In David Ayer’s big-budget superhero film Suicide Squad, adapted from the DC Comics series, Superman is dead (temporarily) and his cohort Batman is, I dunno, busy brooding somewhere. To thwart this week’s villain, a new team of crime-fighters must be assembled.
The twist: They’re all criminally inclined meta-humans, locked up in the Louisiana bayou, and due to be assembled into the generically titled Task Force X. But first let’s meet them! Cue an insanely long series of contemporary and flashback intros for so many people — seriously, is one of these meta-humans called Data Dump? It’s like that first day at work when they make you meet everybody: Is John in accounting the guy who can do rope tricks or the one who can shoot fire from his fingers?
Beyond their intro sizzle reel, most of these folks get short shrift throughout the film. The headliners are gun-slinger Deadshot (Will Smith), sexualized nutter Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), boring regular human Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and government person Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). Waller is like the Hillary Clinton of the group: Her superpower is steely slicing through bureaucracy while wearing a sensible business-casual outfit.
The plot — careful, mind the holes — finds the X-Team taking on a pair of shapeshifting ancient forces of darkness, previously safely stored in ceramic bottles. There’s the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) and her brother, who must be from another mother because they don’t resemble each other at all: The Enchantress is tiny and looks like she fell out of a Cecil B. DeMille Biblical spectacle and into a cobweb; her brother is huge and semi-mechanical, plus he glows and has weird extendo-arms. With no preamble or explanation, Big Bro goes from waiting for the subway to wiping out Midway City. These magical baddies also have the ability to convert civilians into faceless killers covered in black boils.
But truly, it’s hard to care that much about these bad people, or the lightning-belching cloud of debris swirling above Midway, or whether Jared Leto’s Joker is disturbing or distracting. This is just filler until the marquee heroes come back. It could have been a satisfying mid-summer amuse-bouche, but the film is choppy and uneven, never finding the giddy snarkiness that might have propelled it through its wholly predictable story. At the “end” of Suicide Squad, our heroes are back in the bayou hoosegow where they began, because in comics, time is a flat circle.