Thursday, August 11, 2016

This Bunch of Degenerates and Nutjobs is Too Uneven: Our Review of "Suicide Squad" (2016)

Directed by: David Ayer (End of Watch, Fury

Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman, Cara Delevigne, Jay Hernandez, Jai Courtney

Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content and language

Run Time: 2 hours, 3 minutes

Synopsis: Following the events of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, the U.S. government builds a task force of incarcerated "metahumans" as a backup plan should Earth need protection from evil forces. When one of their members turns into an evil force, the rest of the squad is sent into action.


Sarah: Hello dear readers! It's true, we are back with a brand new movie review for you! It's been almost on year to the day since our last review and we wish we could say that something exciting had happened to cause the hiatus, but really life just got in the way. We can't promise that there's going to be a ton of new content or that we will begin posting regularly again, but for now we wanted to do a quick little review on a movie that we had been looking forward to for a long time: Suicide Squad, the newest entry in the DC Extended Universe.

Suicide Squad was a comic book film that we had been anticipating for while now. There's a new Joker (Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie, The Wolf of Wall Street) making her feature film debut, and a whole host of new characters (at least to me). We were totally in. Now that we've seen it, and you've seen it twice now Andrew, what are your initial thoughts?

Andrew: This is a bit of a tough one for a couple reasons. First and foremost, we were REALLY looking forward to this movie. The trailers did such a phenomenal job of getting us pumped for it. Secondly, this is not a good movie. It just isn't. There are good things in it, but as a fully formed movie it isn't good. And I'd say you can argue whether or not it's even a "fully formed" movie.

What are your initial thoughts?

S: I will agree with you that this was not a fully formed film. With the abundance of "Huh?" and "That's not how that works" moments it was easy to walk away with a sour taste in my mouth. 

But there were things about this movie that I really enjoyed! The music, for starters, was reminiscent of Guardians of the Galaxy with fun (and sometimes funky) beats to go with different scenes. It got the audience pumped, albeit for a short amount of time, to see what was going to happen next. 

And the characters that writer/director David Ayer did flesh out were done so with an obvious love for those characters. Harley Quinn and Deadshot (Will Smith, Men in Black) were given lots of care and attention, making them endearing to an audience in the hope of masking the fact that other characters were given the shaft. Even the Joker (who was highly publicized in the making of this movie) was only given a handful of scenes to really show off the fact that, no, this is not the same Joker you remember.

A: That's a good way of putting it in regards to the characters. Those bright spots I mentioned? They were mainly Robbie's fantastic portrayal of Harley Quinn and Smith's refreshing performance as Deadshot.

Robbie seems like she was born to play the role of Harley Quinn. She exhibited all the physical and vocal mannerisms that have made the character so iconic since she was introduction in Batman: The Animated Series over 20 years ago. Seriously, she looked the part and sounded the part, particularly in one scene where she's yelling at someone for ruining her date night with "Mr. J." I loved it.

And Smith hasn't been this fun to watch in a movie since....I honestly don't know. I want to say 2012's Men in Black 3 but it might have been longer than that.

S: Robbie's performance was my favorite of the night, followed closely by Leto's portrayal of the Joker. But she just fully embodied the character. She brought a comic book feel to a live-action character in a way that hasn't been done with that particular skill in a long time. We were commenting this morning that she has a particular scene where she's hanging from a rope attached to a moving helicopter, just swinging away and dancing on it like she was doing silks. That felt comic book. The ability to do things that aren't-quite-human in a human world? Robbie nailed that. Tuck and roll while wearing 5-inch heels? Like it was something she does on a regular basis (even though, it probably was her stunt double). 

Then there is Jared Leto's Joker. I loved this performance. He did something that Jokers, to date haven't done for me yet, and that is totally creep me out. Heath Ledger's Joker was phenomenal. He will go down as one of, if not the, definitive versions of that character. But Leto brought something different to the game. He got under my skin. He brought a manic quality to the role that was palpable on the screen. And we also got to see him in a different light as far as his relationship with Harley. His obsession/possessiveness of her is countered by his own need to take care of himself first and foremost, always. 

You had a little bit of a different feel about him though, didn't you?

A: I did. I'm still not entirely sold on this version of the Joker. Jared Leto had REALLY big shoes to fill, being the first actor to try playing this iconic character after Heath Ledger's all-time great performance in The Dark Knight. So I suppose I need to critique his turn on a bit of a curve, but I think his take on the Joker was a misfire. 

A big part of it is his look. I don't like the tattoos and I hate the grills on his teeth. In my mind the Joker is an agent of chaos, making tons of his decisions on a whim, being someone who's constantly changing his mind or outlook on something at any given moment. So to make him all tatted up doesn't work for me because tattoos are such a permanent fixture. I just don't think the Joker would do that.

Outside of Joker's physical appearance I don't think Leto's performance is helped by the questionable editing in the film. It absolutely feels like he had a bigger role in the film at one point (and there are a number of shots in the film's trailers of the Joker that aren't in the final product that back this up), but even the scenes of his that made the final cut are horribly mangled. The scene where he's electroshocking Harley when she was still Dr. Harleen Quinzel? Or the scene at ACE Chemicals where Harleen jumps into a vat of chemicals to turn herself into Harley? They're just choppy and make Leto's Joker feel far too...erratic isn't the word, because the Joker should be erratic, but incomplete?

