Ranking Every Movie I Saw in 2016, #32: Suicide Squad

This is the movie I kept encouraging people to go out and see. Not because it's good, because it is decidedly not good. It is impressively not good. It is in fact so bad it seems like at several points decisions were made with the specific intention of being terrible. And that's what makes it so fascinating.

The story of Suicide Squad's troubled production has been told many times over, but let me tell it again.


Shortly: the studio, intent on darkening an already darkened DC movie franchise, hired David Ayers (a director best known for movies like Fury, End of Watch, and Training Day - you know, movies where a lot of the main characters die) to direct the dark story of a gang of misfit villains pulled out of their cells to do dangerous jobs. The buzz was decent, but muted. Will Smith was cast, then dropped out, then came back in. No one really knew what this movie was going to be.

And the first trailer dropped, and it was a dazzling mash of personality and one-liners and fun, all set to peppy music. Audiences loved it; the buzz for the movie went through the roof. The movie looked like the new Guardians of the Galaxy, which was exactly what the trailer had designed it to do.

The problem was that the movie was not the new Guardians of the Galaxy. The movie was actually a dark story of a gang of misfit villains pulled out of their cells to do dangerous jobs. It was a gloomy movie, based on some of DC's darker comics. The trailer was a tease for a movie that didn't exist.

So, the studio decided that, rather than having future trailers delve further into the darkness of the movie, it would instead remake the movie to match the trailer. How hard could it be to make a two-hour movie feel like the two-minute commercial?

To really grasp how stupid that is, imagine if the studio had insisted the same thing be done to The Shining after audiences responded to this:

Now, down the rabbit hole we go. The studio hired the trailer house who edited the Suicide Squad trailer to come in and edit the movie, too. Reporters covering this move describe it as basically unprecedented (true) while avoiding giving too much judgment, because if there's anything entertainment writers know, it's that you don't give fanboys reason to troll you unnecessarily, and by this point this crowd had latched onto this movie hard. Coverage of the trouble production was carefully handled as a result.

However, as a professional video editor, I can tell you: this is a monstrously dumb idea. It's not that a trailer editor can't edit a movie, it's just that editing a trailer and editing a movie are incredibly different things. There are a million things top-of-the-line movie editors have learned that someone who professionally smashes things together to look shiny and fun simply don't know, and while the average moviegoer doesn't recognize those things, they sense them. The brain starts tell them this isn't working even if they don't know why.

Reshoots happened. Characters were changed, motivations adjusted, actors moved to the forefront or background. Scenes were sliced out. And then the final product came out, and none of that mattered, because it was just a godawful mess.

The effort is there from the first frame. We get three or four flashback/character introduction scenes right out of the gate, and not only do each of those have different pop songs attached to them, some of them have more than one pop song attached to them. Often, the music is in direct opposition to what's happening on screen, in hopes that the dark scene playing out in front of you feels bright and fun.

It's a disaster. This movie is so poorly assembled that I can't even discuss plot holes in it - the plot is so bizarrely stitched together I'm not sure you can actually accuse it of having one. Abrupt changes of heart are made offscreen, so characters who had run away from the fighting a scene earlier abruptly reappear for some slo-mo walking towards the action without any explanation.

The biggest pity is that two of the actors are so earnestly giving it their all that you wish the movie around them supported their efforts even halfway. Will Smith and Margot Robbie inhabit characters based on only the loosest of sketches, and their scenes with each other are the only ones that approximate human interaction.

My early pleas to get people to watch it eventually faded, because the longer time passed since I saw the movie, the less excited I got to talk about how awful it was. The shiny bits of nonsense lost their luster. Now it's just a technicolor lump somewhere back in my memory, and I don't recommend it to anyone anymore.