Sunday, August 14, 2016

Suicide Squad

After seeing basically the perfect Suicide Squad in Arrow I wasn't entirely sure what to expect out of the DCEU version. We got the cool villains, some cool operations for them to flex their skills with, and some decent characterization to boot. I've never gone from loathing to loving a character the way I did Michael Rowe's Floyd Lawton. A suicidal depressive veteran turned hitman who would rather die a hero than live on as a villain if that meant his family could be taken care of. Will Smith is a damn fine actor, but once you've seen Rowe in action it's hard to imagine anyone else in the role. It's like Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen, Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man, or Henry Cavill as Superman. It's hard to recreate perfection.
Fortunately, there weren't that many re-casts between the television universe and the movies. In fact, the only other one that had a major role in this movie was Amanda Waller.
It's rather odd to see the Suicide Squad get a movie before the Justice League, but as far as the narrative goes it works fine. The DCEU seems to be going for a very natural story progression, a natural escalation of the stakes. From Man of Steel to BvS to Suicide Squad, I can clearly see the decisions that lead up to every action and reaction in each succeeding film.
Spoilers inbound as usual, for Man of Steel, BvS and Suicide Squad alike, but if you're on the fence about watching this movie, do yourself a favor and watch it now, because you need to experience this film.
After the death of Superman, the United States government is looking into creating a team of superhumans that can combat a threat akin to that of General Zod, or Doomsday. At the very least they want something that can combat a group of supervillains. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) pitches the idea of a team of supervillains, the best of the criminal underworld, people that they can control with force, people who can be disposed of without raising the eyebrows of the public if they go rogue. There's Deadshot (Will Smith), who was taken in by Batman (Ben Affleck). Captain Boomerang, an Australian bank-robber (Jai Courtney in one of the best roles of his career) who was taken in by The Flash (Ezra Miller). El Diablo, a pyromancer who turned himself in. Killer Croc, a dude who looks like a croc who lived in the Gotham sewers until he was driven out by Batman and captured by Waller's people. Slipknot (Adam Beach), who is the guy you call if you need to climb, rappel, or otherwise need to use ropes and grappling technology to their most effective in your criminal activities. Harley Quinn, (Margot Robbie) the Arkham Asylum psychiatrist assigned to The Joker (Jared Leto) after his capture by Batman and the Gotham City Police Department subsequent to The Clown Prince of Crime's murder of Bruce Wayne's second adopted son, Jason Todd. Or possibly subsequent to his capture in The Dark Knight, depending on how Ben Affleck's Batman movie goes down. Over time she fell in love with The Joker and wound up assisting him in escaping from custody and returning to his place as the king of crime in Gotham City, with Harley as his queen until Batman caught up with them and captured Harley. For those of you wondering, the vast majority of this films takes place after BvS. The captures of Deadshot and Harley for one thing definitely do. However, a good amount of the flashbacks could easily take place beforehand, depends on what you personally think I suppose.
Then there's Dr. June Moon (Cara Delevingne), an archaeologist who is possessed by The Enchantress, an Aztec spirit who can take command of her body and basically do whatever. Enchantress is basically the thing that seals the deal as far as Task Force X is concerned. She delivers classified documents from enemy nations to the committee deliberating on whether to approve the formation of the team.
Finally, there's the leader of the team, the greatest special-ops soldier the US military has produced, Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) one of two people who don't fall under the "suicide" purview of the titular Suicide Squad. He was assigned to Moon in the hopes that they would get romantically entangled and it worked. This lets Waller rope Flag into any stupid plan she wants him to be involved in as long as she's got June to manipulate him with.
For as powerful and useful as The Enchantress is, she's unreliable as all hell when she wants to be. She'll plant a bomb, but not activate it. She'll teleport to nowhere and then come back, freaking out June and Rick alike. She'll give Rick a vision of June dying in his arms for absolutely no reason, and then piss off to resurrect her brother, Incubus so she can attempt to take over the world and gain revenge for being sealed away after being worshiped as a god. This leads to her going completely rogue and laying siege to Midway City. Waller then activates Task Force X to extract high-profile subjects from Midway, but the actual team are told they're dealing with human terrorists. They are injected with explosives to blow their heads off if they go rogue, and gear up to fly out to the city. On the way out, they're joined by the only other member of the squad who is here voluntarily, Katana (Karen Fukahara) who serves as Flag's bodyguard.
