8/07/2016

Movie Review: Suicide Squad

Despite the popularity of the MCU, being a fan of comic book and super hero movies can be rough at times; for every Captain America: The Winter Soldier, there's a Fantastic Four or Sin City: A Dame To Kill For. And even the first few films in the DC Cinematic Universe were shaky, with the less that broad accepting of Man of Steel and damn near universal panning of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Which is why I was looking forward to Suicide Squad, the latest offering in the DCCU.

Barely "super" and not necessarily "heroes", the Suicide Squad focuses on a team of bad guys slapped together by a covert government organization in order to provide protection against over-powered threats while offering the most deniability should events turn south. The movie boasts major star power and fan-favorite characters like Harley Quinn (hell, even Batman makes an appearance). But does that mean the movie is any good? (Warning: slight spoilers ahead.)

Whether it's good or not, this poster is goddamn perfect.
Shockingly, one of my favorite parts of Suicide Squad was Will Smith's Deadshot. Since I don't know much about the character (besides what I've seen on Arrow), I really wasn't all that interested in him, but being that they cast Smith in the role I figured he'd be an important part of the film. As the movie progressed Deadshot became the emotional center of the team; grounding Harley and making her see reason, pushing Diablo (Jay Hernandez) to his limits and getting him into the fray. But I loved the way he and Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman) played off of each other. They each oozed a distrust of the other but there was a mutual respect just beneath the surface. Two sides of the same coin, almost. I liked how their relationship unfolded throughout the film and really hope to have a Deadshot/Rick Flagg buddy movie at some point in the future.

You can practically hear "I'm too old for this shit".
Viola Davis was wonderful as Amanda Waller. Cold, calculating and unflinching, Davis had a great screen presence and held her own. I really can't say enough good things about her and the gravitas she brought to the role.

She gives no fucks, especially about my opinion.
Jared Leto was a great Joker. Instead of trying to ape the performances of Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger, he clearly went in his own direction, taking the vision that David Ayers had for the character and putting his own spin on it. However, I can understand it fans of other versions of the character may not like this one. Instead of the over-the-top criminal mastermind that the Joker is portrayed as in the comics, Leto's Joker is more like a twisted mob boss. A godfather of sorts. But there were times that he didn't feel like the Joker but more like a silver-teethed Scarface. They did manage to work in a few Joker-esque flourishes, though, like dressing his henchmen up in weird costumes (and kudos for the cheap Batman mask on that one dude) and the baby clothes laid out on the floor with the collection of knives was creepy as hell.
Double kudos to the homage to this Alex Ross painting.
The worst part about Joker was that he seemed to be shoehorned in. His story wasn't tied to the Squad's; he was the subplot happening congruently to the main story. His plot made a ton of sense, though, given his connection to Harley Quinn. However, most of his scenes slowed the movie down. It became jarring, especially when you wanted to see what happens to the Squad next. That said, I cannot wait to see Leto's Joker in his next outing. Fingers crossed for a Joker/Harley film.

I would have loved a "Mad Love" movie but that's not likely.
It wasn't just the Joker that slowed the movie down. Most of the character's stories are told in flashbacks, especially in the beginning when Amanda Waller introduced the team. After the action kicked in, however, they held to this trope and the pacing suffered because of it. When Katana (Karen Fukuhara) was introduced, we saw a quick scene of her past, giving us a glimpse at her fighting skill. Even later, Flagg took a moment to expound on Katana and what she can do, which seemed like a more logical place to put her flashback. Also, Harley stopped in the middle of the movie to think back on a pivotal moment for her and the Joker, however, this scene didn't add any emotional weight to their relationship or further reveal her character; it was just there.

