Good marketing can be one hell of a double-edged sword, can’t it?
Like it can be really good and really bad of course, but doesn’t it suck when it’s REALLY good and the actually product is something else? Namely, a bad movie.
Remember the trailer for Battle:Los Angeles?
Or the trailer to just about any Zack Snyder film?
Suicide Squad isn’t what I’d consider a bad movie, but it sure as hell fell way short of the incredible time the marketing set me up for.
And I really wanted to love this movie too. The Suicide Squad is a concept I’ve loved for a fairly long time now (although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a stronger affinity for a similar DC team, the Secret Six) and longly anticipated a film version of since it’s announcement.
The Dirty Dozen with C and D-list super villains is an idea so good that it sends even the mildest of nerdy brains into a frenzy. And the marketing around this movie did an absolutely stellar job at selling that to us. Every trailer, still, spot and BTS feature sold us an insane flurry of action, comedy and general fucked-upness that promised a wholly unique comic book movie, the antithesis of DC’s earlier cinematic outing, Batman Vs Superman:Dawn of Justice, a movie so boring it dared you to stay awake.
“It feels good to be bad…Assemble a team of the world’s most dangerous, incarcerated Super Villains, provide them with the most powerful arsenal at the government’s disposal, and send them off on a mission to defeat an enigmatic, insuperable entity. U.S. intelligence officer Amanda Waller has determined only a secretly convened group of disparate, despicable individuals with next to nothing to lose will do. However, once they realize they weren’t picked to succeed but chosen for their patent culpability when they inevitably fail, will the Suicide Squad resolve to die trying, or decide it’s every man for himself?” – IMDb.com
So yeah, I was fairly disappointed in this flick. It’s not BvS bad by any means. I was actually engaged for a good portion of this movie and even had fun more than once.
That all said though, it still suffers from a bunch of the same problems the earlier movie did.
David Ayer is a director/writer that is very hit-or-miss for me. Of his last 5 movies, I’ve only really liked one (End of Watch) with the others (including this one) ranging from bland to terrible.
I don’t even know if Ayer is really meant for blockbuster tent-poles. He’s better off doing his own thing (typically) and this film only strengthens that argument. I’m interested to see how his pairing with Max Landis with Bright pays off as both men are really, REALLY good with concepts but often seem to drop the ball in terms of actual execution.
This movie also reeks of studio tampering (which can be good at times) and lacks any real individuality that I was hoping it’d offer like Guardians of the Galaxy or Deadpool did before it. Anyone else getting sick of “big glowy thing in the sky must be stopped to save earth” in comic book movies? I cannot be the only one…in fact I know I’m not so I guess I was just being redundant.
Now this could either be Ayer’s fault or the studio’s, but this movie moves a weird pace that kind of baffled me. Scenes sort of just happen when they will with little rhyme or reason. For example, the movie starts by introducing us to Deadshot and Harley already in Belle Reave, only to re-introduce as after the title now with backstory and the whole movie operates this way. You’ll be moving along when a flashback will hit you out of nowhere (much like BvS did with its overabundance of dream sequences).
So how about our cast? Well they are largely….fine…yep…just fine for the most part. See, this movie REALLY wants to have and eat its cake so bad that it through in just about anything it could so what we get is a bunch of actors fighting over control of the camera. I’d argue Captain America: Civil War had just as many characters, if not a ton more, but it had the benefit of pre-establishing a good amount of them in earlier movies. I think a better comparison would be Guardians of the Galaxy which this movie has attempted to emulate to a degree that is almost blatant.
In that movie, we not only had to deal with a bunch of new characters but an entire chunk of the MCU that’d we’d never seen before, full of weird things like talking trees and raccoons. It did an absolutely phenomenal job at bringing both of those elements to the table by establishing them in a way that almost seemed effortless. You guy the Guardians as a team by the end as we’ve come to know them and they each other.
This movie never really congeals in a way that makes later moments seamed earned. The team really doesn’t spend a whole lot of time talking to one another as the movie spends a lot of time establishing them independently of another, even having some just show up right before the main mission starts.
Will Smith is fine. He’s Will Smith so he’s never allowed to go too bad which is a shame given he’s playing Deadshot. Given Deadshot is one of my favorite DC-characters, I was both elated and disappointed that Smith would be taking the role. Elated as he is a quality actor whose charisma could probably power the entire Eastern seaboard if we found a way to convert it. Disappointed as since the cast Will “I make more money than you ever will in 20 lifetimes” Smith meaning he’d almost never wear Deadshot’s iconic mask. (I think he wears it maybe twice in this which is twice as many times as I thought he would to be fair.)
But what of Harley Quinn, you may ask. If anything, she was probably what I was most interested in seeing pulled off as it’s a character I’ve been a fan of since I’ve been a fan of the Batman mythos. She also probably has the most “controversy” around her more than any other aspect of the movie as a whole.
In short, Harley Quinn is not the scene stealer I was hoping she’d be which is fairly disappointing given how Margot Robbie was absolutely destined to play her.
