Saturday, August 7, 2021

Film Review: The Suicide Squad


Sexuality/Nudity Mature
Violence Objectionable
Vulgarity Mature
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Objectionable

I remember when they first announced James Gunn to direct Guardians of the Galaxy.  I thought he was a terrible choice.  His previous movies of his that I had seen were gross and disturbing.  I did not think that he had the sensibilities for a super hero film.  Fortunately, I was proven wrong and Guardians became one of the best super hero films ever made.  But now I know the reason:

James Gunn was restrained.

One of the reasons that a lot of big name directors do not want to work with Marvel is because the studio had tight controls over their properties and the content of their films.  The franchise is accused of being bland because of this, but it also prevents a director from taking the series off the rails.  

Restraint can be the biggest help to creativity.  You need look no further than Jaws, where Steven Spielberg took a B-movie plot and turned it into a masterpiece because he was forced to be creative rather than explicit.  But when you remove these boundaries, you can get an indulgent mess.

And that is what we have with The Suicide Squad.

I was not a huge detractor of of David Ayer's original Suicide Squad the way many critics were.  It is not a bad movie, but it is a little bland (apparently Ayer's original version was cut up much the same way Snyder's Justice League was).  But one of the big critics of that film from others was that it did not embrace a full R-Rated vision for the characters.  And this new film goes to the extreme.

The plot involves Task Force X director Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) once again assembling imprisoned super villains for a mission in exchange for reduced sentences.  If they deviate from the plan, she explodes a bomb in their heads.  The group is once again led by Col. Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnamen) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie).  This new team also includes some new villains:

-Bloodsport (Idris Elba): essentially he is Deadshot from the first film, but with a worse relationship with his daughter

-Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior): a young and sensitive woman who controls rats

-Peacemaker (Jon Cena): a psychotic Captain America wannabe

-Polka-dot Man (David Dastmalchian): a disturbed man who shoots energy polka-dots

-King Shark (Sylvester Stallone): A dim-witted half man/half killer shark.

Together, they have to infiltrate the island nation of Corto Maltese.  After  recent coup, the new regime now has control of a potentially world-destroying threat controlled by the Thinker (Peter Capaldi).  Along the way, the cut a bloody path to their target.

The best thing about the movie are the characters and the performances.  Kinnamen is allowed a lot more personality in this film and this is Robbie's best performance as Quinn.  Elba is a gruffer replacement for Will Smith, but he does the job well.  Melchior brings some much-needed pathos to the team.  Cena plays Peacemaker without nuance like a wrestling persona, but it works.  Dastmalchian is surprisingly effective with his withdrawn, suicidal stares.  But the best is Stallone's King Shark.  He absolutely steals every moment that he is in.  He is essentially Frankenstein's monster: a deadly killer who doesn't understand what he is doing wrong.  But Stallone's delivery made me laugh more than anything in the film.

Gunn also has a strong visual style that works well for this movie.  He knows how to move a camera to create dynamic shots.  His color palates are also stunning to watch.

The problem is the execution.  Gunn writes like a teenager who is trying to shock our uptight sensibilities. with bloody violence.  Now, this could be simply an issue with my tastes.  I remember being in the theater seeing Pulp Fiction for the first time.  Everyone started laughing when Marvin got shot in the face, but I sat there horrified.  I got similar feelings from The Suicide Squad.  Allow me to illustrate:


In once scene, members of the team are sent to retrieve Flagg, who has been taken by soldiers in the woods.  They are ordered to make sure there are no witnesses.  What follows is an action sequence here the squad proceed to sneak up and kill a number of soldiers until they reach Flagg.  But the twist is that Flagg is fine.  He isn't captured.  He has been taken in by the nation's freedom fighters.  This realization is a punchline to the scene, meant for laughs.  But I was instead filled with disgust.  Our protagonists just murdered several people over several minutes.  Not only do they not care, but these people's lives are treated as a joke.

Throughout the movie, squad members seem to hold a line against killing children.  All well and good, but any other innocent adult is fair game.  I realize our squad have to remain villains of some kind, but I lose any reason to vote for them.


Another problem with Gunn's script is that he treats his characters as fodder.  Yes, they are meant to be expendable.  But if you treat their lives like a joke, you betray the trust the audience has.  There are some who you know are not long for this world.  And it is absolutely okay to kill of characters that you get attached to.  But if you dispatch them as a joke or a punchline, the audience feels like the director is laughing at them for caring.  The story also wastes characters that could be incredibly interesting.  Capaldi's Thinker is a generic bad-guy-scientist.  This is a shame when you see a show like The Flash that knew how to make the Thinker brilliant and terrifying.  Never once does Thinker show any kind of special ability.  I don't know why they even made him the Thinker if they never did anything with it.  

But overall, the problem is that the movie is just gross.

DC let Gunn do whatever he wanted.  The blood, guts, and gore are abundant and gratuitously over-the-top.  After a while, it became so distasteful that I continued to brace myself for the next shock.  The problem with gore and shock is that they wear off and then you are left with whatever is underneath.  But with The Suicide Squad, you have an immature script that shouts vulgarities like a teenager trying to get attention.  

And that is a real shame because this movie could have been an improvement on the original.  With a little more pressure to force Gunn to focus and be less explicit and more creative, we may have gotten a movie that could have embraced its R-Rated aesthetic while creating an action classic like John Wick.

Instead, we get a movie that is bright and pretty on the outside, but intentionally ugly on the inside.

And that is not a movie I want to see again.

No comments:

Post a Comment