As they're leaving, The Joker continues his investigation into Harley's whereabouts, eventually blackmailing one of the people who works for Waller into telling him where she was being held. There, he finds out about the explosives planted inside the Suicide Squad and steals what they need to defuse them, and sets out to rescue Harley.
On the approach to the LZ, Task Force X's chopper is shot down, and they have to approach on-foot. Boomerang tricks Slipknot into trying to escape to see if the explosives are for real, and sure enough they are, because Slipknot's head is blown off like he took a fifty millimeter bullet to the head. Thus was born a million stupid Slipknot memorial memes.
What follows are some absolutely incredible action-scenes and some great interactions between the cast. Enchantress's minions attack the team, but they fight them off, and make their way to the  safe-house where their extraction target is revealed to be Waller herself, who is in the process of wiping servers, destroying documents, and capping her henchmen in the head.
One chopper evacs Waller, but the other has been hi-jacked by The Joker and his gang, who suppress the Suicide Squad enough to deactivate the bomb in Harley's neck. Harley escapes, but the chopper gets shot down, and The Joker pushes her out of the falling helicopter onto a rooftop below, and the chopper explodes, presumably killing The Joker and his men.
Meanwhile, Waller's chopper gets shot down, and The Enchantress's minions capture her. Deadshot finds Waller's files on superhumans and finds out why Enchantress's people have been going after Flag specifically, because she inhabits his girlfriend and Enchantress is scared of him. Because she's super powerful, is gathering an army of monsters to her side and they'll be killed whether or not they follow Flags orders, they decide to chill in a bar in their last moments of life. Eventually, Flag sits down for a drink with them, and lays all of his cards on the table. He deactivates his detonator that controls the explosives in the teams necks and tells them they're free to go as he sets off to rescue June on his own. This tugs at the heart of the family man inside of Deadshot, who decides to accompany Flag on the mission. Harley joins them, and Killer Croc goads the others into coming along.
They figure out where The Enchantress put the bomb she misplaced earlier in the week, and decide to force Incubus over top of it and kill him so that they can cut Enchantress's heart out and force her to vacate June's body. However, Enchantress feeds the Suicide Squad pictures of their ideal lives, but El Diablo manages to break out of it, and this helps everyone else break free as well.
Killer Croc leads the group of Navy Seals that accompanied Flag down into the sewers to detonate the bomb, while the rest of the team tries to get Waller and June free.
El Diablo goes one-on-one with Incubus, and eventually kills him at the cost of his own life. Enchantress gives them a chance to join her again, and it seems like Harley is going to join in exchange for Enchantress resurrecting The Joker, but she uses Katana's sword to cut out Enchantress's heart, and Deadshot uses Harley's Colt Python to blast the sorceress in the head. June breaks out of the shell of The Enchantress's dead body, everyone gets a decade off their sentences, and some reward. Deadshot gets time with his daughter, Killer Croc gets cable TV, Harley gets an espresso machine, Boomerang gets locked up even tighter because he didn't ask for anything doable, and June gets discharged because she's no longer possessed by The Enchantress.
While Harley is enjoying her coffee, a SWAT team breaks into Belle Reve and uses a K-12 to bust into Harley's cage. The leader takes off his mask, and reveals himself to be, of all people, The Joker!
Due to the fact that Waller made some monumentally stupid decisions, she goes to Bruce Wayne for protection. In exchange, she gives him the governments files on superhumans, setting up for the Justice League film.
All in all, this was a damn good movie. I've seen films that try to do the same thing Suicide Squad does and fail. The Expendables is probably the worst example of an ensemble action film in existence, not counting the sequels obviously. Suicide Squad proves that you only need another twenty minutes to your run-time, better characters, better sub-plots, a better main plot and better effects to really make that work. It's not an impossible feat, you just need to have a decent studio behind the movie, rather than one that routinely produces sub-standard direct-to-video action vehicles.
As far as characters go, we've got a brilliant line-up for the most part. Everyone gives a pretty good performance at the very least, so I won't bother name-checking every individual member. However, there are a few specific instances I would like to bring up. First off, I'd like to congratulate Jai Courtney for finally finding a good movie to be in. A Good Day to Die Hard was a movie that didn't really need to exist, and Jai Courtney didn't particularly sell himself as Jack McClane anyways. On the other hand, from the moment he spoke a single word in this film I bought him as the bogan-y bank-robber.
I could tell from the production stills and the handful of trailer clips I couldn't avoid that Margot Robbie was going to be a good Harley Quinn, and she didn't disappoint. She's not quite Tara Strong, but hardly anyone is.
