Suicide Squad Review

Ten years ago the thought of a Suicide Squad movie would have been almost unheard of. Today we live in a cinematic world where almost anything is possible. If Marvel can turn Guardians of the Galaxy into a triple a property, there’s no reason why DC couldn’t do the same with another lesser known team. This group of of villains have been around since the late 80’s, but it wasn’t until recent years that they started to become more mainstream. How did that happen? It’s tough to say. Somethings in comic world just happen gradually for no real reason in particular. The Squad film has been garnering a large amount of hype. In fact, many people I’ve talked to in the past seemed to have been looking forward more to it than Batman V Superman. The reasons for that could be an article for another day. For now, the big question is whether or not Squad is the big jump-start for the DCEU and a quality film in its own right. What we have is something that is never boring but often lacks in writing.

There was an animated film that came out two years ago called Batman: Assault on Arkham. Even though it was titled ‘Batman,’ it was really a Suicide Squad film. It is very similar to the live action one in many ways, and better. I don’t think Squad should be a copy of Arkham, but should have definitely taken more cues. For one thing, the Enchantress is an incredibly generic villain and seems out of place for the tone the film was striving for. Just about all her dialogue is pretty standard. Meanwhile the Joker is on the flip side, completely unique and commands a presence every time he’s on screen. The entire Enchantress angle wasn’t particularly engaging while the Joker in his low screen time was very good.

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It’s always a tricky endeavor when a film stars a bunch of characters. Squad manages to semi-avoid feeling overloaded. It introduces the characters one-by-one via flashbacks said by Amanda Waller. The style works for this type of film. Of course, it really depends on the quality of said flashbacks. First up is Deadshot’s. Seeing Batman was definitely a great moment and it’s very cool how the films can have things like that as one connected world. Now, the problem with the flashback here is the writing. It’s established that all Deadshot truly cares about is his daughter. The dialogue between them is extremely mechanical. It seemed like his daughter was just reading lines off a script. There was zero emotion invoked, which is a problem when the film wants the viewer to sympathize with a serial killer.

The rest of the flashbacks are simple and to the point. Harley Quinn’s of course is the best, giving the viewer insight into how she became the deranged person she is. Jared Leto’s incarnation of the Joker is the best character here, giving us a familiar yet different version of the Clown Prince of Crime. It’s a good tease when we see the Batmobile go after him and Quinn. It makes the viewer really want to see this Joker go up against Batman in a future film. Harley’s entire flashback would make for an excellent movie in its own right, and not to mention there’s some awesome references to the 90’s Animated Series and this famous picture. Since we’re on the subject of these two, first Margot Robbie as Harley was definitely a lot of fun. I look forward to seeing her again in a future installment.

Jared Leto as the Joker was one of the most hyped aspects of the film. As stated earlier, he is a presence stealer and should have been written as the main antagonist over the painfully generic Enchantress. This version doesn’t seem to be the anarchist from The Dark Knight nor the comedian from Batman 89. What we have is a unique take on the character, whom is criminally underused in the film. Sadly it’s hard to write too much about this incarnation because he simply isn’t given much to do. It remains to be seen what kind of mark this version of Batman’s greatest nemesis will leave on the cinematic world.

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As for the other members of the team, Captain Boomerang doesn’t really add anything to the story. In fact, he could be cut out entirely and it wouldn’t have mattered. Killer Croc isn’t bad, but is only memorable for having a monstrous appearance. Just about all of Croc’s lines were, as a viewer next to me called them, “Corny.” He talked little and was given a very small amount of backstory. He was pretty much just the “grunt” of the team, and nothing more. A surprise highlight was El Diablo. Jay Hernandez portrayed a man whom regrets his past and doesn’t want to use his power anymore. His mini-character arc was one of the best. Katana was fun to have around, but appeared out of nowhere and never got adequate backstory. How is the viewer supposed to accept that her sword can apparently hold souls, in just one sentence without further clarifying?

The team forms kind of suddenly by the middle act. This isn’t the problem however. The problem is some of the dialogue in the middle to last act. Just about all these characters are hardened criminals, yet later they open up like old friends. The dialogue here just wasn’t organic. The biggest culprit is the bar scene. First, the scene is very poorly placed. As the world is about to be taken over we see the characters hop into the bar to reflect. This scene just didn’t make sense at that point and felt thrown in out of nowhere. What’s worst is Flag, the army official in charge of enforcing the team, joins them. He has been their enemy all this time, and just like that he’s their buddy as well? He even says, “I need your help Deadshot” as if the latter would sympathize with him. (After all, Flag just a day ago was threatening the latter.)

Even though the writing could have been better, the team is still fun to watch together. There’s solid chemistry, it’s there, but sometimes the film tries too hard to establish a friendship between them. Harley Quinn stating “You hurt my friends” before attacking the Enchantress was supposed to be a hardcore moment, but the viewer just can’t take it seriously because the friendship just wasn’t established properly. (Not only that, but it’s apparent that she would leave them to be with Joker.)

