Suicide Squad Blu-ray Review (originally published 2016)
It feels good to be bad… Assemble a team of the world’s most dangerous, incarcerated Super Villains, provide them with the most powerful arsenal at the government’s disposal, and send them off on a mission to defeat an enigmatic, insuperable entity. U.S. intelligence officer Amanda Waller has determined only a secretly convened group of disparate, despicable individuals with next to nothing to lose will do. However, once they realize they weren’t picked to succeed, but chosen for their patent culpability when they inevitably fail, will the Suicide Squad resolve to die trying or decide it’s every man for himself? (From WB’s official synopsis)
Following the creative disappointments that were Zach Snyder’s boring Man of Steel (2013) and sloppy Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), David Ayer’s ostensibly quirkier Suicide Squad was primed as the savior of the burgeoning DC film universe. The concept of Task Force X – or the Suicide Squad, whichever term you prefer – is one that has served the DC comics universe well for decades (it was also the subject of one of the best episodes of the Justice League Unlimited animated series – Task Force X, 2005). More importantly, while the idea of dangerous criminals being recruited for suicide missions isn’t new to film (Robert Aldrich’s The Dirty Dozen, 1967, probably inspired the comic in some capacity), it is something that the Marvel movies haven’t explored yet. Sure, there are some similarities to be drawn between the wacky antivillains of Suicide Squad and the antiheroes of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy (2014, edit to add: I wrote this in 2016 having no idea Gunn would be making the Suicide Squad sequel), but Ayer and the DC brass were drawing upon known baddies, rather than introducing ‘new’ (to the general public) characters with questionable moral fiber. Expectations were high among DC fanboys and detractors alike, even after news of extensive reshoots, and then…the movie got even worse reviews than Batman v Superman.
David Ayers’ film has its fans and it made plenty of money, but the overall reaction seems to have been disappointment, leading us to a veritable sea of internet essays, exposés, and think-pieces. As I, myself, was preparing to write paragraph after paragraph, whining about its nonsense plot, its rickety structure, and obsession with crashing helicopters, I stumbled across a belated Honest Trailers episode on YouTube and realized that this wouldn’t be news to anyone. So, I decided to scale back this review and focus more on the things I actually liked about this mostly terrible movie. At the top of this list is an apology to Ayer himself. I really dislike most of his movies and assumed his participation would be the biggest problem for this oddball superhero outing. But, as it turns out, his brand of dumb machismo and obsessions with L.A. gang culture actually suits the new Zack Snyder dystopio-verse marvelously. Unfortunately, Ayers’ greatest talent – shooting action (the tank battles in 2014’s otherwise mostly reprehensible Fury are incredible, possibly even the best of their kind) – is wasted on endlessly boring scenes of antivillains shooting, punching, and slicing-up blobby grey ash zombies. I suppose the digital effects are well-executed, but, again, they whole thing is just another countdown to world-ending beam of supernatural light shooting into the sky above a major city center.
Everyone assumed that Warner Bros. executives had (yet again) meddled with Ayer’s original vision with pesky reshoots, even before Jared Leto began whining about his Joker being largely cut from the final release. There are many things to dislike about Ayer’s movies – his boyish hero-worship, his dopey dialogue, his characters’ toxic masculinity – but even his worst films as director are usually solid in terms of narrative framework. At least they were. This brings us to the extended edition included on the film’s home video release. A cut that I notice is not being referred to as a “director’s cut.” Is this closer to what Ayer intended (assuming the final cut went against his intentions) or is there just 13 minutes more annoying Joker shenanigans? It’s actually neither, unfortunately. There aren’t any structural differences as far as I can tell – the events occur in the same order they did in the theatrical cut (Deadshot and Harley are still introduced twice and the plot is still reiterated in flashback at the beginning of the third act) and there isn’t new information filling the many logic gaps. The bulk of the storytelling is still achieved via fumbling exposition, where characters literally describe their every motivation to each other and the audience. This is, in fact, pretty much the exact same movie you saw in theaters.
