The Last Suicide Squad Movie Review (part 2)

In my last Suicide Squad blog I talked about the history of the Squad and a synopsis of the plot.

Let’s dig deeper:

I think most critics were put off by the fumbling opening of the film. It soured them to the rest of the movie.

Our heroes – er – villains were introduced in a very comic-booky sequence. Amanda Waller sat in a restaurant with men who may or may not have been her superiors. She plunked down a dossier of each of her recruits.

Deadshot! The screen fills with his stats. Then the movie flashed back to show the character and a bit of his background (in this case, his relationship with his daughter and eventual capture by Batman).

Harley Quinn! The screen fills with her stats!

Et cetera and so on…

Works for a comic book, not for a movie. It was as bad as an obvious info dump in a science fiction novel. “As you know Bob, we are on the first manned mission to Mars!” “Yes, I know, why are you telling me this?”

***

            You know what would have worked? They could have taken this entire twenty-minute introduction and put it online two weeks before the movie opened, either as a free download or on Youtube. Wherever.

Then they could open the movie twenty minutes in: with the bad guy doing his thing in Midway City and then showing the Special Forces dragging the Squad from their cells and on to their mission.

Of course if you missed the preview you might be a little lost at first. “How can we introduce all these characters in one movie and get to know all their personalities without the previews?!” “Aaa-chooguardiansofthegalaxy …!”

Then again, if you wanted to go see the movie, you probably would have found the preview online. In this day and age do people still wander into a theater not knowing what they want to see? “Oo, this looks interesting Margaret; let’s take a chance and spend a week’s income to see THIS movie!”

It could have started a trend: Watch this mega-preview first!

And they then could have added in all these scenes rumored to be on the cutting room floor that made the movie darker or funnier depending on who you believe.

***

            There are hundreds of reviews of “Suicide Squad”. Most of them were published on my Facebook wall by frenzied fans. I agree with parts of them and disagree with parts of them. Some random thoughts:

***

            Harley Quinn was fun and not as eye-rolling as the previews led me to believe she would be. A psychopath? Sure, but at least it was toned down from her comic book-y levels. And there was one moment that was wonderful. She slipped out of character for a few seconds. When the rest of the Squad caught up to her, she held up her head, pasted on the smile and was back to her psychotic self. That’s about as close as she came to three dimensions.

And she did steal every scene she was in. It helped that she was usually near the center of every the shot…

***

            Much as been made of Jared Leto’s Joker. He was on-screen for less than ten minutes total and got second billing. Unlike what some have writ, I do not think he stole every scene he was in. But is WAS a unique interpretation of the Joker. Crazy? I suppose, but no more so than villains we have seen on TV’s “Daredevil” or “Constantine”.

The actor is purportedly miffed that his best lines remain on the cutting room floor. I believe it: his Joker is a homicidal drug-dealing gangster running a nightclub. Will Smith’s wife also did that on “Gotham” with about the same body count. Leto’s Joker leans more towards Nicholson’s crazy than Ledger’s Lord of Chaos. In fact, in the few lines he had I thought “What if Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow played Al Pacino’s role in “Scarface”? Relax, Leto fans, I’m comparing him favorably to Jack Nicholson, Johnny Depp and Al Pacino fer crissake!

Leto may or may not be back in the DC Movie Universe as the Joker, depending on the articles you read. He will have to be replaced by a DC villain who is psychotic and runs Gotham’s Underworld. Maybe the Penguin? A shame, but frankly the Joker is overused anyway.

And you don’t keep an actor who doesn’t WANT to play the character anymore! It would be like hiring someone who actively dislikes Superman to direct another … movie … Oh, yeah. I guess we WILL see Leto’s Joker soon…

***

            Will Smith was kept on a short leash and did very well with Deadshot. Granted, that of all of the Squad, he had the most characterization to sink his teeth into; but he avoided the “too cool to fool” hipness (dare I say, being Fresh?) of, for example, “Independence Day”.  Of course, a list of the things wrong with “Independence Day” would fill up a flashdrive…

He was given star billing, although Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn) and Leto got most of the press. He did a good job.

***

            Amanda Waller – more evil than even the bad guys – and Captain Boomerang – sowing seeds of rebellion and approaching Waller’s boundaries without ever crossing them – were the characters most like the comic book. The second series, of course.

 

SPOILER

            Slipknot? He was never given a preview at the beginning of the movie and introduced about a half-hour into the film. When they DID introduce him to the team, all but the most non-savvy movie-goers knew what was going to happen to him.  He might as well have been wearing a red shirt from the original “Star Trek”. His fate was so telegraphed it made the first “Jurassic Park” seem taut and suspenseful. Little things like this are why movies get bad reviews. They should have given him a preview and put him in the lineup of the movie posters, something…

END OF SPOILER

 

“Suicide Squad” wasn’t as dark as I thought. Even when Amanda Waller showed her VERY dark side, I wasn’t shocked by it.

It is relative: “Superman, The Man of Steel” being dark is shocking; “Suicide Squad” being dark is expected.

