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Graham: 10 ways to fix summer’s dud, ‘Suicide Squad’

Yes, ‘Suicide Squad’ is bad, but here are a handful of things that could have made it better

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

“Suicide Squad” is a mess.

Last weekend’s No. 1 film rode a wave of pre-release hype to a $133.6 million opening, though it’s taken a harsh drubbing from critics, earning a dismal 26 percent on movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

I rewatched the film this week and came up with 10 fixes filmmakers could have made to avoid making “Suicide Squad” what is, in my eyes, summer’s most disappointing blockbuster. (Warning: major spoilers follow.)

1. Ditch the double beginning. “Suicide Squad” opens with introductions of Will Smith’s Deadshot and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn characters, and then cuts to a sequence where Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller re-introduces Deadshot and Harley Quinn, along with the rest of the Squad. We’re smart enough to know Deadshot and Harley are the stars, no need for redundancy. Just start on Waller.

2. Make the soundtrack a character. “Suicide Squad” is packed with pop, rap and classic rock songs that are familiar, but don’t otherwise serve a purpose. Yes, we know Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Eminem’s “Without Me,” but what do they tell us about the characters, about the aesthetic of the film? “Deadpool” made great use of Salt-N-Pepa’s “Shoop” and DMX’s “X Gon’ Give It to Ya,” left-of-center choices that spoke to the film’s offbeat sensibilities. “Suicide Squad” is filled with obvious songs that show no taste or personality.

3. Get a better villain. For a movie about villains, they couldn’t find a decent bad guy to have the gang go up against? “Suicide Squad’s” head heel is Enchantress (played by Taylor Swift squad member Cara Delevingne), a witch-sorceress who spends most of her time standing in front of a storm of CGI effects that will punish humanity for worshipping machines, or something. It’s not like the movie doesn’t already have the Joker! Speaking of whom …

4. Expand the Joker. Jared Leto pours his all into his portrayal of the iconic villain, and is on screen for all of 11 minutes. Is Leto good? Is he terrible? It’s hard to even tell, because in his current incarnation, his character is nothing but a huge distraction. He’s like Michael Jordan making the Olympic basketball team and then riding the bench. Why put him on the team if you’re not going to use him?

5. ... or cut him altogether. With a performance this garish from a figure as grandiose as the Joker, it’s all or nothing. Either make him the lead villain or take him out of the movie.

6. Tighten the Squad. Outside of Deadshot and Quinn, the rest of the Squad are zeroes. Killer Croc is a feat of makeup, but a dud as a character, Boomerang is about as interesting as a guy who throws boomerangs, and Slipknot’s scenes are so botched that Adam Beach should file a grievance with Warner Brothers. Jay Hernandez brings a remorseful soul to his Diablo, but to pretend the film is anything other than the Deadshot and Harley show is a misnomer.

7. Lose the other heroes. Since “Suicide Squad” is another building block in the DC Comics Universe, it’s not entirely surprising that Ben Affleck’s Batman shows up for a few scenes, but like the Joker, he’s a distraction more than a boon. And with the Flash’s five-second cameo, along with his blink-and-you-missed-it appearance in “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” you can see how the guy got his name.

8. Focus the action. For all that’s going on in “Suicide Squad,” there isn’t one memorable action sequence. “Jason Bourne” is a disappointment, but at least you come away wowed at the audacious smash-em-up car chase on the Las Vegas strip. One positive kernel to take away could have gone a long way for “Squad.”

9. Change the subtitle font. A simple fix, but the corny looking subtitles used in the scenes with Enchantress make Dan Gilbert’s choice of Comic Sans for his LeBron James missive look dignified. Distractingly bad.

10. Don’t change a thing about Harley Quinn. OK, maybe take away her mobile device; why is she allowed to text the Joker? But otherwise, Robbie’s spirited take on the hellraiser is the best thing “Suicide Squad” has going for it. Double down on her and give Harley her own movie.

Adam Graham is film and music critic for The Detroit News.

Twitter: @grahamorama