- Composed by Steven Price
- WaterTower Music / 2016 / 72m
The third film in the new DC Universe series, Suicide Squad follows a group of antiheroes who are given shorter prison sentences in return for carrying out dangerous missions and saving the world, which seems reasonable enough. While the performance of the cast – led by Will Smith, Margot Robbie and Jared Leto – has been praised, that’s about the only thing that has, but the lacklustre response hasn’t prevented it from raking in a load of money.
Director David Ayer’s previous film was Fury which was scored by Steven Price, and their collaboration continues here. I was delighted when that was confirmed, finally giving this series a chance to break away from the onslaught of musical misery which has blighted the previous entries. Price has (to say the least) divided opinion amongst film music commentators – he made his name with Gravity which was a real love-it-or-hate-it affair, and I was very much in the former camp; then he frankly wrote virtually the same score again for Fury. Obviously he’d have to do something a bit different for Suicide Squad.
He has done that, but not really in the way that I would have hoped. It’s not exactly surprising but it is disappointing that he seems to have been encouraged to keep within that murky sound world of Zack Snyder’s two Superman movies. There’s a bit more life in this and mercifully not just a load of drumming but sadly there’s little to set it apart from the gloop of generally characterless modern action/thriller scores and I continue to be amazed that films like this are being scored in this way.
The score’s best features are revealed in its opening couple of tracks. “Task Force X” is the main theme, which sounds like a slightly darker take on Jerry Goldsmith’s theme from Rambo II (probably a coincidence) put through a rock filter (think Hans Zimmer’s “The Kraken”). It’s OK but it’s a very brief idea really, spread very thin and while in those opening couple of minutes you think it might prove to be a solid enough foundation for the score, in truth that turns out to be essentially as good as it gets.
As is the way of things these days, the individual characters don’t get their own themes, but there is a bit of a love theme for Harley Quinn and the Joker, which is introduced in “Arkham Asylum”. It’s attractive and tonally appropriate but “Can You Read My Mind?” it is not. I realise that by saying that I open the floodgates to people telling me how we’re in a different time, the films are different, blah blah blah. So I may as well go the whole hog: it would still be possible to put distinctive, memorable music in them. Imagine if this grand slew of comic book films had been made a generation earlier – less effects-centric, probably more character-driven (rather than inserting distinctive characters into indistinct situations and ending up with all the films being basically the same) and, of most interest to me, it would have meant they’d have been scored by John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith and James Horner. It’s not necessarily all the modern composers’ fault that the scores end up as they do – even when veteran Alan Silvestri did The Avengers, he ended up with a theme (a great one) for the group of characters but generally shied away from giving them individual identities, and actually you can go as far back as Michael Kamen’s X-Men when it was widely reported at the time that the composer had written this great multi-thematic score and been told by a furious Bryan Singer on the scoring stage to dial it down because that wasn’t what he wanted. It’s hard to understand, but sadly it is what it is.
In the hands of composers as talented as Silvestri and Kamen, very entertaining scores could result even from the limitations placed on them; but Steven Price isn’t in that league and so you end up with something like Suicide Squad, which veers from one big action track to another, none blessed with a great deal of personality. It strikes me that you could play the album’s tracks in random order and you wouldn’t lose anything because there really isn’t any dramatic impetus to it – it’s just one set-piece after another and they basically all sound the same. The one composer who has managed to really make this style work and turn it into something entertaining in these films is Brian Tyler and the heroic burst of the main theme in “You Die We Die” sounds very Tyler-esque in fact, but more than anything it serves to underline just how well Tyler did to make his Marvel scores as good as they were.
listen to these albums quite a few times before reviewing them and all I can do with this one is stare at the clock and check how soon it’s going to be over. It’s not objectionable in the way of the two Snyder Superman scores but as a piece of entertainment it’s sadly not much better than them. One misfire isn’t going to turn me off Steven Price – I really, really did like Gravity and he showed last year with the documentary The Hunt that he wasn’t a one-trick pony – but this score is a grave disappointment. It’s so surface-level, so in need of a distinctive personality of its own and above all else, Suicide Squad is really just boring.