Sunday, August 7, 2016

Suicide Squad

File:Jolly Rosso.jpgLet's cut to the chase: The good news is that Suicide Squad, the third entry in the D.C. Extended Universe, is not nearly as bad as this spring's Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. That bad news is that it is still bad. What could have been a fun movie about antiheroes being truly heroic, an antithesis to the overly moody previous D.C. films, is instead a fairly formulaic, rather dull flick that tries to play it safe and yet results in another miss.

Viola Davis plays Amanda Weller, a government official who concocts a bizarre plan to form a task force containing the worst of the worst super villains ever known. These malefactors, she believes, might just be able to do some good for once. In return, the villains get some time deducted from their sentences. If they disobey or try to escape, they die. Fortunately for Weller, if something goes wrong, they are, as Deadshot says, the patsies.

Deadshot could be described as the Suicide Squad's leader, if they needed one. He's a hired assassin who's never missed, and who first appeared in D.C.'s comics in 1950. Here, he's played by Will Smith, who is just as charismatic as ever but who has not been the lead in a hit since Men in Black 3 from 2012. The other two big stars in the film are Margot Robbie, Smith's co-star from Focus, and Oscar-winning "method actor" Jared Leto as cinema's most notorious clown, the Joker. Leto has some big shoes to fill, as fans have argued for years whether the best on-screen portrayal of the Joker has been from Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill, or Heath Ledger (or, I suppose, Cesar Romero). Leto does not come close to them. It's not a bad performance, per se, but during the best moments it feels like it's simply a repeat of all the stuff we've previously seen. Leto's method acting doesn't save the performance; I'm not sure what sending rats and used condoms to his co-stars during filming did to enhance the output. It's not nearly as disappointing as how Robbie as Harley Quinn, the Joker's lover, is squandered; despite a pretty good performance by the always good Robbie, this is a role that, as Alison Wilmore of BuzzFeed describes, is "made into damaged dolly jerk-off material."

Yeah, it would be hard to argue that this movie isn't anti-women. At one point, one of the villains (good guy villains, I mean) punches a woman and then says, "She had a mouth." And it's a comic relief moment. It is 2016, right?

On a better note, considering how devoid of diversity Hollywood is these days (#OscarsSoWhite), this might be one of the most diverse movies around: Smith, Davis, and Adewale Skinnuoye-Agbaje, covered in makeup as Killer Croc, are black; Jay Hernandez as El Diablo, who throws fire from his fists, is Latino; Karen Fukuhara plays a swordswoman bodyguard and is Asian-American; and Adam Beach as Slipknot is Canadian First Nations.    

But most of this movie is a mess, and most of the blame for this could fall on David Ayer, its writer and director. I'm not too surprised. Training Day, which he wrote, is very overrated, and Fury, which he wrote and directed, borders on trash. End of Watch is barely tolerable. If he is the one responsible for those four awesome trailers for Suicide Squad, then he should stick to doing that. And with an eclectic soundtrack that includes "Without Me," "You Don't Know Me," "Bohemian Rhapsody," and "Fortunate Son," he at least shows us that he has good taste in music. And the visual effects and color palate are mostly spectacular.

Suicide Squad is not as bad as I was expecting, but it's still bad, and considering that Suicide Squad is essentially strike three for Warner Bros. in their efforts to try and match the powerhouse that has been Marvel Studios, I'd say it's time to call it quits. No Justice League, no Wonder Woman, perhaps not even a stand-alone Batman film directed by and staring Ben Affleck. It's time to retire the costumes.


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