Suicide Squad: An Audio Review
Review by Andrew Overfield
Edited by Sam Hughes
Director: David Ayer
Composer: Steven Price
Sound Designer(s): Various: FULL LIST
Reviewed on: 2D Cinema
All personal views presented in this review are those of the author and not of The Sound Architect
So pretty much by now, based on my list of articles over the past year and a bit, I like my superhero films like I like my hot dinners. Regular and full of beef.
After the questionable style of Batman Vs Superman (audio review can be found HERE) to which I loved the sound for the majority, I was eagerly awaiting to see how DC and Warner Brothers brought more characters into the DC Universe.
I hopped on board the hype-train pretty much straight away, the trailer campaign blew my socks off with some well-placed cues and sampled pop music to grab a wider audience and I couldn’t wait.
Based on the DC Universe I have experienced so far, I set high expectations. Zach Snyder’s portrayal of Superman and Batman wasn’t the worst thing in the world and I actually really enjoyed it contrary to the large consensus. The music that Hans Zimmer and co brought to the universe alongside some clever sound design has set a very high standard for my expectations. Based on the trailers I expected a big-budget, well-casted, yet light-hearted portrayal of some of the baddest asses known to the DC Universe.
I’m going to start with Steven Price’s musical example of the universe. Who is Steven Price you ask? A little under my radar at first but he’s composed one of my favourite films of 2014, Fury. Another David Ayer directed film starring Brad Pitt and Shia (do it!) LaBeouf set in the final days of World War II. I would highly recommend giving it a watch. He also scored (with awards and critical acclaim no less) Gravity (dir. Alfonso Cuarón) in 2013.
It makes sense that Price and Ayer have come together again to work on Suicide Squad given their previous partnership.
The film opens with some powerful short staccato string sections that build into the unveiling of the inmates at a particular holding facility. It sets the pace and the mood of the film rather well but then just as I was getting into the vibe, The Animal’s House of the Rising Sun bellows from the surround sound showing various transitions of the inmates. Ok, fair enough, that was a different angle than I was expecting, but ok, let’s go with it.
But then the first act of the film was just that. Some small original score passages with “mix-tape” songs thrown in the help emphasise the mood and the story on screen. As if someone just put their “classic” iTunes playlist on as if to say “hey yeah that’d be a cool soundtrack to this scene.
In turn, it’s not half bad, the licensed music ranges from The Rolling Stones to Whit e Stripes to Black Sabbath and even some Queen thrown in. But wait? Isn’t that just some of the trailer cues that were used? Queen yes.
I completely understand why Ayer has decided upon this, it will help filmgoers who are not necessarily DC fans to relate to the film easier. Potentially appealing to a larger demographic of viewership and ultimately creating much more of an enjoyable, nostalgic experience for everyone.
My problem lies where it just doesn’t make sense. I completely understand why Paranoid would be a good fit for certain characters but it’s like it’s being thrown in our face to describe in an “in your face” type of way rather than letting some original score subliminally narrate the experience for us. “But Guardian’s of the Galaxy did it!” you might say? Yes, but the mix-tape that Starlord plays has meaning. It references everything he loved and missed from his childhood and one of the only connections he has left with his family. It makes sense to have that licensed music in there to build characterisation. With Suicide Squad it felt like that one idiot friend who always likes to remind you when you’ve fallen over when you know exactly what’s just happened. This is not Price’s fault or doing, so please don’t take that a criticism on the composer’s work. In fact, if anything I wanted to hear more of his music.
There’s a conflicting mix of heroic music that Price has written to narrate the “bad guys” in their efforts to save the day, which is clever and somewhat rewarding to hear when they are all battling together as a unit. Bear in mind, I won’t offering any spoilers here, and I can’t tell if this was intentional or not, but there’s a distinct nod to Zimmer’s Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice and even Man of Steel thrown in there. There’s specific time in the film where I hear nuances of little motifs I’ve heard before in this universe which cleverly ties things together musically for me. Intentional or not, maybe the temp tracks were littered with previous DC escapades but it worked well for me.
I especially enjoyed how Price has incorporated some more popular music methods such as big riffs and heavy kick drums with added sub-bass that blends seamlessly from point to point with the film’s soundtrack littered with classic rock n roll.
Parts where some well-designed rhythmic synths are used do not sit out of place in the mix at all and help create a film; which sonically sits well within the DC Universe. My only problem is I wanted to hear more. Especially in the action sequences where the dialogue and sound somewhat drowned the music out a little for me.
Given some of the variations and compositional methods Price has used in this film, I’d love to see him working on another chapter in the DC Cinematic Universe.
