Saturday, August 6, 2016
Suicide Squad - Movie Review
Written & Directed by David Ayer.
Suicide Squad has so much potential, so many directions you could go with it, and yet this is probably the most frustrating movie of the year.
Let me start with what I liked.
1. Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn. Robbie's a movie star, and she has as much fun as possible as Quinn. The character has expanded leaps and bounds since she was first introduced on Batman: The Animated Series.
2. Jay Hernandez's El Diablo. Not only does he have one of the better archs in the movie, but there's a sad soulfulness to the way Hernandez plays him. Right now he might be best known as the guy from Hostel but this should be a career-booster for him.
3. Jared Leto's Joker. Joker's part isn't as big as one might think from the trailers, and because he's the freakin' JOKER, but I liked Leto's take. Joker's sexier, more gangster, and serpentine. I look forward to seeing more of him in future DC movies. Plus he and Quinn had real chemistry.
4. Viola Davis's Amanda Waller. It's nice to have an actress like Davis in this role, where she can give ten minutes of expository dialogue and have it not bother you. Plus she's as mean as anyone else.
5. The first half hour. We get introduced to these characters through Waller's expository dialogue, with title cards and theme songs that get us right in the mood. Thirty minutes in, I'm going "This is a movie I can really get on board with." And then it slowly slips away.
Honorable mentions to Will Smith's Deadshot and Jai Courtney's Captain Boomerang. I kinda liked Killer Croc too.
So what didn't I like? I'll have to get into some spoilers to explain it.
There are some basic problems with the story that I can't believe weren't halted in development.
1. The main villains. The "Big Bad" the Squad is sent after is not the Joker. And the Joker is not part of the Squad. The Joker is on the edges of the movie, working toward getting Quinn freed while she's engaged in this mission. No, the villains are ancient spirits that can possess people. They are the Enchantress and her brother Incubus. Enchantress happens to possess Dr. June Moone (Cara Delevinge, out of her league), who is the girlfriend of Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), Waller's right-hand man, and the guy in charge of the Squad while they're on their mission. Incubus barely registers. He's like Apocalypse from the recent X-Men movie, except he has maybe three lines.
Once brother and sister are reunited, Enchantress declares that she is going to build a machine to destroy humanity. Her machine apparently takes all night to build and it involves shooting lightning into the sky while garbage swirls around it. We've seen this too many times in blockbusters lately. Avengers and X-Men: Apocalypse come to mind. Even Ghostbusters had the same kind of sky-portal gigantic chaos type ending.
Enchantress also has the ability to turn people into these oddly-defined CG-creatures that are there for the Squad to kill in various ways. The entire concept of them was a bad idea. They make it feel like we're stuck in a video game, just killing random monsters along the way.
2. Too many characters. Slipknot is barely in the movie. And Katana is such an afterthought they would have been better off cutting her out completely. ("Oh yeah, by the way, her sword stores the souls of everyone she kills." "Huh.") Also, if only the Squad can go on such a dangerous mission, then why does Flag also have about 10 regular soldiers come too, one being Scott Eastwood? Why not send 20 soldiers and don't release these villains? Or just have Flag and the villains because this mission is too dangerous otherwise. This means the most interesting characters don't get enough to do. Courtney's having a lot of fun as Boomerang, but his skill set doesn't seem to come in handy for this mission.
3. The mission. Like I said, after the Squad's assembled, it kicks into video-game mode. They enter the city, they come across the CG foot-soldiers, they go deeper into the city. They kill more. There's a "surprise" rescue mission thrown in there which didn't make any sense when you think about it, and then they finally set their sights on Sky Laser Beacon to go defeat the ancient siblings. The movie's strength is its characters, but rarely in the last two-thirds do these characters get a chance to just stretch their legs and be.
4. Basic logistical choices. The climactic moment for Killer Croc is when he swims beneath the building in order to plant a strategic bomb, but even then he only leads some other swimming soldiers under the building, and one of the soldiers is the one who actually sets the bomb. Why not have Croc do it by himself? As for Diablo, when he takes his final form I thought "So this whole time, he could have done that?" Each Squad member has an explosive implanted in their neck so they can be killed if they try to escape, but apparently Diablo could have left at any time, no problem.
And then there's Enchantress. At one point she takes on four Squad members with two swords, and after some fighting, she just says "Enough!" and uses her powers to disarm them all. So why not start with that? If she's so powerful, why would she ever need to swing a sword?
5. Ham-handed choices. We know that Deadshot loves his daughter. But they go to that well so many times it started to generate groans rather than tug heartstrings. The dialogue every few minutes keeps emphasizing. "We're bad guys!" "Remember, we're the bad guys!" Show, don't tell. Also, they go for slo-mo at the wrong times.
6. The PG-13 rating. This movie felt held back by its rating. It should have been an R-rated crime movie. But before Deadpool, studios understandably thought they couldn't do that with superhero movies. (See the box office receipts of The Punisher.)
7. Death by committee. You can really tell this movie was meddled with by several people. Rewrites and reshoots resulting in an ultimate mess.
So between Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad, the DC Universe has two financially successful movies that bombed with critics. The next one on their release slate is Wonder Woman. Even more pressure is now put on that movie to be good.