Suicide Squad had me checking for grays.
Trailer after stylized trailer would come out for DC’s follow up to Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and time after time I would find myself struggling to key into the film’s frequency, a circumstance it began to seem I was utterly alone in experiencing. Suicide Squad was trending on Twitter. Suicide Squad was tracking to make a trillion dollars in pre-sale tickets. Suicide Squad partied with Kendrick at Obama’s birthday. So why the hell could I not muster even the slightest bit of enthusiasm for this newfound national treasure? Why was the enthusiasm for this pop art masterpiece eluding me so entirely?
Then it dawned on me.
Maybe I’m old.
Maybe this is what grandpa feels like when I make him watch Valhalla Rising.
The stakes were high when I went to see Suicide Squad. Nothing less than my youth was at stake. Could I really, truly be so woefully out of touch? Already?
If plot is a current that takes us from a beginning to an ending, Suicide Squad is a puddle grazed by an unpredictable, light breeze blowing every which way across its surface.
Some characters are introduced over and over again and some appear and disappear like they’ve been penciled in, then erased from some sort of voodoo script. It’s a film that just sort of wanders around, feeling more like the cinematic representation of a brainstorming session than a finished script. There are preordained moments throughout the movie that happen without any sort of circumstantial buildup, narrative explosions going off throughout the piece without ever establishing there was any narrative TNT, or even a narrative match, in the first place. And a large portion of these moments are predictable enough that you might not even realize you’ve been given absolutely zero ground work for their occurrence. Protagonists arrive at emotional conclusions to journeys we never knew they were on. Antagonists hatch load-bearing schemes, crucial to the plot of the film, without the slightest hint of why they’re doing what they’re doing, or even what they’re actually doing. Figuring out why the villain is doing what the villain is doing in Suicide Squad is like trying to decipher Lex Luthor’s motivations in Batman V Superman if he spent the whole film speaking Latin.
Needless to say, my lukewarm reception to the abundant marketing material for Suicide Squad was no cause for alarm. I’m young and wild! I’m going to live forever! Popular culture bends to the will of my demographic!
The narrative unraveling from the film’s lackluster critical reception seems to be one of conflicting powers that be, which is believable enough. Suicide Squad seems like it has to answer for the edge and humor of Deadpool, the quirk of Guardians of the Galaxy and the disappointment of Batman V Superman, goals that may have led to the sort of cookie-cutter committee school of production that has watered down so many blockbusters before.
Maybe there is something resembling a pop art masterpiece buried within Suicide Squad. Micro-managed as the production seems to have been, the end result of the film’s various powers at play is a sort of anarchy, or a hyper-engineered nihilism. Like it’s some sort of monster that turned on every one of its many creators. I don’t believe this is the movie writer/director David Ayer set out to make. It sounds like it isn’t the movie the Joker thought he’d signed on for. It definitely isn’t the answer to Deadpool or Guardians or Batman V Superman that the producers were probably hoping for. And I suspect, even for fans of the film, the movie didn’t entirely fulfill their expectations.
Perhaps that way lies the art of Suicide Squad, a movie that wildly writhes and wriggles its way free of its creators’ intentions and its audience’s expectations.
Suicide Squad is subversive in all of the least enjoyable ways. That being said, it was clear from the beginning that it and I weren’t meant to mesh. Suicide Squad will no doubt have its fans, but they possess some X-factor beyond youth and incorruptible charm that I contentedly lack.