Thursday, August 11, 2016

Suicide Squad

Things changed when Superman flew the skies, and then changed yet again after he’s gone, making the powers-that-be realize that the world is simply not ready for such potential threats beyond human control. Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) believes that the sure way to survival is to fight fire with fire, assembling a group of incarcerated criminals with specific skillsets whom they can throw under the bus if things go awry. Her elite team consists of: Deadshot (Will Smith), an expert hitman who never misses; former psychiatrist turned supervillain Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie); Aussie bank heist master Boomerang (Jai Courtney); pyrokinetic El Diablo (Jay Hernandez); and the reptilian Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). Their abilities and forced camaraderie are put to the test when an ancient evil entity called the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) decides that it’s high time human beings worshipped her again just like in the good old days, wreaking havoc of the supernatural kind on an unsuspecting Midway City.

Perhaps the best way to enjoy a film is to read as many negative reviews as you can, and then head to the cinema with significantly lowered expectations. Thinking about it now, I believe I’d still like Suicide Squad even if I didn’t do just that. Fine, there is a truckload of loopholes and calculated plot elements that will make you scratch your head, but the overall campy vibe and humor guarantee a fun cinematic experience, even if you opt for repeat viewings. At least it wasn’t a total snoozefest like Batman vs. Superman which came before it. Except for Wonder Woman, of course. We love Wonder Woman. She kicks ass.

Batman appears several times as a plot device to get some of the villains in jail. The Flash is also seen in a scene of less than a minute to serve the very same purpose. Other than that, the helpless government drones are left to the mercy of these mercenaries who can kill them in seconds if they wanted to, although it isn't quite clear why they don’t. Aside from the Enchantress, Amanda Waller serves as the primary villain here. Or maybe anti-villain is the more appropriate term? In any case, it's rather difficult to believe that she can control half a dozen individuals with extraordinary abilities with that smartphone of hers. You mean to say that despite the oh so amazing skills that they have, which make them such assets in the first place, they cannot disable a middle-aged government official threatening them with an iPhone? BS.

But we don’t care, because for every fault you find in the storyline, Harley Quinn only has to grunt or utter anything that doesn’t make sense to brighten up your day. Most of the laugh out loud moments in this movie come from her, and in a DC story with the ever flamboyant Joker (Jared Leto) in it, she managed to steal the limelight each and every time. EACH AND EVERY TIME. If they have one person to thank for their box office success, it’s definitely Robbie, but the rest of the cast are not that bad. In fact, it’s the acting that saves this movie from being intolerable, mostly because plenty of the fight scenes suck.

Smith also has his funny moments as Deadshot, but his character is more of the conflicted villain with an ambiguous moral compass. He's in charge of the aww moments, while Robbie takes care of the comedy. This does not mean to say that her take on Harley Quinn is one-dimensional, though. You only have to see that post-Joker scene of hers on the car to see that she nailed a really complex character. Davis as Waller is also legit, and casting her somehow gave the character an edge, a sinister reputation that you just can’t shake off. If you are a fan of How to Get Away with Murder, you’ll see many similarities in terms of portrayal, although it’s nothing really detrimental. If anything, it actually helps.

If you have seen any of the cast interviews on YouTube, you will feel the rapport among all the cast members, including the director. I see this as a double-edged sword, simply because they have brought that great chemistry with them onscreen. It’s advantageous because it makes the characters more relatable. You end up rooting for them because they feel like a circle of cuckoo friends you’d love to be a part of. On the other hand, it’s kind of weird seeing the characters feel that kind of empathy towards one another despite being what they are, sadistic criminals who are supposed to be betraying everyone for survival. And so when El Diablo decides to become really cheesy and declare his love for his “new family”, it seems very, very, very, very contrived. Dude, you’ve been with this bunch of misfits for what? Less than a day? And they aren’t even that nice to you to begin with.

All in all, Suicide Squad is a really fun movie. Just don’t be too cerebral about it. It would have been better if DC mimicked Marvel by coming up with individual films first so that half the screen time is not wasted on backstories, but perhaps that wouldn’t have worked. These are villains after all, not heroes. Here’s hoping DC would level up in the next few years. For now, just enjoy the dark humor.

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