Monday, August 8, 2016

Suicide Squad Goals: A Reasonable Critique of Critics

Man, for a movie that was a box office hit, critics sure did hate Suicide Squad. It is certified “rotten” on Rotten Tomatoes with a 25% average rating among all critics and 19% among “top” critics. It is not uncommon that the disparity between what critics say and how the public react to a movie is wide, but wow...Viewers seemed to like Suicide Squad enough money and time to garner it over $135 million in box office sales. It’s Will Smith’s highest grossing opening weekend since I Am Legend, which was only $77 million! So what’s up, critics? Why so sour on the Squad?
The plot of Suicide Squad was shaky even in the comic. The US Government picks out the worst of the worst of second-tier captured supervillains and tasks them to execute covert missions that perhaps tread into a moral grey zone that groups like the Justice League wouldn’t touch. If they go rogue or go out of bounds of the mission, “Task Force X” will terminate them with a mini explosive implanted in the backs of their heads. If their ill deeds go public, the government can just throw them under the bus publicly and disavow any knowledge of their role in funding the super-assailants. Isn’t that a ridiculous plot? The US Government funding monstrous people in hopes that they’ll do good things for them? That would NEVER fly in real life...well, except maybe for when we funded Osama bin Laden. And Saddam Hussein. And the Contras of Nicaragua. And the time the US government gave all of those Nazi scientists jobs after World War II. And…
I digress. I saw Suicide Squad the day that it opened, for NYC prices. $15.95 for a 2-D matinee? Is Jared Leto going to lick my face at the end? WTF, New York?! Even though it was almost $16, it was worth it. I would have been mad if I paid the $35 and fresh kidney needed to see the 3D IMAX version, though. I knew exactly what I was getting into when I saw it. It’s a comic book movie about bad buys who do good. The plot in and of itself isn’t that original. Every other action movie has a similar “let these bad guys do good things” premise; it’s just that one of the bad guys in this one is a cannibalistic reptile man, and another one breathes fire. The writing wasn’t that great, but who the hell goes to a comic book movie for the writing? This isn’t an Octavia Butler adaptation!
There WERE a few things that made me laugh because they were sad choices. All of the main “bad guys” had elaborate Ocean’s Eleven-esque flashback motage scenes, where we learn about their abilities, their backgrounds, and how they got caught and incarcerated. All, except for one guy named Steve*, who was good with rope-play or something. He just showed up at their first assignment.
“Oh gee, I wonder if any of these bad guys is going to die on the mission. What do you think, Steve? [BLAM!!!!] ...Steve?”
Seriously, why not just put him in a red shirt and give him a tri-quarter, and call it a day?
Despite all of the hype around Harley Quinn, she was but an ancillary character to add a bit of deadly, humorous chaos to the fringes of the story. She was funny, and I liked her character, but she was not in any way the center of the show. My biggest fear was that because Will Smith was in it, he was going to ham it up as he usually does, and I’d come out thinking the movie should have been subtitled The Fresh Prince of Belle Reve. Much to my enjoyment, he hammed it up a little bit, but he played a pretty solid Deadshot. By the 1980s and 1990s, Deadshot wasn’t just some evil assassin who killed indiscriminately. He had a moral code, and he followed it. He has a broken family that is strained by his “profession”. He cares about his daughter and (at least in the comic) had a son who died pretty brutally. As choppy as the writing was, a 3-dimensional Deadshot was illustrated quite well.
By the way, the amount of angrection™-addled fanboys that come out of the woodwork to lament about how their childhoods are forever ruined because there’s a black Spider-Man or woman Thor or Pakistani Muslim Ms. Marvel or female Ghostbusters team did not come out of their tear-flooded basements en masse to hate on Will Smith’s casting. What’s up with that? Is it cool to Rule 63 and Rule 1963** your “favorite childhood characters”, as long as they’re bad guys? All the shade AND the lamp to which it is attached is thrown to you, comic book trolls.
