Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Suicide Squad

You know, I’ve never read—nor have I ever collected—the comic books from which this film is adapted.  Criticisms of the movie may have to be given to the writers of the comic book rather than the writers of this production.  However, to me, it’s up in the air and whomever the blame may lie upon, you can decide for yourselves.  What I do know is that this film takes place within the constructs of the DC cinematic universe, not only of all the latest DC films but also the ones that will be coming into fruition soon. 


With that said, I’d opted not to see this film when it was released in theaters this past summer.  It had been on my personal watch list, albeit not that high up where I’d really felt the need to see it.  I was hot-and-cold on the news of the production—I’d been excited to see Jared Leto’s own interpretation of The Joker, but the description of the story and what it entailed seemed a little lackluster.  Sure, the trailer showed us that Ben Affleck’s Batman would be making some sort of cameo, but I figured it’d be a very small part of the whole story (and I was right…spoiler alert), but that wasn’t enough to convince me.  Therefore, shortly after this film’s release, I’d made a conscious decision to wait for its distribution onto home media, forgetting about it until I’d seen its availability on Netflix a week ago.


Even as it appeared in my mailbox the other day, I had to push myself to pop it in the machine to finally see this film and decide on whether I’d liked it or not. 


So…did I?  Well…let me break down the synopsis of Suicide Squad first.


A secret government agency, run by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), recruits some of the most dangerous incarcerated super-villains—Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), and Slipknot (Adam Beach)—led by Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and with minor help from Katana (Karen Fukuhara), to form a defensive task force.  Their first mission: save the world from the apocalypse caused by The Enchantress (Cara Delevingne).  All the while, The Joker (Jared Leto) thwarts the group every step of the way.


One thing that I’d wondered before seeing this, and while witnessing the first of a few trailers that had been released, was how these villains were going to be put in check and not run off when they were assembled for this group.  Seeing this movie the other night finally answered that speculation and just provoked disappointment from me rather than satisfying my inquisitorial thoughts.  Seems that the writers, producers, comic book authors—whomever—couldn’t think of a better way to solve this without ripping off the John Carpenter classic, Escape From New York.  Yes, the answer was to inject tiny explosive capsules into the necks of each villain—with an identical mechanical hypodermic to boot—and threaten them with the assurance that they’d be killed if they tried to cut and run.  I literally shook my head as this part of the film played out.


Let me go over this group of villains who are apparently needed to form this anti-hero heroic group.


Deadshot seems to be the main character of the group and his talent is that he’s a really good shot with firearms, able to hit the same exact target with micro-precision—we’re talking about hitting the same exact bullet hole over and over again.  He doesn’t have any super abilities, like strength or senses, just the capability to shoot a gun perfectly and accurately.  Deadshot does appear to have some sort of military background, definitely has some sort of combat experience, so he gets a pass on being needed for this team.


The requirement to have Harley Quinn as part of this group puzzled me throughout the whole movie.  She has no superpowers, she’s insane, she’s tied to the recently escaped Joker who’s still on the loose, so I don’t know why she’d be needed—let alone allowed—to be in this team.  Margot Robbie is definitely included here as eye candy for prepubescent boys who’ll undoubtedly be gaga over seeing her in this film, but it’s senseless to include her in this squad.


Diablo has some cool pyrotechnic powers, but reserves them until later, citing his vow to be peaceful and not to lose control due to him killing his wife and child a while back.  It was really getting on my nerves throughout the film when trouble would arise and he just stayed back, not helping the situation.


And speaking of keeping to the background without helping, Killer Croc does NOTHING except follow the group around until—lo and behold—the soldiers need to swim through the flooded sewers to get to the battle zone and he jumps in to show off his super swimming skills.  Sure, he fights here and there, but so do the no-name soldiers you see in these quick-cut scenes.


Captain Boomerang seems wasted as well, not really doing anything throughout this story.  Sure, he throws a few boomerangs, even has a boomerang drone (think of the physics and logistics of how that would work) that he uses to spy on the battle ahead, but besides a few one-liners that fall flat (in fact, ALL the one-liners you hear in this flick are not funny at all), Cap is wasted in this ensemble.


In charge of this group of desperados is Rick Flag, the military leader who keeps the villains in check with the threat of detonating the charges in their necks (which he demonstrates on one of the rogues who has the shortest screen time in superhero movie history).


