Suicide Squad – A Non-Hero Hero Movie
A Review and Commentary by David 2
2016 was the year for two movies from the new DC Cinematic Universe. The first was “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”… which was a letdown for so many people, including this reviewer. The second was “Suicide Squad”.
Much like BvS, Suicide Squad started to get some positive feedback from people. Then, unfortunately, the goon squad of media reviewers attacked the movie mercilessly just like they did “Man of Steel” and BvS. They wanted to like it. They really did. But they couldn’t. Why? Because it takes place in the same cinematic world as “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”.
It makes you wonder if some of these so-called “impartial reviewers” have either a preference for or maybe even getting a little pocket change by a certain corporate rodent with his own cinematic superhero franchise. I know I have to keep reminding myself that media reviewers are paid to review even the movies that they don’t want to see, but you have to wonder why they give high marks to a marginally-good movie like “Captain America: Civil War” (which is on my “to review” list) and an automatic fail to an even better movie like “Suicide Squad”.
Yes, I said “better movie”, and you’ll see why.
We start with something that the reviewers hate… the fact that this story takes place after the events of BvS. Superman is dead, but super-xenophobic bigotry is still alive and flying roughshod all over the United States government. Suits and soldiers alike are scared of “the next Superman”. They start hashing out scenarios where “Superman” would supposedly fly over to the White House, rip off the roof, and outright murder the President of the United States. Oh, “Superman” wouldn’t… just don’t give Zach Snyder any ideas… but supposedly the “next Superman” could. And who would stop this hypothetical “next Superman”? It’s not like there was this chunk of glowing green rock that they could weaponize and… Oh, wait, there is.
Anyway, in comes Amanda Waller; the dirtiest player in the government game. She not only knows where all the bodies are buried in Washington, she helped bury them. And she has a plan to save the world from “the next Superman”. She has a collection of the worst of the worst in the world all locked away in a special ultra-secret black-ops prison called Belle Reve.
Some of them were captured by Batman, or at least pursued by “The Bat”. Deadshot, Harley Quinn, and Killer Croc were all chased by Batman at some point. One Aussie bugger, Captain Boomerang, was taken down by a certain red-suited speedster we know as The Flash. All of these criminals were thrown down a “hole” and then Amanda threw the hole away. And now that she has them, she wants to use them as a black-ops team.
She teases the government with her trump card; an ancient spirit called “The Enchantress”. A spirit that possesses the body of a young archeologist and is under the orchestrated loving watch of Waller’s “pet” soldier, Colonel Flag. Waller literally owns the Enchantress’s heart and can destroy it at any time. The human host owns Flag’s heart emotionally. Waller uses this dysfunctional connection to get the Enchantress to steal some secret Iranian nuclear plans, and this gives her the green light for “Task Force X”, aka the “Suicide Squad”.
Needless to say, something goes wrong with this deal. The Enchantress gets free, she frees her brother, and the two of them launch their plan to destroy modern civilization. Waller summons the rest of Task Force X, but they’re kept in the dark about the whole deal. The team is joined by El Diablo, a pyrokinetic gang member who murdered his family and now regrets his choices; by Katana, a Japanese vigilante who actually works for Flag; and by Slipnot, a mercenary known for knots and scaling walls. We don’t know too much about Slipnot, so guess who ends up being the red-shirt of this team?
What keeps these criminals in check are miniature explosives planted in their heads. Both Flag and Waller can trip the switch and either one or everyone can die. And if either of them die, they all die. Slipnot, our designated red-shirt, is the one that finds out how real this threat is when he tries to run.
Now we add a wild card to the game: Harley Quinn’s boyfriend, The Joker. We find out through flashbacks how Harley went from an Arkham Asylum psychologist into psychotic girlfriend, and how she somehow managed to win Joker’s heart as well. And Joker finds out where Harley has been and where she is going and he spares no expense to get her.
The team finds out the truth about what they are doing, and they’re not happy. But they somehow manage to do the right thing and confront the Enchantress and her brother.
There’s a lot more to the story, but why spoil it for those who haven’t seen it yet?