***

            So I liked it, I didn’t love it; I may or may not see the inevitable sequel. I will see “The Magnificent Seven” again. The original, not the remake. Dun dun-dundun, dundundun-dundun-dun; dun dun-dundun…

 

 

Original Material Copyright Michael Curry 2016

 

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The Last Suicide Squad Movie Review

A cast of bad guys – outright villains, misfits, killers and sociopaths each with a unique mind-set and world view – are gathered by a morally ambiguous government agent to rid a town from an evil worse than even their own members. Along the way they bicker, fight and some of them die. But eventually they become a team!

The film was called “The Dirty Dozen”.

***

            Regular readers of this blog know I rarely go to movies on the first week.  By the time I see a movie so has most of the rest of the world.

That has its advantages: smaller crowds, shorter lines; but – most importantly – by the time I get around to reviewing the movie most of the spoilers have already been spoiled! But I will still try to warn you in advance.

I saw “Suicide Squad” with low expectations. The critics savaged the film. The only ones who seemed to like it were the same cheerleaders that thought “Batman vs Superman” was the epic of their generation.

You might even say I went to the movie expecting to dislike it: Movies based on DC’s superheroes have been very dark of late. And I like neither dark superheroes nor dark superhero movies.

So imagine how I felt when they announced a movie featuring DC Villains and based on a comic that is, by this time, sloshed with the uber-violent fare typically vomited upon the comic-book-buying public.

The usual group of … Hmm, what would the collective noun be for the fans of dark DC – the films of late, most of the “New 52” comic … ah, got it!

The usual goth of DC Dark fans have drooled over every preview and picture since the movie was announced.

I kept quiet. I chose to neither get excited over the movie nor to actively say I was not going to see it. But truthfully? Had my friend not invited me to an afternoon matinee, I might never have seen it.

I liked the movie! It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t a perfect movie. No movie is perfect.

Okay, Godfather I & II are perfect … but you know what I mean.

***

            Let’s go back and do a primer on what the Suicide Squad is …

The Suicide Squad debuted in the comic book the Brave & the Bold #25 in 1959.  It had only four members, including Commander Flag, but they were all normal humans – although all were experts in their field (astrophysics, etc.).  They fought the bug-eyed monsters typical of the era – intelligent dinosaurs, aliens, beings from the center of the earth, etc. They appeared in only six issues.

The Suicide Squad disappeared until 1987, when they showed up in their own magazine. This group was firmly ensconced in the super-hero genre. As with the movie Amanda Waller gathered a group of bad guys to fight global threats. Waller said in issue #1: “the administration needs something they can disavow if things go wrong. That’s us.” Rick Flag, Captain Boomerang, Deadshot and the Enchantress among others were in that first issue. It lasted 66 issues.

Back to the movie …

So we have the evil (and we see her being truly soulless in a few scenes) Amanda Waller gathering a group of villains to fight worse bad guys led by a morally bankrupt soldier.

It’s “The Dirty Dozen”. Before that it was “The Magnificent Seven”; and before that it was “Seven Samurai”.

In fact, one of the previews shown in my theater was the remake of “The Magnificent Seven” with Denzel Washington, et. al. Tip to DC Entertainment: Don’t remind us of a legendary film, even a remake (which itself has BIG shoes to fill), before showing us your movie… Do you REALLY want us to compare them?

We have old Batman villain Deadshot, “new” (the last thirty years is hardly “new”, but I am an old fart) Batman villains Harley Quinn and Killer Croc, Flash rogue Captain Boomerang, El Diablo (a villain who debuted in 2011 in the Suicide Squad comic. This was DC’s third character named El Diablo. The first was a GREAT Weird Western star that should have gotten more page time in the 1970s), the Enchantress – who started life in 1966 as a macabre hero until the character was completely rebooted in 2011, and Firestorm baddie Slipknot.

Along the way we meet Katana, a samurai-sword wielding hero used as Flag’s back-up in case any of the bad guys get uppity.  Her sword contains the souls of everyone the sword has killed, including her husband. She talks to her husband. That’s about all we know of her in the movie. Coincidentally, her comic book debut was in Brave & Bold #200, the same comic book that debuted the Suicide Squad 20+ years earlier.

SPOILER

The Enchantress was in the group, but very quickly defected. It seems the chief bad guy is her brother. Blood is thicker than … gallons of blood.

END OF SPOILER

In the movie they were gathered to fight off future threats to earth. What if the next Superman was a bad guy? How can we fight an evil Superman?

With bullets, boomerangs and a baseball bat, apparently.

But how will they be able to control this group of killers?

In the best Amanda Waller way: threaten them! “We know about your daughter. We will reduce your sentence. And ALL of you have implants at the base of your skull that will blow your head off if you disobey.”

Dry shave!

Sorry, Dirty Dozening again…

This time it is not an alien threat but a demon from earth’s past. He and his sister are in Midway City (the home of DC’s Hawkman, although he is never mentioned) building a machine to take over the world.

