Yesterday I was given tickets to see Suicide Squad by a lovely friend of mine. We’ve all seen that it got 29% on Rotten Tomatoes. We’ve all seen the reviews that ripped into Squad, declaring it a train wreck and so forth. That did not stop me going into the cinema with a shred of hopefulness. A shred of, ‘maybe it won’t be so bad.’
I’m glad I kept that shred of hopefulness. Sure, it was a train wreck. The scripting was awful; the characters poorly developed. The sections of story pulled from the comics were not cohesive enough to make a coherent story. The premise of the whole film, and the subsequent necessity for the Suicide Squad, would have been defunct had the suggestion of the Skwad not been made in the first place. We spend a lot of time with Deadshot, Harley Quinn, too much time with the Joker (it was probably 8 minutes of the whole film but I wish it was far less) and a lot of time with Enchantress (which doesn’t explain why Cara Delevingne was absent from all the major promotional material but Jared Leto’s big smug head was front and centre). The rest of the Skwad – Diablo, Killer Croc, Slipknot, Captain Boomerang and, to an extent, Kinnaman – might as well not be there (for the most part).
Will Smith refused to fail as Deadshot and as a result, essentially carried the whole film. Even with diabolical scripting, he managed to get a few laughs out of the very full house in the screening, which is all anyone could ask for, really.
However, I felt throughout the whole film that Margot Robbie saved the day as Harley Quinn. Despite the circumstances in which Harley went rogue
(the whole ‘psychiatrist falls in love with her patient’ thing is SO DONE, but to suggest that this particular Harley Quinn would fall madly in love with that particular creep of a Joker is asking us to suspend disbelief a bit too far, in all honesty), and the suggestion that she is ‘insane’, the one saving grace of the scripting were the mental illness jokes.
Now, I know what you’re thinking.
I usually hate it. Mental illness jokes usually contribute to stigma. They usually make light of a very serious situation, or make fun of a very serious condition. In this particular context, though, I think they had a purpose.
Being morally depraved is not the same as being mentally ill.
Being morally depraved is not the same as insanity.
Dr. Harleen Quinzel, in this particular retelling of her story, became Harley Quinn after falling madly in love with the Joker,
which I’m still not buying and being tortured by him which does suggest some kind of Stockholm Syndrome but that’s about it. She’s captured and put into Arkham Asylum, where she undergoes even more torture. As is said (possibly by Viola Davis) in the film, ‘if you treat someone like a monster, they become a monster’. If you treat someone like a moral deviant and constantly punish them in anticipation of future actions… they’ll probably come out feeling that society has betrayed them, that normal rules of living no longer apply to them…. and they’ll feel like the world owes them something. No part of this makes her crazy, or insane, or mentally ill. She makes jokes about the ‘voices’ in her head telling her to kill everyone, and makes a further quip about being off her meds… jokes that are usually reprehensible, but in this context make sense. Villains are constantly portrayed as ‘crazy’. Take any school shooting, any attack by a white person, and see the media jump to comment on their depression, or their poor mental health state, which does nothing except drive the point home that mental illness and violence are somehow always interlinked. The two are not. The two are separate entities. Harley Quinn was tortured, and has a deviant outlook on the world. She has no rules. She, like the rest of the Skwad, is morally depraved – but she ain’t crazy.
Harley is smart
(she was a psychiatrist for gods sake!) and she uses her sexuality as a weapon. She is in charge of her body. She is in charge of what she wears, what she does – and to be honest, when she thinks the Joker is dead, the act of her ripping off her ‘Puddin” choker kinda says, yeah, that’s that done. She’s in love with the idea of being in love, and in love with the idea of maybe being normal…. but she likes what she does, and it just proves that the ‘grass is always greener’ mentality can plague even the most corrupt in society. I think part of the allure of Harley Quinn for so many – women especially – is that she can go out on her own and do whatever she wants. The whole cutesy, crazy thing is part of the act, and it works for her because we know she’s pretending. Wanting to be with the Joker is not the same as needing to be rescued. In a sea of men with no back story who just like being bad, Harley is somewhat refreshing as a non-damsel in distress, who can fight as well as any dude and jump into battle without being told to sit in a corner and look pretty. The Joker offers her a way out and she takes it. Indeed, in sections of the film where she wasn’t on screen, I missed the dynamic Robbie-as-Harley offered. Despite an unfunny script, she was the comic relief the film needed. Robbie essentially nailed it, and it would’ve been far more of a success if she had been given something better to work with.
I could go on a bit more about Jared Leto and his big smug head, but I won’t. Others have done enough by way of slating his horrible interpretation of one of the biggest and best villains of the Batman universe, and anything I say would just be an echo of that. Generally speaking, I think even the most idle fan could have taken that script and made it into something a lot better, but with enough saving graces in it, enough money will be made to probably guarantee a Deadshot or Harley appearance in a Batman film, and hopefully the backlash will have quashed any plans for a Joker and Harley film. Hopefully.
Have you seen it yet? Are you planning to see it? What did you think?