This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, I chose “Suicide Squad.”
WARNING! THERE WILL BE SPOILERS
The Movie: “Suicide Squad”
Starring: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie
Director: David Ayer
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A secret government agency recruits a group of imprisoned supervillains to execute dangerous black ops missions in exchange for clemency, which inevitably leads to chaos.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 26 percent
Froemming: Well, we are now two-deep into the newish DC Cinematic Universe with “Suicide Squad” here at the JOE-DOWN. A universe that has been largely divisive among fans, especially after “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” gave us two and a half hours of Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill scowling at one another.
Has Warner Bros. righted this ship with “Suicide Squad?” I know I have an answer, but what did you think, Brown?
Brown: After watching “Suicide Squad,” I decided to draw some battle lines between DC and Marvel. DC: You stick with the animated TV series and graphic novel market. Marvel gets the movies.
I went to this movie with a couple lifelong friends and the word all three of us agreed on was “underwhelming.” As I’m sure we’ll discuss, there are some fun, exciting parts of this movie. But as a whole, I had more joy in watching any Marvel movie.
So, with my initial thoughts, I’ll hand you Harley Quinn’s bat and let you bat lead-off here.
Froemming: Just to add my initial two cents here, this movie has its problems, but it was nowhere near as bad as the critics, and you Brown, lead me to believe. I went in thinking more of what I got from “BvS” and left fairly satisfied with an action movie that, for some reason, had DC villains in it.
But let’s start with the beginning. This film picks up after the “death” of Superman from “BvS.” The government is worried that another meta human will come along once again — maybe destroy another metropolis battling Michael Shannon? — and wreak havoc upon the world. Enter Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who was one of my favorite characters in this film. She wants to start Task Force X, an elite group of bad folk with precise skills to take down a threat.
We are then given a 20-minute intro here of the main characters rounding up this group: Deadshot (perhaps Will Smith’s best acting in a decade), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie, which is the other standout character here), Diablo (Jay Hernandez, who probably should have had more of his story here, because his was the most interesting to me), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje playing a crocodile man) and Capt. Boomerang (Jai Courtney, eh). There are some others too, but this is the main crew.
Now, before we go too far ahead, we need to discuss the elephant in the room with Jared Leto’s Joker. Brown, take it away.
Brown: I don’t have much to say about Joker in this movie, and that’s one of the cardinal sins about “Suicide Squad.”
I’m not going to compare anything Leto would do with Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger, other than saying that those two made the role iconic. Leto had big (clown) shoes to fill.
And he did… nothing. I don’t know if Warner Bros. screwed it up or they planned on deemphasizing Joker, but they took an iconic character and made him irrelevant. Why bother casting Leto for a character that gets maybe five minutes in the entire film to play something so boring. Honestly, I was more interested in finding out about Joker’s henchman in the panda costume that I was in Leto’s Joker.
Froemming: Minus the ridiculous tattoos, which served no purpose for this film, I enjoyed Leto’s brief time in the film as Joker. You are correct, the 15 minutes he is given (compared to Ledger’s half-hour of screen time in “Dark Knight”) really doesn’t add much beyond getting Harley’s origin story (the acid bath part I hated). I did like his randomly showing up later in the film, because we need a little Joker chaos now and then.
The Joker is too big of a character to have such an insignificant role. It was one of the things I felt we needed more of.
Brown: Before we dive deeper, I want to revisit your take on the beginning of this movie: Amanda Waller just got done watching “Escape From New York” and decided “Hey, I should create a team of five or six Snake Plisskens to help the world.” To the point that the way our squad of villains obey orders is by having small explosives planted in their necks to kill them in case they break the rules. So we’re left with our motley crew of baddies:
- Deadshot: A mercenary who doesn’t miss a shot
- Killer Croc: Part man, mostly crocodile. Eats people.
- El Diablo: Can conjure fire but is reluctant to use his powers.
- Capt. Boomerang: … Has boomerangs.
- Slipknot: Brief comic relief to show that the neck explosives actually work.
- Harley Quinn: Has the power of codependence?
As much as I liked Margot Robbie for stealing most of the scenes she was in and actually making this movie entertaining at times (along with Jai Courtney as Capt. Boomerang), I kept going back to one question: Why is Harley Quinn in the Suicide Squad? She has no extraordinary abilities. She’s there to make sure we get a Joker cameo or two and to be eye candy. As we find out, we deal with otherworldly beings in this movie. What good does a baseball bat do here?
Froemming: She is part of the group in the comics, so it makes sense putting her (and DC’s big name villain, to get butts in the seats) in this based on that. I agree, she has no remarkable abilities beyond being crazy and willing to kill for no reason at all. And if I were Waller, putting Harley in this group while the Joker is roaming the streets is a pretty terrible call.
But hey! We do get two cameos from the Justice League. Batman catching both Deadshot and at a another point, Harley. Then we get (directed by the source of doom of this franchise, Zack Snyder) the Flash catching Capt. Boomerang with his fancy…boomerangs?
