It is a crying shame that in a summer where a Ghostbusters reboot proved that a blockbuster could be progressive and have genuinely strong, female role models, that a film like Suicide Squad should come along with a misogynistic, backward, and hyper-sexualised representation of almost every single one of its female characters. Leering to the point of discomfort, this latest instalment in the ever-expanding, Marvel-replicating, DC cinematic universe has the same number of gargantuan flaws as its predecessor, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. And its outdated sexist attitude sits right at the top of the pile.
I’m not just taking about the way in which the two central villains, Harley Quinn and Enchantress, spend the duration of the film respectively wearing sparkly hot pants and a bikini that’s best described as goth-chic, while David Ayer’s camera makes sure to shoot the actresses from as many different angles as possible. No. The skimpy outfits are barely scratching the surface of the machismo that runs deep throughout.
It is a machismo which seems to relish the pain inflicted on its female characters – I’m sad to say that a scene in which Harley Quinn takes a punch to the face from a certain masked vigilante, garnered a chuckle from some likeminded individuals in my screening – and which seems content in portraying women as mere objects. There’s one moment where the Joker acts as a pimp, offering Quinn to a criminal who shows an interest in her. Even one of the minor characters, a housewife, is shown as somebody who is expected to cook, clean, and, of course, have sex whenever her flame-throwing, gangster husband should want it.
To say Suicide Squad’s sexual politics are troubling would be as understated as the Joker himself. The only exception to the rule is Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller, the person responsible for bringing the group of villains together, and who offers them reduced sentences in exchange for their help in stopping an evil witch from destroying the world. Strong-willed and ruthless – and performed rather brilliantly by Davis – she is the only woman in the picture who isn’t sexualised; her ambiguity – is she really any less villainous the the squad? – however ridiculous some of her choices may be, showing some attempt at three-dimensionality from the writers.
The only reasoning I can see behind this juvenile sexism, is that it only exists as a distraction from all of the other problems that Suicide Squad has – “What do you mean our script doesn’t make sense? Guys, look, there’s a half naked Harley Quinn doing acrobats over there”. As well as boasting some of the worst visual effects I’ve seen in the last decade – Echantress’ CGI giant of a brother looks like he’s been transported from the ’90s – like ‘Dawn of Justice’, Suicide Squad suffers from poor writing and editing.
In what appears to be a result of overzealous studio involvement – stories of its much troubled production have already began to surface – characters are introduced and reintroduced numerous times, the narrative makes little to no sense at all, and, most disappointingly, for a concept with so much potential, it lacks any kind of originality at all – another final battle taking place under a portal in the sky? Really?!
There is one positive in all of the drudgery, and that’s in the form of Will Smith’s Deadshot. Smith, who remains one of the most charismatic actors working today, gives proceedings a much needed injection of likeability. On the other side of the coin, however, the rest of the cast range from the obnoxious to the forgettable, and Jared Leto’s Joker, who spends most of his limited time in the film doing nothing more than cackling, pales in comparison to former actors who have tackled the role. In fairness, this could be down to the terrible script he has to work with.
Suicide Squad is every bit the disaster I feared it would be. With a jukebox soundtrack full of artists that range from Queen to Eminem, it tries desperately to be Guardians of the Galaxy but fails in capturing the same lighting in the bottle. It feels stuck somewhere between the brevity of ‘Guardians’ and the much darker, rain-soaked atmosphere of the DCEU. The result is a confused mess which is neither as cool or as fun as it thinks it is. I just pray next year’s Wonder Woman will make for a considerable improvement.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com