Suicide Squad

I have no idea what people are whining about.

According to online reviews, this is supposed to be the worst film of the decade. It's supposed to be worse than Batman v Superman.

It's not. It's not a bad movie and it's not a great movie. It's a solid summer action hit based on a cartoon. Where Dawn Of Justice was a movie that took itself too seriously on a cartoonish premise and delivered a film many people thought was simply boring, Suicide Squad is anything but boring.

This is my first non-spoilerish review on this website, and it will probably show in the manner of sucking all kinds of... Sorry. Anyway, let's go over the faults first.

There are two gripes with this movie from my perspective, and that's the perspective of someone reasonably familiar with the source material. First of all, the exposition is a lot in the way of "tell, don't show." The introduction of the team really did get overly laborous. The pacing has some issues, but it's in no way a cinematic disaster. Second, by apparently cutting the "most distasteful" parts of the Harlequin and Joker interaction it sort of managed to romanticize the relationship. Lots of fangirls should love this but I'm very dubious against it. Ipso facto this looks like an abusive relationship that's somehow been made palatable by hiding the skeletons in the closet, and I can't understand how you could consider this more palatable than actually showing them, warts and all.

However if we go from there to the rest of the action, the movie shines.

Harley Quinn is fantastic. Margot Robbie has truly made this role into her own and I doubt we will ever find a better actress for it. Her mannerism echoes both The Animated Series and the cartoon adaptions and she's pitch-perfect. This is very important, because she's the lead character of the film. She's the one given the most screentime - even over Deadshot - whereas the Joker is a side role, who is hard to judge by this limited appearance but is at least visually appealing. Judging by that, he's the one most true to the original character since the first series, tattoos notwithstanding.

It amuses me to no end how some critics use Harlequin as an excuse in labeling this movie for being "sexist." It's like they haven't seen anything of the source material (and frankly, I suspect that might be the case.) Harley has always been a self-consciously sexual character. She's a pinup girl and she's always been a pinup girl. Complaining about that is like complaining about Poison Ivy seducing men or Batman beating up criminals.

Deadshot, by Will Smith, is also very well done - and I am saying this as someone who only enjoyed Will Smith in Ali. He's not adapting his comic character to such an extent but nevertheless he owns it, with all its important elements ringing true.

The third important role is Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, and again they couldn't have found a better match. She embodies everything we've come to expect, easily outclassing Arrow's version as the ruthless government operative responsible for bringing together the squad. Diablo, by Jay Hernandez, plays the reluctant villain-turned-pacifist. He's the most potent of the members of the squad and he's also done well but his dialog is very limited, though his CGI is pretty fantastic in the later stages of the movie.

The other parts of the squad are minor characters. You could argue Flag and his girlfriend are important but only in the sense of driving the story, as apart from that they have practically no personality. Killer Croc is visually well done but forgettable, most of the other members have few lines and Katana is nothing but an unexplored stereotype.

There are a couple of cameos of Batman in this film. These are funny because even though his screentime is almost nonexistent, I feels like the people involved with this film had a better take on him than was ever the case in his co-joint feature movie. (The scene between him and Deadshot stands out in this regard.)

As for the main plot of the movie, it's honestly pretty forgettable. It basically pits the squad against a nigh-omnipotent enemy as cannon fodder and takes it from there. However, the bottom line is that this movie works, flaws and all. The character moments work and the dialog mostly works. It's a fun ride. In my theater, people were cheering at the right time, laughing at the right time, and generally enjoying themselves. If you're expecting Bergman-level drama, stay away, but it's not as dumb as Tranformers. It's also doing all the legwork of setting up a sequel, and assuming this doesn't tank, I'm pretty sure we'll get one.

All in all this is a movie I'd recommend to any fan of the DC universe.


Anonymous said...

People are allowed to dislike a movie without it being 'whining'.

Lamounier said...

Harley has always been a self-consciously sexual character. Complaining about that is like complaining about Poison Ivy seducing men or Batman beating up criminals.

Maybe the sexism critique should be aimed at the source material as well? It’s no secret that on comic books a lot of the female heroes/villains are sexualized. Not all, of course, but you described both Harley and Poison Ivy with something related to sex. It’s not a coincidence.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, though I plan to, and Harley looked by far the most interesting character on the trailers. Actually, I look forward to watching Suicide Squad *because* of Harley. I won’t blame the movie for being faithful to the comics when it comes to her character’s traits, but stories do need to evolve and get rid of sexism. Both source and adaptation.

sunbunny said...

I thought Harley was introduced in Batman: The Animated Series. Her costume there ( certainly doesn't scream "pin-up" to me. Poison Ivy, on the other hand... If we're talking about being true to source material shouldn't Harley's original source take precedence to her later comic book incarnations?

Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

"Stories do need to evolve and get rid of sexism."

If we are to accomplish that we should start by distinguishing between "sexist" and "sexy." Otherwise we'll be stuck in the 19th century.