Look, Batman catching Harley was almost as disturbing as his rooftop romp with Batgirl in the new “Killing Joke” animated film, because he makes out with Ms. Quinn as she is half dead from almost drowning. Why is DC going out of its way to make Batman a creep?
Brown: We have one more member: Dr. June Moone, AKA Enchantress, who is a witch that is controlled by Waller because Waller has her voodoo heart. But instead of helping in Task Force X, she breaks away, revives her brother and starts making an army of beings to start destroying Midway City.
While this is happening, Dr. Moone’s boyfriend,
Nick Fury Rick Flag is there to lead Task Force X to Midway City in what he calls a terrorist attack. I wish the movie was more about the relationship of Moone and Flag. I found that more interesting than Will Smith having to look like a cool guy in every scene, and Killer Croc literally doing nothing. And right as the team departs, we also meet Katana, who I think was the coolest character in this movie, there as the group’s sheepdog to make sure no villain goes after Flag. For how mysterious she is, you saw enough of her character arc to want to know more about her.
I want a Katana movie, DC. Can we just bypass brands and let Marvel do it?
Froemming: I feel like there was a much more coherent version of this movie that Warner ruined after freaking out over the response of “BvS.” There are some odd edits here, as well as EVERY SONG RELEASED BETWEEN 1965 AND 1979 SHOEHORNED INTO EVERY SCENE! Rumor has it they wanted the tone to match the trailers, and wanted it to be more funny, like “Guardians of the Galaxy.” But, this is “Suicide Squad,” it is OK to be a dark-in-tone film. I’m saying it now, this is the last DCCU film I will pick for this until Warner figures out how making movies work.
Brown: Well, this film was dark. Literally. I watched it in 3D and a couple of times I took off the glasses to check that they were making this movie a disgusting hue of grey and… more grey. It’s a comic book movie. I know it’s a darker sort of movie, but hell, there is an entire rainbow of color to use. You can make a dark movie with some visual stimulation. Not grey-ass Midway City in a rainstorm.
Anyways, as the Squad is about to make their way into battle, we get our lame every-2000s-video-game-boss Joker finding out where Harley is and trying to find a way to disarm her Snake Plisskin bomb. Not to beat a dead horse here, but honestly Froemming, what about this character, other than the green hair and pasty skin, makes this Joker?
Froemming: Beyond being a homicidal maniac who kills and tortures for fun, has the exact same relationship with Harley as he does in the animated series and comic books, who seeks out Harley because he is a monster who gets his kicks out of emotionally abusing her?
Brown: But they never show that abusive relationship. They make Joker/Harley this insatiable love between the two (yes, it’s what Harley thinks in her head). But then Joker’s actions don’t say abusive sociopath. They portray it more as Bonnie and Clyde than Sid and Nancy.
Froemming: He fries her brain with electro shock, convinces her to jump into a vat of acid to prove her allegiance to him, lets her drown to escape and Batman has to save her, pawns her to to a guy as a hooker and kills Common for being rude to her. There was plenty of that messed-up abuse in this film.
Brown: We will agree to disagree on this one. For the sake of moving this review forward, let’s get to Midway City and our squad fighting a bunch of faceless video game henchmen created by Enchantress.
Froemming: I hated Enchantress. This was a weak villain who creates monsters out of people with heads that look cheap even by 1977 “Star Wars” cantina monsters standards . But dammit, Flag loves her and they need to also accomplish their extraction job! Which, as we soon learn, really didn’t make a lot of sense, not to me anyway. But before that, we see the team test the waters and Flag’s patience with storming a burned out, war-torn downtown
Detroit Midway City and fighting these monsters that look like old chewed-up bubble gum.
Brown: The monsters may as well have been putties from “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.” And more to my Snake Plisskin point, Midway City looks just like New York in “Escape.” I was waiting for Isaac Hayes to get gunned down in the street by the President while screaming “You’re the Duke. A-number-1.”
After shooting/killing the hordes of baddies, we reach
the save point a bunker where their mark is. And surprise: It’s Waller, who is trying to clear her name from this Enchantress mess. Mission complete, right? Time to head to the roof and escape.
Nope. Instead, Joker is there with a helicopter, a mini-gun and a love in his heart. Just like a 2000s video game. Can I see this movie again with a controller in my hand?
Froemming: Well, I think most of these superhero movies act just like video games. That rarely bothers me anymore. But this film sort of goes even further with save points, like you mentioned. But Joker shows up, and has Harley’s neck device deactivated (he had the scientist do this because he had his goons hold a knife to the guy’s wife’s throat and Skyped it via cellphone, which was another moment that showed, for me anyway, Joker has no qualms murdering people to get his way).
But we then get Harley dangling from the copter as it is flying away, again straight out of a video game cutscene. I can’t wait for the game version of this to come out. It sure looks like a lot of fun.
Brown: It would be a lot more fun than this movie, I can assure you.
