Tuesday, September 13, 2016

We Agree-ish: Suicide Squad

2016, David Ayer (End of Watch) -- cinema

Who are we supposed to be rooting for in Suicide Squad ? After all, the mains are Bad Guys (say it in Harley Quinn's voice) but the Good Guys are even worse. Despite some shoe-horning of motivational personality traits, Deadshot being a dutiful dad and Harley doing it all for love (love established through physical and mental torture, but loooooove), they are still a bunch of sociopathic ne'er-do-wells. So, why are we supposed to root for them?

Suicide Squad is based on a couple of series / restarts of an idea at DC. In the comic world, there is always so much going on, there are times you get tired of the rinse-repeat of the heroes beating up the Bad Guys and wonder what it would be like to bring them to the forefront. That works, inside established canon, as a sort of What If, a respite from the norm.

But this movie has not yet established any such norm for the DC Cinematic Universe. Superman has already tarnished his reputation with collateral damage and a single murder with grand implications. BatAffleck abandoned Batman's no-kill ideal for rampant violence. We have not yet met the rest of the Justice League, except for a brief appearance of Wonder Woman, who may be the only unrelenting hero in the bunch. So then, who do we need a respite from? Marvel's squeaky clean Avengers? Maybe if they had abandoned continuity and just did their own thing, it would have gone well. In fact, that is exactly what I was expecting them to do, to have a fun run with a stand-alone movie with only some tenuous connections to the coming movies. Alas, no.

Good Guys? Amanda Waller is reprehensible, a nasty example of that American ideal about doing whatever it takes to protect the country. Her idea is to implant a bunch of convicts with tracker/mini-bombs and coerce them into doing things that she believes only bad guys can do. Before she can even conceptualize what they are about, one of her own goes rogue (ancient god/witch/extra-dimensional-being) and wreaks havoc in Midway City (downtown Toronto). Waller's test run ends up being more about saving her own ass than anything. Again, reprehensible lady. We won't talk about the poor FBI agents.

But I didn't hate this movie, as it's well constructed (design, effects, etc. not script, editing, directing); its just that the pieces seem kind of messed up. This time, it's not just my own ranting about studio meddling, as it was all over the news when they were sent back for additional shooting. Punch up the comedy? Make it more colourful? Nothing seemed to have helped, so I wonder what the finished product was like before. And the music! It was like someone recognized there wasn't enough catchy tunes and ran out to their car to fish around for a mixCD. Bang! Rock song. Bang! Rock song. Bang! Pop song. Bang! Rock song. And so on.

I loved Harley. I have no connection to the comic book Harley so go ahead, sex kitten her up all you want. I admit it, I also do love me some Margot Robbie. She's perty. But she does pull off the kookie/scary very well. I was surprised there was so much Joker; I had assumed he was a toss away cameo for her backstory. And I also have to admit, while not having any problems with the "edgy" reboot of him, I did not like Leto as The Joker. He just wasn't bombastic as the original ideas, nor as downright fucking scary as Heath Ledger. Hot Topic Joker is the best way to describe him.

As for the rest, I get it Will, you are the big bank here, but the remorseful assassin is just soooo tired. Get it through your skull man, you are a Bad Dad. No amount of hugging is going to change the fact your daughter knows you are a murdering psychopath. The only thing I liked about him was how much he and Harley got along. Will doesn't do bad guy very well. And the rest rest were toss away characters, fun to watch but oh so bloody empty.

Finally, one thing I didn't get. In the comic world, non-powered supers and villains are all over the place. They have a place in the world. But in this world, everything seems to be about the emergence of powered people, i.e. metahumans. In fact, it's that emergence that has Waller bring them all together. And then she chooses a guy with a boomerang and a weird girl with a baseball bat? Maybe, if you stretch things, you might say Harley getting dosed in goo gave her some minor power, like strength and nigh-invulnerable skin? Maybe. So, yes mega-assassin, mega-pyro and crocodile man are logical. But seriously? He throws boomerangs and knocks back tallboys. Oh, and a ninja with a magic sword and a crop top.

For a more comprehensive view of what the movie was actually about, see Kent.