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Review: ‘Suicide Squad’ is a Guilty Pleasure Worth Admiring

suicide squad review

Note: This review is spoiler-free, but it does contain a major spoiler from the ending of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. You have been warned.

When it comes to comics that center around bad guys defeating even worse guys (and gals), Suicide Squad is one of the most lasting and recognizable of the lot.

It wasn’t the first book to be about villains, of course (though this movie is the first comic book film to have a main cast of villains as characters). But it was one of the first that was actually successful. And that’s probably because Suicide Squad essentially defined the idea of reluctant heroism found in the vilest of our society.

That’s tricky territory, because it presents a philosophical debate that modern society is mostly split on: Are people inherently bad, or are they tainted by an inherently bad world? 

suicide squad review

Fortunately, Suicide Squad doesn’t dwell on these questions for easy dramatic fodder (at least, not as much as it could have). Instead, it takes a note from some of Marvel’s recent films by emphasizing character over spectacle, at least with some of its titular bad guys.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the set up of Suicide Squad from the comics — of which the 80s run is still the best — the idea is simple. A shady black ops leader named Amanda Waller (played by Viola Davis) wants to assemble her own team of metahumans, like Superman, and unhinged specialists, like Batman, in the wake of Superman’s death from the end of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.

The team is codenamed “Task Force X,” but as one of their recruits points out early on in the film, they’re really a “suicide squad” in the sense that they’re not expected to live through the mission that takes up the majority of the film. And that’s because most members of Task Force X are dangerous villains, accompanied by a Colonel and “good” metahuman to reign them in.

As noted earlier, the structure of Suicide Squad is brazenly different from typical superhero and comic book films. It’s focused and constrained to one major location, a familiar technique if you’re caught up with director David Ayer’s other work.

suicide squad review

And the decision to limit Suicide Squad to one mission ends up being one of the film’s greatest strengths, because by the end credits, the viewer is left feeling as if they’ve gone through a significant ordeal with these characters, even if the movie doesn’t always stick the landing with some of its big moments.

There’s as much good as there is bad with Suicide Squad, in the sense that Ayer and his team succeeded at getting this movie right where it really counts — notably with  standout characters like Deadshot (played by Will Smith). The problem is that like previous entries in the DC comics cinematic universe, Suicide Squad just doesn’t sweat the details enough.

These details include basic plot mapping (the opening scenes, for example, are a glaring mess), action set pieces (especially toward the end), and the film’s worst offense: its script. Though Suicide Squad has its moments of surprising and smile-inducing dialogue, a great deal of it comes off as hastily tacked on in order to elicit a reaction, usually humor.

For that reason, Suicide Squad practically forces the viewer to accept it in a very specific way. That is, it’s painted and executed as a guilty pleasure movie, and you get the sense that the movie has no aspirations for self-importance or melodrama. Which makes it an easy film to get lost in and just enjoy, without having to “turn your brain off,” for the most part.

suicide squad review

One of the reasons the movie swings more toward guilty pleasure has a lot to do with the care Warner Bros. has put into better fleshing out its world of DC characters, and a good number of them are paraded beautifully. As revealed in the early trailers, Batman (reprised by Ben Affleck) has a small presence in this film, and it plays out about as well as his best moments from Batman v Superman, without any of the confusing quirks added to the character.

And it goes without saying that Suicide Squad is brimming with loving references to other DC stories, reminiscent of how shows like Arrow and The Flash insert subtle asides for eagle-eyed viewers. Put simply, this is the first DC comics movie that does a good job of establishing a coherent personality for this world of heroes and villains, while also integrating it in a more graceful way than we’ve seen in the past.

The only weak link worth mentioning is certainly the Joker (played by Jared Leto), who is balanced with the other characters in this film in a gratifying way so as not to steal the spotlight. This ends up being for the best, though, because this is easily one of the most uninteresting depictions of the Joker of all time, not just in the movies.

