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Suicide Squad (2016)

Rating: * out of 4

“Worst part of it is, they’re going to blame us for the whole thing. And they can’t have people knowing the truth. We’re the patsies. The cover up. Don’t forget…we’re the bad guys.” - Deadshot

Cast: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, and Viola Davis.

Writer: David Ayer

Director: David Ayer

Set up as DC’s answer to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which featured a team of bad heroes who band together to fight evil; Suicide Squad would place focus on the “Worst. Heroes. Ever.” A bold movie by the studio to feature a film solely starring bad guys. Unfortunately, the film is the poorest installment of the DCEU. If Man of Steel was underdeveloped, and Batman v Superman – Dawn of Justice was misguided, this film is both as well as being incoherent.

Let’s see if you can fallow the plot: Amanda Waller pleads to the U.S. government for permission to unite a team of locked away criminals to fight the threat of evil such as Superman could have been, but upon assembling this team accidentally grants power to one of her chosen members who then becomes the threat that her team must face off with in an effort to save her own life…yet sends in an army of militarized operatives to keep her bad guys in check; bad guys whom have been put in prison by Batman or the Flash, both of whom she has case files on which offer their secret identities as well as Aquaman’s and, one would imagine, Wonder Woman. See any ill logic going on here?

If she has access to knowledge on who Batman or the Flash are…and they are the ones who put Harley, Killer Croc, Deadshot and Captain Boomerang into Belle Reve, then why wouldn’t she option to unite a team of heroes to head off any unforeseeable threat…especially when the entire previous film was predicated on Batman’s mistrust of the God in the sky that was Superman? Like, seriously? What? Her excuse is that these people are expendable and if they were to fail their mission, there would be no real loss, yet, these characters are openly distrustful, disobedient and are offered no reason to fall in line because she doesn’t even do what any sane person would do which is lie to her team and promise them freedom. Nope. She is up front with how there is literally nothing in it for them. Wouldn’t that have made for a more interesting and dramatic picture. Lying to these criminals, promising them freedom, but taking it away at the film’s climax. It would have added dimension to a dimensionless film. And, also, why have your team of expendables be chaperoned by militarized operatives who either end up doing all the work or get slaughtered so your expendable team can win the day, without recognition? If the plan is to have them be guided with military presence, why not just have the military do the whole mission. They are trained for combat anyway.

Furthermore, the film perpetuates some really unfortunate racial stereotypes that caused me to alarmingly side-eye the film the whole time; from the African-American criminal who is really good with guns, to the fiery Latin, to the street thug with a mean grill who loves BET. Like, really? Why was that an element to Killer Croc’s personality? Almost none of these characters are anywhere true to their comic book selves. Sure, elements are there, but largely they are unique to the picture and the script savagely underdeveloped every one of them. Not a single person has a character arc. Harley Quinn is put at center focus in this picture and in the comics, she has a dynamic and wonderful character journey. In here, she plays opposite of her paper origins and pays fan service to shippers of Harley and the Joker. It was insulting that the film portrays this relationship in a positive (albeit sadistic) light.

The film also goes too far in objectifying Harley Quinn, which also was placed there to pay fan service, I suppose. It was just a tasteless at times. Yet, the film only really did it to her character. Enchantress is rather scantily-clad throughout much of the film, but the film placed little emphasis on her body, yet the camera hugged Harley’s curves on several occasions, none more disappointing than when she was dressing in front of the other members of the squad.

While there really isn’t much to admire about the film, there are nuggets of quality to be found. The vibrant color pallet was refreshing after the desaturated pallets of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. They do some visually interesting things with Enchantress, especially her transformation scenes. Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jai Courtney, Cara Delevigne and Viola Davis do their damnedest to elevate the material they are forced to work with. The film’s climax works relatively well.

The film just struggles to find unification and in doing so fails to have its own identity. It is trying like hell to compete with the fun energy of Guardians of the Galaxy while also being as edgy and humorous as Deadpool on top of paying fan service to people who just wanted to see a Joker/Harley Quinn movie. All this while also trying to separate itself as far away from Batman v Superman as possible, yet having to adhere to the universe set up within that film. The result is this convoluted, underdeveloped, misguided and incoherent mess.

Why was the Joker in this movie more than just a cameo (ala Batman and the Flash)? He serves no ultimate purpose. He is only introduced when the film gets over saturated in plot and is merely a tool to distract the audience from focusing on the film’s flaws…while also being the film’s biggest flaw. Ignoring the poor interpretation that Ayer and Leto opted to go with, his character is the very definition of ‘on the nose’, to the point of having him literally have the word ‘damaged’ written across his forehead. This is key to understanding the film’s grandest flaw.

Quote crazy people, don’t know they are crazy. That isn’t how psychosis works. And, nobody sees themselves as the bad guy or villain. Nobody says to themselves, ‘you know what…I’ma be a bad guy.” No. Doesn’t happen. They have justifications for their actions which inherently removes the label of bad guy from their psyche. These justifications, however morally questionable, can be used to posit themselves as acting personally just. To Deadshot, Batman is the bad guy and he is just in his chosen profession as assassin in order to facilitate the funds to offer his daughter a better life than he ever had. See. Justification. Yet, this film has the characters call themselves some variant of ‘bad guy’ or ‘evil’ on several occasions. That is a very black and white look on the human condition. The suggestion is people are only good or they are bad. If they are bad, they are willfully bad and thusly only do bad things. This is an incredibly myopic view of the reality of human behavior, especially in a franchise that already had two heroes vilify themselves over the mere presence of ideological values. This is a film that panders to a braindead audience that fails to question what they watch.

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