Suicide Squad

August 9, 2016 at 4:03 pm | Posted in 2016 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ½

In the newest film from the DC universe, we are beginning to see an emerging pattern that does not bode well for future films. Warner Bros did a brilliant job of marketing this movie and it is well on it’s way to being the highest August earner of all time. But, “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” was a massive earner, as well. And both films are similar in another way: tons of people saw it and most of them promptly grumbled about it afterwards (there is even a guy in Great Britain who is suing WB because he is that upset about this film). The press has offered a dozen different opinions about why, often pointing out the tone of the recent Superman and Batman films. I don’t think that’s it, though. At least, not for me. I much prefer the darker vision over the cartoonish versions DC has put out in the past and, in “Suicide Squad,” we are introduced to some very intriguing dark characters. Margot Robbie’s (“The Legend of Tarzan,” “The Wolf of Wall Street”) take on Harley Quinn is brilliant, as she captures crazy/happy-go-lucky/sinister perfectly. I was particularly interested in seeing Jared Leto’s Joker. He has proven in films like “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Chapter 27” and “Requiem for a Dream” that he has a remarkable ability to disappear into a character. In that sense, he has the sort of intensity that Heath Ledger had. Leto’s take on the Joker is as unhinged as Ledger’s, but in a different way. Ledger’s Joker seemed to have a calculated craziness, whereas Leto’s is more impulsive, chaotic and randomly destructive. It’s a powerful performance that seems part Ledger/part Cesar Romero; I wish I had seen more of it. Additionally, I loved Viola Davis’s character, who she imbued with a deep cynicism (she is the dark-hearted version of the Avengers’ Nick Fury). I also liked Jay Hernandez’s ambivalent and heart-broken take on Diablo. However, most of the other characters fell flat for me and that’s a problem in an ensemble piece. In fact, Will Smith’s Deadshot is symptomatic of exactly what I think is wrong with DC’s films these days. This is a dark film about villains (psychopaths, essentially) who are forcibly recruited to do good against their will. Deadshot is a hitman. This should not be a nice guy. But, in Smith’s hands, he is a loving dad, a comedian to Joel Kinnaman’s straight man, and a firm leader with a conscience that his team can rally behind. But where this film most went astray was in its convoluted story, with excessive flashbacks, overly complex plot lines and uninspiring villains, which is exactly the same problem “Dawn of Justice” had. In both cases, it felt as though Warner Bros or DC were more interested in setting up the larger franchise than in making a good film. I say WB or DC deliberately, because I don’t think we can blame the director. David Ayer, who wrote the script for “Training Day” and wrote and directed the terrific “End of Watch,” knows how to create dark characters and write taut stories. Both this film and “Dawn of Justice” feel more like movie-by-committee, and therein lies the biggest problem. All of the reshoots for “Suicide Squad” have become famous. This is what doomed Marvel’s recent “Fantastic Four.” So much money is now at stake with superhero films that studios are unwilling to trust a director’s vision. The real wonder is the way Marvel has managed to avoid that with the MCU films. If there is any lesson for DC to learn here it is that one. Hire directors you trust and then trust them. Maybe then you will get well written films that viewers actually want to watch, recommend and watch again.

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