Friday, August 5, 2016

Suicide Squad Review

My most anticipated movie of the year has finally arrived! And it has arrived with an onslaught of horrific reviews that almost crushed me. As I type this, it currently holds a 27 percent on everyone's favorite review aggregator site, Rotten Tomatoes. For the record, I am a fan of Rotten Tomatoes. I think it's a great site that gives an honest consensus of professional critics around the web. As someone who loves reviewing movies, I would love to become big enough one day for my opinion to be added to the many great critics whose opinions get considered on that site. I laugh at this petition that Suicide Squad fans have started to take down the site due to bad reviews. It's not the site's fault. Let's point the finger of blame at the right source. That said, even though I like looking at Rotten Tomatoes, there are a lot of times where I disagree with the consensus. Take this summer for example. Now You See Me 2: 33 percent. Ninja Turtles 2: 38 percent. The Legend of Tarzan: 35 percent. Nerve: 57 percent. Jason Bourne: 57 percent. That's five "rotten" movies that I personally gave good reviews to. Let's add another one why don't we? Because, yes, I enjoyed Suicide Squad. So allow me to defend this DC success that's been unfairly trashed.

Before I get into Suicide Squad, though, I think it's important for me to remind you of my position on these DC and Marvel superhero films. First of all I will reiterate that this Marvel vs. DC war is really dumb. I hate the idea that people think you need to choose one or the other. Why can't I like both? But if you put a gun to my head and force me to pick either Marvel or DC, I will first argue with your logic because I don't think I should be forced to pick one, and then before you pull the trigger, I will pick DC. That might shock some, but it's true. I've been more attached to the characters and stories from the DC comics growing up than I have the Marvel comics. Batman and Superman are two major reasons behind that. I love the first two Christopher Reeve superman movies. I enjoy most of the Batman movies. The Dark Knight trilogy specifically is phenomenal. But I also grew up watching a lot of DC cartoons on TV with Batman, Superman, Batman Beyond, Justice League, etc. Outside Spider-Man, Marvel didn't have as big of an impact on my childhood and it was DC that ruled my life for many, many years. Obviously it's been a different story as of recently. When we specifically compare the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the DC Cinematic Universe, it's been Marvel that has dominated. But DC's ruled TV, so it's not like they're completely out of the game.

Let's talk about that DC Cinematic Universe real quick. They've only had two movies so far, but it's been a rough start. I absolutely hated Man of Steel with an angry, fiery passion. But it's not because I'm a DC hater. It's because I'm a DC lover and I hated the way they portrayed Superman in that movie and I thought the movie itself was also pretty cruddy. I also wasn't a fan of Batman v. Superman either. But it's not because I'm a DC hater. In this instance it was because they tried to do way too much. They shoved at least three movie's worth of content into that one movie because they didn't want to spend several years trying to catch up to Marvel. In the process, they only gave us eight minutes of Batman fighting Superman, which was the freaking title of the movie. And that ended because their mothers have the same name and thus they were besties ever since. I do hear the Ultimate Edition of the movie improves the movie, but I've not been able to get my hands on a copy and I don't want to pay the money to buy it just to see, so I can't judge. What I will say about Batman v. Superman is that I loved the individual elements of the movie and it gave me hope for the future of the DC Cinematic Universe.

Note the director of both these movies. Zack Snyder. I've concluded a while ago that perhaps it's not a DC problem we have or a Warner Bros. problem. Maybe it's a Zack Snyder problem. I'm sure the man is an amazing individual, but I just haven't really enjoyed his movies. I've been waiting for him to prove otherwise, but he has yet to do so. The first benefit of Suicide Squad is that it is not Zack Snyder. It's David Ayer. He's a director I do like. Two years ago he made a fantastic movie called Fury that I think is really underrated. He also directed End of Watch and wrote and co-produced Training Day, two movies I haven't seen but have heard great things. So I was excited to see what he could bring to the table as a writer and director of Suicide Squad. They also had an excellent marketing campaign with several phenomenal trailers that had me stoked. Not to mention a great cast with some of my favorite actors, including, but not limited to, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, and Will Smith playing Harley Quinn, Joker, and Deadshot. No way they can go wrong, right? Well, apparently some people think they went very wrong. But I'm not going that route. I'm going against the grain because I was thoroughly entertained with this movie. This isn't perfect, but there's a lot of things they did right.