I was hoping for something akin to when Robert Downey Jr. BECAME Tony Stark. While she certainly livens up the proceedings, Robbie isn’t given too much wiggle room in the way of actual character development. She gets a fair chunk of the story dedicated to her and her backstory, sure, but a lot of that is at the behest of her love affair with the Joker, which also isn’t given room to breath either.
Now while we’re on Harley Quinn, allow me to rant for a bit…
When did people start acting as if Harley Quinn was a character in which we should look to as a beacon of feminism? Did it happen over night? It feels like it happened overnight.
She will never be a figure of female-empowerment or aspirational figure, no matter how much you wish to change the narrative. It’d actually be AGAINST her character to do otherwise. Yes, she was a brilliant psychiatrist. Yes, she is a tragic character. Yes, she is a fun character outside of her sexuality. But you know what? She can also be boiled down to a murderous groupie, who at one point even mass murdered children IN CANON.
And as sexuality has evolved so has she. Yes, she seems to wear less and less with each iteration. I’ve always found that more fascinating than sexist, but I am a man so I’m probably wrong. (The only costume I remember outright not like was the “sexy nurse” outfit in the first Arkham game, but it fit for what they were going for.) And this isn’t me writing her off as some sex object expressly meant for teenage boys. But you are kidding yourself if you think for one second that sexuality isn’t an important to not only her character but her actual creation. Least we forget one of her creators (Bruce Timm) have gone on record that they created her based partly on the fact that they liked to draw women.
What’s fun/interesting about her is just how fucking deranged, bizarre and unhinged she is through her emulation of the Joker, right down to his white skin.
I mean, she is inches away from killing Batman in “Mad Love,” but throws it away at the thought of Joker not validating her.
Characters like Poison Ivy, Catwoman or Talia are characters in their own right. They can be put on certain pedestals because they stand on their own accord. Harley, as a character, has never worked for me unless she’s paired with others, be it the Joker, Ivy or the Suicide Squad. I’ve read recent attempts to move her away from the Joker in the comics (she’s basically DC’s answer to Deadpool when I last checked in) which is all fine and good but it will never be fully absolved as people are perpetually going to wait for him to show back up for her inevitable relapse. Which is sad, but hey, comics need to get sold.
Let me also make sure I’m clear: I’m all for her as a character. She’s engaging, fun, at times empowered (her joined up with the Amazons in the comics is one of her strongest arcs to date) and tragic all in one package. But let’s stop acting like just because she is a female character she needs to represent something she never did. There are plenty of strong, good female heroes for which to aspire. It’s fine to have a few strong bad apples as well.
I don’t really get why their are any strong reactions to Jared Leto’s Joker one way or the other as he isn’t in the movie nearly enough to properly categorize it as bad or good. He’s a glorified recurring cameo.
I liked his look and it seemed like there was something memorable waiting to burst out but, as is the case with many things in this movie, it isn’t fully formed. In fact, outside of Katana or Slipknot, he is the most needless character in the piece. For all the hullabaloo about all the prep he did and pranks he pulled on set, I assumed he’s be a prominent figure but it was not meant to be. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume there was more abusive stuff related to his and Robbie’s characters which is still a tricky rope to cross while attempting to pull of a somewhat fun movie about individuals with SEVERE mental illnesses killing people. The moments I liked best with him though are when we see him with Harley. Joker in love isn’t something we’ve seen on-screen before and it would have been cool if that were explored a bit more.
For what’s it’s worth, I thought he was fine. Not the worst Joker by any means. If he committed any crime it would be how unmemorable he is due to his inconsequential part in the movie which is perhaps the biggest sin any version of the Joker could commit.
I’d probably give my personal MVP (on the actual squad) to Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang. A personal favorite of mine (as are most Flash villains) since I ever started reading comics, it gave me giddy pleasure even just seeing the character in a multi-million dollar movie.
Don’t get me wrong: he’s almost completely useless in this film in terms of actual contributions to story progression. He doesn’t even have much in the way of any arc, but he’s amusing and that won me over at the end of the day. I also appreciated that he was caught by the Flash (Ezra Miller, in what I assume was a studio mandated cameo) instead of Batman. I hope that sets the stage for his appearance in the (hopefully fun) solo-Flash film with the rest of the Rouges.
I was also a fan of Viola Davis as Amanda Waller. Davis, like Robbie, is a perfect fit for a role she was seemingly tailor-made for her. Should the DC films, continue I hope her involvement carries through them as DC-darker answer to Nick Furry.
And the rest? I think we are treated to longer shots of Robbie’s ass than we are of a good portion of the other characters they crammed into this thing.
Joel Kinnaman’s Col. Rick Flag is just kind of…there. Kinnaman has yet to pop for me in any films that I’ve seen him in (he does some solid work on TV however between The Killing and more recently House of Cards) and he isn’t given a heck of whole lot of memorable things to do here other than make sure the team behaves.
It astounds me that Tom Hardy was originally cast in this roll which would have been a waste of talent on his front. (The again, that seems to be a recurring theme for this film so maybe he would have been right at home.) He’s given a vanilla romance with Cara Delevigne’s Dr. June Moone (comic book movie, remember) who goes on to become possessed by the film’s main villain, Enchantress, another villain so bland and awful they should have her team up with Ghostbusters‘ Ronan.
