Mike Thomas’s unchallenged reign of terror is over, folks. My name is Matt Waters and if you’re reading this there’s a decent chance you’ve heard my dulcet tones as co-host of The Reel World Podcast breaking down the entire X-Men and Batman franchises in recent months. If not, well… I’m Matt Waters and I’m here to make Mike regret giving me login credentials for his
blog website. And what better way to start than to come to the defense of a film widely branded as one of, if not the worst film of 2016?
I don’t like how everything is either amazing or the worst ever these days, and while I’ll be the first to admit Suicide Squad was a huge swing and a miss for Warner Bros., failing to deliver on its promise and drag the DC Extended Universe out of the gutter of brooding, it bothers me when people go to such great lengths to completely rip the thing apart. I like to think there’s a degree of merit in almost anything, and to put that theory to the test, here’s Five Things to Like About Suicide Squad. (Note: I’m being more positive than Mike already by not calling it Five Things That Don’t Completely Suck About Suicide Squad.)
Honourable Mention: Ike Barinholtz
Meet the Squad
Ahead of release, the various trailers and fan speculation pointed toward Suicide Squad being DC’s answer to Guardians of the Galaxy, using lesser-known characters to cut loose, and inject some much needed levity into the Snyderverse. And the first half-hour or so gave the impression that’s exactly what might happen, particularly the montage introducing the various members of the team complete with colourful on-screen graphics and plentiful pop music. While Harley and Deadshot’s introductions go on for too long and could have been chopped up and incorporated as flashbacks to pace the film, the material presented is all pretty solid in my opinion and sets the story up to be more fun than it ultimately ended up being.
Big Dog Amanda Waller
Huge props to Viola Davis for getting through a line-reading of “And have you heard about the pyrokinetic homeboy?” That’s up there with the writers of Point Break convincing Patrick Swayze to say “They only live to get radical” out loud. A great deal of Task Force X director Amanda Waller’s dialogue reeks of David-Ayer-Wrote-This-Film-In-6-Weeks, but Davis tackles most of it with gusto and puts in one of the film’s better performances. The actress stated that the prospect of playing a ruthless, powerful black woman in a world populated with larger than life superheroes attracted her to the role, and she certainly pulled that off, particularly the scene where she puts bullets into her entire support staff without warning. With a more refined script, more people are talking about Viola Davis as Amanda Waller.
I touched on this one earlier, but one of the major reasons audiences got excited about Suicide Squad ahead of release were the fun trailers full of licensed music that evoked Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Awesome Mix. While Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Rolling Stones are a welcome change of pace from Hans Zimmer’s grim score, it ended up being a case of too much of a good thing. The soundtrack is solid, but there were four or five songs too many, and most of them were front-loaded in the aforementioned introductory montage. Still, the officially released OST (omitting a dozen of the more well-known tracks in favour of originally commissioned material) is pretty dope.
Perhaps the biggest win for Suicide Squad is that WB have Hollywood heavyweight Will Smith under contract for multiple films. The movie’s biggest star, a great deal of the promotion fell to Smith, and despite what the Harley-centric marketing and Mike Thomas will tell you, he’s the main character. In a story filled with giant crocodile men, weird eyeball zombies and Aztec deities, Floyd Lawton is the one who makes an effort to ground it. A world famous assassin for hire who is purported to never miss, Deadshot’s pathos is centered entirely around his daughter Zoe, whose approval he desperately seeks and appears to believe he will never truly earn. The former Fresh Prince sells that inner conflict and drives the shaky plot forward as best he can, reluctantly bonding with Rick Flag along the way. He also looks like badass despite the silly mask, and the firing range scene set to Kanye West’s Black Skinhead was a whole lot of fun.
Okay, so the asterisk is important. Jared Leto’s alleged on-set behaviour aside – I’m inclined to agree with the idea that Warner themselves exaggerated or possibly entirely fabricated these rumours in a miscalculated publicity stunt – the Thirty Seconds to Mars singer’s take on one of the film industry’s most beloved villains is divisive to say the least. Attempting to follow Heath Ledger’s immortal version of the Clown Prince of Crime was always going to be difficult to say the least, and I can fully understand people being unable to accept future versions. I can also appreciate those that are put off by a heavily tattooed, gold chain wearing kingpin incarnation, sitting in nightclubs and acting somewhat more like a human being than chaos incarnate, but I personally don’t agree.
The reason I put an asterisk is that you are either going to dig Mistah J’s new look or you’re not, and I personally do. The Damaged tattoo is overkill, but I like the gold teeth used to replace his shattered ones (Ayer claims Batman did this after Joker murdered Robin), the deep green hair and pale, writhe body. It’s evocative of more recent comic book iterations that have moved away from his signature purple suit, and goes hand in hand with the more dangerous than ever take on the character. While Leto’s Joker appears to have more human drives and motivations, he is still quite clearly divorced from humanity at large, a detached psychopath through and through who looks like he would – and for the first time in live-action very much could – murder you without provocation. There’s a legitimate sense of danger to him as he struts through scenes, but without sacrificing his trademark flare for theatricality.
I’m excited for the future of this character, especially in a film with a better script that focuses on him as the key villain. Maybe The Batman.