Expanding upon any of the characters is a good idea, but there isn’t much more meat on the bone. Basically, what we get from the few added sequences is further evidence that Captain Boomerang is a scumbag, Killer Croc is antisocial, Harley still wants to psychoanalyze people, and Katana...well, she has a couple of English-language lines now, but there’s little indication of why a ruthless tactical genius like Amanda Waller thinks any of them (besides El Diablo) have a chance against Metahuman threats. The Joker isn’t worth expanding not because Leto is bad (which he is), but because he doesn’t fit the narrative. He isn’t the villain or even a plot device. He’s just a distraction. The best that his menial extra scene (yes, singular ‘scene’) does is sort of explain why such a sociopath could ever love another person. This particular suspension of disbelief is the least of Ayers’ problems. In less constructive news, the extra footage isn’t particularly violent.
Suicide Squad was shot mostly on 35mm film (the specs also list Phantom Flex4K digital cameras, so there must have been some digital inserts), then converted digitally in post for both 2D and 3D theatrical screenings. I can personally confirm that the 3D image quality was mostly garbage and that this 2D, 1080p, 2.40:1 Blu-ray is the preferable way to view the film (either the theatrical cut or the extended cut, which are relegated to separate Blu-rays to save disc space). In fact, while watching it in its native 2D, I am able to appreciate Ayer and cinematographer Roman Vasyanov’s use of grim and dark compositions. Well, maybe ‘appreciate’ is too strong of a word – I’m able to actually visually understand the images. There are variations between the blacks and greys, as well as tight little details hidden among them, that I simply could not see in the theater. The textures, including the ever-present fine film grain, are tidy and sharp without any notable haloes or similar over-sharpening artifacts. The contrasting neon highlights pop nicely, though I do wish there was more color within the basic palette. The sheer amount of grey and brown is often more bland than moody – not to mention that the lack of variation creates some mostly unavoidable issues with choppy gradations.
Suicide Squad is presented in Dolby Atmos sound with a core Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix for those of us without the full Atmos setup. It sounds every bit as loud and abrasive as it did in the theater. Every fist smack, bat crack, and gunshot is amped-up for maximum impact, the dialogue tracks are consistent, and the directional movement is impressive. There are big, demo-worthy moments peppered throughout the mix, including almost every instance of Enchantress and her brother using magic, multiple helicopters crashing, and the big shoot-out/punch fight with the blobby ash zombies. The only complaint I have is the lack of ambience during many dialogue-heavy scenes (given how much horrible stuff is going on, you’d think the world would consist of more than vague storm noises). Steven Price’s score is decent and serves the film, but Ayer’s choice of source music is abysmal. All of his choices, save [i]one[/i] (I’ll let you guess which one I’m referring to), are so on-the-nose that they make Snyder’s similarly hackneyed picks for Watchmen (2009) seem like deep-cuts in comparison.
Task Force X: One Team, One Mission (23:07, HD) – A look back at the history of Task Force X and the Suicide Squad in the comics, a breakdown of every major character, and the basic process of bringing them to the big screen. It includes cast, crew, and comic creator interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and production art.
Chasing The Real (9:37, HD) – Concerning the costume, set, and tattoo design of this more ‘grounded’ superhero movie.
Joker & Harley: ‘It’ Couple of The Underworld (14:29, HD) – The filmmakers discuss their version of the Joker/Harley relationship. They also talk about Leto’s oft-publicized method acting.
Squad Strength and Speed (9:00, HD) – The actors discuss their physical training.
Armed to The Teeth (11:48, HD) – A featurette on the weapons props.
This is Gonna Get Loud: The Epic Battles of Suicide Squad (10:54, HD) – A breakdown of the stunt coordination, digital effects, and general development of the fight and shoot-out sequences.
The Squad Declassified (4:18, HD) – A sort of advertisement that explains the abilities of each character.
Gag reel (2:04, HD)
Note: I haven’t kept all of the discs I’ve reviewed over the years, so some, like this one, will not include screen-caps. The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray’s image quality.