Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The DC Extended Universe Starts to Gel (a Bit) in 'Suicide Squad'

I wanted Suicide Squad to surprise everybody by being DC’s breakthrough movie.  The trailer looked fun and cool.  But with DC’s track record so far, I prevented myself from getting my hopes up.  Thus, I had no expectations of it being a mindblowingly terrific film.   Which might as well because when I finally got to watch it and it turned out being a mixed bag experience, there was no sense of disappointment. 

Still, I enjoyed it more than Batman v SupermanMan of Steel is probably the most competent and coherent of the three DC Extended Universe (DCEU) movies so far.  But Suicide Squad, for all its problems, is the most fun.
Suicide Squad is based on the DC Comics “superhero team” (it’s in air quotes for obvious reasons) of the same name, officially known as Task Force X, which is made up of incarcerated supervillains forced to conduct black ops missions for the US government in exchange for reduced prison time.  This team is overseen by the non-powered but manipulative, ruthless, and intimidating Amanda Waller (played in the film by Viola Davis).  The movie basically follows the premise of the comics, and features a roster that includes prominent Suicide Squad members Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney).  Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Katana (Karen Fukuhara), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and Slipknot (Adam Beach) are also in the team.  The Joker (Jared Leto) also participates in the narrative.

I actually love the first fifty minutes of this movie.  It was stylish, fun, and engaging.  And though some of its problems are already apparent by then, it still felt it was going to be terrific regardless.  Then the appearance of the antagonist’s ugly and unimpressive minions took me out of that path.  I still found some enjoyable moments later on, but at that point, I realized that the movie wasn’t going to be great at all.
The plot is not as convoluted and dull as BvS, but it’s still a mess.  The scope of the mission given to the Suicide Squad – and the entire plot overall – does not fit the concept of the team.  The villain is unimpressive.  Several plot points don’t make sense.  There’s dumb dialogue here and there.  And though the humor does make hits – I chuckled and laughed a couple of times during the movie – they aren’t as organic and witty as that found in Marvel films.

Another obvious flaw in the movie is the editing.  The flow of the movie doesn’t go smoothly at times; there are scenes that just don’t mesh well.  Parts of this are probably attributed to the rumored panic reshootings done at the advent of BvS’ poor critical reception.  But the main reason is likely because many scenes are cut from the theatrical version.  Thus, I’m greatly looking forward to the release of its “Ultimate Cut.”
As expected, the best characters of the movie are those played by Will Smith, Margot Robbie, and Jared Leto.  Smith’s portrayal of Deadshot is as appealing as one would expect from a Will Smith character – he has his share of badass, dramatic, and funny moments that light up the movie at key parts.  Harley Quinn is easily my most favorite character in this movie.  Margot Robbie killed it in bringing the fan favorite character to life.  With this, she has cemented her status as my new Angelina Jolie (she’s my most favorite actress during my teenage years; I tried to watch every new movie she was in).  She is attractive, has tremendous amount of screen charisma, and seems sweet and nice in real life.  As for Jared Leto’s depiction of the Joker, it’s not as noteworthy as Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, and (especially) Mark Hamill’s performances, but he nonetheless succeeds in delivering a distinctive and intriguing take of the iconic villain.  Unfortunately, there isn’t much screen time given to the character.  Still, the brief time I get to see Leto’s Joker makes me excited to see him be finally pitted against Ben Affleck in that upcoming solo Batman movie.

I like that Suicide Squad, despite the absence of buildups and backgrounds for the characters prior the movie, did a fine job in doing the establishing of what they are all about, and injecting some humanity in them to make the audience be sympathetic.  Much of the focus is on Deadshot and Harley Quinn, but the other characters – who basically just served supporting roles – are surprisingly easy to like despite the insubstantial characterizations done.
Objectively, this movie has ample negatives that can easily derail one’s enjoyment of it.  On the other hand, it also has redeemable qualities, and this movie can turn out being an overall enjoyable experience for someone who chooses to strongly dwell on them.

In the end, the best and main thing that I can take from this movie is that, because of it, I’m starting to see the charm and promise of the DCEU. It didn’t start off as ideally and beautifully as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but I’ve reason to believe now that DC will eventually figure it out.  Again, as what I’ve mentioned early in this review, I personally think Suicide Squad is an improvement from BvS.  A big reason for that is, though it hasn’t perfected it yet, the movie suggests that DC is beginning to learn that it can be grounded and gritty without sacrificing the “fun” factor.  Furthermore, the worldbuilding has been rushed in BvS, cheapening any excitement its reveals and teasers might have brought.  But in Suicide Squad, I finally feel some delight when connections to past and future DCEU movies are made.