I can’t fault the sound design at all here. It was mixed just right, with a few moment where it was a little high in the mix but nothing to complain about. Without giving anything away, there’s a fight sequence towards the end (well it is a superhero film after all right so no spoilers there!), which delivers some perfect sound design. I can’t speak too much of it but two “characters” who are pretty evenly matched have a short brawl which comes with some amazing sound work. I was particularly a fan of the “big blue s**t in the sky” points where the effects gave a clear indication of exactly where the source of this power comes from. A more organic threat to the world as opposed to the World Engine from BvS.
There were some moments where basic things like hits and punches really felt in my gut. The sub bass, especially at the beginning where Will Smith’s character gives us an example of life in the facility he’s in. It really exemplifies the hurt.
The dialogue was very well delivered in 90% of the film. I say 90% because I could not get a grip on Jared Leto’s portrayal of The Joker at all. Now I have approached this film with an open mind, and based on previous examples in Christopher Nolan’s Batman universe I openly welcomed both Ben Affleck and Leto to the fray. Affleck has delivered, Leto did not. The trailers gave him such a air of mystery and chaos that had me on the edge of the seat. And with so much hype surrounding Leto’s approach to his method acting for this film, I had very high expectations for his character. Yet I was not convinced at all that he was in character. Let’s forget that Jack and Heath ever graced our screens, which I have done. I’m not trying to compare, but his voice seemed weak and non-convincing. In one moment where he’s riding in a helicopter, the dub on his voice put his character out of place even more. However, credit where credit’s due, when he keeps his mouth shut, his mannerisms and the way he holds himself on screen is spot on!
One part of the dialogue I really didn’t like at all was the constant need for narration in the opening act of the film. I very much believed that there was enough information on screen and within the music that it didn’t need a third “storyteller” explaining everything happening in the scene. For example one scene, more of a flashback tells you about how Margot Robbie’s character became Harley. Everything in Robbie’s presence on screen is enough to tell you how she’s feeling and how she’s conveying her own emotions just by how she looks at her on-screen collaborators. Yet we have a voiceover in the background playing “captain obvious”. This is present throughout the introduction of nearly all of the characters we see in the film. Essentially leaving little to the imagination and for character development.
I can’t quite put my finger on it but I completely loved Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress. Mostly because of the editing done to make her voice the way it was. When speaking in the ancient tongue it felt eerie and unsettling, which suited her character and her mannerisms perfectly. It felt slightly off when the same voice spoke in English however, as if there was something out of sync with the dub. But this could have been editing issues due to some alleged changes in production. Although sources are unclear on how much editing to the final film was cut, only speculation.
You will notice that I have credited “various” amongst the sound team. This is simply due to not being able to locate a particular name leading the sound design/editing team. But in all honesty, they’ve done a solid, yet safe job of enhancing the sound of this film.
All in all, I enjoyed this film a little less than I expected, yet it delivered in ways I wasn’t expecting (if that makes sense?!). Having not read reviews of the film prior to seeing, I was open-minded to pretty much anything. However It did feel like a seamless, extraordinary long version of the trailer campaign at times. I felt like there was not enough clear cut scene separation from one point to another. I hope that at some point on the Blu-Ray I’ll get a chance to watch a different Director’s Cut version giving a bit more character development and some sense of solidarity to the arc of the (seemingly vacant) story.
Will Smith and Margot Robbie really save the day and help bring a great set of acting chops to the table to aid it’s progression. Their delivery and presence was second to none.
I’d say if you come to the cinema expecting a trip down DC nostalgic lane to get some grit and focus on some of your favourite comic book character then you may be slightly disappointed.
That being said, if you come with an open mind, expecting a great summer action flick that delivers in all the right places from fun fight sequences, some witty one-liners, a kick-ass soundtrack and a complimentary score that feeds well into this cinematic universe. Then I’d go see this film. I think the word here is “careful”. Warner seemed to have been careful with their decisions on this one so that they can cater to a larger demographic of viewers with some slight nods to previous outings in their recent DC films. Overall I’d say it’s enjoyable and worth the watch just to formulate your own opinion.
Oh and Margot Robbie <3.
On a slight side-note my advice to future film-goers would be the following:
- Don’t eat, or if you are, don’t bring the most stupidly loud food ever into the cinema.
- Don’t come if you’re ill. If you’re sniffing and sneezing behind me whilst I’m trying to enjoy the film, I will give you s**t about it. End of.
- If your favourite past-time is kicking furniture, then I don’t think the cinema is for you. Go home and kick a chair around your back garden and not when I’ve spent a good chunk of change to enjoy a film I’ve waiting a long time for.
- No one in the world gives two s**ts that your friend “Snapchatted” his “cheeky Nandos” to you whilst you’re in the middle of a film. I have not paid nearly £30 to have your stupidly bright snap chat stories distracting me from my film. /endrant
All personal views presented in this review are those of the author and not of The Sound Architect
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