Killer Croc and Katanna show up to, you know, just be there so I’m not really going to dedicate time to whether they actually add anything or not.
Adam Beach’s Slipknow is in it so little that I’m not sure why I’m dedicating a sentence to him.
Not really interesting, but I brainstormed about writing a movie based on either the Suicide Squad or Secret Six back in high school (as I was being cool and what not) and actually still have some notes on how I would have liked to see one pan out….which I will now share since I bet you’re asking….maybe…probably not….oh well!
WE’VE NOW ENTERED THE ANGRY, BITTER BASEMENT DWELLER SECTION OF THE REVIEW WHERE AN ANGRY, BITTER BASEMENT DWELLER TELLS YOU, THE READER, HOW HE WOULD HAVE MADE THE MOVIE “BETTER.”
ALL ARE ENCOURAGED TO SKIP THIS SECTION AS WE MUST DO OUR BEST NOT TO ENABLE THE ANGRY, BITTER BASEMENT DWELLER. ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK.
- Minimize the team – A real point of contention for me in this was just how wide it cast its next in terms of its cast of characters, often at the cost of development. I mean we get longer shots of Robbie’s ass than some of the characters on the titular team. So keep Deadshot, Harley and Flag. From there you can add two more members. (I’d go with Boomerang as he is a favorite of mine and Killer Croc as you need muscle. You can keep Slipknot too if he is still only there to prove that the bombs actually work and you need a meat shield.) Maybe give Killer Croc the Diablo plot point about finding humanity instead.
- Minimize the scale – This movie seemed to miss the entire point of the Suicide Squad as a concept. They are a COVERT team. COVERT meaning they are sent to clean up messes too small for the Justice League but important and dangerous enough to warrant the expendable meta-human calvary. They have really no business fighting a world ending threat. Maybe follow the model of the animated film that came out a couple years back, Assault on Arkham, and have them be forced to stop the Joker or some more localized threat. Think The Dirty Dozen or Assault on Precinct 13. I think this movie would have benefited from something a bit more confined.
- Minimize or expand the Joker – As I said before, Leto’s Joker isn’t given the proper allotment in time actually even register. So if you’re going to have the character, I’d make the case for either limiting him to one scene (perhaps a flashback with Harley or post-credits scene for his eventual Batman-centered feud) or beef his part up by making him the film’s central threat. Maybe their was a riff between Joker and Harley, leading to her having something personal stopping him. That would have allowed her and him to have some development instead of having nothing really interesting going on between them.
- Embrace the R – My goodness, this movie WANTED to be an R. Now, I’m not going to argue that an R-rating equates to good, but I would argue that creators should typically play to their strengths. Ayer’s strengths lie in the obscenely violent and vulgar based on his past successes so what better comic book property to match that with than a team of hardened super-criminals?
- Embrace your source material – This movie went above any beyond in reminding the audience that our bad guys weren’t so bad. I argue for the opposite. Show us how deplorable this team actually is with glimpses of their humanity later a’la Game of Thrones. This movie is stemmed from the common complaint that villains are often more interesting than heroes and yet it does little with that potentially great concept and instead goes out of its way to continually remind us of how these people are actually good. (Don’t forget, Will Smith has a daughter therefore his actions are justified.)
NOW LEAVING ANGRY, BITTER BASEMENT DWELLER SECTION. YOU MAY NOW RETURN TO YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED REVIEW.
Some random observations:
- Was anyone else hoping we’d be treated to a shot of Captain Boomerang riding a unicorn during the sequence in which Enchantress is showing the Squad members their “deepest desires?” Like the set-up was there and everything!
- If Cara Delevigne’s wacky Enchantress spell-dance isn’t a gif by the end of this sentence, I will be as disappointed in the internet as I was with this movie.
- This movie’s soundtrack needed to calm the fuck down. It reminded me of Guardians but with none of the cleverness or nuance. It seemed like their were 10 to 15 pop songs used within the first 30 minutes alone. It’s as if they thought of a song and said, “Fuck it. We got the money. Throw it in!”
- Why did we need a bunch of army guys escorting the team throughout the film when they are proven utterly pointless? I feel the explosive chip and Flagg would be enough to keep the team in line.
- It’s important to note that Guardians also had a fairly shitty villain but made up for with strength of its core team, something this film falls to do by trying to fit so many into frame.
A recurring theme with the last few movies I’ve gone to is squandered potential. Ghostbusters (2016), Jason Bourne, the absolutely terrible Killing Joke adaptation and now this. Out of all of them though, this one may hurt the most. This movie was the most disappointing thing since Mr. Plinkett’s son.
It’s no where near Fantastic Four disaster that a lot of people are purporting it to be however nor did it earn its pretty rough RT score. You may disagree and that’s your prerogative, but this movie was a “meh” with the good equally measured by the bad for me. Make of that what you will. I just hope these DC movies start showing real, tangible improvements rather than just one being a bit better than the other.