Sunday, August 7, 2016

Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad (2016) Starring Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood,  Cara Delevingne. Directed by David Ayer, Screenplay by David Ayer. Based on Characters from DC Comics. Produced by Charles Roven and Richard Suckle. Color. USA Run Time: 123 minutes. Fantasy, Adventure, Action

In their effort to create a Marvel-style Cinematic Universe, Warner Bros has been slowly, though not as successfully, making a series of films based on their DC properties. So far the films have been overly dark, long and humorless: Man of Steel (2013) and its follow up, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which debuted earlier this year. Now, the pace quickens with a second release, Suicide Squad.

To no one's surprise, Suicide Squad is dark and long but here's the surprise, it does have some humor. And it has what will count as an all-star cast, led by Will Smith (Deadshot), Jared Leto (The Joker), Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn), Viola Davis (Amanda Waller), Jai Courtney (Captain Boomerang) and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Killer Croc) with an appearance by both The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Batman/Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). It's really too bad that all this acting talent isn't enough.

In a post-Superman world (remember he died in Batman v Superman), the U.S. government does not turn to other superheroes for protection. Instead, it allows a group of ultra-criminals and metahumans to be assembled to protect the country against what will no doubt be the next near-apocalyptic attack. Think Dirty Dozen (1967) with a few bad eggs missing. How convenient is it that soon after this group of misfits is formed the need arises. Never has the government been so prepared for an emergency.

Of course, some of our heroes are less super-powered and more really good at shooting (Deadshot), robbing (Captain Boomerang), climbing (Slipknot: Adam Beach) and overall mayhem (all the others). The only one who might be described as true metahuman would be El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), who has the devil's gift for fire.

Leading this "army" is Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), a Special-Ops Army Ranger-type who reports to Amanda Waller, the organizer for this squad. She keeps them in line with a small explosive implanted in their necks that she can remotely detonate should any of her charges get out of line, run or harm Flag. Flag has a stake in the game as well, since his lover, Dr. June Moone (Cara Delevingne), is inhabited by the spirit of the Enchantress, a witch who wants to take over the world and kill all those humans who don't worship her. Waller has, until now, been keeping her in line by controlling the witch's heart, but the Enchantress figures out a loophole around that, by summoning her long-dead brother, Incubus (Alain Chanoine).

If that's not enough characters to keep track of, there is one more, Katana (Karen Fukuhara), a martial arts expert within whom's swords the souls of those she's killed reside. She's a late addition to the Squad and one of Flag's protectors and there to keep the Suicide Squad in line.

Jai Courtney (Boomerang), Karen Fukuhara (Katana), Jay Hernandez (El Diablo),
Will Smith (Deadshot), Joel Kinnaman (Rick Flag) and Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn)
are less than half of the cast and characters in Suicide Squad.

But wait, put away your checkbook because we have even more cast and characters. The Joker also plays a minor, but fly-in-the-ointment-type of a role in the proceedings. I would like to report that Leto is good in the role, but I would be lying. His Joker pales by comparison to Heath Ledger's or Cesar Romero's or Mark Hamil's renditions. I would put him just ahead of Jack Nicholson's chew-the-scenery take on the role. No doubt his second billing is due to reputation and has little to do with this performance.

Jared Leto doesn't really shine as Joker.

Character overload doesn't really allow for much character development, though we are given some background on the main three or four and sketches of the rest. Not enough to make us really care about them too much and almost enough to humanize them.

The two real leads, Smith and Robbie, get the majority of screen time and deservedly so, as they are the two most interesting characters on screen. Davis shows there's even more to her than we've seen before on film as she seems to be playing against expectations. But the acting accolades sort of stop there. The others, either through script or character, are limited to fairly minor roles and the odd line here and there.

Smith as Deadshot and Robbie as Harley Quinn are the
 most interesting of the many characters in Suicide Squad.

Like its two predecessors, Suicide Squad suffers from a protracted second act and is too long at two-plus hours. The story sort of sags in the middle when it should be ramping up for the big climax that's to come. More than that and I might give away too much of the plot for anyone who hasn't yet seen it and judging by its opening weekend numbers there might be a handful who haven't seen it.

The big question is whether or not Suicide Squad will save the DC movie universe. I'm not really sure it needs saving at this point. While the overall numbers for the first two installments might not have reached the rarified heights the studio had wanted, they seem game to let this run its course for now. Whether or not future installments will crash it or not remain to be seen. The one constant with DC films is that they will be rebooted at some time in the future. So far the most successful incarnation, Chris Nolan's Batman Trilogy, ran its course rather quickly and has no relationship to the current run.

As a film, Suicide Squad is not as bad as the critics would have led you to believe, nor is it as good as the opening weekend would suggest. Flawed, to say the least, the film is sometimes hard to follow, but still watchable. Not as much fun as an installment of the MCU, but an improvement for the DCEU. Hopefully, it will only get better from here. Hopefully.

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