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Saturday, 13 August 2016

Review: Suicide Squad (2016)

Warning: Spoilers!
Suicide Squad
Suicide Squad is the newest edition to the DCEU and the second movie in this franchise to be released this year, the other being Batman v. Superman. It depicts a group of supervillains having to work for the government who wishes to take down a paranormal entity which has attacked a city. Throughout this review I will reference another film, Batman: Assault on Arkham, as that is another Suicide Squad movie, although, it is set in the Arkham universe rather than the DCEU. This review contains spoilers but please skip to the conclusion for my final verdict, and special for this review I have a but of a rant.

Plot, Acting and Pacing
Amanda Waller, (Viola Davis), has set up a team of supervillains to fight a possible metahuman, (superpowered), threat under the command of Rick Flag, (Joel Kinnaman). These villains include June Moone, (Cara Delevingne) who is possessed by an entity causing her to become the Enchantress, expert marksman Deadshot, (Will Smith), the insane Harley Quinn, (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang, (Jai Courtney), the pyromancer El Diablo, (Jay Hernandez), Killer Croc, (Adewale Akinnuoye-Abbaje), and Rick Flag's friend Katana, (Karen Fukuhara), who wields a katana which absorbs the souls of those it kills. It goes wrong when the entity possesses June Moone again causing her to take over Midway City, and is preparing to destroy the world. As the Suicide Squad is sent in to stop her, with another mission to rescue an important person, the Joker, (Jared Leto), goes to find his lover, Harley Quinn, and take her from the Squad. I will give the movie credit for embracing the source material. So far the DCEU has tried too hard to ground itself in reality, but Suicide Squad has done a good job in doing this. I have to give David Ayer much credit for doing this, 

The premise of the plot is very good. In fact it bears some similarities to Assault on Arkham with the Squad having to go to a dangerous place and retrieve someone only to find a twist, as well as being confronted by the Joker. Although I did prefer the plot to Assault on Arkham I did enjoy the plot to Suicide Squad. I was worried about pacing, something which really let Batman v. Superman down, but the film was well paced making it more enjoyable. However, I do have some gripes. Before the final act the reason why the Squad chooses to join Rick Flag seems very forced which really hindered the movie. Not only this, but I felt that Killer Croc, Katana, and to an extent Captain Boomerang were often sidelined which is a shame seen as Killer Croc is one of my favorite Batman villains. Katana only had a few lines in the film. It was a shame seeing these characters sidelined. Even the Joker was sidelined with around 90% of what was filmed being cut from the movie. Similarly, much of the scenes depicting Killer Croc's backstory was cut which again was a disappointment. It is especially disappointing considering that Akinnuoye-Abbaje spent so much time watching the DCAU, reading about cannibalism, and watched crocodiles to prepare for the role. The cuts even created a distorted view of Harley's and the Joker's relationship: the cuts caused their relationship to seem really loving whereas originally it was true to the comics, (and the DC Animated Universe where Harley first appeared), where they were in an abusive relationship. Already I've seen internet posts where people who have yet to read the comics or watch the DCAU state that Harley and the Joker were in a perfect, albeit homicidal relationship, which is far from the truth. 

Now to the acting. Viola Davis as Amanda Waller was really good; she perfectly captures the character's ruthlessness and authoritarianism which made the performance really good. With the rest of the cast I would say that the acting was good. I feared that the movie would neglect all the Squad bar Will Smith and Margot Robbie, but it didn't which gave the cast more time with their performances. Each actor worked well with one another which created a good team dynamic between the cast. Even the marginalized characters, like Croc, were given good performances so I feel the film could have been even better if they had not cut so many scenes. Now to Jared Leto. It had the makings of a good performance but I could not tell if that was due to Leto himself or due to him not being in the movie for very long, preventing him from giving a better performance. Again, if they release an unedited version of the movie we may be able to see how good a performance it was. Overall, Mark Hamill and Heath Ledger were the better Jokers, whether Leto can top Jack Nicholson and Caesar Romero that has yet to be seen. Clara Delevingne gave a mixed performance, but it was a relatively good one considering she is a relatively new actor compared to the other main cast. As June Moone, and at times the Enchantress, she was really good, but when she goes into the Central American deity mode with the voice over her performance is not as good, and the strange dance she had to do was very offputting. It looked more comical than intimidating. I must say though that Margot Robbie nailed Harley Quinn on the head; definitely one of the best live-action comic book performances that I have seen.