I love myself a good villain. Recently I've been very particular with my villains because this is something that Marvel can't get right. If you are one that thinks Marvel can do no wrong right now, this is the exact question I'm going to probe you with. They've had a handful of decent villains, but they've also had a ton of forgettable villains and not too many truly great villains. So what makes a good villain? In my opinion a good villain is more than just someone who looks and/or sounds scary. They need to have a good backstory. They should be relatable. They need to have good motivations for what they are doing. It's nice if they actually have a good plan. Looking and/or sounding ominous is good frosting on the cake, but that's actually not a requirement for me. Some of the best villains are ones that look like normal human beings because they are often most relatable. It's also preferable if the villain isn't the type of villain that's been done a hundred times before or has a plan that's hasn't been attempted a hundred times before. But with good acting and good writing, that can sometimes be forgiven. If you analyze these qualifications, most of Marvel's villains fail. Loki may be the only one that passes the test. Suicide Squad has seven characters that at least pass the majority of these qualifications.

This is what I liked most about this movie. The idea of the suicide squad has always been one that I've loved. A team of villains organized by the slightly crazy Amanda Waller to fight another villain for the "good guys" is a fantastic premise. They did this on the TV show Arrow back when it was actually a good show and it's been done other times before that and it's a lot of fun. In many ways I like it better than having a team of heroes because you aren't sure who exactly you're supposed to be rooting for and you honestly don't know if one or more than one of them are going to betray the others. Because, after all, they are "bad guys." It's what they do! How do you get a team of villains to actually do what you want them to do? In this case you insert some sort of explosive device into their necks and threaten to blow them up if they don't do what you ask. And you give them incentives like freedom or reduced prison time if they cooperate. This is the premise here. I don't want to dive too deeply into the specifics of the plot because I respect the movie-going process and the trailers, despite there being like a hundred of them, did a good job of not spoiling the plot or the ending. But I loved this team. I loved the uncertainty with several of the characters. And I was entertained by the action.

Let's talk about the specifics with these villains. Headlining everything right now is Harley Quinn and the Joker. And for good reason. I love these two! Probably my favorite type of villain is one that is psychologically messed up for whatever reason, which is the case with both of them. We get more backstory for Harley Quinn and less backstory for the Joker, but the Joker is so insane that he makes up for us not knowing a ton about him. These two are the perfect on-screen psychotic couple. So much crazy chemistry between them. Margot Robbie is every bit as good as she's been hyped up to be and Jared Leto puts to rest any concerns there were of bringing this character back after Heath Ledger's legendary performance in The Dark Knight. It is worth noting that this is not the Joker's movie. He may not show up as much as you may like him to. But as long as you realize his role in this is most likely a tease for something coming up, then you should be fine. I would really love our solo Batman movie to focus on the Joker as the villain. I know it's been done a hundred times before, but Ben Affleck's Batman needs to face off against Jared Leto's Joker in an epic showdown. An official rumor is that we are getting a Harley Quinn spin-off movie and I'm 100 percent down for that, especially after Margot Robbie's performance in this movie.

