In a world dealing with the aftermath of Superman’s demise and the emergence of a new threat to the world, a group made up of the worst of the worst is brought together to defend us…at the cost of their own lives.
Director: David Ayer
Starring: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood, Cara Delevingne, Ben Affleck
Run Time: 123 Minutes
Release Date: Out Now
It’s fair to say that things haven’t really gone to plan for the mooted DC Universe thus far. The apathy that greeted Man of Steel then multiplied tenfold (and then some) for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, so here we are; the immediate future of a universe intended to challenge Marvel’s dominance left in the hands of a group of bad guys. Brought together by Amanda Waller, we meet the likes of Harley Quinn, Deadshot and the rest of a ragtag group of killers, mercenaries and all-round not very nice people. An extensive opening period of exposition and introduction is realistically required, however it never really entices and causes the movie to start off from a slow point that it never manages to bounce back from.
To it’s credit, once the team get together and things start to get on track, there are the makings of something good. Deadshot gets the majority of the early focus to tell his story, before Harley takes over and begins to make the film her on. It’s pretty much here, once the character introductions are out of the way and the script calls for a plot to be established that things start going south. And it doesn’t get any better.
Will Smith’s casting raised plenty of eyebrows when it was announced, with a less-than-stellar last few years’ worth of movies hardly inspiring fans and giving them hope that he could produce a definitive Deadshot. However, whether it be a case of wanting to prove people wrong or being able to enjoy being part of an ensemble cast as opposed to the lead star – or maybe a bit of both – Smith is excellent here. He does a fine job of conveying the moral fight he is seemingly battling constantly. Admittedly a hitman for hire, though also wanting to do right by his daughter, Smith is clearly relishing the part and puts forward his best performance in quite some time. A word also for his brief early scene with a certain Gotham-based crimefighter; whether this is a case of seeds being laid for a future showdown, or just something for this movie, it is a gripping scene with two Hollywood heavyweights in an environment that so many would never have predicted they would find themselves in.
Elsewhere, the main talking point coming into this movie, cast-wise, was that of one Harley Quinn. Played with gusto and sheer enthusiasm by Margot Robbie, it is clear that Ayer is holding Harley back from completely stealing the show, though she is given the film’s best moments and lines. There had been a lot of excitement leading into this, and while the film sometimes seems more than willing to curb that enthusiasm, Robbie delivers, and then some. There is more than enough on show, whether it be the magnetic charisma displayed or just the outright sexual energy put into the character, to suggest that should DC wish to mine the solo Harley franchise at any time, there is success to be had.
The other main casting to pique the interest, of course, was Jared Leto as Joker. Stepping into some gigantic shoes previously filled by Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger, Leto is fine here. Playing a very different Joker to his predecessors, and playing it well, he isn’t really given all that much to do, and in all honesty, you are left wondering why he is even really here. Given that he has no tie to the Squad – other than his relationship with Harley – this new Joker’s first appearance could have waited until another time. Alternatively, watching Joker and Harley’s relationship blossom and he turn into a more interesting character, you also find yourself wishing that maybe one of those 11-hour changes was to shake things up when it came to the main villain of the movie.
With the music-and-graphic-heavy introductions being chosen for some of the team, it was made very clear – and very quickly – who we should be focusing on. Now, while Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang is also given his own introductory welcoming and a noticeable focus at key points in the movie, you actually find yourself trying to find a genuine reason why you should really care about those backing up Quinn and Deadshot. Annoyingly, Courtney is pretty good here, adding some believability and humour to Boomerang despite being let down by the writing. Equally, Jay Hernandez does some very good work as Diablo, doing his very best to bring the viewer along on his roller coaster of emotions throughout. Once again, however, the writing doesn’t do any favours, as his story at times feels like it should have been told over a longer period of time before an emotionally-crushing and mood-changing reveal comes to light concerning an incident from his past. Without spoiling, it feels as though this revelation is meant to firmly get us on his side and want to see him succeed, having already established a firm attachment and investment to the character. Unfortunately, the time just hasn’t been there to suitably build and invest.
In all honesty, Diablo’s story feels like a pretty accurate summation of Warner’s attempts to build the DC Universe thus far; there is a story waiting to be told, a story that people are willing to watch and willing to allow themselves to become invested in, there just isn’t the time to tell it. Which means we are left with films like Dawn of Justice, trying to construct and establish threads that just aren’t yet strong enough to be built.
All in all, while it doesn’t offer the same level of frustrations as Batman v Superman, and is probably a better film, there are still a lot of frustration. Too many characters are left underdeveloped or quite simply ignored, while once again the main villain is nothing more than a weak CGI character with no real mission other than a hackneyed plot to take over the world, and a final act that offers nothing major in the way of drama or suitable pay off.
It’s film number three now in Warner’s DC Universe, and we are still waiting for that definitive blockbuster to get things up and running. And while there are promising signs in the future for the likes of Harley, Joker and Deadshot, this has to be seen as yet another failure in what is quickly becoming the norm.