Illustration by Hanlin Cheng

Superhero movies can be fantastic. What sets them apart from other genres is the thrill that comes from the clash between good and bad, pure and evil, hero and villain. Best of all, is the rush of satisfaction when the hero courageously defeats the notorious villain in a feat of pure bravery. Superhero movies often emphasize the importance of perseverance and courage in one’s pursuit of success. The audience often feels as if, like Superman, they can do anything with determination and the right mindset. Yet I have to say, Suicide Squad completely ruined it.

That isn’t to say that every aspect of the movie was bad. Frankly, the idea of a team solely comprised of villains, like the“Anti–Avengers,” fighting to save the world is quite unique. It is true that the classic superhero movie, entailing the basic clash between good and evil, never fails to produce a decent film. However, Marvel and DC Comics are instead trying to create more original superhero movies, such as Deadpool and Guardians of the Galaxy. These movies fared very well in the box office because the heroes were not perfect, earnest, kind, and caring. Their parents did not die when they were very young (ie. like every other superhero ever). In contrast, the heroes of these movies were originally criminals who became good and kind-hearted people as their lives morphed into those of superheroes. The great thing about these characters is that they not only struggle with fighting evil, but they are also changing and developing as the story progresses. One can easily see that this is what Suicide Squad attempted to achieve but failed.

So, what happened? How did a reputable film studio take such a distinctive and innovative idea, hire some of the best actors in Hollywood, and end up with such a dry, boring, and ironically typical film? The problem is that DC Comics doesn’t know what a villain is. Villains are self–absorbed psychopathic egomaniacs, whose lust for power, control, and attention results in an incredibly dysfunctional group setting. The greatest villains in the movie industry share these qualities: Joker, Lex Luther, Darth Vader, Lord Voldemort, etc. This is precisely what DC Comics has failed to identify.  There is a difference between criminals and villains. The principal “villains” in Suicide Squad:  Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), and Diablo (Jay Hernandez) are all people that we can relate to, who simply made bad life decisions and thereby became the unethical people that they are. In essence, the characters are neither villain nor hero. They’re kind of just there.

But wait, there’s more. It seems ironic: DC comics wanted to create an unconventional movie and wrote the most overused, boring superhero plot of the decade. Here it is again—a race of aliens builds an army and creates a huge ball of light in the sky that’s going to destroy humankind. Where is the nail–biting and anticipation the audience used to feel as the villain cooks up a devious plot, unknown to our distracted hero? If you’re just going to copy a plot for all of your movies, it better be good, at least. Additionally, the plot has so many holes that one starts to question if the screenwriters gave up after a week and hastily rushed through the rest of the script. The villain, Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), has unreasonable and bizarre reasons for world domination. She apparently wants to kill all humans because they don’t pray to her anymore and are scared of her? Umm… okay?

We also see that most of the Suicide Squad is clearly expendable and contributes absolutely nothing to the film. Killer Croc and Captain Boomerang barely say more than 5 lines combined and halfway through the film most viewers probably forgot they were even there. Captain Rick Flag was an integral part of the film and plot, yet the screenwriters seemingly forgot to tell us anything about him at all. All we know is that he works for the military.

We see, however, that Harley Quinn, Deadshot, and Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) were beautifully developed, complex characters. Harley Quinn especially resonates with the audience as we witness her transformation from an innocent psychiatrist to a crazed lunatic. Her sarcastic humour adds a fun playfulness to the movie. Her relationship with the Joker (Jared Leto) is intriguing and complex—the audience fears it as toxic and unhealthy. It continues to bewilder us towards the end of the film when Enchantress reveals that Harley’s true desire is a peaceful, stable, family life. We have to wonder why she left her calm and normal life to commit crime with the joker if she already had what she wanted in the first place. This question is wittingly left hanging, never answered, leaving the audience in deep thought, just like well written literature does. Can love really change you?

Deadshot is pretty boring with little character development. A family man who loves his daughter, he terribly fails at being a villain. However, Will Smith’s acting is stellar and he creatively manages to bring his character to life. He seems to lead the group and is the only one we can see as a true hero.

In the end, Amanda Waller, the politician who controls the group, is truly the most interesting and villainous character of them all. She may work for the government, she may claim to do good, but do not be fooled. She is a sociopath: conniving, power hungry, and devious with no empathy to any member of the team. She gets everything she wants. She convinces the government leaders to use the Suicide Squad as weapons, she assumes full and brutal control over them, and at the end of the whole fiasco caused by Enchantress, she doesn’t get fired or demoted. You have to admit—she’s pretty badass.

If Suicide Squad wasn’t starring some of the biggest names in Hollywood, it would have been truly unwatchable. The incredible acting of Margot Robbie, Will Smith, and Jared Leto completely carried the movie. They turned a dysfunctional plot and a terribly executed theme into an almost decent movie with their ability to remarkably embody their characters and portray them in a complex and entertaining manner.