Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Suicide Squad: A Review


Much has been made about Suicide Squad, particularly when it comes to reviews.  It has been demolished by critics.  It has been adored by fans, almost as if to counter the negative reviews with their unabashed fandom.   I think both sides have gone too far.  Neither the horror it has been portrayed as or the masterpiece the fanboys/girls insist it is, Suicide Squad is at most mediocre, wasting a lot of potential but nowhere near the total disaster its detractors tell us it is.  Mistakes, many of them, were made, but the film is not without a few redeeming qualities.

After the events of Batman v. Superman: Yawn of Justice, shadowy government agent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) holds a top-secret meeting at an elegant restaurant where she discusses forming an elite group that can handle great threats, say, if a Superman-type being went rogue.  In little spurts we get the various backstories of a couple of these 'metahumans'.  There's Deadshot (Will Smith), a master assassin who never  misses and whose Achilles' heel is his adorable daughter (as if there were any other kind of daughter).  Deadshot was captured when said adorable daughter was the only thing that stood between Daddy Dearest and Batman (Ben Affleck), and now is locked up.  Also locked up is Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the former Harleen Quinzel, who was once the psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum but who ended up falling in love with her patient, The Joker (Jared Leto).  Now a complete loon, she is also locked up.

In this mix is also Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), an Australian master-thief with a weakness for pink unicorns who is captured by The Flash (Ezra Miller in a cameo) and El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), a heavily-tattooed gangbanger who can create fire (and let's face it, in Hollywood ALL Hispanic males are heavily-tattooed gangbangers with criminal records and who speak in Barrio-speak.  Heaven help the suburban, bourgeois Hispanic male who is an evangelical and votes Republican/Libertarian...a figure more fantastical than those pink unicorns Boomey loves so much).  There's also the reptilian-like Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and much later on, Slipknot (Adam Beach).

Waller wants this team as some sort of professional hit-squad against malevolent forces such as The Enchantress (Cara Delvingne), an evil spirit who takes possession of archaeologist June Moone.  From what I understand Moone can call on "Enchantress" at command, and she can transport herself all over in slinky, S&M-type gear.  Waller is able to control her through two ways: she literally has her heart and Moone also possesses the metaphorical heart of Waller's best soldier, Captain Flag (Joel Kinnaman).

At this point I wondered what exactly would happen if Flag turned out not to have fallen for the archaeologist or to be gay and thus immune from Waller's master plan of having him fall in love with Moone so as to control both him and Enchantress, but let's move on.

Well, our team is assembled and they are given their first task: control the out-of-control Enchantress (who has broken free from her control) and the brother she released (to be fair, I don't think we ever heard what her brother's name actually was in the movie, but I'm told it's Incubus).  From what I gather, she managed to escape into a Midway City subway station and grab the first poor guy going into the restroom and turned him into her gibberish-spouting brother (though to be fair, The Enchantress was spouting similar gibberish while not slinking her way around to creating zombie-like beings as part of a plan for world domination).

The Suicide Squad has to rescue a very important person and defeat the Incubus/Enchantress deal, all while under the gruff eye of Flag AND with tiny bombs inserted in them that will kill them if they don't do as they're told (which does happen once to where you wonder why they included one character at all).  Complicating things is the Joker, who wants to get his Harley back.

Wow...I made a pun without trying!  Take THAT, Clown Prince of Crime!

For her part, Harley wants to get back to her Puddin', and the various Suicide Squad members bicker then unite.  They rescue the person who needed rescuing and then turn to the Slinky Enchantress. We also get El Diablo's backstory, which we needed because for the longest time he didn't want to fight at all.  Eventually, Waller is taken prisoner by Enchantress, and while Flag releases them from bondage they opt to continue the mission...I guess to save the world.

Harley Quinn keeps going even after the failed attempt to rescue her by the Joker, whom we think is killed in a helicopter crash.  Eventually they use most of their powers to defeat Enchantress, which in turn gives those who survive a few perks, like reduced sentences...and an espresso machine for Harley Quinn.

