‘Suicide Squad’ is on another level

by Simon Williams on August 4, 2016

in Print Reviews,Reviews

Before I begin, an open letter to John Gilroy, the editor of Suicide Squad:

Dear John, A nifty rule you can use in your editing is called the “180 Rule.” You see it helps the audience understand the spacial relationships of-you know what no. I can’t do this. No cute preamble this time. Fuck it. Put up the rating.

[Rock Fist Way Down]

It feels like every single time Warner Brothers and DC steps up to bat, it’s the “big one”. The one that they are hanging their entire franchise and livelihoods upon. Each time we pump up the release, excitedly tittering about the trailers, and wonder whether or not this time DC will “turn it all around”.

We need to stop.

David Ayer’s Suicide Squad may well be one of the worst films ever made. No hyperbole. I’m not even saying Hollywood disaster bad, like a Waterworld or a Dune. This is Birdemic, The Room, Garbage Pale Kids level bad. It’s so bad it becomes fascinating in its awfulness. It’s infuriating and at times physically painful to watch but goddamn I can’t stop thinking about it. Every single decision across the board is so wrong that all you can do is watch the mayhem and wonder “Who the hell thought that was a good idea?” It’s so bad that I kind of want to encourage people to see it just because of how massive and total a wreck it is. Not a trainwreck, mind you, more a party bus crashing headlong into a 7/11. It’s trashy, sleazy, small, sad and coated in neon and bad life decsions.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

Suicide Squad starts off with wobbly footing right at the opening logos, where by Warner mandate the logos are given a gritty, colorful but ugly reimagining ripped straight from Mad Max: Fury Road. Seriously. Change the purple to red and add Tom Hardy mumbling over it and it’d be identical. Now in Mad Max, these credits are awesome, because they instantly put you into the tone and world of fire and blood, but more than anything else they’re surprising. It’s shocking to not just see the standard logos. Here, all they do is remind you “WE WON SOME OSCARS LAST YEAR REMEMBER!?!”

We then go to a pre-titles preamble showing Will Smith and Harley Quinn< (that’s basically who they are as none of Margot Robbie’s charisma comes through the makeup and Will does nothing to be anything other than himself) in the prison whose name doesn’t matter, and already you can tell that most of the team doesn’t matter. It’s also here where we see that every scene change will be given a different pop song to play over it, and as the scene changes so will the song.

Every scene.

Every. Goddamn. Scene.

And when we come back from the credits we get a series of flashbacks with Viola Davis’ narration over it as she describes all the members of the team, and this formula truly shows how painful it is. We get flashbacks for all of them, all long and rambly and overly described. This is also where the editing begins to go nuts. You ever seen Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? Think that, but faster. Except that film was awesome because it was actively recreating the effects of acid, where this just feels rushed and over the top and AUGH.

Sorry. I’m trying to stay on point.

It’s hard to talk about everying that’s wrong with this film without it just becoming a checklist. I’m the wrong person for this thing we need a Cinemasins right out the gate. Believe me reader, I’m trying, I’m trying so hard to talk about this film as clearly and directly as I can but jesus this is hard. Nothing works. It looks like a Lisa Frank poster hanging in an emo kid’s room who drew all over it in sharpy. The dialogue is so blatant and obvious it genuinely sounds like it was written by a fifth grader. It’s emotional beats are not only telegraphed for days in advance, it still finds a way to make those beats feel half-assed.

And I’m losing myself again.

This is already becoming the most scatalogical review I’ve ever written, I’m sorry. It’s hard for me to focus on one thing about this film because every time I begin a paragraph I remember more things wrong with it and I go on a tangent.

You see here’s what amazes me: Batman vs. Superman was bad. Awful, in fact. But it was awful in a grandiose, epic, impressive way. It makes you question the studio system, superhero films as a genre, the limitations of artists and the sins of their hubris. It’s bad in a way that makes you really think about what can make a film go wrong.

This is kind of the opposite. It’s bad in blatant, obvious, simple ways. It doesn’t feel like the studio interfered too much or that the makers cared too much about their own egos or that the ideas they had at the outset got lost in translation or didn’t work on the screen as they hoped. It’s bad in that every idea they had was so obvious or so strange, so forced and so byzantine that it’s baffling as to why any of them were made in the first place. It’s actually rather impressive, it’s not just that Warner Brothers and DC are making bad films, it’s that they have such a mastery of it that they can make such a wide variety of bad films!

Okay I joked earlier about a checklist but that may well be the best way to handle this flaming pile of Slipknot posters.

