good, in a way. In retrospect, I’m glad that Suicide Squad wasted no time in disabusing me of the expectation that anything about Amanda Waller is going to make any sense.
Even her goony dinner companions can’t help but notice her glee. “We lose a national hero, and you look like the cat that ate the canary,” says some guy in a military class-A.
Waller accepts the slight in stride. “I’ve eaten a lot of canaries,” she admits.
Without further ado, she launches into her pitch of “Task Force X”, a name that might as well be “Scary Secret Government Thingy”. It’s a team of what Waller describes as “the worst of the worst”, some of whom, as her companion notes, have “abilities”. (Why are superhero movies so reluctant to actually use words like “superpowers”?)
“You know what the problem is with metahumans?” Waller asks. “The human part. We got lucky with Superman; he shared our values. The next Superman might not.”
She tosses a dossier on the table and screeches the movie to a clattering halt so that we can see six (six!) different flashback sequences that detail the backstories of the various members of the Suicide Squad. Every character’s sequence is introduced via an intertitle with tacky graphics that clash horribly with the tone of the scene, each of which sneaks in a “joke” worthy of a coffee mug from Spencer’s Gifts. First up is Deadshot.
Deadshot’s superpower is that he’s super good at shooting stuff with guns. His flashback finds him on the phone with his employer, demanding payment for an upcoming hit, and making zero effort to keep his voice down while his quarry exits a car while swarmed by armed guards. His fee secured (and then doubled for “being a dickhead”), Deadshot uses his all-purpose eye scope-y thing and a metal plate he tied to a fence post earlier to kill his target with a perfect ricochet to the head. Then he bails, trying to look inconspicuous while rappelling down a building in this outfit…
…and escapes into a bad cut.
“But everyone has a weakness,” Waller says, “and weaknesses can be leveraged.” Very good, thank you for explaining what a weakness is. Deadshot’s weakness is his eleven-year-old daughter, with whom he enjoys a very good relationship because Will Smith is congenitally unable to play bad-hearted characters. She’s even cool with him killing people! Gawsh, isn’t that precious. It’d be a shame if Fat Sleepy Batman were to break up this loving family.
Anyone else think it’s extremely fucked up of Batman to corner this dude in an alley, in front of his kid, in a manner very reminiscent of his own parents’ murder? Surely he had other options; what, did all his Bat-Gas go bad? All said, it’s pretty justifiable for Deadshot to want to shoot this asshole, but his daughter steps in front of his gun and tearfully pleads for him not to. And that’s how Deadshot got caught.
Of Deadshot’s whereabouts, Waller will only say that she “put him in a hole and threw away the hole.” I’m guessing David Ayer wrote that line and scribbled in “replace with something good later”.
Harley Quinn is up next, heralded by explosions of druggy neon and the strains of Rick James’ “Superfreak”. Subtle as always, soundtrack guy.
Harley Quinn’s superpower is that she’s crazy. No seriously, that’s it. And I’m sure you’re thinking, “Well, it’s cool that superhero movies can tackle adult themes like mental illness.” Oh, you sweet trusting soul.
We’re then introduced to the Joker in a flashback to his internment in Arkham Asylum, where Harley Quinn worked as a lowly psychiatrist named Dr. Harleen Quinzel (which is kind of like if Batman’s real name were Batford Manson). Here she is as an eight-year-old playing a doctor for Career Day.
She’s assigned to therapize this handsome rapscallion…
…who quickly steals her heart, and enlists her help to break out.
Joker’s purple shoes are being filled by Academy Award winner Jared Leto, and he is just… fucking… wretched. Like, identifying the worst part of Suicide Squad is like picking out the whitest guy at Coachella, but Leto’s Millennial Gangsta Joker is surely in the top 5. It’s actually kind of amazing that, for all of Suicide Squad’s concern for not repeating the mistakes of Batman V. Superman, they’ve done a note-perfect reiteration of Jesse Eisenberg’s universally-loathed Lex Luthor. He’s got the same tiresome quirkiness, the same twitchy monkey mannerisms, and the same superfluousness to the story.
Joker is traditionally depicted as not having any superpowers, but in Suicide Squad he has the power of killing the movie’s pace dead. He enlists Dr. Quinzel’s help in breaking out of Arkham, but before he’s even out of the hospital, he kidnaps her and straps her to an ECT machine. “I’m not gonna kill ya…” he says. “I’m just gonna hurt ya. Really… really… bad.”
And now you’re probably thinking, “Well, at least it’s cool that superhero movies can address adult themes like domestic abuse and codependency.” Dude, stop.
