Saturday, August 6, 2016

Suicide Squad Review

I think... is this what people call a guilty pleasure?

Suicide Squad, if you're looking at it solely from a storytelling perspective, does not work. Several character arcs are cut, a lot of scenes don't make any sense, and the movie derails into a dull, dark action movie by the halfway point and throws out a ton a superhero tropes at the audience that we've seen a dozen times before. Half of the cast is barely developed and the main villain's plan is never fully explained and is never fully realized at that. Everything should indicate that I do not like this movie.

And yet, I had a blast watching Suicide Squad. It's not high art or anything, but for a summer action blockbuster, this is easily to best movie of the summer. Independence Day 2, TMNT 2, Tarzan, and Ghostbusters all pale in comparison to this movie, which isn't saying much because one was a sequel to a two decade old movie that didn't need one, a sequel to a 2014 reboot that no one wanted, a dull and frankly uninteresting reboot of franchise, and Ghostbusters. So... why do I like this movie so much?

It's pretty much safe to confirm that as of right now, DC has no idea what to do with their shared movie universe. Batman v Superman was muddled with too much world building centered around dark and brooding characters that would have been seen in a bad 90's comic, and Suicide Squad fails at creating any reason for this team to exist, let alone how they'll featured in to the rest of the DCEU. Wonder Woman may look interesting as a stand alone movie, but while DC is good at telling its own original stories, trying to tell a unified story is a big mistake. The biggest problems in Suicide Squad all involved characters that had no right to be in the movie. Batman, the Joker, and the Flash all popped in for roles, but none of them were any good at setting up future events.

In fact, let's talk about Jared Leto's Joker right now and get him out of the way. Namely, he's terrible. Putting aside the fact that the movie went through editing hell with all of his scenes and that he supposedly tried to "method act" the Joker (method acting is not a thing. It's a stupid idea that has you try and hit the high points of a character without putting your own twist to it. Method acting the Joker is like trying to method act Romeo; there's a shitload of them, so what makes you stand out?), he's just not that interesting. Half of time it came across as if Jim Carrey was the Joker, but not like the quirky Jim Carrey from The Mask, but more Batman Forever Riddler Jim Carrey. I was never once afraid to look at the Joker, nor was he even interesting to watch. Every time he showed it, it was to remind the audience that he existed, because outside of one scene at the very end, he serves literally no purpose to the movie.

Anyway, as for the rest of the cast, despite what I said earlier, I like all of the characters. Will Smith as Deadshot is incredible and makes me want to see a standalone movie with him hunting down super villains, Harley Quinn is fun despite being a bit uneven in parts, and Amanda Waller is a force to be reckoned with and always made me nervous whenever she appeared on screen. My personal favorite character has to do to El Diablo, a super villain who is personally withholding his powers after he accidentally kills his family and wife with them, He refuses to use them but when he does, shit gets real and wrecked really fast.

All of that is perfectly fine, but where Suicide Squad succeeds that most in with its style. The phrase style over substance gets thrown around a lot these days, but Suicide Squad is the definition of style over substance. It has bright neon colors, even brighter pinks and blues, funny little characters moments, and a soundtrack to die for. Seriously, I can't begin to explain how good the soundtrack to this movie is, but I almost enjoyed hearing the music more than the actual story.

All of this is presented amazingly in the intro. The first 20-30 minutes of the movie are great, showcasing each character, their backstories, fun moments with them, stylized introductions, and great banter between the Squad and Waller. If the entire movie was exactly like this first third, then I would have universally loved this movie. But it isn't. And the rest is kind of a mess.

The other 90 minutes of the movie is slow and incredibly dark, and I mean that visually it is dark. The city is black, the enemies are black goo, the main villains are dark smog like things at times, and it seems like this movie has an active fear of the sun. If it wasn't for the memorable characters and the soundtrack pushing me through, this would have easily become another Batman vs. Superman for me.

But even during that time, there were faint glimmers of something special inside of it. During this 90 minute action scene (let's face it, it's 90 minutes of walking around and shooting at things), every character has a fun moment or two and says something resembling a joke. I can't remember a single one of them besides Deadshot's constant wit and cynicism and Killer Croc's occasional one liners, but they certainly existed, and they put a smile on my face.

By every stretch of the word, I shouldn't like Suicide Squad at all and there are still something that make the movie bad in my eyes. I've been really coy about the villains so far, and honestly even if I revealed them to you here, it wouldn't make a damn difference about your enjoyment of the movie. They are literally end bosses in a video game. It's like the game is Dark Souls where the cast walks around, fights tough monsters, then reaches a small room that has two villains that had no build up or personality and are defined solely by their visuals and are defeated after a long and grueling battle. At least in Dark Souls you can fight these enemies yourself, but here the audience needs to be content and watch these bland and lifeless threats fight out heroes. It's not as bad as the Doctor Doom fight in Fant4stic, but it's pretty damn close.

So, I understand why critics hate this movie. They're destroying it, and all of their reasons are perfectly valid. It's been slashed to pieces to fit a PG-13 and 2 hour runtime, a lot of the story doesn't make any sense, and it reeks of corporate cynicism and trying to mass produce charm, and yes, all of that is really apparent in the final product. But I can't help but say I had a good time watching it. It was just a fun movie for me to sit through and watch, despite the flaws and warts. It was the most fun I had in a action movie all summer, so it definitely deserves bonus points for that.

Jared Leto aside, the cast did a bang up job at making the movie feel like a fun romp through a warzone, even if the editors were against them the whole time. If you didn't like it, I completely understand. But sometimes, being style over substance is all that you really need at times to make a good blockbuster. Captain America: Civil War may have style and substance, but just let me have my very obvious guilty pleasure here.


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