Let’s start with what works.
The casting was almost spot-on with their comic book originals for the key characters. Will Smith’s Deadshot was a game-changer for the movie but he really owned the role. Margot Robbie also owned the role of Harley Quinn, especially in the accent and the mannerisms. The flashback scenes of her transformation from Harleen Quinzell to Harley could have come right out of an Alex Ross montage. Ditto for Viola Davis as Waller. Davis managed to give Waller a dead-stare that made people know she was being serious about everything she said. Jarred Leto’s Joker was a welcomed break from previous actors. He wasn’t over-the-top like Jack Nicholson, or an agent of chaos like the late Heath Ledger, or even a goofy cackling comic villain like the late Caesar Romero. Leto played the Joker as a smooth operator, a master criminal but not as an out-and-out comic book villain. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje did a spot-on Killer Croc. And while I had little knowledge of El Diablo as a character, Jay Hernandez did play him quite well as the criminal trying to pay penance.
There wasn’t really too much about Katana’s character other than going over her backstory. Karen Fukuhara’s portrayal of the character was sort of neutral to this reviewer. Neither good nor bad. That’s actually a good thing given the number of characters involved in this production.
What didn’t work… well, Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress was a little more like an overexaggerated emo swimsuit model covered in muck in the beginning, and at the end resembled more like a dancer at the Copacabana. The comic-book character resembled more like a Salem witch dressed in green, so I can see where Director David Ayer was going with this change. Still, some more work was needed. Likewise, Jai Courtney’s Digger Harkness, aka Captain Boomerang, was a bit difficult to swallow, especially the pink unicorn fetish. The comic book version of Digger was a pro. He was one of the original members of Flash’s Rogues. He was not someone with teamwork problems as this version was seen as. I also didn’t like Joel Kinnaman’s portrayal of Colonel Rick Flag. Flag is a second-generation spit-and-polish soldier. Think “Captain America”, not “Hillbilly Stand-In #2”.
And then there’s Slipknot. Here’s a little tip for future directors: if you’re going to have a red-shirt character to prove Waller wasn’t kidding about the exploding implant, don’t make it so obvious. You bring him in and he’s the one character in the whole bunch of criminals that you really don’t talk about other than give the quick introduction. He was screaming “red-shirt” from the moment he showed up. And when he does his “red-shirt” thing, it’s no surprise.
Then there are the superhero cameos. We get to see Ezra Miller as The Flash in this movie, even if it is for less than a minute… which is an eternity for a speedster… and he’s only there to show how Boomerang is brought down. And, of course, we have Ben Affleck reprising his BvS role as both Batman and Bruce Wayne. Because we can’t have crime going on in Gotham City without Batman being involved. After all, this is the DC Cinematic Universe, not a TV series on The CW or Fox. Affleck again owns the role, even if his is a smaller role in this criminal-dominated movie, although his second appearance as Bruce Wayne seemed a bit forced. And, yes, we have the “ghost” of Zach Snyder’s Superman as represented by the flashback of his public funeral and the continual reference of him as “a threat” even after all he’s done in life.
Let’s get to the story. This was actually a good story, although far from being an original idea. Anyone remember “The Dirty Dozen”? The idea that Task Force X would fail on the first mission, though, is a little weak, but it did advance the story. The point was to get the Squad together and get them all to work together, which they do in their own unique ways.
What didn’t work was the overuse of night settings… but this is a general complaint with filmmakers and their fetish for nighttime footage. And the swirling light with the debris in orbit around it? Come on, Director Ayer, we’ve seen this already with “Man of Steel” and their Kryptonian World Engine! That’s just being lazy!
All-in-all though, “Suicide Squad” was actually a very good movie. Better than BvS. The movie’s plusses clearly outweighed the minuses. We’re introduced to some of the villains in the DC Cinematic Universe in a way that shows a little bit about who they are and what makes them tick. And, yeah, we have the obligatory Batman presence. Because, you know, Batman.
Mission accomplished, Suicide Squad. You kept the ball rolling for 2017’s “Wonder Woman” and “Justice League”. Ten more years off your sentences.