In the end, Harley is broken out by The Joker (I'm SHOCKED!) and in the mid-credit scene, Bruce Wayne and Waller meet, with him eager to get more metahumans together.

Perhaps it would be good at this juncture to focus on the positives in Suicide Squad, which there are.  At the top of the list is Robbie as Harley Quinn.  She gives the best performance in the film, making Harley Quinn crazed but also with some vulnerabilities, the ultimate 'woman in love with the wrong man'.  For most of the film, Robbie's Harley Quinn is gleefully and unapologetically demented, an anarchist who has little interest in following people.

However, in one of the few right steps director/writer David Ayers took, he gives Harley some depth.  After she's pushed out of the helicopter by The Joker in an effort to save her, we see her, sitting alone, an expression of deep sadness and sorrow over the loss of the man she loves.  She genuinely is in mourning.  When she sees the other team members coming, she strikes a pose and cheerily welcomes them, as if attempting to mask her deep grief behind the veneer of "Harley Quinn".

It makes one long for what could have been if DC had some patience and forethought instead of their desperate and slipshod rush to catch up with their Marvel rivals.  What could have a Harley Quinn-centered film, where we forget this mad rush to build up the DCEU (DC Extended Universe) and see how this brilliant psychiatrist fell from grace.  We get little bits in the flashbacks where Robbie looks like her beautiful self as she succumbs to the Joker to end up as his stripper/partner in crime/Companion/confidante. If a Joker/Harley film had been made, with Batman looking on in the background to see her inevitable fall, that would have been a most fascinating film.

However, DC isn't interested in such things.  Instead, they want to build up their own Avengers quickly by rushing things to where we spend a long time on important things before we get on to the actual story the film is trying to tell.  That means that the script goes off the rails pretty quickly.

First, we get these extended flashbacks to our characters by Waller, then we go to a Pentagon meeting where she starts covering the same territory again.  What I asked is 'why not combine the two and have Waller give all these dossiers on these characters to the Pentagon brass'?  The latter scene doesn't take as much as the first, but it makes one question why we have to meander about.

In its desire to catch up to Marvel, Suicide Squad also rushes us through a lot, and worse, we have to stop the action to get yet another backstory (this would be Diablo's).  In this particular bit, let me digress to address two points that bothered me endlessly.

The first is the stereotype of the only Hispanic/Latino character.  Perhaps this is how he is the graphic novel, I've no way of knowing.  However, having Diablo be this gangbanger with multiple tats, particularly on his face, who speaks in a stereotypical manner, does not indicate to me any progress on Hollywood's portrayal of Hispanics.  It doesn't help that his backstory involves domestic violence (he refuses to fight because the last time he used fire, it was in a pique of anger at his very patient wife whom he set ablaze, along it's indicated but never shown with his kids).

The second in exactly what Diablo says.  When he finally fights The Enchantress and Manservant Hecubus...I mean, Incubus (deciding he lost one family and wasn't about to lose another, more on that later), he tells Incubus, "Ahora si cabron" (as ALL Hispanics will speak Spanish when facing a monster from another dimension), which the film translates as "It's on, bitch".  Now, here's where I'm going to get into a little semantics lesson.

Spanish is a gender specific language where all objects are either 'masculine' or 'feminine'.  There is no neutral 'it' or 'the'.  As someone who speaks Spanish, I would argue that "cabron" translates into "asshole", and "cabrona" would translate into "bitch" (though there's another word that would be a stronger version of "bitch" that I won't starts with a P, ends with an A and has four letters).  Therefore, I argue that the translation is wrong.  Not that it really matters in the end because so much of the Enchantress/Incubus dialogue sounded like it was a mix of Klingon and Esperanto.

Now, one last thing.  Despite what Diablo says there was never any sense that these members were 'a family' or that they even were interested in each other.  Therefore, despite his protests to the contrary, I found this idea that they were one laughable.