Of all the characters mentioned, there is not one ounce of chemistry seen between any of them, making anything they say to one another seemed forced and unbelievable.  Some characters go from hating each other to suddenly having a comradery.  Case in point, at the beginning of the film, Deadshot tells Flag a few times that he’s going to kill him when he gets a chance, showing hatred and a determination in his words.  Yet, shortly after, the men are nearly sharing a bromance.  I really didn’t feel anything for these villains, yet I felt the soldiers and the government they’d worked for weren’t any better.  When there are no characters you care for or any heroes you can get behind, the movie usually falls flat…and that’s what happened here with Suicide Squad…at times.


Before seeing this movie, I’d hoped my intuition would’ve been wrong and that it was going to be better than I’d thought, but the film is just a rushed and thinly plotted story that didn’t make sense at times.  For example, Amanda Waller’s reasoning to put this group together was to thwart an attack of an evil entity of Superman’s ilk.   Meta-Humans like Enchantress made sense and so did Diablo, maybe even Killer Croc, but all the other rogues were just humans that wouldn’t stand a chance against something with Superman’s strength.  And wasn’t it a weird coincidence that Waller was pushing for this RIGHT BEFORE the shit hit the fan?  The biggest puzzlement of all—for me at least—was why Batman is nowhere to be seen when the shit goes down in this movie.  After seeing the involvement of Batman during some of the backstories, you’d think he’d be available to help solve this problem that has put the city’s population in danger.  But, no…I guess Batman’s on vacation.


Finally, I had such high hopes for Jared Leto’s Joker and looked forward to his inclusion most of all.  He definitely had some big shoes to fill as Heath Ledger raised the bar so high on that character that I really couldn’t see anybody ever playing the part again.  But The Joker is Batman’s biggest villain and he’d have to be included sooner or later, but Leto’s performance left me a bit flat.  Sure, there were some cool moments—making Alex Ross’s artwork come to life being one of them—but I can’t really accept this tattooed punk-rock star with silver fronts as the new Joker.  I’m sure Leto tried to veer away from Ledger’s performance, but I couldn’t help hear the same vibes and accents in the few scenes we see in this film.  Hopefully he’ll work out the kinks by the time we see him again, perhaps in the standalone Batman movie.


So…may final “bit” on Suicide Squad???


I’m sure on paper this seemed like a good idea—good, not great.  The acting throughout the production was nice and made it feel like it was a comic book come-to-life, especially from Smith, Robbie, and occasionally Courtney.  The stylized way it was produced and directed gave us that feeling as well, but I think all the effort was put into how this film was going to look rather than getting a good story together.  The plot was very thin and wasn’t a very good foundation to place this on top as it seemed like the studio was banking on a huge blockbuster.  Suicide Squad had its moments, but they were few and far between.  If you want to see Will Smith put on a cool costume and shoot guns or if you want to see Margot Robbie walk around in a skimpy outfit as she carried a baseball bat around or if you want to see a few cool special effects—both in CGI and practical—then you might like this movie.  It definitely kept my interest, for I’d wanted to see how it was all going to end, but it left me cold and I’m a little torn on whether I would recommend this movie or not.  I’ll leave you with this: if you want a mindless movie to sit back and eat some popcorn, maybe to keep on as background noise, this is the movie for you; if you want a really engaging film with an intriguing plot, I’d skip it. 


Here’s my bonus “bit” to Warner Bros. and DC Comics…


Warner Bros. and DC: if you’re listening (or reading), you better do something about the quality of these films in your so-called Cinematic Universe.  If Justice League doesn’t fair better, you’re going to have a mess on your hands…and from what I’ve seen of that released footage, it’s not looking too good.  Suicide Squad reminds me of the announcement from Sony a while back, saying they were going to release a Sinister Six film—a film about Spider-Man’s villains grouping together for a standalone movie.  They were smart enough not to do it, why weren’t you?  It just seems you’re trying to keep up with—or even trying to overtake—what Marvel Studios has already accomplished.  Forget them…take your time and do this right.  The more crap you put out, the fewer people you’ll get in the theater seats when you release the following movies of this DC filmic world.


For the rest of you, thanks for reading!


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