Sunday, August 14, 2016

Suicide Squad: Damaged...By Hype


Let me just preface this review by saying, despite the title I came up with for it, I did actually like Suicide Squad. It's not exactly up to Marvel standards, but it delivers as a psychotically colorful action movie about the Worst. Heroes. Ever.

I wouldn't pick that 'shroom if I were you.

Those Worst Heroes Ever are, at the very least, excellently portrayed on screen by a talented cast. What really hurts the movie, however, is its writing, which, combined with the stories we've heard about the studio making tons of cuts behind the scenes (Jared Leto being especially pissed because, yes, his long-awaited Joker gets precious little screen time), means the movie doesn't deliver quite as well as it should have. The same could be said for last year's infamous Fantastic Four flop, which was also surprisingly well-acted, though it was very clear in that case that the movie was seriously botched beyond repair and that the actors were merely doing the best they could (but hey, props to Josh Trank for dialing up the body horror.) With this Squad, the actors are the movie's highlight, and it looks like maybe with a few scene extensions (among other assorted nips and tucks, not to delve too deeply into plastic-surgery metaphors), the movie could be a little more cohesive, comprehensible, and well worth the massive hype.

So, for this third movie in the DC Extended Universe, they're taking a Guardians of the Galaxy detour, heavy on the classic rock (Guardians has a better soundtrack, though, only because they A) actually make that stupid "PiƱa Colada Song" sound cool, and B) don't commit the cardinal sin of including Kanye West like this movie does - but that's just me) and obscure anti-hero characters. It's a pretty big ensemble they've got going on - just look at how many people are caught up in that cartoony mushroom cloud on the poster! Unfortunately, some of those characters just aren't as well-written as others. I'm looking at you, Captain Boomerang! You'd think an assbite like him would be more in-your-face, but he has a bad habit of fading into the background, and his only real character trait is his passion for a pink unicorn plushie.

At least he doesn't jack off to it like Deadpool. That we see, anyway.

Hell, the best part of his intro in the movie's opening montage is another brief glimpse of Ezra Miller as The Flash. Miller didn't get to show off nearly as much in his Batman v Superman cameo, but here, plus in the Justice League trailer, is proof that while he's no Grant Gustin, he's got a good handle on the character's innately upbeat personality, and he'll certainly avoid getting Snyder-fied like Superman did.

Pictured: Miller's Flash foiling Boomerang.
"No honor among thieves, huh?"

Also disappointing is Slipknot (built up heavily by fans, but then he gets shoehorned into the Squad at the last minute, literally.) And, to an extent, Harley Quinn - sure, Margot Robbie's performance is delightfully over-the-top (even her dreadful accent job - her natural Australian accent bleeds through every other line - adds to the character) and got more than a few laughs out of my parents, but I think we could have done with a little more explanation for how exactly she wound up falling in love with the Joker. (Thankfully, this movie doesn't make their relationship look quite so one-sided as it's often been seen in the source material, but the subtext is pretty abusive, to say the least.) And for sure the Joker - and I'm not just saying that because of his limited presence, but also because, while Heath Ledger's performance in The Dark Knight was truly a supernatural tour de force, Jared Leto goes more into the character's crime-boss side, and comes across as a little too down-to-earth in comparison.

But not by much.

Rick Flag also feels a bit underwritten, but then he doesn't need as much personality as the rest of the Squad - he's just their wrangler, that's his purpose. And he's romantically linked to the Enchantress, whose witchy schemes form the crux of the movie's wild and crazy plot - although, as a villain, she's pretty generic, and her evil plot borrows pretty heavily from The Avengers (you'll know it when you see it) and, unless I miss my guess about her base of operations being a natural history museum of some sort, Relic.

Of course, the movie does deliver with pretty much everyone else. Standout characters include, of course, Amanda Waller, the lady bankrolling the whole Suicide Squad (sorry, "Task Force X") operation. If you look up "stone-cold" in the dictionary, you'll see her picture. Katana, with her mystical soul-trapping sword, deserves her own solo movie (and I hear they're looking to explore more of her backstory in the sequel!) You also gotta love a certain Croc for his, pun intended, Killer line delivery. El Diablo is so tortured by his past (and no doubt a certain helping of Catholic guilt) that you can't help but feel for him. My personal favorite, though, is Deadshot, that improbably talented hitman with a soft spot for his daughter.

That's the real heart of this movie - family. For a while, after maybe an hour and a half of noise and explosions and occasional Harley Quinn one-liners, I was concerned this movie would be a write-off for me. But then our Worst Heroes Ever are given glimpses into a sort of Mirror of Erised, and all their deepest desires are for them to have families, loved ones to go home to. They may not get this in real life, but they'll get this for sure in their group of misfit criminals.

Family is this movie's saving grace, and that's why, from me, it gets a B. It could have been better, but you still get your money's worth.

Till next time, Pinecones...

Remember - Denis Leary is always watching. Always.

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