Monday, August 8, 2016

Suicide Squad

   I'm so confused right now. I went into Suicide Squad, expecting a bad movie. A messy, truncated, badly edited piece of junk. And maybe that's precisely why I didn't see any of that? People had blown this shit of friggin proportion. Suicide Squad isn't bad at all. It's just kinda standard in some regards. To put this into perspective, using RT scores... while the critic's score is abysmal at 26%, the audience score is at 73%. With Batman V Superman, the critics are at 27% and the audience is at 63%. Both audience scores feel accurate to me. I personally liked both movies a lot more than those numbers indicate, but I'm an individual, yo.

   Even more perspective? Ben Affleck's Daredevil movie has a 44% from critics, and a 35% from the audience. Hulk, the 2003 misfire with Eric Bana... 61% fresh from critics. 29% from audiences. I could keep going, but the bottom line here is that a critical approach to these movies aren't always a good indication of how entertaining or enjoyable they are. And isn't that the point? I didn't see a messy plot, I saw a super simple one. I didn't see bad dialog, I saw comic book dialog. And, Jared Leto's Joker? The first Joker since Caesar Romero (and maybe Nicholsen) who looks like he genuinely enjoys the mayhem he's causing.

   This Joker is deeply unhinged. He's a modern clown price of crime. If in the 40's, being a gangster meant tommy guns and pinstripe suits, Joker was a perversion of hat. It's 2016 and the word gangster illicit mental imagery of tattoos, 'bling', and a 'thug' persona. And, true to form, Joker is a perversion of that archetype. I think the criticism he's been getting is extreme and absurd. He was pitch perfect in my opinion, and I'd love to see more of him in the future. Though Leto really has to tone down those damn antics behind the scenes. Not even the best Joker performance ever is worth all the bullshit he put his cast mates through. Speaking of cast mates though, everyone was fantastic.

   I was pretty concerned about Will Smith as Deadshot. I felt like this is a role he would sleepwalk through, going into default 'action figure Smith' mode (see: Bad Boys I & II, Independence Day, Wild Wild West, etc) and that sort of standard Smith charisma was here, but it freakin' worked. See, in the comics, Deadshot is a pretty scowly character who isn't exactly a joke-mine or anything. He's kinda stiff, and that's good for the comics, but Rick Flag (who was kinda pathetic by design in the comics) fills that thematic role here. He's grim and serious, and we didn't need another character who'd feel arguably indistinguishable from him.

   As it is, Smith's differences from Joel Kinnaman, both physically and personality-wise, make their dynamic all that much more compelling as the movie progresses. In an ideal setting to these guys, they'd be on opposite sides in a shootout, but they're on the same side here and their dynamic gets really compelling and fun to watch. Smith and Kinnaman sell their roles with Gusto, from the action scenes to the emotional beats. In fact, I was shocked at how much heart this movie has. The other few major standards are Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, and Jay Hernandez as El Diablo. Harley is basically the same character you've seen in the trailers, but with slightly more depth and conflict, which is nice.

   We see glimpses of fractured humanity underneath her crazy over-the-top personality. Robbie embodies Harley Quinn and I loved her character so much. She's not diluted into a heroine, and she's still a lot of fun to watch. Amanda Waller is a pretty brutal character here. She's trying to arm the government with it's own response team that'll be capable of going toe-to-toe with threats like an evil Superman. But no cost is too high for her. If this lady ever had a soul, she put it in a lock box and forgot about it long ago. I liked how you can't really hate her, but she's essentially the worst bad guy of the bunch. Davis really channeled some dark shit into her performance. I loved it. Then we've got Jay Hernandez as El Diablo.

   He's one of the more compelling members of the squad precisely because he's not gung-ho to fight and blow stuff up like all the others. He has a really emotional backstory, even more than what he had in the comics. It makes him a deeply tragic character, which in turns adds some serious emotional heft to his outbursts when he lets loose with his powers. Hernandez, like all the others, did a great job. Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerang was pretty fun, but he doesn't really feel like he fits the team. Waller touts her Task Force X as the 'worst of the worst', and I just don't feel like this scuzzy Aussie bank robber is all that bad, or even special. His portrayal kinda evolves into a plot hole because... why is he even there? His acting is good, and the character is fun, but ultimately feels kinda pointless.

   Nevertheless, a certain someone makes a cameo in one of the Captain's scenes. Loved it. I won't say who, but I knew beforehand and it didn't make a difference for me. It was still a really fun bit. The rest of the characters are just kinda... there. Katana has a soul-eating sword, and nobody bats an eye at that information. Which in and of itself is actually pretty cool. But as a character, she never really feels like part of the squad. The obvious language barrier makes it kind of hard, but she does get a couple really good moments, as does Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Killer Croc, but the character is just a heavy. We don't ever really care about him the way we do the main few characters. He's useful, but not really a main character.

  Cara Delevingne as Enchantress starts out as a squad member buts ends up being one of the main villains. Which leads to what is probably my biggest complaint about the movie. The villains are generic as hell and pretty underwhelming. Besides that, some of the editing is wonky, but really that's it. The movie isn't as gritty and intense as I would've liked it to be, but it was also a damn sight more entertaining than I expected it to be. It's not even remotely a misfire. It's imperfect, but a whole LOT of fun. The characters are the shining standout strong point of the movie, and because they're so friggin enjoyable to watch, by extension, so is the movie. Yeah, they're all kinda introduced twice or more, but with how much fun they all are, I can't really complain.

   The visuals in the movie are top notch for the most part, and I loved seeing Deadshot take on hordes of bad guys. So cool. But, at the end of the day, this movie is just the whipping boy for the internet right now. Trendy bloggers are going to write pieces on how the movie is politically incorrect for glorifying guns in this social climate. Screw that. It's an action movie, guns and shit are generally glorified. To kow tow to overly sensitive stances on guns right now would be a cop out in a movie filled with assassins, mercenaries, criminals and soldiers. Should I feel guilty for enjoying the hell out of a John Woo movie in 2016? Should I box up my Rambo set? Why? For who, for what? Moreover, I'm already cringing about all the articles about sexual objectification regarding Harley Quinn who's look was actually based on Debbie Harry.

   All these people are just looking for nits to pick. Suicide Squad is a movie that while is a bit standard as a whole, is no worse than most Marvel fare. It's energetic, irrepressible, and almost infectiously fun. I loved the soundtrack, no matter how on-the-nose it was at times. The action scenes were a blast, the humor was timely and I fell in love with all the characters. The whole audience was into it; big laughs at all the right moments, and even singing along with the end credits songs. I'm tempted to say I outright loved the movie, just as a push-back against the absurdly negative reception it's getting. There were bigger plot holes in The Avengers, and villains just as underwhelming in movies like Thor: The Dark World and it's ilk. So why is Suicide Squad getting shredded? It's so much fun. I'd love to see a sequel.

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