As for the source material, the costume isn't all that makes the character. If you watch through the animated series.. well. You'll see what I mean.

sunbunny said...

I've watched the animated series. As a child and an adult. I don't see what you mean. She's affectionate to her "puddin" but I certainly wouldn't call her "a self-consciously sexual character" or "a pinup girl." Poison Ivy much more closely fits that description, insofar as one can on a children's tv show.

Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

Lamounier said...

If we are to accomplish that we should start by distinguishing between "sexist" and "sexy." Otherwise we'll be stuck in the 19th century.

Thomas, I came in peace, really... The rate of female characters who are written/drawn/played as sexy on DC/Marvel stories is much larger than the rate of sexiness among male characters. Being sexy isn’t a problem, making sexiness a defining trait of several female characters and fitting them into sexy costumes to appeal to a sexist society? That’s a problem.

(Curiously, I know Joss Whedon received a lot of backlash for his writing of Black Widow, but I’m so thankful he didn’t put Scarlet Witch on her canon costume that has her boobs almost popping out.)

Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

"Thomas, I came in peace, really... The rate of female characters who are written/drawn/played as sexy on DC/Marvel stories is much larger than the rate of sexiness among male characters. Being sexy isn’t a problem, making sexiness a defining trait of several female characters and fitting them into sexy costumes to appeal to a sexist society? That’s a problem."

I absolutely agree with that.

One problem I see with this is that we don't even seem to have a consensus for what's considered "sexy" for men. Is it Tarzan? Is it James Bond?

Obviously it's sexist to make out one gender to be more sexy than the other.

Remco said...

The problem is "most directors are male". He's the one doing the initial male gazing, after all. If you want to make a film that balances out the sexy/ist stereotypes, you should either consciously counter each male gaze shot with a female gaze shot, or just team up with a female director. I seem to remember TV show Chuck doing the former to great effect. ;)

Anonymous said...

Excellent review but I really disagree with most of your points. I dont think the characters were fleshed out enough (especially the "villain"). It also felt very disjointed and all over the place with the editing. The humour felt forced and fell flat most of the time. Jared Leto was also a massive disappointment as the Joker, but I guess it will always be hard to live up to Heath Ledgers version from now on. I really hope that Wonder Woman redeems the DC expanded universe but I am doubtful. Things won't improve until Zach Snyder is removed from the franchise.

Thanks for the review Thomas. Even though I didn't like the film, I still really enjoyed reading your thoughts (moreso than watching the film itself haha).


Anonymous said...

The editing and narrative flow was shocking..But i found the characters interesting, even Leto's Joker poorly done IMO but i feel there is potential in all the characters in a different directors hands. They used waaaay too much music so it all became pretty hit and miss depending on scene and character,
I liked Harley..But to be honest they dialed way back on her..I think they were afraid of the backlash if they went too deep on Harley and jokers relationship. I expected to dislike Will smith as Deadshot so i was fairly surprised he was one of the standouts. Waller was perfect.
Like BVS it seems directors.studios whoever..
They try to put too much in the movies..Too much stories, characters and plot with no foundation( Iron man compared to Man of Steel as the 'universe starter')..The directors end up having a load of great ideas but you almost get the sense that they shoot too much and end up with hours of footage...Which all fails to blend together into a story narrative that can be edited cohesively and coherently.

J.D. Balthazar said...

My comment will have spoilers!

I was finally able to see this yesterday and I can see what all the controversy is about. The movie, while totally serviceable as a summer action flick, is not well plotted or quite as much of a character piece as the trailers made it out to be. Sure Deadshot and Harley got to shine (with really solid performances by Will Smith and Margot Robbie), the majority of the other characters had to stand out solely on their dialogue and performance. Some of them did great, a couple kind of just were there.

My two major issues with the movie were less about pacing (which was a little off), and more to do with structure. There is a third of a movie missing. Much like Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice it feels like almost all the connective tissue between characters and plot points was trimmed out for one reason or another.

I wonder if there will be an extended version on Blu-Ray for Suicide Squad because Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition (dear lord that is a long title), is so much better than the theatrical cut.

My second major issue is with the Joker. Not the performance, but the purpose of the character (he's not the only one that doesn't really need to be in the movie but he's the biggest offender). This plot doesn't feel like enough to deserve a character as important to the franchise as this one.

The Joker should be front and center, he needs to be driving things or at least has to have a center role in the conflict. Here his only real motivation is Harley. Which is fine because she is so central, but he then becomes the just a eccentric boyfriend trying to break his lady out of prison.

I really did like the film, but it wasn't as good as I hoped it would be.

Josie Kafka said...

JD, I feel like you deserve some sort of award for diligence for watching an extended version of Batman v. Superman.

I hereby bestow upon you The Award for Diligence, Perseverance, and Compassion in Fandom. The DPCIF, for short. Please keep an eye out for the accompanying cat statuette.

My apologies if everyone knows this already, but the theatrical cut of the film was edited (or rather, re-edited) by a company that does trailers: