By: Kevin Jordan
A eulogy for the DC film universe.
As I was pondering what to write about DC Comics’ latest movie, early reviews for the film started to trickle out and let’s just say that the DC fanboys weren’t happy with it. This is an actual headline from an article on USAToday, dated August 4, 2016:
“Critics slam ‘Suicide Squad,’ so fans try to shut down Rotten Tomatoes.” Here’s the story for your amusement.
In short, a person called Abdullah Coldwater started a change.org petition to shut down Rotten Tomatoes because, to paraphrase he and the 18,494 other people who signed the petition, “critics are big poopy-heads.” Forget about the fact that such a petition carries no ability to actual do or force what it’s calling for, Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t actually have a staff that reviews movies. It’s just a place where reviews (that meet a certain set of requirements revolving around quantity of site views or number of publications) are linked to so people have a central place to find them and tallies up all the ratings to get an aggregate score. I’m guessing these geniuses doesn’t understand that. Nor do they seem to know that Metacritic and IMDb exist – both of which do the same thing and both of which have similarly low aggregate scores for the film – because they aren’t calling for those sites to be shut down as well. But here’s where it gets even more fun – Warner Brothers owns the DC film rights and also owns a share of RT. So, even if RT really was responsible for the bad reviews, why would Warner Brothers publish bad reviews of its own movie? Like I said, geniuses.
(Note: To his credit, as of yesterday, Coldwater ended the petition himself, stating: “In fact i started this petition to gather dc fans to express our anger just for fun. I didn’t mean it to be taken that serious.
After thinking. I found this petition is pointless. And the only thing that it does is spreading a speech of hate and online fighting among the supporters and objectors . The movies is something to enjoy. And the hate and fight is the opposite of enjoying.”)
The question I have for those 18,000+ people is “have you actually seen the movie?” I am often at odds with many opinions of other critics, but I have never accused them of being idiots prior to seeing a movie for myself. I’ve seen Suicide Squad and I agree with the majority of critics – it’s not a good film. It’s certainly not a Batman v Superman spectacle of shit, but it’s the final strike for me in hoping that DC was going to spend any time developing the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) they’ve been touting and that sucks.
Here’s the short version of my review, in case you have somewhere else to be – if all you want to see are a handful of DC bad guys shooting at things for two hours while classic rock songs are played over the action, this movie works. It’s every first-person shooter game you’ve ever played – kill hundreds of foot soldiers while running through destruction to fight the final boss at the end.
Now the long version (and, yes, SPOILERS, but there really isn’t anything to spoil. I’ll explain).
Suicide Squad should have been a tee-ball given the premise – a team of really bad villains is assembled to combat existential, global threats. Awe! Some! But then the movie starts. The first ten minutes of the film are devoted to introducing us to the Squad. You read that right – TEN minutes to make you love and identify with eight characters, the bulk of which is devoted to just two of them, Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). And, we get it in the form of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), the person who wants to build the team, reading us files on how each of them was caught over dinner with some other government stiff (not so awesome). Even worse, when she first names the character, a bunch of text appears on the screen that describes the character, but is pulled from the screen so fast we’re lucky to catch even half of it. What a waste.
Cut to a briefing room where Waller is trying to convince an admiral to approve funding for the team with the following rationale – “What if Superman decided to rip the roof off the Capitol? There are more and more meta-humans showing up every day and we want them on our side.” To emphasize this point, she calls upon archaeologist Dr. June Moone, (Cara Delevingne) – that’s actually her name – to demonstrate. You see, the good doctor has been possessed by a 6,000-year old Mayan witch called Enchantress who is super evil and can teleport (among many other things) anywhere she wants. I mean, what could possibly go wrong with that? Enchantress teleports, stealing a top secret file from a vault in Iran in moments and the admiral is immediately convinced, even though he was just telling us how bad an idea this sounded like. And he’s right because, how do they control Enchantress? They’ve got her heart in a box and Waller stabs it with a pen whenever Enchantress starts to get out of line. Seriously, that’s her control method and there’s nothing special about the box. But don’t worry, the box has a lid. And it’s in the room with them where Enchantress can see it. And Enchantress doesn’t just snatch it up right then and there, even though the remainder of the movie is Enchantress wanting her heart back so she can destroy the human race with a giant glowing trash circle in the sky. One more thing about Enchantress, she can decide to take full control of Dr. Moone whenever she feels like it and isn’t confined to a room or 24-hour surveillance. The name June Moone doesn’t sound like the dumbest thing in this movie anymore, does it?
To answer your questions, yes, the Squad is tasked with stopping Enchantress and, yes, this whole mess was started by the very person putting the team together to stop messes like this. How this make any sense? Or Enchantress at all, for that matter? Does she have to stay in the archaeologist’s body? And why isn’t she chipped with the explosive? And even if she was, couldn’t she just possess literally anybody else, including Viola Davis? It also appears that she can manifest herself whenever she wants, so how does Viola Davis think she has any kind of control over her? And again, if enchantress can teleport, why doesn’t she immediately jet with the heart as soon as she knows where the heart is?