So our heroes – er – villains take on the demonic duo.

Along the way they bicker, fight and some of them die. But eventually they become a team!

 

More thoughts next time.

Corporate whore department: If you are interested in the original Suicide Squad, Katana or the Brave and the Bold comic book -read my free ebook available at Barnes & Noble! http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-brave-and-the-bold-michael-curry/1120872264?ean=2940046443011

 

Original Material Copyright Michael Curry 2016

 

A review of Suicide Squad: the 1959 DC comic book team (who did YOU think I meant)?

With comic book fans a-quiver over the Suicide Squad movie, I thought we should look back to the original team!

Brave_and_the_Bold_v.1_25

“Introducing America’s Top Secret Weapon” screamed issue #25 in September 1959, “in reports never before published to the world!!”  Thus was introduced The Suicide Squad:  Colonel Rick Flagg, command pilot; Jess Bright, nuclear physicist; Dr. Evans, astronomer/astrophysicist; and Karin Davies, eye-candy, er, space-medicine nurse.  Yes, Task Force X, “known as the Suicide Squad because of the fantastic perils it unhesitatingly faces with supreme courage and unique methods.”

Rick and Karin are in love of course (typical 1950s science fiction – there’s always a female assistant who is in love with the leading man).  However, Jess and Dr. Evans love Karin too!  So Rick and Karin decide to keep their love for one another to themselves for the good of the team.  A love quadrangle would only get in the way of team missions!  This was mentioned every issue and was pretty much the sole character development.

The Suicide Squad was Robert Kanigher’s attempt at “The Challengers of the Unknown”, with wonderful Ross Andru/Mike Esposito art instead of wonderful Jack Kirby art!  The art was typical 1959 – straightforward and realistic-looking men, women and machinery.  Imaginations were let loose on the “perils” – gigantic aliens and beasts attacked our heroes non-stop.  While the artwork was good, the storylines were for the most part … well … silly; even for the times.  The perils were usually of the science-run-amuck-we-tampered-in-God’s-domain found in the “B” movies of the time.  One expected to find Peter Graves or Leslie Nelson popping in to help!

In their first story (#25: Three Waves of Doom) an earthquake awakens a dinosaur-like creature that sets fire to Tokyo er Atlantic City, freezes metal and absorbs all chlorophyll!  The Suicide Squad defeats it by tricking the beast into grasping onto a rocket and shooting it toward the sun!

The stories seem to talk down to its youthful audience.  Facts are thrown in almost as if the characters are showing off their intelligence (one character actually says, “It’s a good thing we have enough sodium manganate on board!”  What?!).

And in six issues we never learn Dr. Evans’ first name!

The Suicide Squad was given three issues to do their thing (#25 – 27) and another three-issue try-out later in 1961 (#37 – 39), without success.  The plots of the other five issues read like an edition of Weekly World News:

  • Radiation shrinks the Squad down to matchstick size, yet they must still thwart a submarine attack against America! (#26: The Sun Curse)
  • Dinosaur-like serpent attacks Paris metro, boats on the Seine and the Eiffel Tower! (#26: Serpent of the Subway)
  • Scientist turns self into ten-story reptile – carries A-bomb into city! (#27: Creature of Ghost Lake)
  • Intelligent dinosaurs from other dimension invade earth! (#37: Raid of the Dinosaurs)
  • Planeload of nuclear missiles land on island of Cyclops! (#37: Threat of the Giant Eye)
  • Alien giant’s pet pterodactyls capture warships, planes, Statue of Liberty! (#38: Master of the Dinosaurs)
  • Other-dimensional “mirage men” try to kill the Suicide Squad! (#38: Menace of the Mirage People)
  • Gigantic dinosaur-shaped spacecraft contains Jurassic zoo! (#39: Prisoner of the Dinosaur Zoo)
  • Sculptor-Sorcerer kills scientists by turning them into gold statues! (“Mr. Kanigher? The attorneys for Ian Fleming are still holding on line three!”) (#39: Rain of Fire)

The texts in the issues were interesting, albeit soon forgotten: “real” sea serpents and dragons were examined, including the one spotted in Gloucester Harbor, Massachusetts in 1817.  Another text teaches us how sonar can track a submarine.

Task Force X faded into obscurity for twenty-five years.  Keith Griffin brought back the idea of a Suicide Squad in the late 1980s as a companion to his new “Justice League” title.  This time, Rick Flagg recruits villains and minor superheroes (including fellow B&B alumni Nemesis) to do battle with evil.  Flagg even went toe-to-toe with Batman to a mutual draw (not even Superman could do that in the late 1980s!).  That version of the Squad was definitely more successful, being fully entrenched in the superhero genre.  But these six issues are the originals and a fun read: just as the Thunderbirds TV show was some years later – silly, but charming.

***

Enjoy the movie!

Excerpt from The Brave & the Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, a guide to the DC comic book. Available here:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-brave-and-the-bold-michael-curry/1120872264?ean=2940046443011