I would say the effects are a mixed bag. At times the CGI was good, such as the close up fighting scenes, while at other times it was not as good. Specifically, when it's showing Enchantress and her brother around the vortex. It seemed to resemble graphics from a video game five years ago rather than a big budget movie. I did not notice it but my friend said he saw the Enchantress' body being pixelated in the corner of the screen at one point. However, I did like the use of practical effects, especially Killer Croc's makeup. It looked very realistic and made the movie better as a result.

Easter Eggs and Trivia
David Ayer has truly honored the source material and has had fun with it. Throughout Suicide Squad there are many easter eggs and trivia to be found. Most of the movie takes place in Midway City where Hawkgirl and Hawkman sometimes protect, and the prison for metahumans, Belle Reve, appears in it's traditional place in Louisiana. Killer Croc speaks in a Cajun accent just like in the comics, and he mentions how he's beautiful. Originally there was going to be a scene showing his backstory which is directly from the comics. Slipknot's inclusion to be killed off immediately is reminiscent to KGBeast's inclusion just to be immediately killed off in Assault on Arkham. Batman appears three times and he is more like he is in the comics as he doesn't go out of his way to kill. The Flash also appears and takes down Captain Boomerang, and I have heard there was going to be a scene where Slipknot gets taken down by Wonder Woman but it wasn't in the final edit. I have a feeling this is due to the fact that Slipknot was only included to be killed off so this was not as needed as much as Deadshot, Harley Quinn and Boomerang. Harley Quinn at one point has a mallet which she used in the DCAU, but throughout the movie she uses a baseball bat which she uses in the Arkham games. Briefly her classic costume from the DCAU is seen and there is even a shot with the Joker replicating a image made by Alex Ross.
The image
Harley also has puddin' tattooed on her as well as a piece of jewelry saying the same thing. She is also seen doing gymnastics several times in reference to her formerly being a gymnast before becoming a psychiatrist. The Joker also has several tattoos with meanings. For one, David Ayer has said that Batman knocked out the Joker's teeth after he killed Robin leading to him getting gold braces and tattooing 'Damaged' on his head. Although, very briefly Harley's file hints that she may have actually killed Robin. The club scene is reminiscent to a scene in Joker by Brian Azzarello where the Joker murders a club owner for making Harley be a stripper. In the comic it is more violent with him skinning the owner while in the film he is just shot. However, Jonny Frost who appears in that graphic novel appears in the movie. There is so much more but I shall leave it at that.

Rant Time
I try to avoid ranting on my blog. I wanted to rant about the British EU referendum result, I wanted to rant about copyright on YouTube, I wanted to rant about how you were misandrist if you said positive things about the new Ghostbusters or if you said anything negative you were a misogynist, I wanted to rant about whitewashing with Dr Strange, Ghost in the Shell and Gods of Egypt. I avoid ranting because I do not wish to upset people. A debate or a calm review I feel is much less polarizing than a rant and I do not want to polarize the people who read this blog. However, I cannot keep this rant off anymore. This rant will cover three topics: harsh critics and Marvel comparisons, studio interference, and 'it was made for the fans'/fan wars.

First off, critics were way too harsh on both this film and Batman v. Superman. This film did not deserve 26% on Rotten Tomatoes or 40 on Metacritic. Of course movie critics occasionally are overly harsh or overly praiseworthy on certain movies; it is understandable because they have to virtually watch every movie released. Through this they will see recurring things in movies, (just think how many times 'I should have killed you when I had the chance' appears in movies), which they eventually get tired of and when a movie does something new it may seem like a breath of fresh air. This mindset is perfectly fine in my opinion. The DCEU is unfortunate to come about after the MCU grew big. The MCU is not perfect by any means, just look at the Thor movies and Iron Man 2 and 3, but when it gets it right it does it phenomenally. Both Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy are on the IMDb Top 250 Movies list. As a result the MCU has set an expectation which critics are looking for, unfairly, which they expect Sony, Fox, and now Warner Bros. to match in quality and tone. Of course Sony's and, to an extent, Fox's attempts have been disastrous. X-Men: Apocalypse, Batman v. Superman and now Suicide Squad were not up to the quality of some MCU movies, and as they are different in tone to the MCU this has been two strikes against them. As a result they've been unfairly degraded. Was Suicide Squad, Batman v. Superman and X-Men: Apocalypse good? Squad I believe is a yes, BvS was mediocre and I have yet to see X-Men so I cannot comment. Are they the worst comic book movies ever? Not by any means. There's all three of the awful Fantastic Four movies, Batman and Robin, Batman Forever and X-Men: The Last Stand were all worse, in my opinion, to BvS and Squad. I even feel Iron Man 3 was worse than BvS. I feel critics have to realize that if a comic book movie is less than stellar the reason for that has nothing to do with comparisons to the style of the MCU but rather other factors, and as a result shouldn't been overly harsh for that reason. An example I want to give is Dredd. Dredd is one of my favorite comic book movies based on the Judge Dredd comics; published by Rebellion Developments. It was well acted, honored the source materials, had good set-design and effects, and had fantastic fight scenes. Critics gave it positive reviews but not many. There were not any negative reviews that I'm aware of but the reason why it got so little reviews was because it was overlooked. The MCU had just gotten big and The Dark Knight Rises had shown DC was awesome again. Critics and audiences forgot this little gem to focus instead on Marvel and DC instead. Hellboy as well has been criminally overlooked in my opinion. Before we rush to DC's defense we have to remember that other comic book companies have been neglected.