Enchantess’ brother, Incubus (wait, did they ever actually say his name in this movie) brings down Waller’s helicopter and we ONCE AGAIN see our “heroes” make their way down to save her. But this time, Deadshot sees a dossier in the downed chopper and starts asking Flag some questions that ultimately leads Flag telling the truth about the operation, Enchantress and Weller. He tells the team they can leave if they want (Capt. Boomerang leaves immediately, getting one of my genuine laughs in this movie. He’s an entertaining jerk). Oh, and Harley rejoins the group thinking that Joker died.
Froemming: For all my issues with the plot holes and editing of this film, when we see the characters interact with one another, like in the bar scene that follows this, the film is really enjoyable. I had fun watching these actors bounce off one another, and it was a shame that the film did not include more of this. I also wanted more of Diablo’s story, which he recounts here when he tells them he used his powers to kill his wife and children and how much he is tortured by that. That was what this film needed, not gooey monsters or ghosts or whatever the hell those things were.
Brown: I agree 100 percent on wanting more of Diablo. When they recruit him, he declines because he never wants to hurt anyone again, you actually feel sympathy for him. He is the “Killing Joke” adage that one bad day can change everything.
And after a drink and lamenting, who is the one that decides that hey, let’s do something redeemable and stop Enchantress? Not Diablo, the best one of them all, but Deadshot. The same Deadshot who was more than happy to shoot at Harley once he was offered money. The same Deadshot that won’t escape the mercenary life to make sure he can keep his daughter.
Sorry, Will Smith, I don’t care if you’re the second coolest person on Earth (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has taken your place), you shouldn’t get to make the redemption speech.
Froemming: He also purposely missed Harley, but you are right, he is a jackass. All he had to do was stop killing people and he would be there for his daughter. But nope, he blames Batman for catching him — you know, catching a man who has no problem putting bullets through the skulls of strangers for money. Batman, what a jerk!
But they pull together to save June Moone (I’m sorry. I can’t take that ridiculous name seriously. I laughed every time it was said).
But Enchantress has Waller hooked up to her electric tentacles (or whatever) as she does her best impression of Ramona from “Fuller House” doing her best impression of Elaine dancing from “Seinfeld.” Seriously, what the hell was up with that goofy dancing she was doing?
Brown: I don’t know, honestly. At this point, I was just amazed that they finally gave Capt. Boomerang and Killer Croc SOMETHING to do. Capt. Boomerang used one of his… boomerangs (really kind of shoehorned into an ability, friend) … that has a camera for some recon. Then, the plan is made to plant an explosive underneath the building Enchantress is in, hoping to blow up Incubus.
My last video game reference of this review: Have you ever played a game where you get a new ability and think, hey, this will be great the rest of the way, only to use that ability once the entire time? That’s what Killer Croc and Capt. Boomerang were to this movie. You stuck around for two hours to matter for about 60 seconds.
Froemming: If the boomerang is spinning, how is the camera on it not? But hey, we get Killer Croc into the sewers to do something.
But the squad is facing #SquadProblems the likes that Taylor Swift’s squad could never envision. No, it is not Kanye West’s wife, Kim, leaking a private phone call on social media and sullying their reputation. It is that they are not powerful enough to take on ancient gods.
But wait, Diablo shoots fire from his body. The reluctant hero emerges to battle Incubus and becomes more powerful than he ever realized. Again, Diablo should have been more of the focus of this movie, but his pretty cool arc is buried beneath the Deadshot/Harley arcs, which is a shame.
Brown: Yeah, this movie may as well have been the Deadshot/Harley Quinn variety hour, because those were the only two members of the Suicide Squad that were made to matter.
After the squad goes through its melodrama, including Entrantress trying to get them to join her (and Harley Quinn acting like she’ll switch sides as long as it’ll bring her puddin’ back), Harley stabs Enchantress and steals her heart, bringing an end to her weapon — which honest to goodness, I never actually remember them talking about.
Froemming: It was literally garbage swirling around in the sky that was never explained. So her weapon was Detroit?
Brown: Not only that, but they more or less used the same ending that “Ghostbusters” used with an explosive used to shut a portal. And because for one day they were heroes, they get reduced time on their sentences. Hooray. And also, Joker shows up again. I’ll be honest, I checked out long before this.
Froemming: Why does Harley go when her device was deactivated earlier in the film? You know what? Whatever on that. But we do get a mid-credit scene with Bruce Wayne telling Waller to shut down the squad, because he’s putting together the Justice League. Let’s say we take our stolen helicopters over to recommendations?
Would You Recommend?
Froemming: For all the issues I had with this, I enjoyed it quite a bit. It was much better than “BvS” and, for that matter, much of the phase one Marvel films, which I didn’t enjoy except for “Iron Man” and “The Avengers.” But Marvel’s phase two and three are top notch, so Warner and DC really need to get their (REDACTED) together. This one had so much promise, and I believe the studio mucked it up way too much. Still, I had fun watching it, so sure. Check it out, but be prepared for some choppy, baffling moments.
Brown: Nope. As far as DC goes, save for Batman (which are the only movies this company does right), I’m done. So many pieces in “Suicide Squad” could have been at least entertaining, and in some points it is entertaining, but the sum is such a mess. I had to seriously debate if I liked this or “BvS” more. That’s a bad sign.