To be fair, I did like Leto's voice for the role, I think his Joker laugh is fantastic, and there are times when he does really look the part (namely when his tats aren't very visible). So he's not a total dud. But I think Leto's take on the character isn't as good as Ledger's, Jack Nicholson's, or even Mark Hamill's many turns at the character. Sorry for the rant! 

Let's turn the focus on the other members of the Suicide Squad - Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney, Terminator: Genisys), Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman, RoboCop), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Lost's Mr. Eko), Diablo (Jay Hernandez, Hostel), Katana (Karen Fukuhara), and Slipknot (Adam Beach, Law & Order: SVU) - real briefly. Because some of them were done well and some of them were also complete duds.

S: Well, I think "brief" is the correct word to use when mentioning the other characters, because their screen time was brief and their character arc's was uninspired. The only one who had a good arc was Hernandez's El Diablo, and even he was given the short change as far as screen time. Where was he?! I wanted to see more of the fire and more of the conflict! I guess we will have to wait a stand-alone film or sequel 

The rest? It was like they were part of the crew to just fill the frame. They had very little focal points on them and their character lines were pitiful. I think this goes entirely back to the utter disgrace of an editing job.

A: So true. Diablo is the only one outside of Harley and Deadshot that is given any backstory info that actually informs you as to who he is at the point the film takes place. We get him telling a story about something horrible he's done and why it's changed him into the passive observer he is for most of the movie, then we see him finally tap into being an active participant once he realizes he belongs to this new group in a moment of great need. It's good stuff and Hernandez does a good job selling it.

Other than that, Captain Boomerang is simply an Aussie who throws boomerangs and likes beer, stuffed unicorns and hitting on Katana. Killer Croc is ugly (but maybe truly thinks he isn't? I'm not sure on that point), can swim under water really well when needed, and really likes BET. Katana can really use her katana well (oh, and that katana happens to contain the soul of her dead husband, but that's all you get to know). Skipknot can climb ropes and walls really well, but he's literally the only member of the group who doesn't get a fancy introduction, so when something happens to him shortly after he enters the movie it's really not a surprise.

And then there's Rick Flag and Enchantress (Cara Delevigne). I had forgotten about Enchantress, who's technically one of the first members of the group and turns out to be the film's villain. You had some particularly strong thoughts on the two of them, didn't you?

S: Oh I really did not care for Enchantress or Flag. They were such weak characters. They were supposed to have this tragic love story where they have to sacrifice so much for the sake of humanity, blah blah blah. It was such crap! The story was totally under-cooked and made for a poor villain/hero relationship. 

And Enchantress was so lame! She spent most of the movie talking about some machine she was going to build to make the humans worship her again but the whole time she's just convulsing/dancing in front of a CGI tornado-thing that's holding garbage above the city...WHAT?! I can't make this crap up. It was pathetic. I get having a super hot "It Girl" model in your cast, but come on! 

And Flag was a weenie. There. I said it. The role was originally supposed to be played by Tom Hardy, but I think the character was just poorly written regardless of who played him. Was he even necessary? It was such a waste to put any investment in him as a character. 

A: I feel like Flag and Enchantress were a couple of the characters most affected by the poor editing in this film. I bet there's a fair amount of footage on the cutting room floor that would've helped expand their story. Heck, we know there's at least one scene where Flag is reading through the team's dossiers and describing the team aloud to June Moon because that shot was in the trailer. 

And what's the deal with Flag's hair? I know they did reshoots on this film, but the dude's hair length changed multiple times when the story takes place over the course of a few days. Why not just make Kinnaman wear a hat in the scenes when he clearly had longer hair than the rest of the shoot? I digress.

Shifting gears again, one of the things I did like about the movie was the inclusion of Batman. It was neat to see Batman from the perspective of his rogues gallery. I actually wish there had been a little more, but even the small amount of Batman we got reminded me how much I like Ben Affleck's version of the character.

There was also a brief cameo from The Flash when he captures Captain Boomerang during a jewelry heist, and I smiled at that because it gave us a little taste of Ezra Miller's Barry Allen. But even that was clearly shot completely separate from everything else and spliced in after principal photography.

S: I did enjoy the cameos. It got the audience excited for the Justice League films to come, which hit their target. Ezra Miller is going to steal the show in those movies. I'm just calling that one right now.

So, let's wrap it up. While Suicide Squad struggled along in many respects, there were things that I really did enjoy! Harley Quinn and the Joker were great for me, and I can't wait to see what they bring to the table next. Deadshot wasn't bad! For being such a huge actor, Smith didn't overshadow his co-stars. And Viola Davis' Amanda Waller is the perfect mix of villain boss/encourager for her band of misfits. 

A: Dang, I had completely forgotten about Viola Davis' Amanda Waller. Davis is one of the best things in the whole movie! She's a literal scene chewer and a bad-ass to boot. You could certainly argue she's the real villain in the movie, but even then her motivations for assembling the squad are murky, and not necessarily in a good way. I mean it's a real question as to whether the reason Ayer came up with for her to put the team together (ostensibly to fight the next Superman or metahuman that pops up should they be evil and not good) truly makes sense in the world of the film or if Ayer slyly did a good job making us wonder about Waller's true intentions.

As a whole I thought Suicide Squad had its moments. Deep down there's a real movie in there somewhere. Or maybe it's all on the cutting room floor, I dunno. But like you I thoroughly enjoyed Robbie as Harley Quinn, and I liked Will Smith as Deadshot. I look forward to seeing them as these characters again someday. Just in a better, real movie.

Final Verdict: Wait to Netflix/Redbox it.

(Individual Scores - A: 2.5/5, S: 3/5)

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