Monday, August 8, 2016

Looking at Movies - Suicide Squad (2016)

Thanks to the many online petitions and the inexplicable strong feelings people have developed about this movie one way or the other, you are supposed to either love this movie or hate it. I never subscribe to peer pressure and have developed my own opinion of Suicide Squad. DC is trying to compete head-on with the Avengers universe, but DC continually forgets to invest in the tools needed to make good superhero movies. Suicide Squad has nothing but potential, but it lacks the backing of a studio that understands its own product and cares enough to deliver movies that are both entertaining and loyal to the fan base.

The problem with these Justice League movies starts at the very foundation of any good movie franchise - the writing. The Avengers movies have all been written by the same team of professional writers who have publicly exclaimed their love for the entire Avengers franchise. These are people who grew up reading the comic books incessantly, and have a strong feel for what makes the Avengers the Avengers.

The DC movies are written by two writers, for the most part, who seem to have their own ideas as to what the Justice League movies should look like. In all fairness to the DC writers, the Avengers universe has always been light-hearted and filled with plenty of comedic moments. The Justice League stories have always been very dark and very serious. But if Christopher Nolan could see through that darkness and deliver great superhero movies, then surely other writers can as well. It did not go so well in Batman v. Superman, so we are hoping for a reprieve in the first Justice League movie to be released next year.

The very first problem with Suicide Squad is that it was written and directed by David Ayer. He is not part of the duo writing the other DC Justice League movies, which means that this movie is going to be disconnected by nature. The other problem is that Warner Brothers has become notorious for making demands on DC story editors and writers that completely change the movies around. Marvel has control over its own movies and tends to stay out of the director's way (mostly because the director was hand-picked because of their love of Marvel stories). But Warner Brothers is constantly making demands on DC and it is extremely obvious that those demands are destroying the Justice League movies.

Yes, Suicide Squad is a Justice League movie that makes reference to events that have happened in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. I am not going to pile on Suicide Squad because it is way too easy. I enjoyed parts of this movie, but as a critic looking for a coherent story to enjoy, I could see the fragmentation in this movie from start to finish.

Jared Leto's Joker has no scars. How can there be a Joker with no scars? Despite the lack of iconic imagery, Leto does do a passable job as the Joker. Let's face it, no one will ever reach the bar set by Heath Ledger. Leto is his own Joker based on a completely different story line than Ledger's Joker, and that creates a sort of shallow character that we never really get the chance to like or hate.

I read on IMDB that many of the Joker scenes wound up on the cutting room floor at the insistence of Warner Brothers, and that made sense. This movie needed more Joker. It seems like the story just floats around and has no focal point, until the Joker makes his few appearances. There is almost no Batman in this movie, which takes a lot away from the underlying tone of the film.

There are spots when this movie drags almost to a stop, which is something Marvel movies never do. Will Smith is excellent in this movie, and I hope that DC changes its mind and brings back Smith's Deadshot for future Justice League movies. Margot Robbie is given a weak script to work with as Harley Quinn, but she makes it work very well. Smith and Robbie are the stars of the movie and two of the reasons why I was able to watch this film.

As with Batman v Superman, the big conflict in this movie seemed to stumble into the story by accident and grow into something that we just didn't care about. I am not sure what separates DC story climaxes from Marvel except to say that when the Marvel movies seem to reach their apex in action, everything makes sense. In the DC movies, few things make any sense at all.

I am not going to hold David Ayer or any of the actors accountable for the mess that was the Suicide Squad. This movie and its premise had amazing potential that was destroyed by Warner Brothers executives and their meddling. This is a fun movie to watch, but it is not something I want to buy on blu-ray. My suggestion to DC is to trust the people hired to make these Justice League movies, or get out of the superhero movie business.

Rating: 2  out of 5

George N Root III sees movies at the drive-in all summer long. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3, or send him a message at georgenroot3@gmail.com.

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