Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Movie Review: Suicide Squad

WARNING: The following review contains a lot of spoilers. If you have not yet seen Suicide Squad and wish to do so without having the plot given away, then do not read this.

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It is often said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Technically, that is NOT the definition of insanity, but whatever. Let's go with that definition of insanity and just plainly say that I am clearly insane. I am insane for constantly going to every single comic book movie expecting to come out of the movie theater feeling blown away when in reality, I always end up feeling disappointed and going through my usual bout of self loathing I always feel after watching a comic book movie yet again.

So why do I keep watching comic book movies if that's how I always end up feeling? It's obviously because I am insane. Just like how every four years (or five years in other countries) people always come out to vote for Candidate Elephant Excrement or Candidate Donkey Douche for president. It's because we are all bloody insane.

Basically, to boil down the essence of Suicide Squad into a single sentence, it is The Dirty Dozen except that it's on crack and acid at the same time and instead of disgraced US soldiers waiting on death row, we have supervillains (of various skills or the lack thereof) and instead of Nazi officers, we have a powerful ancient witch called Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) who for all intents and purposes looks like a college sophomore who ingested way too many funky mushrooms during Burning Man and forgot to take a shower for a year. By the way, she's the main antagonist.

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Suicide Squad's plot is thinner than the broth that is typically served in any ROK Army chow hall. Granted, one of the complaints of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was that it seemed like as though content that could have been spread out over six movies was crammed into one. So I expected that Warner Brothers would insist on a simpler plot for Suicide Squad but they apparently decided to go with the "little to no plot" route instead.

Anyway, back to the plot. Taking place after the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice with the death of Superman, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who is acting like the kind of government employee that the most paranoid libertarians believe actually exist in all levels of government, decides to round up a group of supervillains to create a paramilitary unit because the next Superman might be an enemy of the United States. She actually calls these supervillains metahumans but it's clear that most of them are NOT metahumans. The only metahumans in the team are El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) who is basically DC's answer to the X-Men's Pyro except he has facial tattoos (because who cares about ever getting a job?) and the aforementioned college sophomore.

The rest are a hitman with a heart of gold-ish (Will Smith), a bubbly nutcase with a baseball bat (Margot Robbie), a guy who is good with a boomerang (Jai Courtney), and a guy who either has a bad skin condition or is actually a human crocodile (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). And they're overseen by a soldier named Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) - because that's obviously not the perfect stage name of an adult film star - who happens to be in love with the college sophomore; and a ninja (Karen Fukuhara) who uses a sword that is able to trap the souls of those it kills because reasons.

That's the team. Seriously. So here's an obvious question. Why use supervillains who don't like or care for authority and who must be threatened with a bomb in their necks when there are perfectly good soldiers that the government could have easily used? For God's sake, one of the bad guys, the college sophomore's brother - who came out of nowhere by the way - was defeated with what looks like C4 explosives. Did the government suddenly forget that they have Tomahawk cruise missiles?

Here's another reason it doesn't make sense. In a post-credit scene, Amanda Waller and Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) are having a private meeting and Waller hands over a file to Wayne, which is full of information about the Flash and Aquaman! The government is aware of these two amazingly powerful metahumans and Waller decided that the best she could do was to form a team of people who use boomerangs and comically large mallets?! For God's sake! Was there not a single writer on the production team whose mother did not snort liquid cocaine while she were pregnant with him/her?

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But of course, the villain that the Suicide Squad has to defeat is the college sophomore. She's a powerful wizard but she has a habit of not keeping her heart in her chest where you would think it belongs because, again, reasons. So Waller borrows a page from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest's equally lousy and stupid plot and threatens to stab holes into the heart unless the college sophomore does as she commands. So the college sophomore rescues her brother who is also a witch (I told you he came out of nowhere) to help retrieve her heart and when he does so, she proceeds to do a weird belly dance to create a weapon that looks like a cloud with rocks swirling around it (which takes a long time) to destroy humanity. Because apparently this powerful witch can't hijack nukes. Makes total sense.

But fighting the college sophomore wasn't even their mission. The Suicide Squad's actual mission was to enter the city (whose name I had forgotten the moment I heard it) where the college sophomore is doing her Burning Man with Bad JuJus routine in order to rescue a high value target. But there is a plot twist! That high value target is Amanda Waller herself! But then they botch the rescue and then end up fighting the college sophomore even when the bombs that have been planted in their necks have been deactivated, which was the only reason they agreed to join this group, because reasons.

