Monday, August 15, 2016

Task Force X!

Suicide Squad (2016): written and directed by David Ayer; based on DC Comics characters and situations created by John Ostrander, Luke McDonnell, Gerry Conway, Paul Dini, Bob Haney, Howard Purcell, and many others; starring Will Smith (Deadshot), Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn), Viola Davis (Amanda Waller), Jared Leto (The Joker), Joel Kinnaman (Colonel Rick Flag), Cara Delevingne (June Moone/ Enchantress), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Killer Croc), Jay Hernandez (Diablo), Jai Courtney (Captain Boomerang), Adam Beach (Slipknot), Alaine Chanoine (Businessman/ Incubus), Ben Affleck (Bruce Wayne/ Batman), and Ezra Miller (The Flash):

I'd love to see the David Ayer director's cut of Suicide Squad. Did it include as many music-video sequences? More importantly, did its first 45 minutes seem like the film adaptation of Who's Who in the DC Universe I've been waiting 32 years to see? 

Ayer is a solid, gritty director of manly men doing violent, manly things in movies that include Fury and End of Watch. And Ayer has definitely seen The Dirty Dozen, which did this sort of Rogue's Team-up with flair -- an early death in Suicide Squad bounces right off the first death in The Dirty Dozen in visual terms. Lee Marvin would really help this movie, or even someone Lee-Marvin-esque rather than Joel Kinnaman's somewhat bland portrayal of team leader Colonel Rick Flag. Was Stephen Lang available? Stephen Lang would be a killer Rick Flag.

Dismantled and reassembled by a team of panicked Warner Brothers executives after the widespread vitriol that attended Batman V. Superman back in March, Suicide Squad is a strangely enjoyable mess that seems to be missing vital connective tissue at several points in its narrative. The changes in mood -- from zippy to grim to sentimental to music video to Ghostbusters -- are striking and sometimes off-putting.

But like a lot of DC Comics movie offerings (and very few Marvel movie offerings, regardless of their box-office success), Suicide Squad is stylistically interesting and, at times, visually bold. The plot may sag or jump, but visually David Ayer manages a number of striking moments, along with some awfully good live-action visual adaptations of comic-book costumes. Say what you will about these DC movies, but they've yet to foist upon the viewing public as crappy a superhero costume as Marvel's lame-ass visualization of the Vision.

But people like plot. Plot, plot, plot. And I wish this one was more coherent. Hell, I wish they'd included a scene that actually named one of the two supernatural Big Bads (Incubus) rather than leaving that job to the closing credits. Hmm. Incubus. And another super-villain is named Slipknot. That's some weird musical stuff.

Everyone's already talked about Margot Robbie (pretty good as Harley Quinn, not so good as psychiatrist Dr. Harleen Quinzel) and Jared Leto (underwhelming and underused as the Joker, who really should be stuck trying to save the world at the climax because that really would be funny). I liked Jay Hernandez and his character Diablo, which visually is a crazy gang-banging stereotype but as written and performed is instead the movie's most noble and nuanced character. Viola Davis is pretty much on-point as Amanda Waller, who will do anything to save the world. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje  gets buried under a ton of make-up and a mumble-mouthed Cajun accent as Killer Croc, but he's still pretty good.

And Will Smith does that twinkly Will Smith thing as principled assassin Deadshot while wearing a mostly faithful recreation of Marshall Rogers' striking re-design for the character from the 1970's Batman comics. Why Warner wasted Smith here and didn't get him on-board the Justice League movie as Green Lantern John Stewart baffles me. It seems like a major missed opportunity. Oh, well. 

The last hour is pretty much that Ghostbusters reboot you didn't expect to see in a comic-book movie. And I liked a lot of the visual work on all the monstrous tentacles and crawly, misshapen, monstrous hell-soldiers running around a supernaturally invaded Midway City, (Midway City being the name for Toronto on Earth-DC, at least judging by all the recognizable Toronto locations that make cameos in Suicide Squad). The Enchantress looks creepy in her earlier appearances, though her later belly-dancer get-up underwhelms. Techno-organic hell-god Incubus also has some visual moments, along with an underwhelming death. 

That the movie should end with Harley Quinn killing the Joker seems like a real lost opportunity to freak out the Internet. But it would totally be a great idea. And clear the way to someone better than Leto playing the Joker because that guy never stays dead anyway! Suicide Squad straddles a line between lightly recommended and recommended. Your experience may vary. 

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