My second rant is about the studio. BvS was much better unedited and most of my issues with Squad could have been rectified by keeping the deleted scenes in. Of course it is natural for a studio to have some interference; they have to make money and need to protect their interest. The studio interfered with Tim Burton's Batman by keeping Burton on a leash which produced one of the greatest comic book movies of all times. When they let him off the leash, and later Joel Schumacher, the next Batman movies were not good at all. Warner Bros. should have looked at what Fox did when they intervened in Fantastic Four and produced not only one of the worst comic book movies, but one of the worst movies of all time. Studios parade round the phrase 'it was made for the fans' but they should know fans will sit and watch a four hour comic book movie if they want this to be true. Comic book fans dress as their favorite characters, nitpick individual scenes in movies and debate trivial matters; if we do all that we will happily watch a film for three and a half hours. With the mainstream audiences they too will watch a nerdy film if it's hours long. The Lord of the Rings is one of the most critically acclaimed series of all time and not-geek audiences were more than happy to watch it. Of course BvS or Squad didn't have to sweep the Oscars but if they had made it good then the public would watch it. To be honest the studio didn't need to interfere with BvS at all: a movie with Batman and Superman in the title practically sells itself. If the studio was going to interfere it should have been to not give so much creative control to Zack Snyder. Snyder makes very good looking movies; one thing Watchmen, 300, BvS and Sucker Punch all had were they were good looking. However, it is like a fancy meal in a 5-star restaurant: nice to look at but not filling. If David S. Goyer was given more control then this could improve the DCEU.

Now to my final rant: the Fanboy Wars and 'it was made for the fans'. I hate all this Marvel v. DC. BvS and now Squad has caused DC fanboys to claim that they are hard done by, the MCU is for little kids and has brainwashed critics into thinking that all comic book movies should be like the MCU. Marvel fanboys meanwhile have been saying that DC is a shambles, it's properties are terrible and they cannot do anything right. In response DC fanboys say that Marvel cannot create good characters, Marvel fanboys say Superman and other characters are boring, and the fights continue. I will admit I am a bigger fan of Marvel than DC but that is only because it was Marvel which got me into comics. I still love DC, Image, Dark Horse etc. The Fanboy Wars are absurd. The MCU has produced both good films, (Iron Man, Avengers, Guardians), and bad films, (Thor, Iron Man 2 and 3, Incredible Hulk) while DC has produced one of the greatest films of all times, The Dark Knight. Very rarely though has any of these recent Fanboy Wars mentioned the comics. Nor has they defended the overlooked comic books:it was fans of all comics which got a Dredd sequel to be put into the works, none have commented on the possibility of a new Crow or Spawn movie, Kingsmen went overlooked by both until it was released, and none went to defend the appalling Cowboys and Aliens. Now to my other major point: 'it's made for the fans' is not an excuse to making a less than good movie. The Killing Joke, Dredd, Under the Red Hood and Dark Knight Returns were all made for fans and were good. BvS and Squad were clearly made for a wider audience, as well as for fans, and because critics didn't like it studios tried to pit fans against studios so their movie had some defense. It worked as well. I am tired though of being expected to rush to defend a not very good movie, Squad was somewhat good though, just because I'm a comic book fan. I hate it when people say 'it's just a kid's film' to defend a bad kid's movie or 'it's just a goofy movie' to defend films like Nine Lives and 'it's for the fans' is no exception. I am sick of this being a defense and I am sick of being expected to become a white knight for a poor comic book movie. 

Well that's my rant.

For good acting, some good effects, honoring the source material and a relatively good story, but thanks to cuts and poor CGI at times I will give Suicide Squad a 6.8/10. I would consider it an alright movie, could have been better but could have been worse. Regardless if you liked Suicide Squad or not I would strongly advise watching Assault on Arkham: it's better than Suicide Squad and a good comic book movie overall.

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