Suicide Squad Review- 6.5/10

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Before I began, don’t be discouraged by the number that I have to give. Suicide Squad has a lot of things to love, but it also has a list of things that I thought could have been much better. It is an entertaining film, but falls short of being a great one.

The film follows Task Force X, a group assembled by government operative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). Task Force X is assembled to tackle dangerous missions, in return for reduced sentences. With bombs implanted in their necks, the group are nothing more than pawns who can be used and blamed for any government failures if need be.

Suicide Squad was one of my most anticipated films for this year and my most anticipated comic book film. We would get the first live-action, silver screen Harley Quinn and a new take on The Joker, one of my favourite fictional characters. Since so much of the film’s hype surrounded these two I figure I will start with them. Not only were they prominent in the marketing but they are also two of the film’s biggest highlights.

As a disclaimer, The Joker does not have that much screen time. I am not faulting the film for this since he is not a central part of the story. His screen time fits the grander narrative without overloading it. However, it appears many people felt misled by the marketing and see the short screen time as another fault of the film. A good portion of The Joker’s screen time comes from flashbacks, showing the transformation from Harleen Quinzel to Harley Quinn. These scenes are some of my favourite ones in the film. I can’t say whether I like this Joker as much as Heath Ledger’s but it is a tough comparison since I only have about twenty minutes to judge from this film. Additionally, this version of The Joker is much different.

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The tattoos and the grill aren’t explained here, but I hope they will be in future installments. Maybe there won’t be one cohesive explanation, maybe this version of The Joker is simply one that gets tattoos. While Heath Ledger’s was an anarchist who was willing to light a mountain of money on fire, this one appears to own a club as a revenue stream and a front for more illegitimate business. Brian Azzarello’s graphic novel Joker also had its main character involved in club management for revenue, so this change didn’t bother me. When it comes to this Joker’s appearance, you can either accept it or you can’t. If you can’t accept the look you’ll probably view the performance through a biased lens.

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From the limited screen time I did enjoy Leto’s take on the character. With the time we get, The Joker is more serious than some may be used to, but we have to realize that the Joker’s moments of pure insanity are best when they are balanced out with calmer ones. We get calm and we get mayhem. Deleted scenes will likely show more as well, there were about ten more minutes of Joker footage cut from the film from what I have heard.

Since The Joker’s plotline is intertwined with Harley Quinn in this film, we needed a strong Harley Quinn in order to strengthen the arc for both characters. Robbie delivered. Some people seemed worried that she didn’t have a Brooklyn accent but I can assure you she does. Also, she delivers much more than a Brooklyn accent. She is captivating, charismatic, funny while also displaying the violence and psychosis that makes her a villain. The Joker and Harley relationship has often been portrayed as one where Harley genuinely loves The Joker, while he often manipulates or abuses her. We get hints of that here and I look forward to seeing what the filmmakers do with the characters from this point on. While this film does still leave me excited for future DC films, it stands as a solo film better than the theatrical version of BatmanvSuperman does. Cameos and references to other DCEU characters are much more streamlined than some of the ones we had in BvS.

Aside from Harley, Will Smith is also great as Deadshot. People complained about a black actor getting the part, but as I’ve discussed before, people always defend whitewashing. If you don’t like white characters getting taken away, don’t just sit on the sidelines and tell me “It’s just a movie” when white actors portray minorities. Will Smith brings the same charisma and attitude from early roles like Men in Black and Independence Day, which may annoy some viewers. However, he still inhabits a new character well and doesn’t simply turn Deadshot into another role we’re used to.

Jay Hernandez is another memorable addition as El Diablo, who has one of the most interesting backstories in the film. Jai Courtney, who receives his fair share of hate online, also provides a great take on Captain Boomerang.

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Viola Davis is the reason I started watching How To Get Away With Murder and she is pretty good here as well. I loved how her character was written, embodying the Machiavellianism I remember from the Justice League television show.