Suicide Squad might not be the breakthrough DC movie I’m looking for. but it now feels that the DCEU is heading to the right direction.  It has raised my hopes up that that “breakthrough movie” might finally be realized in next year’s Justice League or Wonder Woman (whose Comic Con trailers look amazing, by the way).  I just want to be optimistic.

Miscellaneous musings – WITH SPOILERS:
  • Something irrelevant: I find it amusing that the last two films I watched prior Suicide Squad are Independence Day: Resurgence and The Legend of Tarzan.  The former was in need of a Will Smith, and the latter stars Margot Robbie.
  • I’m baffled why critics award the Ghostbusters remake a 73% Rotten Tomatoes score, but punish Suicide Squad severely with a 26% score (as of writing).  It’s not a very good movie but 26% is shockingly brutal in my opinion.
  • I loved the Flash and Batman cameos.  Again, I’m beginning to enjoy how the DC movies’ shared universe is gelling.
  • Batman’s brief interaction with Harley Quinn was very funny.
  • The flashback scenes of the Joker and Harley Quinn are extremely fascinating.  I would love to have an entire movie focused on their twisted love story and how it came to be.
  • What I hate most about this movie is the design and origin of the enemy minions.  They’re hideous, boring, and uninspired.
  • The movie soundtrack is dope!  It’s not as fantastic as Guardians of the Galaxy’s, but it definitely improved the tone.
  • I wonder why Slipknot, El Diablo, and Killer Croc were preferred to be in this film over more notable Suicide Squad members like Bronze Tiger, Nightshade, and King Shark.
  • Jai Courtney – infamous for his bland roles and performances – shows in this movie that there’s hope for him yet in becoming a decent actor.  He’s pretty solid as Captain Boomerang.
  • I didn’t like that the movie ended with Joker breaking Harley out of prison.  I would have preferred it more if it instead ended with Waller briefing the team for another mission.
  • Would love to see Deathstroke, Black Manta, King Shark, and Black Spider in the roster of the next Suicide Squad movie – which I hope would happen.  There’s a good chance it’ll make a profit despite the negative critical reception it’s currently receiving, and I hope that will translate into a sequel.
  • Enchantress started off as an interesting character.  I love the first time June Moore was shown transforming into Enchantress – when she whispered “Enchantress”, and then a black hand appeared out of her wrist, its fingers locking with hers, flipping her hand over, and, voila, she had become the Enchantress.  That scene was great.
  • Her initial creepy character design was pretty cool.  But when she regained her heart, she changed into a cleaner and goddess-like appearance, which was inferior and boring compared to the original character design.
  • Enchantress did these ridiculous hand and dance motions constantly.  I loved it.  Not because it was fantastic, but because it was so hilarious.  I literally laughed every single time she did it.
  • Right from the start, I was expecting that one of the characters is going to die via explosive implant, to illustrate how the setup works.  My money had always been on Slipknot.  And I was right.
  • Though she occasionally aids the heroes, Amanda Waller is very much a villain in the comics.  She’s cold-hearted and lacks conscience.  This was supposed to be fully depicted in the movie when she unceremoniously killed her staff because they “lack the clearance.”  But her characterization fluctuates from being a villain into that of a “good guy” character – especially when she provided minor special rewards to the Suicide Squad when they completed their mission, and when she interacted and dealt with Bruce Wayne during the mid-credit scenes.
  • The “killing her staff” scene doesn’t make sense in retrospect.  Seriously, why were those people with her in the first place if they didn’t have the proper clearance?  And Waller has the power to kill people just like that without any consequences?  If such government position or privilege exists in real life, that’s pretty terrifying.  Also, Rick Flag witnessed the whole thing.  Why was he okay with that but he condemned Deadshot about killing for money?  That makes him a hypocrite.
  • This movie has Batman, the Joker, and Task Force X.  A better movie with Batman, the Joker, and Task Force X is the 2014 animated film Batman: Assault on Arkham
Lastly, I can't stress this enough: it brings me great delight that we live in a world where Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn happened.

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