Not enough strengths for ‘Squad’

Suicide Squad

(Photo by DC Comics/Warner Bros.) A group of misfit bad guys is charged with saving the world in the latest comic book film “Suicide Squad.”

BY ROGER THOMAS
Film Critic

I have written before that I have never read comic books with any regularity.
I did collect “Planet of the Apes” comics when I was a teen. I sold them years later on Ebay for a fair sum of money. The “Apes” comic-book series were based on the films. These days, it seems a third of the films that are released are based on comic-book heroes and villains.
“Suicide Squad” is the most recent addition to the growing lists of adaptations. My opinion of this latest film is mixed. I wish I could come up with a better word, but in the end, I liked parts of it, and did not care for others.
First, knowing nothing about these characters, except Joker and a brief appearance of Batman, I needed to know who was populating this film. “Squad” starts out strong, revealing to the audience who these criminals are and their abilities. I really enjoyed all of that earlier, entertaining introductions.
Second, I also like the lead-up to the mission. There is a good bit of talking and less action, but the humor is sharp, the characters are fun and I was starting to think this film might be as strong as “Captain America: Civil War” or even “Deadpool.”
Then it all fell apart. Once the party of villains and the soldiers who were escorting them begin the mission, the film drags. I found the back stories so much more compelling than anything that happened once they headed out.
However, the weakest part of the film is the two villains the Squad has to face. I did not like the way they looked. Both of the destructive beings seemed far too animated and void of any menace. I understand the desire for the central villains to be something so beyond the nastiness of the “Squad.” But those two never get to that point.
The special effects of the villains were not the only effects that bothered me. How many times in films where characters are facing a potential apocalypse is there swirling debris in the sky? I am not sure but I think the original film that used this effect was the first “Ghostbusters” from 1984. It may have happened before, but it has certainly happened often since then.
I am tired of so many plots being about revenge and I am very tired of that effect in the sky. Will Smith’s character, Deadshot, echoes my feelings when he says in the film, “Are we heading toward the swirling garbage in the sky?” Deadshot’s disdain for the “swirling garbage” absolutely matched my feelings about that too-often used effect.
However, some of the other effects work well. Visually, there are many moments that will appeal to those yearning for action. I also liked the abilities of the different Squad members. If I were picking a favorite, it would probably be El Diablo, played by Jay Hernandez. His story is certainly the most moving. I also enjoyed Oscar-winning Jared Leto as “Joker.”
Finally, there is the sentimental moment when the villainess places images of happiness into the minds of all of the Squad members in an attempt to get them to join her side. I thought those glimpses of happiness were endearing. I wish all the film could have been as strong as those brief moments.
Of course, like most comic-book based films, “Suicide Squad” is ripe for a sequel. The filmmakers even offer a teaser during the closing credits. I did not love this first one, but I think these characters have great potential.
Maybe, just maybe the second “Suicide Squad” will actually be something special rather than a mix of bad and good. I can at least hope.

  Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.

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