Aside from these four, a lot of the other main characters are somewhat forgettable. I loved Joel Kinnaman in The Killing and House of Cards but he falls flat here for the most part. Katana is a cool character but has very little screen time. She is not a villain here, but is a bodyguard of sorts for Rick Flagg. Despite this association with the main group of the film, her and Killer Croc both have few lines. Most of their screen time comes in the final battle of the film. Speaking of Killer Croc, he was almost a caricature of a black person.

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Of course, Croc is mutated but the comics depict him as being a mutated black person. In this film we get a “black” character who calls Harley “shorty” and makes only one request from the prison guards, “BET”. Yeah, more pressing issues in the world but could not help notice.

Like X:Men Apocalypse, this film brings up the issue of how to introduce and handle multiple characters in a team film. Apocalypse struggled with developing The Four Horseman (with the exception of Magneto) and the younger versions of Jean, Jubilee and Nightcrawler. Suicide Squad struggles with Croc, Katana and its villain. Many people expected Enchantress to be the main villain. She is one of them, but there is another one introduced who is poorly developed and also sports the worst CGI in the film.

This ultimately makes the third act somewhat dull in comparison to what came before. The third act does have some highlights, mainly from El Diablo and The Joker. However, it left me underwhelmed the same way the third act in BatmanvSuperman did.

Suicide Squad also brings up the issue of forcing a film to be lighter or more “fun”. The company that edited the trailer was brought in to make the film less somber, and the film ends up bloated with songs, especially in the first hour. When I say songs I don’t just mean the score. A good chunk of the film ends up being a music video. There is a ten minute stretch where there are two different montages with two different songs. First, there is Eminem’s Without Me, and then The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army. It honestly might have been less than ten minutes. This frequent song use continues for the most of the first half of the film, dying down to a reasonable level near the climax. It was entertaining at first, but became excessive pretty quick. My friend wondered if the film spent half its budget on song rights. I could not help but think that some scenes would have been better without music blaring over them.

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The use of purple Lamborghini was perfect though, that song is fire.

Coming from someone who loves musical interludes in films, I have to say that this work of post-production editing damaged the final product. The same thing happened with BatmanvSuperman. It seems like the studio needs to have more faith in its directors.

There is a lot to love in Suicide Squad, but also a lot that needed to be improved. Maybe I am a fanboy but I am still excited for Justice League. I only hope that it doesn’t have the same issues with post-production that BatmanvSuperman and Suicide Squad had.

Suicide Squad- Drowning in Bad Reviews

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Since the first official trailer was released back in January, Suicide Squad has been one of my most anticipated films of 2016. At this point, Rogue One and SQ hold the top spots.

Another highly anticipated film, BatmanvSuperman, was a disappointment, mainly due to the third act and the presence of Jesse Eisenberg as Luthor Jr. who was in desperate need of some Ritalin.

I gave the film a 6.5/10, and was surprised to learn that Rotten Tomatoes gave it less than 30%. I knew the reviews weren’t good going into the film, but I didn’t realize the reviews were that bad. I can agree with some of the criticisms levied at the film. I understand that the dream sequences were jarring and nonsensical for some, although they did have some comic references that delighted me. I understand that the conflict between batman and superman could have been better developed. I understand the Martha scene could have been executed better, even if the intention was laudable, Doomsday was terribly developed etc.

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Obviously, I can’t say the film was amazing. Ben Affleck was great, Gal Gadot gave a memorable silver screen debut for Wonder Woman etc., the film built off the much aligned destruction in Man of Steel…but the positives are weighed down. I am not a fanboy who rejects reason when defending a film. I understand that the film has its faults, but the hate levied against it seems vastly disproportionate to them. Mainly because a lot of criticism revolves around the film’s tone. This is of course not the only criticism, but it is one that pops up in numerous reviews.

I have previously discussed the ongoing belief that comic book films should be light-hearted and “fun”. I find this funny since the source material doesn’t always fit this criteria. The comic book version of Civil War was not full of witty banter and “fun”, but we get that in the film. I did love the movie and I do like many of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) films, but the insistence on a “fun” tone is making the movies become stale to me. It is good to have tonal variety. DC will have more humour with films like Shazam and Aquaman, which will help to balance out the darker films. The Justice League Comic Con footage also shows us a lighter tone, but I hope that more jokes aren’t shoehorned in only to appeal to the horde that thought BvS was too “dark” “brooding” “depressing” etc.

