Thursday, August 4, 2016

Suicide Squad - A Spoiler Free Review and Some Spoiler-Filled Discussion

Is Suicide Squad a good movie?  Yes.

Is it a perfect movie? No.

Is it an abomination that will surely end the era of the superhero movie and/or DC Comics Cinematic Universe? To the dismay of many a snooty critic and Marvel Zombie... if I may quote Will Smith, "Oh HELL no!"

The best way I can describe the movie, for those who have read the Suicide Squad comics by John Ostrander and Kim Yale that largely inspired the movie, is to compare it to The Ataris' cover of Don Henley's Boys Of Summer. They may have changed the orchestration and the lyrics a little but the spirit and message are exactly the same. 

The performances are all good. Some changes have been made that many annoy certain purists but the choices generally work to improve the story flow. It is worth noting that Viola Davis captures Amanda Waller perfectly. And however you may feel about her costuming, Margot Robbie IS Harley Quinn in all her paradoxical glory.

So yes - I'd recommend it. And be sure to stick around for the scene mid-way through the credits.

More in-depth discussion under the image. Abandon this web page lest ye be SPOILERED!


Let's just get this out of the way, shall we?

* Rick Flag Jr. is mishandled. The character's defining characteristic in the comics has always been that he's been a good soldier who tries to live up to his dad's legacy.  Apparently that was too complicated for a flashback, so instead we find out that Amanda Waller manipulated events so that Rick would fall for June Moon and that she used his love for her to manipulate him into being the field commander for Task Force X, despite his objections to employing criminals for military missions.

* For that matter, the romance between June and Rick isn't developed very well.  I suspect that they may get the least screen time out of all of The Squad members, which is unfortunate since the main plot of the movie is focused on Enchantress.

* Katana's presence is kind of pointless and she doesn't get nearly enough to do.

* Captain Boomerang is criminally underused. And I want to see what his perfect world would look like.  (Maybe that was one of the cuts made to get the movie down to PG-13?)  Ditto Killer Croc.

* The unicorn doll. I don't know if this was added in because of Deadpool or was shot before it came out. Either way, that little gag probably should have been cut.

* The Juggalo fashion designs for Joker and Harley just look ridiculous. And not in a funny ha-ha ridiculous way.

* The soundtrack goes a little overboard in trying to provide appropriate themes. I'm honestly we surprised we didn't get Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic for Enchantress or Down Under for Boomerang.

* Enchantress' dancing while working her spells just looks goofy as all hell.

* A lot of the action-scenes are shot way too close and are way too dark. Maybe it was just the settings in my theater, but I could barely see some parts of the final fight.

Now, with that out of the way... let's look at some of the bits I think we were most worried about.


I've seen some critics complain that this is ambiguous but honestly, I think that's the way to go with it. Batman: The Animated Series dithered on this point as well up until Mad Love and there''s enough textual and metatextual evidence to make a case that The Joker (or at least one of his personalities) does harbor some genuine affection for Harley AND that The Joker (or one of his personalities) just sees her as one more prop to be used in his performances.

In one flashback, The Joker offers Harley to one of his business associates and Harley plays along with it. Joker winds up offing the guy but it's unclear if it's because he's insulted the man refused his gift or that said associate was even willing to entertain making time with Joker's gal for a moment. Is it romance or possessiveness? Can't it be both?  Or was it because it was Tuesday?

And then we have Joker's line to Harley right before she freely dives into the chemical vat. The one which sounds like a lost line from 50 Shades of Grey - "Desire leads to submission. Submission leads to power." Of course in a consensual BDSM relationship, the submissive does have all the power, but how much control did Harleen Quinzel have over her transformation into Harley Quinn?  Again, it could go either way.

To that end, Margot Robbie is a perfect Harley Quinn. She is both the bad-ass moll and the romantic who dreams of settling down somewhere that's green with The Joker as needed. Which is as it should be. They may seem contradictory to some critics but Harley's whole character is contradictory. That's part of her charm!


They did change Floyd Lawton a little bit for the sake of having Will Smith play him but the changes are largely cosmetic. Lawton's famed death wish is present (we see him insulting the guards in Belle Reve and spoiling for a fight when his cell doors are open) as is his snarky attitude. And while it's somewhat rushed, there's even a hint of the odd frienemy relationship that developed between Rick Flag and Deadshot in the original comics. For that, I can tolerate Will Smith calling The Wall "gangsta" after she shoots several of her own men.

We don't learn much of Lawton's history here, but it seems to take more from the New 52 origins where Lawton was the product of a poor family rather than a rich scion and a dark mirror of Bruce Wayne. There's also a fair bit of the character as written by Christos N. Gage in the 2005 Deadshot mini-series, where it was revealed Deadshot had an illegitimate daughter and he made an honest effort to try and clean up her neighborhood and take care of her despite his realization that he had no idea how to be a good guy OR a father.

The desire to do right by his daughter is this Deadshot's main motivation and we see some of that awkwardness in Smith's portrayal. There's a sense that he knows he's a bad man and that won't stop him from at least trying to be the dad his daughter needs.  Even if this does lead to him making a geometry lesson more complicated by trying to factor bullet weights into calculating the hypotenuse of a triangle.


* Despite certain members of the cast being criminally underused, there isn't really a bad performance in the whole movie.

* Viola Davis is PERFECT as The Wall.

* The scenes of the characters talking to each other are great. The movie needed more moments like that and less action scenes of the team fighting Lovecraftian beasties.

* The Flash cameo was pretty much perfect.

* As much as I hate The Joker's blinged-out teeth, I genuinely liked Jared Leto's performance as The Joker. Oddly enough, he reminded me of the Caesar Romero portrayal of The Joker, with the nightclub scene seeming like a modern update of the old Batman episodes where you would see the villains openly going out in costume to enjoy a night on the town.

* Jay Hernandez pretty much steals the movie as El Diablo.

* Overdone as they were, a lot of the music-video sequences are pretty good.

* Loved the shout outs to John Ostrander. Both of them.

* The mid-credits sequence. Perfect.

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