Good actress. Good character. Majorly underutilized.
And yes, we are going to talk about Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn. It was fantastic. She managed to balance the crazy with the heart, giving Harley the depth that the character needs. The film expands on her origin a bit; she's still Harleen Quinzel, a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum who falls in love with the Joker, but they push it slightly. Again, it was a logical choice that helps to cement the change for the audience so it shouldn't be too hard to swallow by hardcore fans. But going back to Robbie's portrayal, she seems to channel Arleen Sorkin in the way she handles the character. Robbie gives Harley a harsh accent, something akin to the stereotypical New Jersey accent, which makes sense considering Suicide Squad confirms that Gotham is in NJ (represent, son!).She gets the crazy down pat, oozing psychosis from her eyes, but she can also be compassionate. Harley Quinn was one of the biggest, fan-favorite characters in the movie and it's good to see that at least Margot Robbie legitimized that favoritism.


Audiences were concerned about Suicide Squad with the news it had gone back to reshoots a few months before its release. Word was the studios wanted to enhance the levity after critics panned Batman vs Superman for its bleakness. That was probably a wise decision and one that paid off. The movie had quite a few funny bits, quick one-liners that drew some chuckles. But these reshoots are probably the reason the film stumbled in pats. There was a sense on incongruity between scenes and even though it was fairly easy to get back on track, the film suffered slightly for it.

Given the cast of this size, though, not everyone is going to be given much screen time, notably Killer Croc and Captain Boomerang. Croc made a good fit for the team; a part of Batman's Rogue's Gallery, he is one of the highest profile characters in the film. Even the casting of Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (of Oz and Lost fame) only further legitimized it. But while he did play an important part to the plot, his role on-screen was limited to heavily-synthesized one-liners in a bad Louisiana accent. That said, I would love to see him return in a future Batman movie where he can really stretch his muscles, both literally and figuratively.

He looked cool, too.
And Captain Boomerang... I'm a fan of Jai Courtney despite most people's opinions of him. And he did a great job with the part. But unfortunately Courtney wasn't given much to work with. Boomerang seemed to be the loose cannon on a team of loose cannons so he didn't really stick out all that well. He played well within the confines of the team and helped to move the plot along, but the character could have been removed without much detriment to the main story. Most likely Suicide Squad was only used as a vehicle to introduce the character to modern audiences so he can pop up in a future film (a theory supported by the character's flashback).


Finally, the main villain. Unsurprisingly, the "villain" of the story turns out to be a character that's linked to the Squad. (PS, here's where the spoilers come up.) The Enchantress, an millennia-old mystical being played by Cara Delevingne, turns on humanity for no longer worshiping her and summons her brother to help destroy them. It's a logical twist given the history of the character and it offers a true threat for a team that's composed of a guy who can't miss whatever he's shooting at, a human crocodile and a dude that can make and control fire. The only problem with the antagonist is that there's very little depth. They manage to create an emotional attachment through Rick Flagg and his love for June Moone and that's all well and good. But at the end of it, the climax was just another ho-hum action sequence filled with slow motion and CGI. It was a little bit of a let down even though it managed to stay true to the plot.

But Cara Delevingne did great with the part.
In fact, the most disappointing part of the movie wasn't even the movie itself. It was the lack of free giveaway posters at the AMC Theater I went to. As you probably know. AMC was giving away posters to people who bought a ticket to the IMAX 3D showings. I went to a 10:30 AM show on Saturday morning, basically right in the middle of the opening weekend, and they had no posters left. Usually they keep those freebie giveaways under lock and key; they had stacks of the tattoos for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles well into the following week and I still had to ask to get them. But by Saturday, they were all out of the Suicide Squad posters. Which leads me to believe that either the movie did that good in the one location (which is not very likely) or that the employees just left the posters on the counter and patrons took stacks of them to flip on eBay (more likely). Either way, I'm both disappointed and annoyed that I could get a Harley Quinn poster.

I'm still annoyed the next day.
Was Suicide Squad a perfect movie? Nope. But was it a great movie? Hell, I'm gonna say "nope" here, too. But it was a fun movie full of vibrant characters, tight action sequence and spot-on humor. The characterization alone makes the film worthwhile and not to mention to doors it will open up to future installments. I don't think it deserved the overly harsh criticism it's been getting, nor do I think that a petition to shut down Rotten Tomatoes was necessary. The movie stands by its own merits and is probably the best movie in the DC Cinematic Universe so far.

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