Putting aside that awful bit of writing, let’s evaluate this team to find out if they can combat a witch that can teleport, has telekinesis, turns people into deadly soldier things, can conjure up magic that can destroy the world, and is basically immortal. Just ignore the fact that the entire problem can be solved at any time by Waller destroying the heart.
-Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) – no super powers, team leader, special ops soldier, has phone app that can trigger explosive devices in the necks of bad guy team members. Oh, and did I mention that June is his girlfriend, because Waller needed June to seduce him so Waller could blackmail him into working for her?
-Deadshot – no super powers, but can shoot real good, and quip even gooder.
-Harley Quinn – no super powers, but is crazy and swings a mean Louisville slugger. Also, comic relief, eye candy, and a convenient excuse needed to justify Joker (Jared Leto) being in this movie.
-Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) – no super powers, can hold his breath for a long time, is a great swimmer, and looks like a crocodile. Sure, this guy will come in handy.
Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) – shut up. That’s not really a character is it? It is? Shut up.
-Slipknot – no super powers, can climb real good. Seems like a climber wouldn’t want the word slip in his name.
-Diablo (Jay Hernandez) – the one character with legitimate super powers – can shoot fire out of his hands and face. Except, he has to get really mad, otherwise he just stands there watching (really, this happens).
-Katana (Karen Fukuhara) – not an actual bad guy. She’s friends with Flag, is there as an extra precaution against the bad guy team members should they not cooperate, and has a sword that traps the souls of its victims. Sure, why the fuck not?
-Dozens of special forces soldiers – hang on, why are these guys here? The whole concept of the team, as described in detail by Viola Davis, is that they will be sent into impossible situations and disavowed if they fail. So, why put actual soldiers outside of Flag with them? Are they considered expendable as well? And if you have all those soldiers, why do you need the Squad at all?
So, that’s the Squad, and if we do the math – carry the one, divide by the ratio of soldiers to villains, multiply the number of superpowers by pi – we see that there is no fucking way this team can defeat Enchantress, let alone someone like Superman. The movie even acknowledges this when, after kick-fighting with the squad for a while, Enchantress gets bored and disarms them all with a wave of her hand. Yes, my friend and I both laughed when this happened because it literally nullifies the entire preceding hour of fighting.
If there’s a redeeming quality, it’s that Smith and Robbie lead the cast in what are all solid performances. Robbie and Smith are both doing everything possible to save this movie, delivering some decent one-liners at times and keeping the film from becoming a complete slog of action. It’s also painfully obvious that the movie was set up to feature them and only them. Look no further than the costumes to see how little care was given to the characters not named Deadshot and Harley Quinn. Deadshot gets a red body suit covered in armor, complete with a white mask and targeting eye-piece. Quinn gets a full-body costume consisting of skimpy shorts and cheeky shirt, colored hair and face, and symbols and words all over her body. Killer Croc, Diablo and Boomerang are all wearing jeans and a jacket. Even Flag, who gets plenty of screen time, is almost indistinguishable from the random special forces soldiers assigned to the group. I suppose you could make a case for Joker and Enchantress, both of whom were given far more visual appeal, but neither were in the movie enough to mistake them for equals to Smith and Robbie. My complaint isn’t that this happened, but that it happened with no pre-work done. Marvel wrote the freaking playbook, use it. This movie should have been a follow-up to standalone movies for Deadshot and Harley Quinn (both of which I would absolutely watch…well, as long as Zach Snyder isn’t involved).
Look, I know I’m being a little harsh, but this movie suffers from the same problems as BvS and Man of Steel. My friends didn’t think I should completely trash the movie, but the more I let the movie fester in my brain, the more I realized it was worse than I originally thought. Nothing is happening for any logical reason, the characters are woefully underdeveloped (TEN MINUTES), the reason for the team existing at all is a self-fulfilling prophecy, any world building of a DCEU is non-existent, the structure of the opening of the film exists solely to justify the music, the team’s abilities don’t come close to their opponent’s, and the tie-ins to the other DC movies are painfully clunky and forced. The worst thing about the movie is that these bad guys never actually do anything bad, which was kind of the whole freaking point of making this movie in the first place. I’m not saying I hated this movie (it’s the best of DC’s three DCEU movies so far); I’m just disappointed that DC has crapped the bed yet again in an attempt to shortcut their way to what took Marvel thirteen movies to do. Rest in peace DCEU, we never even got to know you.
Rating: Ask for seven dollars back if you are not one of the people that signed the shut-down-RT petition. I know 18,000+ who will love this film.