No other genre of films will get panned solely for its tone. No one will say a biopic is bad because it’s depressing, but comic book films seem to be bound by a duty to make their audience laugh. People are used to this and expect this now due to the MCU. Some might be quick to say that the MCU’s films are light because they fit the characters. However, that is not always the case. Thor: Ragnarok, the third film in the Thor series, will revolve around Asgardian Doomsday. It would make sense for this film to be dark, at least relative to the previous films. However, a comedy writer was brought in to change the film specifically because they thought the original script was too dark. Again, he was brought in ONLY due to concerns about darkness, not character development, plot etc.

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The humour started with Robert Downey Jr. ad-libbing dialogue in Iron Man (2008), which became a template for the rest of the MCU, and it is now a recognized staple of the Marvel films. Now that Disney owns Marvel, you can bet that there is even more corporate pressure to keep everything light and family friendly. Of course, the Netflix shows are much darker and ones like Jessica Jones aren’t meant for children at all. However, these shows are much cheaper than a $150 million film, so there is less pressure to appeal to a wider audience. It seems like the execs are more willing to experiment with darker themes and tones when crafting a Netflix series. For the moment, any darker Marvel characters will either be watered down on film or available on Netflix. The funny thing is that these shows rarely get criticized for the tone the same way the films do. People don’t say they would be improved if they were more “fun”.

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Point being, Marvel has created a brand that is lighter and I believe people have a much harder time accepting anything else. Even Stephen Colbert has criticized DC for being too dark, referring to Suicide Squad as the “mopey avengers“. This is despite a marketing campaign that has continuously portrayed SQ as a lighter, more “fun” film than BvS. Colbert is not a film buff, or a huge comic fan. When it comes to his interest in these topics, he can be considered a member of the general public. He is a perfect example of how the mindset that DC is too dark has filtered through society. Kevin Fiege has explicitly stated that the MCU will never be dark, arguing that humour is in the “DNA of the movies”. There you have it, a commitment to sticking to the same tone for every single MCU film, despite the character or story arc being explored. It’s a restrictive policy but one that many people commend. They have adapted to expect this tone from their comic book films and they retroactively ascribe the “fun” to the source material.

Aside from the issue of expecting light-heartedness, it seems like people are much more forgiving of a film’s faults if it is light-hearted. I saw a tweet from someone today that was criticizing SQ directory, David Ayer, for his “snarky” response to the negative reviews. @4starfilms didn’t appreciate the response since he has plenty of things to criticize the film for. The funny part, @4starfilms hasn’t seen the film yet. I am not assuming that because it’s not out yet for general audiences yet. I asked him, and he told me he hasn’t seen it. All the criticisms he has for SQ? Solely based on reviews he has read. BvS taught me not to judge a film just by reviews, which was something I did for Fantastic Four (2015).  While @4Starfilsm bashes SQ based only off reviews, a recent review of the new Jason Bourne film also says that the film deserves a higher score on Rotten Tomatoes. Obviously he doesn’t truly believe that critics are always right. Seems like he was just eager to hate the film. It can be easy to jump on the bandwagon. @4Starfilms is also another person who thinks the tone was one of the main issues for BvS. Seeing a pattern here?

I’m seeing SQ this Saturday and I will reserve judgment until then. Who knows, it might suck, but I won’t bash it prematurely and I won’t say it sucks because of the tone.

 

 

 

Will Smith and Denzel Washington, Uptown Saturday Night

Originally Posted on January 6, 2010

As with many early announcements in the film industry, this one could easily change. Right now, Will Smith and Denzel Washington are reportedly going to star in a remake of Uptown Saturday Night (1974). Uptown Saturday Night starred Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier as two men who attend an illegal nightclub and end up having their winning lottery ticket stolen.