This brings us to Will Smith as Deadshot, possibly the biggest issue with this film. I love Will Smith as an actor and a comedian alike, but his portrayal shifts back and forth between a pitch-perfect version of Deadshot and Agent J from Men In Black. This might be a product of the re-shoots DC ordered, but there's no way to tell until the film comes out on home media later in the year so we can take a look at all of the deleted and alternate scenes. If they decide to put all the cut footage onto the home release. I'm erring more on the side of studio-mandated re-shoots, considering the fact that a good number of Joker scenes appear to have been left on the cutting-room floor, not to mention the sheer amount of plot-sensitive content they cut out of Batman V Superman.
This brings me to The Joker himself, Jared Leto. I'll admit, I was apprehensive when I first saw Leto as The Joker. The tattoos and crowns were off-putting to say the least, but when Leto started performing, I was blown away. I didn't think anyone could pull off a combination of the Nicholson, Hamill and Ledger Jokers, but Leto and Ayer managed it. I wouldn't go as far as to say that he's better than Ledger, we'll have to wait for Ben Affleck's Batman movie to determine that, but he's up to par, certainly.
I like the chemistry Leto and Robbie have in this film. It's a twisted sort of chemistry, but it's still a good romantic chemistry. As opposed to some previous incarnations of their relationship, it seems to be a bit less exploitative on the part of The Joker and more of a mutual attraction. The two of them seem to genuinely care for each other, considering the lengths that The Joker goes to to rescue Harley, and even puts her safety above that of his own. It's sweet in an incredibly demented sort of way. Granted, he's still the freaking Joker, and given an assault-rifle with one magazine, an approaching zombie horde and The Joker as my only partner, I'd empty my rifle into his head and neck, steal everything he's got on him and bludgeon my way out of the horde with the rifle, because an empty gun is less likely to kill you than the freaking Joker.
I'm interested to see more out of the characters this film has introduced, and I'm also interested in seeing where the DCEU goes from here. Justice League, Suicide Squad 2, Teen Titans, wherever it goes from here I'm on-board. I want to see more of this.
Finally we come to the soundtrack. From the licensed tracks to the original score, we're looking at a brilliant selection of tracks. Out of the two films with "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath featured in them, Suicide Squad is the better film, but that's not saying much.
The one slightly off selection I can find is the placement of "Without Me" by Eminem while the Suicide Squad are gearing up. It would have fit into the film better if it played during the credits after the return of The Joker. However, there's less artistic bankruptcy to this licensed soundtrack than there are to most. I would prefer a mostly original soundtrack, but some things you just can't evoke without a specific song from a specific artist, and some scenes just scream awesome with their associated tracks. "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" by AC/DC is used to great effect during The Flash's encounter with Captain Boomerang.
However, the actual soundtrack album that was released is absolutely insane. In the film and trailers Queen's original version of "Bohemian Rhapsody" plays, but the Panic! At The Disco version is the one included on the album.
Then there's the fact that more than half of the tracks from the movie weren't included on the soundtrack album. This is somewhat absurd to me, but considering you can basically get those tracks on any number of other albums, it's not as egregious as certain films which don't include original compositions on their soundtrack album, like Top Gun. Worse, some don't have soundtrack albums at all, like Highlander.
Before we wrap up the review, I'd like to make one final note. This has been a terrible year for trailers. BvS had way too much being shown in the trailers, Ghostbusters had monumentally horrible trailers and TV spots across the board, and this film had way too many deleted-scenes shown in the trailers. That's something that I've always wondered about, why would they think that's a good idea? That's a tacit admission that the director wasn't involved with the marketing, and that's a horrible decision. There are some scenes that shouldn't be shown outside of the theater, and marketing shouldn't be allowed to spoil that for any reason. Then there are some scenes that were never meant to be shown at all that somehow wind up in the trailers. This is why I don't watch trailers anymore, they're ludicrous and absolutely superflouous. They're almost never representative of the final product, and typically wind up being deceptive. Bad movies tend to get good trailers and good movies tend to get bad ones. The art of trailer construction appears to have been lost to the ages, because the only good trailer I've seen in the last several years was for The Force Awakens. The Civil War trailers either got worse, spoiled more or both with every subsequent piece of additional footage after starting out with fairly strong trailers.
I might have to write a full article on the art of the trailer. Hell, I might even wind up ranking best and worst trailers this year. However, the quality of the trailers do not impact the rating of the movie.
In the end, I give Suicide Squad a 9.3*. I'll see you next week with either Senran Kagura 2: Deep Crimson or Sausage Party.

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