Giant spoilers for Suicide Squad lurk within this post, you have been warned!
As the third movie in the ambitious DC Extended Universe, Suicide Squad is also the third live-action DC movie of recent years to be dragged through the mud by the critics before it was even released.
It's easy to see why the movie is a polarizing one — like Batman v Superman before it, motivations and character are muddled in a script that feels more like a first draft than a finished product. But it still plays out as a largely entertaining movie, and unlike Batman v Superman it's surprisingly beholden to the comic book source material.
So whilst there were aspects which certainly could've been improved upon, here's eight things we think Suicide Squad did really well.
1. Harley Is A Clear Quinn-er
Though a point of contention for some people, it's hard to argue that Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn wasn't a bright spot. Ignoring the questionable Hot Topic fashion choices, her character played very closely to her New 52 Suicide Squad counterpart, both in character development and physicality.
Her fighting style closely emulated the comics, using a blend of gymnastic skill and baseball bats. And her personality was pretty much on point, from her "I'm known to be quite vexing" comment to the slip of her confident mask that we see whilst she sits atop the police car in the pouring rain. Even her trademark high-pitched voice was carried off very well by the talented Robbie, and we can't to see more of her as the DCEU moves forward.
2. Deadshot Hits The Mark
Speaking of characters who were very well translated from their New 52 counterparts, Deadshot/Floyd Lawton was pretty on the mark too. A mixture of a sarcastic mercenary and father trying to make amends for his sins, Will Smith carried Deadshot as the de-facto second in command behind Rick Flagg, the one who perhaps needs the Squad more than he realizes.
Sadly the dynamic between Deadshot and Harley Quinn didn't get that far off the ground due to the reappearance of her beau, Joker, but it was more than hinted at. The "almost but not really" relationship between Harley and Deadshot in the comics is a charming part of the Squad dynamic (well, apart from that time she made him wear the Joker's skinned face, that wasn't very charming) so it was nice to see some of that replicated here, especially the moment in the rain.
His sanity in the face of the rest of the Squad's insanity was also a source of some well needed moments of levity, punctuating the dark story with well placed comedy. Especially the moment in the shooting range when he shakes down and susses out Rick Flag and Amanda Waller pretty quickly, whilst showing off some badass marksmanship skills.
3. Harley & Joker, Bonnie & Clyde
Though the deleted scenes reveal that the original plan was to have Joker be far more abusive towards Harley Quinn, it was nice to see a softer side to their relationship in Suicide Squad. We don't mean softer in terms of flowers and love notes though, murder and mayhem was still the name of their game, but their dynamic was more Bonnie and Clyde than an abuse victim and her abusee.
This is something we don't really see all that often in the comics, perhaps with the exception of Brian Azzarello's Joker, in which Joker has a slightly needier relationship with Harley. The fact that Harley chooses to jump into the chemical vat rather than being pushed in against her will by Joker as per the New 52 continuity makes her origins less problematic too, giving her more agency in the act that made her Harley Quinn.
4. Amanda Waller: Squad Queen
We always knew Viola Davis was going to be great, but there's something about the way she handles the character of Amanda Waller that makes us love to hate her, or hate to love her, pick one. She nails the two-faced Amanda, who never flinches or compromises, even if it means shooting a bunch of innocent people in order to keep her secrets secret.
In a movie where almost the entire cast are "bad guys", it was a bold move to make Amanda Waller perhaps the worst of the bunch morally. The difference between Waller and the rest of Task Force X is that she knows how to color within the lines of government, and so they're the ones with the bombs in their necks whilst she holds their leashes.
Of course her end goal is for the greater good, but her methods would make even the grumpy-ass Bruce Wayne/Batman of the DCEU balk. And of course they do, as we discover during the mid-credits scene when she lays a perfect smack down on Wayne by hinting that she knows his secret identity. Waller 1, Wayne 0.
5. The Team Dynamic
It's the conflict typical of ensemble movies: You get a bunch of characters with conflicting personalities who have to learn to work together to overcome some great evil, but they spend a good two-thirds of the movie trying to learn to work together — think The Avengers.
Suicide Squad doesn't fall into this trap, largely because the criminals have many common enemies that they have to start working against almost immediately. Though they do have largely differing personalities, they begin bouncing off each other pretty quickly, working together against Enchantresses' goons and Amanda Waller instead of falling into infighting for most of the movie. It snaps to that of the comics, and a good dynamic is established pretty quickly.
Apart from in the case of Slipknot of course, but that's his fault for being a dumbass and falling for Captain Boomerang's schemes. Never listen to a man called Captain-frigging-Boomerang.
6. Who's This Joker?
Like Harley, the new Joker is actually quite interesting once you look past the controversial design choices. Following in the footsteps of Heath Ledger, whichever actor ended up playing Joker this time around had some big-ass clown shoes to step into.
Though there's certainly strokes of Ledger's performance in Jared Leto's Joker, he manages to pick up certain quirks from many of the different iterations of the Clown Prince from the comics to blend into his own performance to make it something a little different that what we've seen before. Most notably he draws heavily from the aforementioned Joker graphic novel, in which Joker appeared as a more gangster-like character than before, dead set on retaking his empire in Gotham after being locked away for many years.
We didn't get to see a huge amount of Joker due to the fact that a large amount of his scenes were cut from the final movie, so his main antagonist status is yet to be properly solidified — but you can bet we'll be seeing more of him. And we can't wait to see him coming face to face with Ben Affleck's Batman again, after that stupid Bat ruined date night in the Suicide Squad flashback.
7. Twisted Firestarter
Even more tragic a character than he is in the comics — and less of a jerk too — El Diablo/Chato Santana was an unexpectedly standout character. This came as a bit of a surprise, given that he didn't get much time given over to him in the marketing compared to Harley, Joker and Deadshot.
In the comics he turns himself into the authorities after burning down a house used as a hideout by gangbangers who owed him money, not realising that there were also innocent woman and children in the house. In Suicide Squad it's his own family who pay the price, driving the knife in deeper and strongly reinforcing his reluctance to use his power.
This slight tweak to his origin story was used to great effect during the scene in the bar, which pivots on Task Force X deciding to nut up and risk their lives to help Rick Flag get June Moon back from the Enchantress. It marks him as a surprisingly tragic character, a man who lost everything because of his inability to control his own anger, and by extension his power.
8. Getting Technical
Sure, the editing was a bit of a mess at times and the color palette wasn't nearly as vibrant as the marketing had led us to believe, but technically Suicide Squad was pretty well put together. The "light in the sky" CGI used as Enchantress started building her weapon was a fairly cliché superhero movie aesthetic, but there was some other nice uses of computer generated imagery.
A standout example is June Moon's transformation into Enchantress in the White House briefing room, where the CGI hand of the Enchantress takes June's and turns her hands over — literally flipping her personality as she turns into Enchantress. It's a nice little visual motif that tells us a lot about what's going on in the moment.
The soundtrack was generally pretty great too, carrying over the tone from the trailers. The central Squad members having their own theme songs as they were being introduced was a nice touch too. "Sympathy for the Devil" for Amanda Waller? Yes please.