Obviously going into a film like Suicide Squad you know there’s going to be a lot of grit and comedy to go along with it. The film takes it a bit overboard at some points. For one thing, Slipknot when he first appears punches out an officer followed by some supposedly “funny” dialogue. This was a distasteful scene, and it seemed like the film had a very negative outlook on the corrections system since almost all the guards whom appeared were very abusive to the inmates. Next is an Amanda Waller scene. When she first appears the viewer gets a sense that she’s a bit of a shady government individual. But with the dialogue on hypothetically stopping another Superman, you get a sense that she’s bending morality out of a warped sense of keeping the country safe. This a viewer can get behind, but there’s a scene later in the film where she puts bullets in all her officials because they know too much about the operation, or as her dialogue put it, “It’s above their pay grade.” This scene was done to make her even more hardcore, but ended up making her unlikable in a negative way. It was just meaningless deaths and felt empty.

Even though there’s problems with the writing, the film is on some technical aspects better than Batman V Superman. Unlike the latter, the first half is nicely paced with good, stylized action scenes and character interaction. Aside from the abrupt bar scene, the film moves at an excellent pace. The climax unfortunately isn’t particularly that memorable. It’s only slightly better than Fantastic Four’s (2015) final battle, which is mainly due to the characters being fun to watch. The soundtrack is pretty much what one expects from this kind of film. In any other film it would be out of place, but it works here. (Though the lyrics are sometimes too questionable.) The final battle theme, though some might call it standard in comparison to the rest of the film’s music, truly increased the intensity and ended up being one of the best fight themes of the year.

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Overall, there’s definitely quite a few negative things to list about Suicide Squad. This is mainly due to the writing and often choosing style over substance. However, despite these things the film is still very entertaining and the characters are diverse. Even though the dialogue isn’t quite on par with that of say The Dark Knight, one never grows tired of the proceedings. David Ayer directs perhaps the most unique comic book film yet. With better writing, we could have had a truly great film.

6.5/10

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Batman: The Killing Joke (Film) Review

The Killing Joke by Alan Moore is called by many the greatest Joker story of them all. It also has the honor of being known as one of the greatest graphic novels of all time. It has influenced portrayals of the Clown Prince of Crime, such as in The Dark Knight. An animated adaption was always highly wanted, and finally this year it has seen release. There are a few things stopping this from being the masterpiece the comic was. Still, while not being a perfect adaption, it’s a very good watch starting after the 30 minute mark.

Apparently, the content in the graphic novel would have translated to a very short film. To compensate for this, the movie added a 31 minute intro starring Batgirl. This unfortunately was the film’s biggest mistake. The intro adds absolutely nothing to the story. About 15 minutes in and the viewer is wondering if he/she is seeing the wrong film. It would have been far better and more powerful for it to start just like how the comic began: with Batman arriving at Arkham Asylum only to discover that his adversary had escaped. By the time we get to that scene the viewer has grown tired of the proceedings.

The main problem is that the intro feels completely disjointed with the rest of the film. (Not to mention it lasts almost half the run-time in a story that’s supposed to be about the Joker.) Paris Franz, a made up character, is given a lot to do and made out to be someone important. After the intro he’s never seen again. What’s worst is the controversial romance between Batman and Batgirl. This comes right out of the blue and is truly unnecessary. They have never been a couple in the comics, (not to mention that Batman’s relationship with her there has always been one of mentor/parental) so I’m not sure why it was added here. Really, most of Batgirl/Barbara’s scenes in the first 30 minutes were painful to get through.

After the beginning is when the story finally starts to adapt the graphic novel. From here the viewer starts to become focused and engaged as Mark Hamill steals the show as Joker. Just about all his lines are lifted straight from the comic, and translate well onto the silver screen. If you’ve read the story, then you know exactly what to expect. The plot here is about the Joker attempting “to prove a point,” and that’s that anyone can go insane like him because of “one bad day.” The dialogue is excellent and provides a nice look into the head of the madman.

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Of course, perhaps the most well known aspect of the graphic novel is that it served as an origin story for the Joker. (Or at the very least, a possible origin.) The flashbacks in the film are lifted straight from the pages. It’s surreal seeing them come to life. They are fascinating to watch, because very few pieces of media have provided a look at the Clown’s past. Most of Batman’s dialogue is lifted straight from the comic as well, so there aren’t really any negatives to be stated here. Like I said earlier, after the intro the story adapts the graphic novel almost word-for-word. Batman’s encounter with Joker in the climax was epically engaging as the two go back and fourth in blows & dialogue. It’s tempting to call this their best encounter in animation, but it very well might be. The soundtrack is pretty standard. There are no qualms about it, nor does it stand out. Maybe that was the point, to make sure the music is in the background so it doesn’t distract from the film.

Overall, The Killing Joke adaption isn’t fantastic, but still very good. The beginning sadly takes the viewer out of it with a lot of bad dialogue and a jarring romance between Batman and Batgirl. This wasn’t needed, and I would personally say a shorter movie cutting that out would have been better. The actual adaption of the story is very solid. It isn’t quite as powerful as the source material, but does an admirable job bringing it to life. Unfortunately, the controversial ending is even more confusing than the comic’s and leaves the viewer feeling slightly unfulfilled.

7/10