Somewhere in here is a good movie.

Also somewhere in the halls of Warner Brothers is an executive bent on taking movies that could be “good” and turning them into not that.

I don’t even know what to type. I can spit out a thousand words in ten minutes about how frustrating it is to read about WB’s insistence to step in and change the vision of the movie that they hired the director to create. I can go on and on about how the studio is now three movies into their so-called “expanded universe” and they’ve yet to land a critical and commercial hit, and a big part of the blame is on them.

There’s a lot that can be said but if you want to hear about Suicide Squad, there’s really not much to say.

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It’s not a bad movie, or I could drop a thousand words about all the things it did wrong, the missed opportunities, the bad this, the shoddy that. It’s not a good movie, or I could easily go on and on about how it nailed this performance, or really did a good job with that character. It’s not bad and it’s not good. It’s just there.

Parts of it—singular moments peppered throughout—reveal the potential that the first trailer hinted at. There are moments that seem like parts of a great movie that got snipped out and stitched onto a bad one. Those moments try their best to keep the whole operation afloat, but it can’t. It would be one thing if those little moments of relief were all connected in some way (like a plot thread that carries from beginning to end) but instead they’re just scattered haphazardly around the movie, not letting you ever really get into it before you’re suddenly disappointed again.

You want highlights? There’s a cool bit in the beginning where the screen flashes fun and colorful graphics that run down each member of the Squad like a twisted “tale of the tape.” There’s some wonderful cameos early on, one of which was a complete and wonderful surprise. All of the acting among the Squad is good and really with one exception, the acting across the board was good. Standouts include Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn (though her Jersey accent slips in and out), Jay Hernandez as El Diablo (the obligatory “side character gets redemption storyline” guy) and especially Viola Davis as Amanda Waller (the cold-blooded, take no prisoners brains behind the operation). Those three really carry the movie and will keep your interest going, even when the movie does its best to wane it.

Lowlights begin and end with the editing hackjob that ruined this movie and turned it from what could have been at least a “good” movie into…what it became. More on that in a bit. The other terrible sin is found with the villain(s). None of the early trailers gave any kind of a hint of who the baddie was, what the Squad’s mission would be, or how the Joker fit in to the whole picture. It seemed like maybe they were hiding all of those big details to be revealed as a surprise. Turns out there wasn’t much of anything to hide or show. There’s a villain but there’s not much to it. And what we do see is ruined in the final act by both bizarre acting choices and some of the worst CGI to grace a comic book movie since 2005’s Fantastic Four.

There’s an evil master plan but it’s so hackneyed and tacked-on it’s almost a parody. Spoiler alert (but really it’s not going to ruin the movie for you): The villain’s master plan is to create a “machine” (which looks nothing like a machine) that will…uh…you know what, the movie really never explains what the end-game is. At one point the villain states a desire for the world to bow down, but the machine is also called something that will destroy all life on earth. Forget it: It’s worthless to the plot, all of it.

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The editing is where this movie really fails. It’s so terrible and amateurish it makes the good parts bad and the bad parts embarrassing. Late into the production (and I mean “late” as in just a few months ago…or, if you’re keeping score, just after Batman vs Superman was dissed far and wide for being dour and sour) the movie underwent extensive reshoots. Fans immediately became nervous, fearing that WB was tinkering with a movie that looked like it could be a real hit. Director David Ayer tried to calm everyone down by saying that reshoots are common in big movies (which is true) and that the movie will still be his vision (which is debatable).

At the same time there was an anonymous report that said WB was in full blown panic mode over BvS’ underperformance and demanded that Suicide Squad be changed to be more “fun and funny.” Apparently, the report said, “all the funny parts in the movie are in the two minute trailer.”

Ayer ended up responding to the rumors that the reshoots were about making the movie lighter by basically saying that if you just forced funny scenes into the movie and cut around it just to make it seem more humorous then the film wouldn’t work as well. He said that as a way to say “…so of course that’s not what we’re doing, cause that would totally break the movie.”

Welp…

Test audiences reported that WB screened two entirely different cuts of the film, one was edited by Ayer’s original (and credited) editor John Gilroy and another that was was edited by the group that cut together the very popular “first official trailer.”

Notice the difference in tone when comparing the original “dark but interesting” teaser that was revealed at Comic Con and the first “fun and funny” trailer that came later…

See the difference?

The Comic Con trailer is good but that first trailer made it seem like we were in store for DC’s version of Guardians of the Galaxy. As it turned out, that wasn’t indicative of the movie that Ayer had made. Lots of movies have had trailers that were vastly different from the movie itself. I mean just check out this ABC family commercial for Batman Begins…

Trailer-editors can work magic.

Rarely is it ever the case, however, that a studio just hands the whole movie over to trailer editors and says “make a 2 hour version of your 2 minute trailer.”

