Galvanic Cinema: Suicide Squad (Review)

The age of the antihero is among us. Suicide Squad hit theaters this weekend, and-

Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 4.10.16 PM

…Oh. Lovely. It’s gonna be like this, again. I’m going to tell you right now, no matter which side of this you’re on, you can find solace in the fact that I… literally do not care at all =D All right, then. Once more unto the breach.

So I saw Suicide Squad the night prior to writing this, and I have thoughts. Hardly any of them really have anything to do with the movie I just saw, but I am actively thinking things. Let’s… let’s just take the critical consensus from that screenshot and break it down, then. That’ll give me a good springboard.

Okay. “Suicide Squad boasts a talented cast and a little more humor than previous DCEU efforts.” That’s true. In leaps and bounds, actually. The cast is what inarguably defines the movie. The chemistry is there, the banter is there, and they really do well in their roles. Will Smith, in particular, pretty much made the movie for me. The sense of humor in Deadshot’s character was right up my alley. But the quote later mentions “thinly written characters,” and… well… yeah. For the most part, yes. Of the characters they chose to focus on, Deadshot and El Diablo were the only ones who really stood out as being especially well written. Harley Quinn benefitted from favorable writing in some areas, but we’ll get back to that. That being said, the trap of Suicide Squad is making us sympathize. These are, after all, villains. The majority of them are murderers, even. The way to get us to care is to make the villains sympathetic. And, frankly, Deadshot and El Diablo were the only ones who were. The rest of the characters didn’t really have much reason to be involved, other than… you know… not dying. Of course, you do ultimately end up rooting for them, but that’s because of another reason we’ll get to in a moment.

So what about the “muddled plot?” Well… half credit. The standard narrative is actually incredibly straightforward. However, there are a lot of incredibly weird things that happen, which really make no sense. Not the least of which being the entirety of the Joker’s involvement. They push Joker hard in the trailers, but… he’s in the movie for maybe 10 minutes, and is completely irrelevant to the plot. If literally all of his involvement had been in flashback, that’d have been fine. But it wasn’t. He shows up in real-time once or twice and… doesn’t factor into anything… at all. There are also a handful of other stupid little things – Amanda Waller just keeping objects related to Enchantress out in the open, when she knows full well the witch’s leash is only so tight.

These things really bring me back to the two characters I have the most issue with in the film. We’ll start with Waller. Waller is essentially the B-Villain of the movie. Which is, on some level, understandable. Except there’s a problem with that. In the comics, Amanda Waller is a harsh woman whose backstory makes her motivations clear enough that you understand why she’s so cutthroat. Yet somewhere way deep down, the woman has a heart. She makes bad calls from time to time, sure, but she’s not a wholesale villain. Here? Here Waller is an idiot. Quite foolish, really. Especially when you consider that about 90% of the movie’s events are her fault. You can sympathize with the comic book Waller, even if you disagree with her actions. Here there is no sympathy. She’s just… a stereotypical political power player, who’s playing with powers she really, really shouldn’t. Like a child running around the house with a pair of scissors.

Next we have Harley Quinn. Now, I won’t really make a point of my not liking the style of humor they put into her character. That’s entirely subjective, and begrudge no one for finding her funny in this. I simply didn’t. But no, my actual issue with her was much simpler – why was she even there? You have a man with super technology boomerangs, a man who literally never misses (unless it’s on purpose), a crocodile man with superhuman strength, a pyrokinetic, a woman with a demon sword, an entire special forces unit, a bloody witch… and a clown woman who uses a baseball bat. No one’s saying Harley isn’t dangerous. The animated series, alone, proves that Harley is both brilliant and knows her way around a brawl. But your plan was to assemble a team to square off against meta-humans like Superman. What, dare I ask, were you expecting of her? Especially given what you knew you were deploying her against, per the movie’s plot. But even that’s not terribly important. For me the importance comes from the version of Harley they used. See… I appreciated some elements of the character. I didn’t mind her rampant obsession with Joker because… well… that’s kind of her character in a nutshell. I liked how they played up her unpredictability as a factor in the movie’s climax. I didn’t care for the extent to which they took her insanity. She was too manic for my tastes. But no, my real problem was honestly, just… they really felt the need to turn her into a sex object? I mean… really? Instead of playing up the fact that Harley is actually quite brilliant (brilliant enough to actually trap Batman, and come closer to killing him than Joker ever has), you turn her into eye candy? And for crying out loud, can we all friggin’ agree that someone whose name is Harley Quinn should at least somewhat resemble a Harlequin? It seems like that’d be obvious. I’m not saying to stick her in the unitard, but come on. You can update the look and still maintain the spirit of it. Assault on Arkham pulled it off.

So let’s get to that “choppy directing.” I actually wouldn’t go that far. I think the directing was fine. The editing is where I’d say there were problems. And, honestly, part of that comes from the movie being so overstuffed. Some things were edited out that shouldn’t have been. Some things were kept, that should have been cut. As mentioned, the entirety of Joker’s real-time involvement was pointless.

Let’s move on to a big thing with me. The sound of a movie can make or break the picture. When movie’s score is running, it’s glorious. There’s one scene with Deadshot somewhere around the middle that is just epic and plays to the film’s actual score. But the movie’s score is so often intercut by its soundtrack that certain scenes are just significantly less awesome. It’s not even that I dislike the songs, themselves, it’s just that many of them seemed like odd choices, or like they were there for literally no reason other than to be trendy or… something. Oh. Wait. Most of the music in it is older than I am… yeah, then I have no idea what that was about.

All right, that’s pretty much everything. So how do I feel the movie works out as a whole? I think the cast sells it. I think the team has a nice dynamic going on, even though most of the characters don’t have much to do. I think the score is awesome, though the soundtrack is lacking. The movie’s editing is a complete mess, of missing scenes and scenes that should be missing. I think that when it is firing on all cylinders, it’s a very fun movie, to the point where I can forgive many (though not nearly all) of its flaws. I think the movie’s having a happy ending is something welcome to the DCEU as thus far neither Man of Steel, nor Batman vs. Superman have exactly delivered endings that were anything shy of cynical at best, depressing at worst. Of course the sheer irony of that is that this was, again, a movie about the bad guys.

Do I think this movie is as bad as the “critics” are calling it out to be? No. Do I think it’s as good as the “fans” are saying? GOD no. I like the cast, but the movie they’re in is a mess. It kept me sufficiently entertained enough that I can forgive some of its problems, so I’ll say the movie’s a solid C-. It’s on the low end of average. Here’s hoping it’s at least a step in the right direction for the DCEU, which I genuinely want to succeed in the end. Until then, though, thanks for reading, guys.

Keep up the awesome,
Chris V.

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