Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Dirty Half Dozen

The DC Extended Universe (DCEU) branches out from familiar territory (i.e. Superman and Batman) in director David Ayer’s big screen adaptation of ‘Suicide Squad.’  The “Dirty Dozen” or penal legion of comics, Suicide Squad is a circus freak show of decidedly unhero-like (downright villainous in fact) meta-human convicts and nutcases sent by the US government on suicide missions that are too risky or sensitive to accomplish by regular methods.  After the much maligned ‘Man of Steel’ and ‘Batman V Superman,’ ‘Suicide Squad’ seeks to reverse the negative trend and provide the DCEU with its first bona-fide critical success.  The initial trailer showed promise and generated a lot of buzz before events crashed and burned in typical DC fashion.
Ayer’s original vision for the movie was deemed too dark and not light-hearted enough by the studio execs.  We can hardly blame them for having cold feet; after all, light hearted and fun are what made the MCU so successful and the studio suits all had a panic attack following the thrashing ‘Batman V Superman’ took from the critics (Bats and Supes vs. the critics and lost).  Scenes were deleted and reshot, and the result is an unevenly paced and disjointed mess that really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise and bore little in resemblance to Ayer’s original version.  While it isn’t ‘Fantastic Four’ bad, SS suffers from an underdeveloped and slapdash plot that its characters can’t quite overcome.  Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) got most of the attention and character development/backstory via flashbacks.  While the latter is interesting and a joy to watch who provided much of the film’s humor, the former is one-dimensional, a sulking bore whom Ayer vainly tried to “humanize” with a contrived father-and-daughter relationship that rings hollow.  The other members of the group (El Diablo, Boomerang, Killer Croc and Rick Flag’s attack dog Katana) are simply disposable add-ons who happen to tag along, like the unlucky Slipknot (Adam Beach) who lasted all of one minute into the mission thanks to Boomerang and his own gullibility.  Here’s my final verdict.
The Good: Harley Quinn, whom Robbie injected with great fun and a chipperness that’s refreshing in an otherwise dark and dreary movie.  Honorable mention should also go to The Joker (Jared Leto) in his various appearances throughout the movie to rescue her.  I can’t believe most of The Joker scenes ended up on the cutting room floor.  Director’s cut anyone?
The Bad: The Enchantress, who resembles little more than a bad imitation of X-Men’s “Apocalypse” with her quasi-mythological vibe.  Not-so-honorable mention goes to Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller, the ruthless she-boss of the SS (no pun intended) who had no qualms about whacking her own staff just because they lacked “proper clearance.”
The Ugly: While the movie was purportedly reshot to match the tone of the initial trailer and make it more accessible to the audience (more “crowd-pleasing”), it ended up being a compromise which lacked a singular vision stylistically and tonally.  And despite all the reshoots and edits, SS still reminds us of a Zach Snyder movie: dark, rainy and utterly depressing.

Grade: C
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