As for just about everyone else, one wonders why they were there.  That's what I thought with regards to Courtney's Captain Boomerang.  What exactly did he do...besides get one character killed off so quickly we wondered why they put him in in the first place? I'm not sure what purpose Courtney/Boomerang served since his skills (such as they were) didn't play a large part of whatever passed for a plot.  Again, to be fair, his quick encounter with Flash was good, though it was good for MILLER not Courtney, showing that maybe the former was a good choice.

About the only good thing about Courtney was that he didn't have to try and mask his Australian accent because whenever he tries he almost always inevitably fails (and I say 'inevitably because I haven't seen all his films). 

Let us now turn to Leto's Joker, and perhaps here we can see why Suicide Squad is not good.  The publicity pushed the idea that Leto was a.) going to have us forget Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning turn from The Dark Knight, and b.) that the Joker was going to be a large part of the film.  With regards to a.) he didn't.  Leto's the fourth best Joker, after Ledger, Jack Nicholson, and Cesar Romero.  That's right: Romero's take on the Clown Prince of Crime was more realistic and rational than Leto's.  This is because despite all the "Method" talk, Leto appeared to sometimes slip into a Captain Jack Sparrow impersonation, with the grills and bling he had not helping to take this anarchic crazed villain seriously.  It was a little camp at times, eliciting more giggles than fear.

With regards to b.) he wasn't.  Now, this isn't to say his role was an extended cameo, for he did play a part in the film and is touted in potential sequels (which there will be regardless of how good or bad Suicide Squad is).  However, when he did pop up to help in the 'present' part of the film (versus when he is in flashback) the Joker almost seemed to interrupt the flow of whatever was going on to begin with, as if being shoehorned just to justify his presence.

Let's hit on some last parts.  Will Smith was strong in the role, though he had little to hold onto.  Delvingne was embarrassing as both Moone/The Enchantress, doing nothing but whipping her hips left right and center.  Kinnaman was a nonentity as the gruff Flag, who never convinced me he was a tough-as-nails soldier OR a man hopelessly in love with this dimwitted archaeology.

Let's also be honest: the script is an absolute mess.  The jumping about from one backstory to another, the clichéd master plan, it was such a letdown.  The Enchantress/Incubus wants to take over the world...just like Ultron did in Age of Ultron or Apocalypse did in X-Men: Apocalypse.  You'd think this is something DC wouldn't want to copy Marvel.

Using a montage of music to underscore characters and situations is again clichéd and dumb.  In probably less than five minutes we were treated to House of the Rising Sun (for Deadshot), You Don't Own Me (for Harley Quinn) and Sympathy for the Devil (for Waller).  We GET IT!  We don't have to have it spelled out so incessantly (and throwing in Without Me by Eminem for when they get the team together...ah). 

Margot Robbie is a standout as Harley Quinn, creating a simply fantastic character that cries out for her own standalone film (a rare time I wouldn't mind a prequel).  Just about everything else in Suicide Squad is a mess and a wasted opportunity.  No, I don't think it is the most horrible film of the year.  I also don't think it is the best film of the year.  It's just mediocre, another failure in DC's desperate race to catch up with Marvel.   

Original "Enchantress" Summons
"Manservant Hecubus...I Mean, Incubus"



  1. I loved both Roddy McDowall and Jackie Cooper as the antagonists in the classic Columbo series. Have you seen Columbo..


    1. Sadly, no. If it's on DVD I'd love to see them and other guest stars be told, "Just One More Thing".

    2. This comment was meant to be posted for your post about the late Roddy McDowall. My bad!

      The Columbo DVDs are available on Amazon.

      It looks like Suicide Squad is the latest disappointment from Warner Bros./DC Films. Despite the appointment of Geoff Johns (equivalent of Marvel Studios' Kevin Feige), I have lost hopes for this franchise.


    3. I figured as much, no worries.

      As for Suicide Squad, it's more frustrating than anything else. Whatever good there is in it (particularly Robbie as Harley Quinn) is crushed by so much junk.


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Thank you.