Thursday, September 1, 2016

Suicide Squad

Written and directed by David Ayer. Starring Will Smith (Deadshot), Jared Leto (Joker), Margo Robbie (Harley Quinn).

Bottom line: Suicide Squad was mediocre at best but more so disappointing because of its potential but, at the same time, it doesn’t quite deserve all the hate it is getting.

In the superhero world which has Batman and Superman, what if we were able to convince supervillains - like Joker’s girlfriend, Harley Quinn (Robbie) and the world’s top assassin Deadshot (Smith) - to fight for good? That’s the premise of Suicide Squad. It sounds like fun. Who doesn’t love a good group of anti-heroes? And can you get any better than comic book anti-heroes? Unfortunately, terrible writing and poor decisions spell doom for this potentially fun superhero flick.

The movie opens to the music of The Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun”. We see an intimidating high security prison so, I suppose, we’re to assume that there are some pretty mean characters being housed here. We meet our first inmate, Deadshot (Smith), and watch his interaction with a sadistic guard. Aside from the fact that Deadshot is in a prison, we aren’t really given any reason why he’s a villain. Never mind the fact that this is Will Smith we’re talking about. When is he really ever a bad guy? A Bad Boy, maybe, but not a bad guy.

We then cut over to meet Harley Quinn (Robbie). Grace’s rendition of “You Don’t Own Me” plays as we see Quinn lounging about her cell that sits in the middle of a heavily guarded room. The same sadistic guard approaches her and flirts with the supervillain. The bars on her cell are electrified, throwing her to her back into a daze. We cut to a flashback of the guards (led by the sadistic one) force feeding the crying Quinn and even taking a selfie with her while she is bound. Again, we might have some association with Harley Quinn (being the significant other to the Clown Prince of Crime) but we don’t know that she’s a villain. We continue to meet other people but you get the idea…

The Suicide Squad, as we learn, is the brainchild of a stone cold military woman. She opens a binder labeled “Top Secret” and proceeds to introduce each member. Each of the what, 5 or 6 people, have a several minute expository clip. It begins with a still shot of a given character which has their name and some interesting facts about them. It’s a tired method of introducing characters and, man, does it take up a lot of time. We’re like 20 minutes into the movie it feels like and we haven’t even assembled the team! It’s almost like we sat through a promotional short film for the actual movie. I’d kinda prefer if that were the case because we might be able to have a better movie in a year or two.

The most painful part about Suicide Squad, and I mentioned this in the bottom-line, is that there was so much potential. Leaving the theatre, I kinda wanted to go and see it again because, maybe, it would be different. That’s a sign of a healthy relationship, am I right? Save yourself the time and money and pass on Suicide Squad at least in terms of a theater visit. I’d recommend watching one of the Avengers movies if you want a comic book action movie, or maybe Dark Knight if you want a darker comic book movie with a lot of action. Now I’ve got a few bones to pick so mind yourself of spoilers.

There are so many things about Suicide Squad (both big and small) that don’t work. One thing, as I mentioned, is the team introductory montage. It’s unnecessarily drawn out and it bogs down the rest of the movie. Now, at one point, the story’s main villain attacks (I’ll keep it vague to protect against spoilers). The main military guy who leads the squad knows what happened. Eventually, Will Smith confronts him and says, “You know what happened. Tell us.” So the military guy proceeds to tell them (and us) what happened. Meanwhile, we watch it happen again. We saw it the first know, like, when it happened. Why are you wasting precious minutes actually recycling footage? I mean, sure, there’s that film making adage “show don’t tell” but, guys, I don’t think this is what it means.

Even down to the main plot of the movie - so and so is trying to destroy the world - feels tired. You’re doing something wrong if “the world is going to end” feels dull. Just because they live in a world with Batman and Superman, doesn’t mean that there are different fish to fry (not bigger but different). The lame plot is, perhaps, just an indication or symptom of Suicide Squad’s biggest offender: the writing.

The actors do a fine job with what they’re given but they aren’t given much. The character development is nigh non-existent. We only get a few moments where we see the potential of Harley’s character. We see glimpses of her relationship with the Joker (Leto) and her feelings but they don’t go anywhere.

In the case of Deadshot, just having bits of dialog to show that he loves his daughter isn’t character development. He’s the highest paid assassin in the world (and along with that, I’d be surprised if he only killed “bad guys” but the movie doesn’t get into that) and he was captured because his daughter didn’t want him to kill his captor. Did his capture get him to reflect on his life choices? Hardly (or if it did, I wasn’t feelin’ it).

Even El Diablo (Hernandez) had some potential. Back-story-wise, he lost control of his fiery temper (literally) and killed his family. He vowed never to use his powers again. Sweet. I’m always down to see a continuous objector. So, the suicide squad is running through the city, killing bad guys and Deadshot keeps pushing until Diablo goes into a rage. His hands ignite and shoot fire, killing like two-dozen people. Deadshot half apologizes for his antagonism saying, “All [Diablo] needed was a little push”. Disappointed! He’s this big objector for perfectly reasonable reasons but he forgets all of that because he was provoked? I would’ve loved to see El Diablo go without fighting the entire movie or facing the quandary of fighting to save his friends or even dying. “Giving him a little push” feels like a copout.

Whew, I think this gets Suicide Squad out of my system. I’ve been toying with this review for the past week or two. I wasn’t quite sure how much or how little to say. In any case, pass on this and see a good movie. But, if you have seen Suicide Squad, what did you think of it? Have you read any of the comics? I’d be interested in hearing about how closely they followed the comics. Thanks for reading!