Yet here we are. The trailer editors cut the movie like a trailer so that’s what it was like watching it…it was like sitting through fifty trailers back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back…

You can just feel how poorly cut together this movie is. You can feel it in the first act, which only lasts about thirty minutes but it feels like an hour. It goes nowhere. Characters are introduced and then introduced again…and then halfway through the movie we get another scene that serves as an introduction of the squad. That’s not even an exaggeration. The movie begins with a pre-introduction introduction of a couple Squad members. Then we cut to Waller introducing them again (complete with the clever graphics). Then we move to Waller again selling more government stiffs on the squad by again introducing the concept to the audience. And then, to repeat myself, halfway through the movie we get the “everybody suit up” scene where we pause to re-introduce everyone once more. Again. It just spins its wheels. There are also flashbacks that give backstory to some characters but these appear at random, some early on and some halfway through the film, sometimes in ways that make sense and other times just because the movie decided to just pump the breaks for a few minutes. There’s no rhyme or reason or flow to any of it.

Most egregious is the almost constant music video feel, as songs blare over dialogue and action off and on for the whole two hours. It reminded me of the constant use of music in the Ben Affleck DareDevil movie that even FOX…even FOX(!) had the good sense not to repeat. Yet here we are and WB thought it would make the film more hip. We should have seen this coming when the great use of Bohemian Rhapsody in the first trailer led to You Don’t Own Me and Ballroom Blitz playing over the next one. WB thought they had a winning forumula for a movie, when really all they had was a mirage; a 2 hour movie can be cut into any kind of 2 minute trailer you want, but you can’t crank that gear in reverse. The constant stream of songs ruined what could have been some great moments. It was clunky at first and outright annoying the more it went on.

Another symptom of the trailer-like cut of the movie is the repetitive nature of the humor. There’s too much of the same kind of punchline. Almost every “supposed to be funny” moment in the movie happens according to the same template: music plays over action, music suddenly stops, focus in on one character who says a “funny” quip, rinse and repeat. In the trailer the scene where Harley suddenly breaks a department store window to steal a purse ends with her saying “we’re bad guys, it’s what we do.” That’s a great line…for a trailer. Imagine that kind of line repeated fifty times in two hours. It gets very old.

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And then there’s the Joker (also known as “Sir Not Appearing in this Film”). Jared Leto was given second billing and anytime there’s a live action Joker everyone pays attention. Curiosity was very high to see how Leto would play the character and whether he could live up to the lofty standards set by predecessors.

The Joker has been interpreted in movies in drastically different ways: Jack Nicholson portrayed him as a psychotic gangster. Heath Ledger played him like a PTSD-suffering, psychologically-broken, terrorist. This version of the Joker is hard to summarize in one sentence. Was he good? Yes, but it’s hard to say just what kind of Joker he’s going to be. There really wasn’t enough of him to make a real determination since a lot of his material was cut from the movie (more on that in a bit).

This Joker is basically the “clown PRINCE OF CRIME” as opposed to previous incarnations which were more “CLOWN prince of crime.” He looked sort of like the Joker (white skin, green hair, red lips, dark eyes) and sort of not (there’s the much-debated tattoos and the lips which are just ordinary lips as opposed to the traditional elongated smile that Joker usually sports). Still, I think Leto has a good read on the character and, with the right material to work with, can really give a great, twisted take on the comic book version. Really the number one thing you want with the Joker is that he command the screen. Leto does that. You can’t take your eyes off him when he’s on screen and you’ll find yourself hypnotized by his almost-growling line deliveries and manic eyes. It’s all very good, there just wasn’t enough of him in this movie.

Why? Because a lot of his stuff with Harley “had” to be cut.

There’s one behind-the-scenes gif out there (from a moment that was cut from the movie) which shows Joker backhanding Harley and then, when she’s on the ground, urinating on her. Here’s a snippet of it…

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Paul Dini, the “Batman: The Animated Series” writer who created the Harley Quinn character famously observed that Joker does not love Harley; he’s proud of himself for what he turned her into, but he doesn’t love anyone. He uses her and beams with pride at her, but doesn’t love her. The darkness to their (abusive) relationship was completely and totally cut from the movie. Instead, we get a story that makes it out as though they fall in love while Joker is in custody at Arkham, then she helps him escape and pledges herself to his love by jumping in a vat of chemicals to become deranged like him. All that is sort of true, except for one critical part: Joker does not fall in love with Harley; he merely uses her…and abuses her like property. But from this cut of the movie you’d think they were just an adorable couple of love-sick criminals.

There could be great magic in a solo Batman film that features this Joker and Harley and Ben Affleck’s Batman, but a very original performance is ruined by a badly put-together movie around it.

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6/10 = One of the best (worst?) examples of a movie that is completely broken thanks to the editing. It’s not actually “bad.” It’s just not as good as it probably could have been had the intended movie been allowed to manifest.

Good acting, some especially stellar performances, and individual fun moments are found here, but there’s not enough to save it.

WB mangled this movie because they were scared it wasn’t as fun as the first trailer promised it would be. As a result, instead of getting a good movie that wasn’t as fun as its 2 minute teaser, we got a mediocre movie that’s not as good as its 2 minute teaser. How is that better?

And yet, the constant soundtrack and mostly-inane one-liners just might be enough to persuade the average Joe, Michael Bay Transformers-loving cinema-goer to give it a second-weekend boost, preventing it from falling off a cliff the way the too-serious Batman vs Superman did. So maybe the bad guys at Warner Bros. will actually win the day…

And wouldn’t that be appropriate.

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