He turns on the machine and makes a woozy neon montage happen. “They became the king and queen of Gotham City,” Waller says in a voiceover. “And God help anyone who disrespected the queen.”
Then we get a painful, interminable scene in a club where Harley is dancing, and a dripping-with-bling Joker is meeting a nameless crook played by the rapper Common. Hollywood keeps insisting Common is a movie star, and no one’s buying it.
“You a lucky man, J. You got a bad bitch,” Common says.
Common is uncomfortable and says he doesn’t want to mess around with Joker’s lady, which offends Joker, so he shoots him.
The flashback sequence mercifully ends in the next scene when Batman gets into a car chase with Joker and Harley, causing them to crash into a river.
Batman dives in after them, but only finds Harley, who attempts to stab him. He clocks her in the dome, knocks her out, and fishes her out of the river and off to jail.
We get more introductory montages, but Deadshot and Harley are the only two who really matter in this movie, so let’s just speed through the other guys real quick.
Digger Harkness AKA Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) is a bank robber with the superpower of killing people with boomerangs. He was captured by the Flash using his crossover powers.
Chato Santana AKA El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) is a Mexican gang-banger with the superpower of conjuring fire and moping a lot.
Waylon Jones AKA Killer Croc (Adewale “Does Anybody Know What I Actually Look Like?” Akinnuoye-Agbaje) is a guy who’s evolving in reverse, but instead of turning into a Homo habilis or Australopithecus africanus, he becomes some weird alligator thing.
Dr. June Moone AKA Enchantress (Cara “Most Formidable Brow In Hollywood” Delevigne) is in Waller’s words “a flying, spell-casting, make-shit-disappear witch” possessing the body of archaeologist Moone, who stumbled into the wrong cave and released her.
The Enchantress has pretty much unlimited magic powers, but Waller assures her compatriots that she can control her via her heart, which she keeps in a steel briefcase at her side at all times.
The person in charge of wrangling all these ne’er-do-wells is special forces officer Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), with the power of letting you know which scenes are reshoots by the length of his hair.
Col. Flag is the one who originally—rescued? captured? recruited?—the Enchantress, as we see in a scene where he and his team storm a house full of violently killed soldiers to find her chilling in her Satanic bathtub. “Help me,” she whispers.
“I assigned him to watch Dr. Moone,” Waller says, “and just as I hoped, it got personal.”
“I have the Enchantress’s heart, and Dr. Moone has his,” Waller gloats. “Now he’ll follow my orders as holy writ.” Wow. What a terrible idea. The fact that Flag got personally involved with Moone means rather precisely that he does not follow orders. You’re not supposed to do that when you provide protective detail. And now he’s shtupping the very person who wants very badly to escape (or, at least, shtupping the body that the person who wants to escape lives in)? C’mon, Waller, I thought you were supposed to be an evil mastermind.
Having completely lost the audience at this point, David Ayer abandons the dinner scene and cuts abruptly to the Pentagon.
The one guy in the dinner scene (David Harbour) who seemed to be on board with Waller’s plan poses a question to some military dudes: “What if Superman had decided to fly down, rip off the roof of the White House, and grabbed the president… who would’ve stopped him?” I dunno, what if he had decided to cause fourteen 9/11’s worth of damage to a major city?
Amanda Waller, he says, has an app for that. She gets up and gives pretty much the same spiel as before, but this time focuses less on the “stop super-threats” angle and more on the “get them to do dirty stuff that regular superheroes won’t do and disavow them if they get caught” angle. Hey, you’ve got to tailor your pitch to your audience; that’s just good business sense.
The military folks are of course still grumbling about how these supervillains can’t possibly be controlled, so Waller decides to give a demonstration of her control over Enchantress. Dr. Moone is brought out to take center stage. She whispers, “Enchantress…” and transforms into the dirtiest-looking witch I’ve ever seen. She’s literally issuing a cloud of filth.
Waller says, “Go get it, girl,” and Enchantress teleports out of the room and pops back, dropping a secret Iranian weapons dossier in front of the dude who was doing most of the bitching.
“Thank you,” Waller says. “We’d like Dr. Moone back.” But Enchantress isn’t budging. Waller reaches into her briefcase and stabs Enchantress’s heart.
She screams in agony and changes back into Dr. Moone.
“Please,” says a shaken Dr. Moone. “I can’t do that again.” She’s unceremoniously ushered out by Colonel Flag. Waller’s butt buddy votes to make Waller’s plan a reality and the motion passes.
God, that was a lot, wasn’t it? Be sure to check back in next time to meet two more Squad members we didn’t get to yet.