Monday, August 8, 2016
Film review: Suicide Squad
In my review of Batman v Superman, I said, "Since this movie is part of a large upcoming set of Justice League films, one cannot judge this story wholly yet, and parts of that may yet be corrupt or simply badly done." Well, this part is somewhat corrupt and quite a bit badly done.
On my first viewing,
How good is it: A few solid performances in an overall messy, flawed, not-well-written-or-edited movie. A lot of pointless explosions and posturing; and it seemed to be trying to copy recent Marvel films, with its overemphasis on not-very-funny banter and a scene after the first part of the credits.
For whom do I recommend: Definitely unsuitable for children under the age of 15-17 or thereabouts, because of lines and scenes indicating fornication, suggestive dancing and content with overt sexual overtones, though there's no direct portrayal of sex; also swear words and some moral unclarity. I wouldn't really recommend it to anyone, but if you're a DC fan interested in this current continuity of movies, as I am, you probably should see it to get the complete picture.
Full review is below the cut, and has only one, not very major spoiler, given in unspecific terms.
I'll start with the good performances of the main characters: Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. They're both engaging, funny when the writing allows, and show a fair range of realistic response as people who achieved a sort of extreme excellence--albeit in crime--used to disregarding all rules but their own, now forced into following orders from people who may be just as immoral, but with the ultimate purpose of the common good. Smith could have easily overpowered the role and just seemed like big name Will Smith, but he doesn't. Robbie's Harley is interesting, both bawdy and ethereal.
The bad points, however, are myriad. There are lots of writing flaws: revelations that should have been surprises are made redundancies; much of the banter falls flat; action scenes are structured laughably like a video game with a ridiculous amount of promotional-photo-style poses.
A specific example of a poor writing setup: the team is implanted with deadly devices to prevent their escape or disobedience. One character thinks the devices may be a bluff and so tricks another into attempting escape to test it. Sure enough, that team member is killed by the device. The problem is, said character was brought in at the last minute and had none of the introductory backstory that all the others were given. Thus we knew he would be a throwaway and his death has no impact when it could have been quite shocking, showing how serious things were.
A bigger problem is a mushy unclarity on the moral side of things. These are people who have done very evil deeds; that is clear enough, as it should be. But the film doesn't seem to know whether it wants to say they're really just wicked and let them go with it in a badass destructive thrill ride, as the promotional material seemed to suggest; or to say that deep down they really do have hearts and concentrate on the tragedy of things beyond their control that contributed to the paths they took. It mostly falls on the latter side, but then there's not adequate acknowledgement of the evil done, the result being a confusing sense of dissonance.
The moral center should have been the character of Rick Flag, played by Joel Kinnaman, but he's quite bland and ineffectual, falling short as a leader compared to Deadshot.
The worst thing in the film, however, and one that most concerns me as regards the rest of this story, was the Joker, played by Jared Leto. A good Joker should be terrifying, funny, disturbing, and engaging all in one. This Joker was only disturbing, and that on a shallow level: he's simply really, really icky. He seems to sexualize everything, and not in a underlying, menacing way, but an over-the-top, gross one. Implication that he might, on some level, actually care about Harley is a new, interesting idea, but with so little else to him, it's one that elicits a cringe. This does worry me in view of future films, but another thing reassures me.
I continue to be absolutely astonished at Ben Affleck's performance as Batman. He has only a few short scenes in this film, but in every one of them the power, awesomeness, and goodness of the character was so impressively conveyed that for those scenes alone, the movie was, for me, well worth seeing. Despite the roughness of this installment, I look forward with some apprehension but greater anticipation to more of this series.