Saturday, August 6, 2016

Suicide Squad review

Suicide Squad was not exactly what I had been expecting. The trailers had led me to believe it was something of a dark comedy, but the actual movie was more of a straight-up action flick. Pretty much all of the jokes in the movie are in the trailer, and I actually thought they worked a little better there. I'm not sure why exactly, something about the timing or the tone of the surrounding scenes or something.

What's more, after seeing the bright colours and and characterful costumes in the movie posters, I was a little surprised at how generic most of the film was visually. While there were some moments with visual flair, most of the movie's settings are kind of bland; dark prison cells and dead-standard city architecture (usually at night) - we don't even see any interesting buildings, just typical square skyscrapers. While the "main" villains were pretty cool, the "grunts" that fill most of the action scenes were just boring, and it was usually so dark that they were little more than just moving black blobs. Mild spoiler warning for the rest of the paragraph: the big doomsday device was just a beam of light shooting into the sky, same as we've seen in Avengers and Man of Steel; again, generic at this point.

Having said that, it was a pretty good action movie with pretty entertaining characters who are given enough depth for us to care about (some of) them even though they are "bad guys". While the basic set-up is not complicated, the plot does have a few cool twists; there's enough parties working against each other that I was never quite sure how things were going to turn out.

There's some enjoyable acting here; it was pretty obvious from the trailers that Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn was going to steal the movie (which she did), but I was personally impressed with Viola Davis' turn as Amanda Waller. Cara Delevingne had some stand-out moments as Enchantress; she had some really great body language that made the character feel so alien. Will Smith was fine as Deadshot, but the character - while strong - was a little bland next to the rest of the crew, so his acting was never going to stand out as much as some of the others. Jared Leto's Joker... didn't really work for me. While he definitely pulled off the "crazy", "unpredictable", and "dangerous" aspects that are vital to a good Joker, I never really felt as if he was having fun, which is kind of a big part of the character to me. Jay Hernandez was great as Diablo, I would have liked to see more from him. The rest of the cast did well but didn't really get enough screen time or juicy material for me to be able to say very much more than that.

In the end I'm going to give it a 7/10; it's a good action movie with an engaging plot and entertaining characters.


Let's have a quick look at my earlier wishlist for Suicide Squad. I said that I wanted:

1. For characters to betray each other.
This I got. Enchantress turned out to be the main villain, Boomerang goaded Slipknot into making a break for it so that he could test whether the explosives were real, and Harley ditched the team and ran.

2. For important characters to die.
Kind of. Several characters died, but the only one we actually cared about was Diablo, and that was a heroic sacrifice right at the end. They killed Slipknot, but he'd only had about three seconds of screentime until that point, and the only thing we had seen him do was punch a woman for talking, thereby making damn sure we didn't like him and didn't care about his death. Enchantress died, but then she was the villain, that's not the kind of thing I was talking about, and in fact June Moone survived (something that I felt was just too convenient). Overall the effect that I wanted, that is for them to create the feeling that any character could die at any time, even ones that we like, did not happen.

3. For them to remember that these are actually bad guys and not to just have them turn into heroes at the end.
Yeah, they totally went heroic at the end. Stood together as a family and strode forwards into near-certain death and everything, when they could have turned around and walked away. I mean, sure, it's all great cinema and everything, just a little, you know, clich├ęd. Plus, it creates a situation where you can't really tell the difference between the heroes and the villains in the DC cinematic universe: both kill without remorse and both save the day at the end, just the "villains" have a little more fun doing it (and they don't whine as much).

So overall I felt that they tried to stay true to the source material but ultimately made the concessions that you would expect for a movie aimed at attracting as large an audience as possible. I guess I can't blame them for that. To be honest the only time that I really felt they did something that I would consider "not true to the comics" was when Harley came back after escaping.

That's probably my biggest complaint actually. Why did she come back? If she believed that the Joker was dead, wouldn't she go on a killing spree, murdering everyone she thinks might be even remotely responsible for his death? And why did everyone, both military and criminal, just accept her back with hardly a word despite the fact that she had betrayed them and ran away? This is after her friends opened fire on everyone with heavy weaponry and stole the helicopter that they were going to use to get out of the city by the way.

Although there is one interpretation of the movie where it makes sense. One thing we've been discussing is just how much of the movie was actually just happening in Harley's head. The bit at the end where Joker suddenly just busts in and rescues her? Clearly just a delusional fantasy. But what about the rest? I mean, think about it, what's easier to believe? That the U.S. government would pick a normal human with no military training who's only notable for being an insane and uncontrollable killer (a flashy one at that) to be part of a covert team assembled to fight superhumans, then send her into battle armed only with a baseball bat and an archaic pistol to fight against a pair of resurrected deities building a floating lightning machine that will destroy the world? Or that an insane person is having a weird dream? Plus it explains how no-one objects when she just rejoins the team after betraying them, or how Enchantress is willing to accept her as a servant even though she was a party to killing Enchantress' brother, and how she was personally able to trick the ancient deity with such an obvious ruse to save the day.

I rather wish they hadn't tried to tie this movie to the Justice League stuff they've got going on as the less I'm reminded of the B.S. movie the better, but they did, and so I have to ask: if Enchantress spent three days building this doomsday machine of hers (as is mentioned at one point), then where were all the superheroes that we know exist in this world the whole time? Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash; these are all established superheroes at this point, yet we don't hear a whisper from them. Don't tell me they didn't hear anything about half a city being evacuated while a giant magical storm hovers in clear sight. At the very least Batman should have caught wind of something; he's supposed be to be fairly plugged in, right? Well, it's always possible they'll retro-actively explain it in a future movie: "Huh, looks like something weird happened while I was busy fighting parademons on Apokolips, oh well" or something like that.

As usual I do have a few nit-picks, but I'm not going to bother writing them out as I don't think any of them are important enough to matter really, I'm just going to ask one last question. With the death of Diablo, they don't really have any actual superhumans left on the team other than Killer Crock, who isn't really that big a powerhouse. And the most popular character, Harley, has escaped (maybe). So... what are they going to do for the inevitable sequel? I guess the obvious answer is "introduce a whole lot of new characters". They just have to balance doing that with keeping the old guys relevant I guess.

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