August 6, 2016
This is a collaborative review and discussion between self-professed comic book geek Ryen Thomas and comic book movie geek Jonathan Shuping. Initially intended as a spirited debate over this polarizing movie, the two were actually completely on the same page:
Jonathan Shuping: For someone with little knowledge of these obscure comic book characters like me, the bios from task force organizer Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller are a good, succinct way to provide backstories for multiple villains who become heroes. It also introduces the idea that these villains all have a human side too and all have someone or something they care deeply about. Because of this twist, the bad guys can be leveraged just like heroes, and that’s apparently Ms. Waller’s specialty, am I right?
Ryen Thomas: The bios most definitely worked to quickly get backstory across without bogging the story down and the colorful way they were presented perfectly set up a tone that we have not seen in a DC film yet.
Regarding Waller, in the comic books, she’s the tough cookie puppet master, even known to hold Batman by the balls sometimes. Though she may not be the film’s main physical villain, her character serves as the team’s more cerebral antagonist. She keeps her cards close, pressures them to go into complete danger and continually reminds them how disposable they are.
JS: As far as performances go, the one that will be obsessed over and scrutinized is Jared Leto’s reinvention of the Joker and, while he’s not as good as Heath Ledger’s psychotic anarchist, this scheming, simmering Joker is already deeper and more dangerous than Jack Nicholson’s classic but over-the-top clown. Though to be fair, Leto’s version in Suicide Squad is a small sample size since he was really a minor character, but I’m pumped to see his full-size role when it happens. What’d you think?
RT: You say, “Not as good” but I’d argue that Heath Ledger didn’t play the traditional comic book Joker, who’s more put together, insane and sadistic, than a calculating hobo anarchist. Look, we must acknowledge that the beauty of this material is that there’s no definitive characterization of anything. With every new creative team that gets control comes a different interpretation. Everyone wants to add their own spin. In Tim Burton’s Batman, Nicholson portrayed a 1940s-style gang leader. Leto just takes that role and modernizes it, yet at the same time closely matches the glam Joker presented in the classic graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns, a work that Zack Snyder used as inspiration for Batman v Superman. In Squad, the Joker often keeps characters (and viewers) on their toes, but what is most surprising here is that he supplies one of the movies tender love stories!
JS: Well, since you brought up Joker’s love interest, let’s talk about Harley Quinn, played by Margot Robbie. She steals every scene and delivers each line with the perfect blend of crazy, comedy, and cuteness.
RT: I’d say, Robbie’s Quinn works best because she supplies the most vulnerability that I have seen from the character that’s been with us since the 1990s classic, Batman: The Animated series. Her most “insane” moments prove to be the most heroic. While she is a scene-stealer, she does not CHEW the time and other characters still shine in their own way.
I’d also say that Will Smith does a good job as Deadshot. His stardom doesn’t overpower the film. But the character that impacted me most was El Diablo, played by Jay Hernandez. This lesser-known character, who has the power to summon flames, brought the most heart to the movie and is sure to get more attention in the source material. Killer Croc and Katana don’t say much, but they serve their purpose as the team’s muscle.
Amanda’s lackey Col. Rick Flag does whatever he’s told as the no-nonsense field leader of the Squad. He’s the most human character and not as colorful as the others, but his straight man persona balances out the ensemble’s chemistry nicely and his motivation drives the story towards the climatic ending.
JS: That final showdown with the Enchantress is the one place Suicide Squad started to lose me. Up to that point, the action sequences are not too FX heavy, but the finale was far less practical, which is mostly attributed to the below-average level boss the Squad was up against. Still, all the humor and levity (which DC’s cinematic universe has been criticized for lacking) and the absolutely killer soundtrack, with everything from Kanye to White Stripes, K7 to Queen, had already won more than enough good will with me by then to power through that throwaway villain scene.
RT: We’ve seen the kind of villainy this film has countless times, arguably in the Avengers movies, Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and, surprisingly, I was reminded of climatic scenes from the original Ghostbusters! When the plot feels generic, the fun and superb chemistry from the cast once again reminds us what this film is all about: a team of misfits just trying to survive by any means necessary.
JS: The Dark Knight Trilogy was great. That’s why other superhero movies like the Captain America: Civil War and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice emulated those films, especially in their first two respective acts, but it definitely helps that Suicide Squad never gets too serious and somber or attempts to make a grand statement about the downfall of society. It’s a comic book movie through and through. It owns that. It’s proud of it, which makes the experience that much more fun. Don’t you think?
RT: It seems like DC is taking note to increase the fun in their movies, based off examining the tone here, plus the first Wonder Woman trailer and released scenes from Justice League. I think it’s worth noting that the fun may not be a knee jerk reaction to Batman v Superman. That film is weighted with the purpose of repositioning classic heroes in our modern world. It does so by deconstructing what a hero is. The complaint has been that the film was too dark, but I’d argue it’s not the darkness that bothered viewers (because Nolan’s films were dark) but the lack of heroism. If Batman v Superman is a long dark night before the dawn, it seems like everything afterwards may be a new day providing a more hopeful tone. The sacrifice and deconstruction in BvS can be thanked for an appreciation of such a change.
JS: Regardless of your comic book IQ, this very funny, very entertaining twist on the superhero genre is a damn good time and definitely ups the anticipation for the next DC entry more so than ever before. As Wreck-It Ralph would say:
I’m bad, and that’s good.
I will never be good and that’s not bad.
There’s no one I’d rather be than me.
RT: My thoughts exactly.
JS: Okay, same time. How many stars?
RT & JS (simultaneously): Four.
Consensus Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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