Granted, the movie works hard to dress Leto up as the Joker, and sparse dialogue certainly sounds like something Joker might say. But upon close inspection, this version of the Joker does virtually nothing reminiscent of what’s fundamental to the character. There’s nothing he truly does that sets him apart from a flamboyant crime boss/pimp who wants to find his girlfriend.

suicide squad review

Yes, he wears funny costumes. Yes, he looks weird and kills people. But there is far more to the Joker than “oh by the way” scenes of him laying on a floor surrounded by knives. And that’s because his only true motivation in this film is to get Harley Quinn back. There’s no chaos, comedic insanity, or diabolical planning to anything he does or wants to do in the film. He simply acts like he is crazy, rather than truly showing it, and it’s one of the film’s biggest disappointments.

Thankfully, Joker is not the crux of Suicide Squad. Far from it. So it’s easy to overlook the shortcomings of his character in lieu of this film as its own standalone story. It’s not easy, though, to overlook the fact that too many characters in Suicide Squad have poorly fleshed out character ideologies that make sense of their own payoffs toward the end. They do it in spades for Deadshot and Diablo, but that’s about it.

Lastly, the soundtrack does little to enhance or even complement the story, instead only reminding viewers that Guardians of the Galaxy did a much better job integrating a playlist with the rhythm of its plot (as proven by the film sharing one of the same songs from Guardians). In Suicide Squad, it really just feels like the music was added out of obligation, not because it was essential to the scene it was put in.

suicide squad review

And better thought (and edits) put into the scenes is all it would have really taken to make Suicide Squad a better movie than what we’ve gotten, which is a guilty pleasure that only looks good by comparison to the in-universe movies its attached to.

Grade: C+

Extra Credits:

  • There’s a mid-credits stinger and…well, it’s not that relevant or surprising, honestly.
  • I’m not a fan of most David Ayer movies, so Suicide Squad sort of defied the odds in my case. According to all the evidence, I should have hated this movie.
  • The chemistry of the cast is one of the film’s biggest strengths, as emblemed by the fact that a lot of them got “SKWAD” tattoos for the movie.
  • It’s not saying much, but this is my favorite live-action depiction of the Suicide Squad. That’s what full Will Smith can do for a film.
  • A standalone Harley Quinn movie featuring other DC femme fatales has been announced by Warner Bros., but it’s likely that the success of Suicide Squad will still determine whether or not that actually happens.
  • For once, Cara Delevingne wasn’t one of the worst characters in a movie.

    I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

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Forget a Sequel, ‘Hancock’ Should Just Be a TV Series

Remember that Will Smith movie from 2008 about a homeless superhero who’s bad at being a superhero?

Well, Hancock is likely getting its long-awaited sequel soon, despite how “meh” the original was after the first hour. In fact, I speculated on what I would love to see from a Hancock follow up two years ago, and young Jon Negroni simply argued that the hero, Hancock, deserves his own superhero team. And you know what? I stand by how fun that sounds.

HANCOCK

Except now I believe the Hancock story should be reimagined as a series, perhaps with a new cast. You can blame the success of streaming hits like Daredevil and House of Cards for getting me on the Netflix content bandwagon.

The interesting thing about Hancock is that it isn’t a superhero adaptation. It’s actually based on a story dreamed up by Vincent Ngo, a writer/producer who came up with the character of Hancock back in the mid-1990s.

Of course, stalls in development kept the film in limbo for over a decade, but this world of fallen angels being reluctant superheroes is still ripe for exploitation. And thanks to Hancock‘s somewhat bittersweet ending, a reboot/refresh sounds very appealing to fans like me.

HANCOCK

See, the movie itself was pretty fun up until the third act, when it rushed its “serious” plot with a weird twist and underpowered finale. But imagine how much more entertaining the origin of Hancock would be if it was given a full season of episodes to build up its lore with the same comedic timing and exciting action sequences.

If I was in the writer’s room, I’d prefer Ngo’s original take on the story, where Hancock has a stronger relationship with Aaron, the young son of Ray and Mary. It’s a more interesting dynamic that doesn’t need the weird sexual tension built between Hancock and Mary to drive the plot. Instead, you have a broken, lonely man with powers slowly becoming a hero alongside a kid who adores him. Now that sounds like a TV show premise worth pitching.

When you rewatch Hancock, you’ll notice that his motivations for going along with Ray’s “PR rebranding” are pretty weak when you think about it too much. Hancock suddenly decides he wants people to like him, seemingly out of nowhere. But it makes way more sense if Hancock builds a realistic friendship with Aaron, which eventually leads him to discovering the truth behind his powers.