- It’s clear from the outset that the only character the movie cares about are Harley, Will, random soldier man and token Hispanic person (and I swear, noble intentions sure but it feels more like the cast is diverse for no other reason than to fill a mandate). They’re the only ones with arcs and they’re the only ones with screentime. Of the characters not-them, we have Killer Croc (who does literally nothing of consequence the entire film and I keep forgetting (seriously) he was in it), Katana (who really is just the “For my Family” beat in Pacific Rim as a character. Not Rinko Kikuchi’s character again, just that one beat because that alone can make a personality right?), and the Boomarang guy who SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN INVITED TO THE PARTY. HE’S NOT A METAHUMAN, HE’S NOT A SOLDIER, HE’S NOT MAGIC, HE’S NOT SMART OR CRAZY OR STRONG OR ANYTHING HELPFUL IN THE SLIGHTEST HE JUST HAS BOOMARANGS. HE’S A FUCKING BANK ROBBER WITH BOOMERANGS WHY IS HE HERE!?!

(Catches breath)

I’m sorry for losing it on the first bullet point but I just… I just… WHY? WHO INVITED HIM? Fuck this movie.

- A lot of screentime is given to Jared Leto‘s Joker because of course it is, and I’m convinced the other actors were scared of him throughout shooting. Nobody seems comfortable around him. Hell look at press photos and how Leto never appears in the group pics. He plays the role as a meth-head, crime-boss version of the famous and definitive Heath Ledger turn. Same gravel, same mannerisms, but with an added air of drug-induced mania and a floatiness that feels totally out of place. He never once seems to have control of the situation, and he seems like he has no idea what he’s doing. I’d be genuinely surprised if Leto wasn’t high the entire shoot because the character comes across that way.

- This movie officially breaks flashbacks. No more flashbacks, at least for awhile. Cinema needs to heal. It opens with a solid 20 minutes of nothing but flashbacks and that’s just where it starts. Easily 40% of this movie is forced flashbacks, including one to A SCENE WE SAW EARLIER IN THE FILM. It’d be one thing if they were a natural way of telling the story but instead every one has narration over it detailing every single thing that happens so we never get confused or scared or have to think. Not a single image passes by without someone narrating every single element going on within through the entire film,

- The action is totally flat, often forced, bloodless, over-choreographed and confusing. You never once have any idea of what is happening, where the characters are, the dynamics of the fight or really anything else to make us care. Add that the characters are shrouded in magical plot convenience cloaks to make sure they never even get hurt and you have a movie that is mostly action that never gets exciting even once.

- The film has a big, dramatic character death, but it happens so quick and has so little affect on the following film the friend I saw it with FORGOT IT HAPPENED. It’s the emotional centerpiece of the film and one of the main characters passing, but it’s so poorly handled it’s possible to not even notice the character died.

- The film is shockingly sexist. Harley is a feminist comics icon for the way she uses her sexuality, but here that sexuality is all for male gaze. The camera leers at her like it’s a Budweiser commercial. There’s also a beat where Adam Beach (oh I remember something) punches a woman as he gets out of a car and his only words are “she had a mouth” and we’re supposed to laugh. That’s, like, season one of Mad Men level sexism, right? Am I making this up?

- ADAM BEACH! Poor guy what’ve they done to you in Hollywood. Beach, a first nations actor, who made his name in Clint Eastwood and Spielberg movies, now appears as a guy whose name I don’t even think is mentioned who appears as a member of the team for five seconds (he’s not in prison with the rest of the group, rather he’s brought out in a black SUV with no intro) and is killed in the second scene he’s in just to show the audience how the explodie things in their necks can kill them.

Fuck this movie.

- Okay one part I absolutely love: Cara Delevingne in super mode. Delevingne’s Enchantress comes in two forms, Original Recipe and Super Saiyan. Her basic level is the shrouded in black girl from Ringu you’ve all seen in the trailers, but she turns into a more powerful version wearing Mayan drapery and when she’s there I swear she’s the funniest goddamn thing I’ve ever seen. She speaks in this weird, out-of-place sultry deep voice and she swivels and moves about like a Garry’s Mod glitch. It’s amazing and every time she appeared on screen I was laughing hysterically. She even has her own little court-turned-temple area so she can be the final boss and it’s just amazing. Not intimidating in the slightest but after all the insanity the rest of the film threw at me I needed a good laugh and Delevingne was there to fucking provide.

Also, I’m calling it: Inviting an ancient miscellaneous pre-Columbian witch in-country and trying to bend her to your will by stabbing her heart with a pen is the worst decision Movie Shadow Government has made in the history of Movie Shadow Government. Calling it here now.

- The last two-thirds of this film just bleed together. It’s an endless expanse of senseless, grey action beats with no dynamics that just go on forever with occasional quips and, yes, more flashbacks and the only moments that stand out are the obvious reshoot scenes. They’re gags shot for the trailer that are, for the mostpart, the EXACT same beats as they are in the trailers themselves. They’re so jarring.

