CHICAGO (Christian Examiner) – Movies that include an element of redemption always have had a soft spot in my heart.
The list of such films is long and includes several well-known ones: A Christmas Carol, Walk the Line and Les Miserables – just to name a few.
Believe it or not, we can add Suicide Squad to the list of films with major redemptive themes, even though that label comes with several caveats and lots of warnings about content.
Opening in theaters this weekend, DC Comic's Suicide Squad (PG-13) picks up where Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice left us – with Superman dead and the entire world wondering: Who will save us from society's worst villains and criminals. Enter U.S. government official Amanda Waller, who claims she has the answer: villains and criminals!
Yes, Waller wants to release from prison a few incarcerated "supervillains" with the promise of a reduced sentence if they will fight alongside the government against evil. In fact, she wants them in her corner in case the next Superman is a bad guy. To prevent them from bailing, she orders that each one have a bomb implanted within them that will explode if they go rogue. (These supervillains are the "Suicide Squad.")
Sounds like a fine idea, right? Not really, but it sort of works until one of the supervillains – a witch named Enchantress – finds a way to escape. She then recruits her brother and they in turn hatch a plan to destroy the world.
Will the Suicide Squad stick together to defeat Enchantress? And is this movie OK for families (and if so, what age)? Let's take a look.
(warning: spoilers ahead)
Despite the over-the-top trailers and movie posters that advertised the squad as being the "worst heroes ever," most of them are really not – at least not for the entire movie.
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One supervillain, Deadshot (Will Smith), has a soft spot for his young school-aged daughter – and she has a strong love for him, even though she lives with her mom. When he is told by the government about his mission, he pledges to cooperate only if he can get custody of his daughter. We see them together several times, including in one scene where he is helping her with her homework. His desire to redeem his life is mostly due to her.
Deadshot seems to regret his past life, as does ex-gangster El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), who has the power to shoot fire from his hands and who had killed his entire family in a fit of rage. He has since pledged never to make fire again – and to control his anger.
In the film's final scenes, all of the members of the Suicide Squad come together to fight Enchantress, with each demonstrating a moment of self-sacrifice that previously seemed unthinkable.
The movie also clearly shows the joy of the straight-and-narrow life over the criminal life. We see Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) wishing for a normal, married-with-kids life with her boyfriend, the Joker, and we also see El Diablo wishing he was back with his wife and children.
Suicide Squad, despite the positives, is a very disturbing and violent movie, even if it is mostly bloodless. Modern-day renditions of the Joker are far from the laughable cartoon character of olden days. Today's Joker (Jared Leto) is a psychopath whose very demeanor, clothes and appearance give you the creeps (and kids, perhaps, nightmares). Enchantress also is a scary-looking character.
The violence includes lots of shooting and fighting, although it's no more than any other DC Comics film.
Suicide Squad is loaded with more than 50 instances of coarse language, including about 23 s-words and five misuses of "God" or "Jesus."
Sexuality and sensuality are also a problem, even if there is no nudity. Robbie's character dresses skimpily and dances provocatively (once), and the camera frequently ogles her figure. In one troubling scene at the beginning, the Joker seemingly kills a man who wouldn't sleep with her. (She apparently had been a "gift.")
LESSONS FOR FAMILIES
Perhaps surprisingly, Suicide Squad has a few significant lessons.
Redemption, as previously mentioned, is a big one. I walked into the theater expecting to see morality – and not the bad guys – destroyed. Instead, I witnessed a few characters trying to redeem their past and wanting to cap their lives with a heroic deed, even being willing to die.
In the same breath, there's a lesson about the consequences of sin. Yes, the Suicide Squad does an amazing job in saving humanity, but when it's all over, they're back in prison. Some moviegoers will find this unsatisfactory – especially for Smith's character – but for teens or young adults who watch it, it's worth discussing the impact a single action can have.
The movie also shows the inner battle we all face between good and evil. Quinn, particularly, is constantly tempted to a life of crime with the Joker, despite receiving satisfaction from her time with the squad. At one point when someone tells her she's beautiful on the outside but ugly on the inside, she replies, "We all are [ugly]!"
THE VERDICT: FAMILY FRIENDLY?
In spite of a few good lessons, Suicide Squad cannot be considered family-friendly for parents with young children. (It is rated PG-13 for a reason.) What about teens? That's a tough call, and families will reach different conclusions.
Entertainment rating: 3 Family-friendly rating: 2
Suicide Squad is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content and language.
Language: About 51 words. Among them: S--- (23), A—(7), B—ch (5), he—(4), di---ead (1), SOB (1), pu----y (2), d--n (3), God's name paired with d--- (3), Jesus' name abused (1).
Sexuality: No nudity, but Quinn dresses provocatively. She tells a prison guard: "I sleep with who I want." She and the Joker kiss in a pool of liquid (both are clothed). She dances in a club in one scene. In a couple of scenes, the men watch her. Enchantress also wears very little, although everything is clothed.
Violence: Mostly bloodless, but there's plenty of hitting and shooting – similar to the amount in recent superhero movies. We also see a few short scenes of torture.
Michael Foust has covered the film industry for more than a decade and is the father of four small children. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelFoust, or on his website: MichaelFoust.com