HANCOCK

In other words: more Hancock and Aaron. Less weird love triangle stuff. Oh, and more action.

Now imagine all of that stretched out over 13 episodes of a grisly weirdo learning how to be super. And then contrast this concept with the over saturation of comic book movies and TV shows about people who fight crime because it’s the right thing to do.

You know, while Hancock just does it because shrug whatever.

I love the idea of a Hancock series, especially with a new cast and refreshed plot that can deviate from what we saw in the movie by actually including real villains (not just a bunch of bank robbers).

As for casting…well, you can decide that for yourselves in the comments.

 

Thanks for reading! If you like this blog, you can subscribe for weekly updates by clicking the “Subscribe” button on the right sidebar. Or just follow me on Twitter for the latest updates – @JonNegroni

 

What is the Best Will Smith Movie? (Podcast)

best will smith movie

Click here to download this week’s episode. Or just press play above.

Hey conspirers! This week on the show, we review Will Smith’s latest movie, Focus. But we also discuss our favorite Will Smith movies and quiz each other on some new trivia for the movie.

So our question of the week is pretty simple! What is the best Will Smith movie in your opinion? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

In our new segment, TWIL (this week I learned), we each bring our own news story in the world of entertainment that you might find pretty interesting. Links below.

As always, we serve up our Netflix Recommendation of the Week and finish the show with movie releases for this coming weekend.

Enjoy the show, and be sure to rate the show and subscribe on iTunes! We always appreciate your awesomeness.

Cool things we mentioned:

Mary Poppins sings Death Metal

Leonard Nimoy’s amazing, final Tweet (RIP)

Ducktales is coming back. On Netflix. Seriously.

Song of the week:

Young Chasers by Circa Waves. Their new album, T-Shirt Weather, has just been released!

Now Conspiring: Best James Bond Movie, Suicide Squad & Deadpool News

james bond suicide squad deadpool

This week on the Now Conspiring podcast, Maria and I debate all things James Bond in light of the Bond 24 announcement. Which James Bond/James Bond movie is the best? We want to know your thoughts too!

We also discuss TONS of Marvel and D.C. news that flooded the Interwebs this week, including Suicide Squad casting and the official news coming out of the upcoming Deadpool movie. And as always, we list the new movies coming out next week that you don’t want to miss.

Enjoy the show!

To stay updated on our weekly episodes, subscribe to Now Conspiring on iTunes.

DC’s ‘Suicide Squad’ Movie to Star Will Smith, Tom Hardy, Jared Leto and More

suicide squad movie

Borys Kit | THR

Will Smith, Tom Hardy, Margot Robbie and Jared Leto are officially set to star in Suicide Squad, Warner Bros. announced Tuesday.

Also cast in the movie based on the DC Entertainment villains-forced-to-be-heroes are Jai Courtney and Cara Delevingne. Much of the castings have been previously reported, but the studio also confirmed which characters the actors will play.

Smith will play Deadshot, best known as a Batman villain, while Hardy plays the group’s leader, Rick Flagg.

Leto will take on the Joker, while Robbie will play Harley Quinn, his on-and-off girlfriend. Courtney will be Boomerang, while Delevingne, the model-turned-actress who is also in Warners’ Pan tentpole, will play Enchantress, a sorceress.

Is anyone else shocked that Will Smith’s superhero debut (Hancock notwithstanding) is not just as Deadshot, but in an ensemble role?

Tom Hardy pulling a Chris Evans and being TWO characters within the same universe?

Jared Leto playing…Well, OK the Jared Leto as Joker part makes perfect sense.

Anyway, this movie could be really good. You know, as long as Jaden Smith stays plenty far away from it.

We Should Give “Hancock” His Own Superhero Team

www.gdefon.com
www.gdefon.com

As much as we love The Avengers and the idea of The Justice League hitting the big screen, Columbia Pictures should roll out an original stream of movies with Will Smith leading the way.

Go on…We Should Give “Hancock” His Own Superhero Team

Review: ‘After Earth’

Despite having Will Smith under its banner, After Earth is nothing more than a high-concept afterthought.

Go on…Review: ‘After Earth’

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