Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

suicide squad Archive

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8

August 2021

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The Suicide Squad should have been better

Written by , Posted in Blog, Movie Reviews, Pop Culture

2016’s Suicide Squad is a strong contender for worst DC film ever made, a true abomination of filmmaking. Director David Ayers has so strongly denounced the atrocity that it feels almost unfair to mention him when talking about it. Underneath the repetitive montages and failed self-referential humor existed a fairly strong core, backed by commanding performances from Margot Robbie and Viola Davis. It’s easy to see the appeal in The Suicide Squad for a talent like James Gunn, architect of Marvel’s finest dysfunctional found family, The Guardians of the Galaxy.

The bar for a sequel/soft reboot is so low that it’s almost not even worth mentioning. Two hours of Harley Quinn painting the side of a building with an old toothbrush would be better than the 2016 trainwreck. Gunn would be forgiven for trying to steer as clear of the first film as possible, but the director does deserve some credit for earnestly engaging in the aspect of Ayers’ mess that did work, namely through Quinn, Amanda Waller, and team leader Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman).

Like the first, the plot is barely worth mentioning. Task Force X is sent to Corto Maltese, an island in South America recently overthrown by anti-American militants who seek to unleash longtime DC character Starro the Conqueror, a giant mind-controlling starfish, upon the world. Starro is the perfect subject for an irreverent mind like Gunn’s, eager to add depth to a character many others might instantly write off.

Corto Maltese is less a mission site than a playground. Gunn is rarely all that concerned with his plot, instead spending the bulk of his 132-minute runtime having fun in his sandbox. It is a fun sandbox. Newcomers such as Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Blackguard (Pete Davidson), and T.D.K. (Nathan Fillion), are all outlandishly entertaining to watch.

The cast is a little too large for a bloated feature running entirely off a sugar high, but Gunn does an admirable job carving out sections for character development. Both Robbie and Kinnaman are given plenty of chances to shine that go a long way toward correcting the way they were squandered in the first film. Davis is predictably bankable, the perfect Waller. Elba and Cena have absolutely delightful chemistry.

Gunn digs a bit deeper beyond his A-listers, giving supporting players Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) and Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) satisfying arcs amidst the broader chaos. The script is nothing special, but Gunn has a knack for crafting interpersonal relationships that helps buoy the film when the jokes aren’t flying a mile a minute. Surprising to absolutely no one, King Shark (Sylvester Stallone) steals the show whenever he’s on-screen, a natural source of levity.

The Suicide Squad prioritizes jokes to such an extent that the film starts to fall apart whenever it’s required to function like a story, two hours of cinematic cotton candy. That’s not necessarily the worst thing in the world. Gunn’s action sequences are spectacular and the cast knows how to carry the show when the script doesn’t give them much to work with.

It’s too easy to walk away from The Suicide Squad feeling like the talent involved could’ve done a bit more with this material. This notion is particularly true with regard to Harley Quinn. Making her third appearance in a DC film, Margot Robbie is one of the company’s most recognizable and beloved faces. Robbie is a phenomenal Harley Quinn, but The Suicide Squad hardly knows how to utilize her talents, boxing her into an arc that kind of seems like it was initially designed to elevate her, but ended up reducing her overall impact to the narrative. Robbie’s tenure as Quinn is largely defined by her fabulous performances in service to lackluster films.

Despite the fairly mediocre third act, The Suicide Squad is a pretty entertaining film, albeit not a particularly great one. Gunn is obviously capable of better. The fact that the first Suicide Squad was an abomination shouldn’t necessarily preclude its successor from being a masterpiece. This effort fell short.

 

 

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Tuesday

4

October 2016

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COMMENTS

Suicide Squad and the DCU’s Failed Opportunities

Written by , Posted in Blog

It’s hard to separate the hype surrounding Jared Leto’s “method acting” stunts as well as the failure of Batman v. Superman to build hype for the still blossoming DCU from Suicide Squad as a movie. Such is the current state of big franchises, which concern themselves with their part in the bigger universe often to the detriment of the job at hand, to be entertaining. While it’s hard to figure out how much blame Suicide Squad deserves for not being the desired platform to launch the DCU or for barely including Leto, it almost doesn’t matter. The movie plays like it couldn’t care less what people think.

Director David Ayers keeps his audience at a distance with the endless music video like montages introducing the ensemble cast, most of whom end up being wasted, which is a shame since Margot Robbie, Will Smith, and Viola Davis particularly stand out as making the most of the worthless material they were given. The only true stinker of the cast is Leto, whose Joker plays like someone doing a Heath Ledger impersonation at 2 in the morning after a night consuming Four Loko. It’s truly astonishing to see a film as bad as Suicide Squad that contained its weakest link in a short, almost cameo like role.

The problem is the movie never gives its audience anything to latch onto. The “squad” never blossoms into anything more than a couple of superficially interesting people walking around reminding the audience that they’re the bad guys. This is especially astonishing given Deadpool’s rise as an oft kilter antihero earlier this year. While I don’t think Deadpool/Suicide Squad comparisons are entirely fair, I was surprised to see Deadpool’s only weak link, its unoriginal plot, amplified ten times worse in SS. I’m still not entirely sure what the plot even was.

Moving forward, this issue appears to be a significant problem with the DC Extended Universe as a whole. It goes even beyond the question of who cares, but rather who are we supposed to care about? Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad all made hundreds of millions at the box office, it’s hard to argue that the DCU isn’t exactly off to the kind of start that Warner Bros. would liked to have had. The billion dollar threshold, which both Avengers movies, Iron Man 3, and Captain America: Civil War passed, was looked to as a way to gauge the true success of Batman v. Superman, which missed by around $125 million. Calling it a failure is a bit extreme, but this movie was something that fans waited decades to see and should have been a powerful asset in launching the DCU rather than a liability.

The DCU finds itself in a terrible position with only one film to go before the release of the Justice League. Is it fair to put the whole weight of the franchise on Wonder Woman? Kind of.

Suicide Squad failed miserably in two regards. It was a terrible movie and it didn’t just fail to give people a single nice thing to say about the DCU, it made matters worse. It isn’t fair to expect Wonder Woman to clean up the damage, but it needs to at least start the process if people are supposed to care about this franchise. The MCU has shown us the benefits of a shared continuity. Movies like ­Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man flourished in an environment that gave them the kind of exposure they likely wouldn’t have had a decade ago.

We haven’t really seen what a failure on this magnitude really looks like. The three DCU films have shown us that profitability isn’t tethered to quality, but if long running franchises have shown us anything, it’s that there does come a time where people just plain tune out. Suicide Squad wasted a chance to build hype for its broader canon and Warner Bros. should be very concerned about the direction of its franchise.

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