The plot holes in Suicide Squad are so big that it would be inappropriate NOT to make yo momma jokes.

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But what about The Joker? He was heavily shown in the trailers. What about him?

Yes, The Joker (Jared Leto) was in the movie. Barely. He didn't contribute at all to the plot (for what little there was) and the few minutes that he was on screen were already shown in the trailers. A lot of noise was made about how he remained in character throughout the filming of the movie because he's a method actor and how at one point, he mailed used condoms and anal beads to his castmates. If he really did all that just for those few inconsequential minutes that he was in the movie, then Leto truly is an asshole.

Was Leto at least a scene stealer? No, he was not, which is such a damned shame because everyone knows that the man CAN act! Asshole or not. Requiem for a Dream, anyone? When the late Heath Ledger portrayed his version of The Joker, people couldn't take their eyes off him. Ledger's Joker was charismatic, laughed like a maniac, growled like a rabid dog, and even performed a magic trick with a pencil. He was a cold-blooded sociopath who was out to make a point - that everyone was just one little push away from being as mad as he was. Leto's Joker, on the other hand, was boring. All he wanted to do was rescue his girlfriend. Hell, even Cesar Romero's Joker was more interesting than Leto's version.

If in some later movie Leto's Joker and Affleck's Batman were placed in the same room together, I wouldn't know whom I'd wish were dead more - them or me. And then there's the depressing fact that I'd still probably pay money to watch that crapfest, too, because, like I said, I'm clearly insane.

Sigh. I do miss this man.
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Earlier, I compared Suicide Squad to The Dirty Dozen except that it was on crack and acid. I shouldn't have said that. The Dirty Dozen was a great movie. The overarching plot might have been somewhat similar but The Dirty Dozen made you feel for the characters. The movie showed you the characters' flaws, their weaknesses, their malice, their madness, their contempt, their hopes, and fears - humanity in all of its shameful ugliness. Suicide Squad, being the squeeky clean PG-13 movie that it is, barely does that.

In The Dirty Dozen, the audience got to watch terrible human beings perform a heroic act for their country and then make the ultimate sacrifice as most of them die by the end of the movie. Beyond being a great action-packed war movie, it also touched on the philosophical question of whether one could escape fate; whether or not karmic justice will always find you regardless of how much you may be try to absolve yourself of your sins.

There are deaths in Suicide Squad. One character is killed off as soon as we are introduced to him so there's that. The other character that dies is El Diablo - the only character who is actually sympathetic, but his death is, of course, blanketed underneath a ton of CGI, which has the ability to make people forget what feelings feel like.

The only other character who is also somewhat sympathetic is Deadshot (Will Smith)... but the problem with Deadshot is (1) he was never really portrayed as a villain worth hating to begin with and (2) he being a loving father to an 11-year-old girl makes it hard to distinguish Smith's character in this movie from practically every other movie role that he's had in the past ten years.

As for the other characters, they aren't given any depth and the audience doesn't feel emotionally invested or fear for their safety because, of course, Warner Brothers isn't going to kill off these characters after they had just gotten the rights to them. They've got to keep making sequels and prequels and spin-offs and keep resurrecting characters to keep churning out crap that people like me will inexplicably keep consuming.

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However, there are three nice things that I will say about the movie.

One, I liked the soundtrack. A lot of the songs in the movie were classic rock songs, which I have a soft spot for, but I did feel that it was a bit too much after a while. After a while, it did feel like the filmmakers were trying to compensate for their lousy plot with an awesome soundtrack.

Two, Margot Robbie was fun to watch. Yes, she put the manic in the Manic Pixie Dream Girl role that she was given and she has pretty much guaranteed that the Harley Quinn look is going to be a permanent fixture among Halloween costumes. But more than that, she was the one thing about this sad attempt at a movie that was entertaining.

Which brings us to three. As a result of the bit of humor that Margot Robbie helped to infuse into the movie, I can say with certainty that Suicide Squad is a better movie than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but of course, that's not saying much.

Ok, I don't dislike all comic book movies. I thoroughly enjoyed Deadpool, but really, who didn't?

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