The moment Jared Leto’s Joker appeared on-screen, there was an unquestionable buzz in the cinema.
The anticipation since the first images of Leto surfaced online late last year had reached fever pitch, with so many anxious to see if he could get anywhere close to the now-iconic performance of Heath Ledger that landed him a posthumous Oscar.
Ironically, despite not being part of the Suicide Squad, Leto’s Joker is perfect as a reflection of the film itself: neither as good or as bad as so many had predicted.
There’s definitely a thrill in seeing DC’s cinematic universe finally take form, with a couple of cameos from Ben Affleck’s Batman sprinkled in with a couple of references to the events of the ever-controversial Batman v Superman.
But these moments are sparing, with the majority of the two hour, ten minute runtime spent with the titular Suicide Squad, led (unsurprisingly) by Will Smith’s Deadshot.
The story is pretty straightforward: bad guys come together to stop someone badder, in exchange for reduced prison time.
Bringing (or rather forcing) them together is Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller, who oozes badassery in every scene she’s in (including a mid-credits scene you should stick around for).
Still, she has one of a number of WTF character moments in the film. There’s nothing bad enough to completely disconnect you from the film, but Waller’s is the closest to the ‘Martha’ moment of BvS in terms of bizarre.
To the squad itself, and Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang surprisingly steals every scene he has lines in, providing far more comedy than any DC movie to date (although, given this is a guy whose special move is throwing overly aggressive boomerangs, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise). It’s not at the level of Marvel’s more light-hearted movies, but that’s never been DC’s trademark, and it’s not something you can or should hold against it.
From an emotional standpoint, Jay Hernandez’s Diablo and Will Smith’s Deadshot do most of the heavy lifting, and pass with flying colours, with Smith unquestionably the driving force of the film.
Elsewhere, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is an irresistible blend of beautiful and crazy, and is the perfect match for Leto’s Joker. So good, in fact, that their relationship is the best part of the film, despite taking up such a small portion of it.
They seem to be madly in love, to the point where it’s actually endearing. It’s a definite change from comic lore, where The Joker is more irritated by Harley than enchanted by her.
And what of The Joker himself? Leto’s incarnation of The Clown Prince of Crime has undoubtedly been the most controversial part of the film since its announcement.
Realistically, it was foolish to think Leto could match the unmatchable (Ledger’s incarnation has and will remain this reviewer’s idea of the perfect Joker). Here, Leto is quite literally the joker in the pack, seen sparingly, but notable when on-screen. His Joker is more comic-like, more of a gangster than Ledger’s agent of chaos.
Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always liked the idea of the latter. The Joker is, to me, at his best when he holds no allegiances (at least not for long), existing with no true origin, as if designed solely to create chaos and laugh in the face of reason.
Here, he has crazy moments (and one damn haunting laugh), but it all comes back to generic motivations, in this case heightening his street-cred and rescuing Harley. It makes the character more relatable, but at the cost of his menacing aura.
Still, if you’re looking for a more humanised Joker, this is the one for you, and for those who are more of my taste, you’ll still find Leto’s performance more than serviceable.
Ironically, in a film aiming to thrive on the notion of villainy, the main villain is criminally underused, merely a plot device for an all-guns-blazing finale.
Elsewhere, there are some members of the squad that have little to no plot relevance (looking at you, Slipknot and Killer Croc), but don’t do anything that takes away from the film, while the soundtrack does nothing but benefit the film. Seriously, buy it.
Suicide Squad is a film that uses the notion of ‘bad guys doing good’ to great effect, never letting go of the fact these are people who have done and will continue to do despicable things. However, despite some genuinely warm and funny moments, led by some great performances and an incredible soundtrack, Suicide Squad is a film that’s just… ‘there’, one that coasts on a unique premise without delivering a unique film.
Suicide Squad (M) releases in Australian cinemas on August 4th
Directed by: David Ayer
Stars: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Cara Delevingne, Jai Courtney