- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A longer version of a live-action adventure starring DC Comics’ famed super-villain team debuts on home theater screens in Suicide Squad: Extended Cut (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, not rated, 2.40:1 aspect ratio, $44.95).

Writer and director David Ayer’s cinematic vision earlier in the year disappointed critics and many fans but still delivered almost an $850 million box office around the world.

Viewers enamored by 4K UHD may side with the critics here, and not just because of the film’s scattered plot.

Specifically, Warner Bros. does not offer the longer version in the 4K UHD format but only in the Blu-ray, so it’s a very long night for the serious fan.

He’ll have to watch both cuts of the film to first take advantage of the extra-scene exposition and then the potential splendor of the ultra high-definition, 2160p experience.

Both feature the story of powerful government official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) assembling a covert team of dangerous criminals pulled from the swampy Belle Reve Penitentiary to handle only the most perilous of missions.

They include proficient assassin Deadshot (Will Smith), the human flamethrower El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), sewer-living cannibal Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), knife-hurling Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and the most twisted of the bunch, Joker’s gal pal Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie).

The group, begrudgingly led by Army Special Forces Col. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), is activated and very quickly transported into a war zone to take on a very destructive, dark magic threat in Midway City devised by Mr. Flag’s girlfriend, the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), and her tall, tentacled brother Incubus (Alain Chanoine).

A steady stream of flashbacks introduces the woeful origin of some of the characters with the best coming from a look at the most-disturbing couple in the history of cartoons and comic books.

We get just a taste of the world of Miss Quinn with her boyfriend and former patient, the Clown Prince of Crime, played to method madness by Jared Leto.

Mr. Leto’s version of Batman’s archenemy is pure cartoony gangsta with gold chains, a silver grill for teeth, tattoos, shiny suit jackets, red lips and green hair.

However, he is never as menacing or as unpredictable as previous incarnations of the Joker, portrayed by Jack Nicolson, Heath Ledger or even Caesar Romero. He is more of a distraction to not only the main story but also Miss Robbie’s stellar performance.

In fact, she chews him up on screen and offered a stunningly accurate version of the love sick, psychotic, co-dependent lover. She’s delightfully nuts. If she had just been given the chance to use her characteristic sledgehammer, it would have been the perfect incarnation.

My major beef with the piecemeal film is it needed to be about three hours long to truly develop this massive list of characters (did I mention Katana and Slipknot also show up), and I hated some of the ridiculous music video moments.

You know, slow-motion shots of the tough heroes set against anthems from AC/DC, The Animals, Creedence Clearwater Revival and such. The first third of the movie looked like an infomercial for a video game, to the point of really diverting from an already haphazard plot.

Even less satisfying is the extended cut that manages to add 13 minutes to the film, tethered to mostly a scene between Joker and a determined Harley trying to gain his trust, and a bit more exposition on Killer Croc’s prowess.

“Suicide Squad” had a chance with an extended version to highlight a cast of lovable yet despicable characters with unlimited potential in what should have been a raunchy, violent comedy that screamed for an “R” rating.

Alas, I’ll have to go back and watch the wildly entertaining “Deadpool” for my more risqué superhero adventures.

4K UHD in action: The 4K transfer is not much of an upgrade to the Blu-ray but maintains a grittier and bleak look at Midway City, thanks to near eye-scorching whites that help define the darker moments on screen.

However, it does pick a few spots to shine throughout the presentation in what appears to be an ultra high-definition upscaling from the original 2K-source material.

Especially worth noting is a scene where Batman rescues Harley Quinn from what’s sure to be a watery grave after a car crash into a bay. The underwater clarity is astounding on the Bat’s costume and the lady-in-distress’ face as well as the gleam on the hood of her wrecked sports car.

Additionally, the movie features many characters such as the Joker, Harley Quinn, Boomerang and El Diablo loaded up with intricate tattoos. They are very easily admired thanks to the increased brightness and higher-saturated color schemes.

Best extras: Alas, with no chance for Mr. Ayer’s to explain himself via an optional commentary track, viewers are left to peruse almost 90 minutes of slightly enlightening featurettes and an uninspired gag reel to learn about the making of the movie.

Best of the bunch includes a 23-minute look at the evolution of the “Suicide Squad” over its almost six decades in comics and a quick breakdown and origin of each key character.

In addition to lots of sequential-art illustrations, viewers get interviews with the director, DC’s Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and most importantly, plenty of time with writer John Ostrander, who reimagined the team back in a 1987 series that had a successful five-year run.

Next, a 15-minute overview on Harley Quinn and the reimaging of the Joker is worth watching but much too brief. It does feature plenty of interview moments with acting madman Mr. Leto and Miss Robbie.

I would have preferred more on the history of these twisted characters in books and cartoons, but I appreciated all of the great comic-book art chronicling their love affair.

Other featurettes cover the fight choreography (including real stuntmen on fire), computer effects, sets, costumes and tattoo design that brought an urban grittiness to the characters.

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