Suicide Squad isn’t one of those movies. I genuinely believe that if you went back and changed a few things, Suicide Squad would work enough to deflect a lot of the hate that is being hurled at it. Don’t get me wrong: it deserves a lot of the hate, but for all the things it’s doing wrong, it is doing some key things right. So let’s talk about what works in Suicide Squad.
First and foremost, it’s got two solid leads. I know the argument is that it’s an ensemble movie and it doesn’t take the time to get to know all of them. I’ve heard multiple times in reviews that “Suicide Squad didn’t need ______ character” and that is a very accurate critique, but my argument is “who cares?” I don’t. Suicide Squad really has two stars: Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and Will Smith as Deadshot, and they’re both doing exactly what you hired them to do. Will Smith is his charismatic self and Robbie is sexy and fun, setting the bar rather high for such an iconic character that we’ve never seen played in movies before. They work, and character wise they’re also the focus. I want to watch both of them on screen and Suicide Squad gives them plenty of screen time.
The Hunt for Red October because I didn’t get to know the ship's lead engineer. The engineer plays a part, but all I need to know is that he plays a part. If your leads are working, who cares that Killer Croc didn’t get enough screen time? In fact, I’ll argue that Suicide Squad actually did the opposite by trying to give them any character beats at all. Stick Katana in the back, let her slice up some guys. I don’t need to know about her fiancé.
Suicide Squad also gets the tone right. DC has taken the “dark” road when it comes to their movies. It works, but more times it doesn’t. Superman is not a dark character and those movies fail as a result. However, it works for the Batman movies and it’s spot on for the Suicide Squad. While I do think that a more lighthearted version could be done, the honest truth is that Marvel did it better with Guardians of the Galaxy so going in a different direction seems right. Besides, Harley Quinn and Deadshot need to be in a dark movie. They thrive there in the comics and it feels genuine when it’s on screen. Along these lines, the characters look great -- okay, maybe not Killer Croc, but the design on Harley, Deadshot, El Diablo, and Boomerang work for the mood of the film. El Diablo looks pretty great in Suicide Squad but would feel out of place fighting in the airport with the Avengers. The mood, tone, and design all are working in the same direction.
Watching Suicide Squad, I felt that a lot of it paralleled the first X-Men movie. X-Men has a few solid leads with background characters as filler where they attempt to give them some character beats. The way characters were introduced and played out for a majority of the movie is very similar in both movies. Where the two movies separate is the villain. Suicide Squad sets everything up for a great final showdown but overstuffs the end to where it becomes nonsense. With Magneto, I understood him, I understood what he stood for and what he was doing. I have no idea what is happening at the end of Suicide Squad. I don’t know what the machine the Enchantress is making is or what’s going to really happen when she finally completes it. It can be argued that she feels like too much for the Suicide Squad, but Guardians of the Galaxy did the same thing with Ronan and made it work by driving home the theme of “The group is stronger the the individual.” The only other semblance of a villain in the movie is The Joker, who, while I don’t have the same venom for Leto’s interpretation that others do, serves more to create another movie (that I don’t really care to see) than to do anything. I actually would have liked to have seen The Joker used the same way they used Batman in Suicide Squad -- as this side character with enough information given for us to want to see more of it.