We do have plenty of other villains to talk about. And I hope you are fine with me talking a lot about villains in a villain-centered movie. In addition to Harley Quinn and the Joker, our other great villain here is Will Smith's Deadshot. He's a crazy guy that's killed a lot of people, but he also has a daughter who loves him and he loves her. This father/daughter relationship is done so well. When I talk about motivation and backstory, it doesn't get much better than this. On top of that, Will Smith is such a boss as Deadshot and brings so much charisma to the character, much like he does in almost every other role he takes on. There's a reason he's one of the best a-list actors in the business right now. After these three, we have Jai Courtney's Captain Boomerang, Mr. Eko's Killer Croc, Jay Hernandez's Diablo, and Cara Delevingne's Enchantress. These four aren't on the same elite level as Harley Quinn, Joker, and Deadshot, but I'd say all of them are good villains for their own reasons. Yes, if you didn't catch it, Jai Courtney was boss. That may be a first. If you are confused about Mr. Eko, that's the actor's character in the TV show LOST. Please don't make me type the name Adewale Akinnuoye-Agabje twice. Mr. Eko is much easier. Out of these four, I think I liked Cara Delevingne most, but Jay Hernandez was close behind and the other two weren't bad either.

I won't spoil who the big villain is that our team is fighting. That was spoiled for me and it made me mad. But I actually enjoyed this villain for reasons I'm not getting into. Our officially suicide squad team is Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Boomerang, Diablo, and Killer Croc. The others are in the movie doing other things. And given that they are technically all villains, anything can happen. So if you have no idea who the main villain is, that's a good thing. Our main "good guys" in this movie are Amanda Waller played by Viola Davis, Rick Flag played by Joel Kinnaman, and Katana played by Karen Fukuhara. Out of these three, Amanda Waller is the most interesting of the bunch. She's the mastermind behind all of this and she's pretty dang good at being intimidating. And there's some things that her character does that make you question her motivates and make you wonder if she's really that much better than our main "bad guys." I liked that. The only true, pure good person in this movie is Katana. She's more of a side character, but she's fighting alongside our team and is super boss. But being that they spent so much time introducing her in Arrow only to literally do nothing with her, I'm glad they had her on in this movie fighting with the team because she's boss!

Concerns with the movie? Yes, I have them. But for me they are more nit-picky than major concerns. We did spend a lot of time setting up our team. But I enjoyed all of these set-ups. It's not like Batman v. Superman where we had over an hour of set-up because the movie tried to be three movies in one. This was more focused. Amanda Waller has an idea to get a team of villains together to solve a problem. They organize that team and go out to solve the problem, with a few obstacles along the way. That's a more focused movie. And it was an entertaining one with a whole ton of fun action sequences and great characters. The action wasn't super over-the-top and frustrating like in Man of Steel and it wasn't super rushed like our Batman and Superman fight in Batman v. Superman. There were moments in the movie where the editing felt off or a specific scene felt tacked on. I know there was a lot of re-shoots and I'm wondering if that may have been part of the problem. The soundtrack was also a bit too much at times. And you could argue that our main villain was a bit cliche. I want to dive into that last point, but I won't. There was no huge twist or jaw-dropping moment. You can call this a run-of-the-mill superhero movie, but it was one that I really enjoyed.

Yes, this is a long review. But it needed to be because I really enjoyed this movie and given that it's been getting so much crap from critics and others, I needed to make a stance. I look at the three movies from DC's cinematic universe and I see a lot of progress. Man of Steel was a disaster. Batman v. Superman was a little better, but overall another misstep. Suicide Squad was much better than both of those two, which proves that we are going in the right direction. I liked the lighter tone of this movie. There was plenty of humor in it as well as a lot of scenes that were simply fun and entertaining. DC started this universe thinking that they needed to do everything dark and depressing, which I wasn't a huge fan of in this instance, so I'm glad we got a movie that was simply light-hearted and fun. I loved our team dynamic. I counted ten good characters in this movie, at least three of which I could elevate to great. Most of these characters had great character moments and believable arcs. I love how this team gelled as a group and I really want to see most of them back in some form or another in this DC universe. No, this was not as phenomenal as I was initially anticipating it would be, but this is still a lot better than some are giving it credit for. I'm going to give Suicide Squad an 8/10.

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