Will Smith and Viola Davis carried the movie. Viola Davis played Amanda Waller perfectly. In the comic, Amanda Waller has been a staple in the DC Universe as one of the most ruthless, tactful, and good-but-evil entities in the world, and she has no superpowers! She stared down Superman and has cursed out Batman, referring to him IN COWL as “Bruce”. She is not to be fucked with. Imagine if Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, Olivia Pope, and Papa Pope formed Voltron. Together, They would be scared to cross Amanda Waller. I was afraid she would be watered down in this movie adaptation, like she was in Green Lantern and Arrow. NOPE! Waller was ruthless AF. There was a part in Squad where, right when you were resigned to a de-clawed Amanda Waller, she does something that makes you go, “Oh THERE it is.” It made me happy.
I know a lot of people were mad at the the portrayal of Jared Leto’s Joker, and that lack of screen time that Harley Quinn got as she tried to reunite with her pale faced lover throughout the film. Others criticized Harley Quinn’s look, which has evolved from its original harlequin style full body onesy to a pair of boy shorts and a really tight t-shirt. I get it. It is as if they were going for a specific demographic in wardrobe. It was a little bit silly that everyone else was clad in leather and armor, but Harley was wearing what you’d expect a college student to wear in her house on a hot day. People griping about her lack of screen time, or that she was the “highlight”...nooooo. Harley was a big personality, but to applaud her, I don’t know. For one thing, her relationship with the Joker is probably one of the least healthy ones in comics, and Thanos wants to fuck Death itself! It is abusive and manipulative on the Joker’s part, and it always bothered me that she was created for a CARTOON. In solo Harley Quinn books, she has come into her own as an individual, but man, her relationship with the Joker was always like if Ike and Tina murdered people for fun when they weren’t fighting. I was a bit nervous about this Harley depiction just because of that. I must say, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Joker definitely hits her in the cartoon. As for Jared Leto’s joker, yes, he looks like if a juggalo and Eminem had a baby, but he was nowhere near as bad as people made him out to be. He seemed a lot like the Mark Hamill Joker of the cartoon. He was bent on crime, and he killed for fun, and randomly. Dude killed a guy for looking at his girlfriend AFTER HE INVITED HIM TO LOOK AT HIS GIRLFRIEND. I’m fine with this portrayal of Joker. I’d like to see Leto do it again.
Despite my unimportant opinion, critics HATED Suicide Squad. Why??? I saw a lot of the reviews, saying that the premise was a bit ridiculous, and that taking such an ancillary comic book and trying to make it a big name movie was a bad idea. I wouldn’t throw shade were it not for the fact that a lot of the haters of Suicide Squad gave rave reviews for Guardians of the Galaxy, a movie based on an ancillary book full of side characters that was turned into a big movie. It has a talking tree and a machine gun toting raccoon! Nothing about that movie made sense on paper! Still, Galaxy was a hit nearly everywhere! What is up with all of the shade for Squad? Is it that the movie was carried by two black characters instead of Harley Quinn, as most people expected? I’m not saying that anyone was being blatantly racially biased, but when the box office sales were carried highly by black and Latino people, and by women who I hope are fans of the Solo Harley Quinn, it makes me wonder. Most of the bad reviews came from old white men who let Guardians and Expendables get a pass. It seems that as we keep trying to get more diversity on the screen and behind the scenes, we should probably be pushing for more diversity in the analysis as well.
Suicide Squad will NOT be my favorite superhero movie, not as long as Civil War is around, Blade is still available, and Black Panther is still in development. Also, Luke. Motherfucking. Cage. I throw shade at the massive amount of shade that it received, for being exactly what Hollywood churns out: a hyper-violent action movie with some sexual innuendo and lots of punny dialogue. But with a dude who breathes fire.

*The guy’s name is NOT Steve. I just said “Steve”, because who the hell cares? You’ll forget that he died. Bonus: It wasn’t a brother!

**I call Rule 1963 of the Internet the rule that if there is a white character, there is a brown/yellow/red/black version somewhere. Think Steve Rogers and Isiah Bradley and Sam Wilson, or Kal-el and Calel, or WOnder Woman and Nubia. You’ll see it a lot in Cosplay, but if there is an actual rule number for it, let me know. Until then, Rule 1963.

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