This movie is so bad it actively sucks goodness out of other movies. It’s a cinematic blackhole. It takes the opening credits of Mad Max and makes them flavorless and childish. It takes the music cues of Goodfellas and makes them annoying. It takes the joyous anarchism and genre hopping of The Lego Movie, I am Curious: Yellow, Kill Bill and A Clockwork Orange and makes it ugly, silly and tepid. It makes you mad at Citizen Kane for opening the door to flashbacks as a legitimate cinematic device.

I’ve barely scratched the surface here. I’ve not touched upon the editing, which despite having the lovely John Gilroy (Nightcrawler, Pacific Rim, Michael Clayton) credited was mostly done in-house by the trailer editors, making the whole thing feel rushed, awkward and flabby with no sense of pacing. I’ve not touched upon the egregious use of slow motion, which is scattered seemingly at random through the action beats like so much spice on an underwhelming pizza. Although I’ve touched on it, I feel I really need to enforce and reiterate just how omnipresent and forced the pop songs throughout are. There’s so much wrong it’d be funny if it weren’t for how much money this thing will make.

How do we let this keep happening?

Remember the days when where a movie in a franchise was bad, we stopped seeing the movies? What happened to that? Why don’t we do that anymore? It’s like because every single one of these has a panel at comic-con we will forgive all sins as long as the trailer looks decent. The studios have us wrapped around their thumb and no matter how much we complain WE KEEP FEEDING INTO THEM. We cannot say we hate the reboots and sequels and franchise fodder if it’s all still making money. We need to either stop letting them do this to us or accept our place as the studio system’s Sub.

After this gets panned, people will still be excited for Wonder Woman and Justice League and whatever else Warner Brothers forces down our throats. They’ll never stop and think to themselves “hmm. Maybe I should reconsider my excitement for this product,” and for the life of me I cannot understand why.

DC is 0 for 3 so far. 4 if you count attempt 1.0 with Green Lantern. How is this not affecting us? If we went to a restaurant, and all four times we went there the food gave us food poisoning, we wouldn’t go again because they’re “adding more humor” or “bringing on Ben Affleck.” We’d fucking STOP GOING TO THAT RESTAURANT.

Man of Steel was ugly, confused and failed the execution of what good ideas it had. Batman vs. Superman was a heartless slog that was made entirely out of leftover parts of better material after they’d been left out to rot. Now, Suicide Squad is a bizarre, angry mess that apes Tarantino and Hot Topic aesthetics to recreate the sensation of being in a My Chemical Romance concert while having a bad trip on DMT where your spirit guide is Will Smith with a beard trying so desperately to finally get his comeback on the track that he willingly commits himself to a script where the emotional climax involves the words “You don’t have the balls” played totally straight.

Suicide Squad is magically bad. It’s shockingly bad even if you go in with expectations lower than the Earth’s mantle. It’s labyrinthian in its badness, with bad decisions within bad decisions within bad decisions. Don’t fight the critic and don’t blame Marvel fanboyism, accept it. Please, don’t pay money for this and more than that don’t let Warner Brothers keep getting away with this. These people aren’t learning from their mistakes and because of us they don’t have to.

And yet I can keep going after that. There’s so much more to say here. I can’t properly review this thing. This film defies criticism. It’s like it’s actively trolling me, mocking me for thinking I can define what makes a film good or bad. It flaunts its badness like a peacock flaunts its feathers. I’m genuinely shocked this is the movie Warner Brothers made, and that it’s not secretly the Asylum rip-off snuck into theaters. Pessimists of the world, no matter how bad you think this film could be, nothing can prepare you for just how out there this thing is. It’s transcendent. It has evolved beyond our mortal perceptions of bad and has reached enlightenment. It is the Bad Cinema Buddha.

At least this one’s properly exposed.

And sure. I’ll still see Wonder Woman.

Whatever.

Simon Williams

Simon Williams is a media critic and filmmaker originally from Columbus Ohio. He makes short films about sad people who don’t speak their minds because he himself is a sad person who does not have that issue.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Robert August 6, 2016 at 5:11 pm

So other than that, how was the movie?

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2 dude_relax August 8, 2016 at 12:03 pm

I don’t really know why I decided give another one of your reviews a chance. Maybe I thought you’d try to grow as a writer. The irony is that everything you’ve accused WB/DC of is the same thing I see in your writing. You just shit on films to provide yourself with some sense of superiority above what you don’t like. It did seem that you gave a little more attention to the film this time, so I’ll grant you that, but not nearly enough. I hope one day, if you get your big break, that you’ve grown out of this sophomoric writing and make a great film.

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3 Giogi Pogi August 9, 2016 at 1:06 pm

I agree 100% to every single word you have written. I fully share your feelings. I was also genuinely shocked—and I mean literally SHOCKED—how bad this “movie” is. It is shockingly bad. I honestly cannot believe how bad it is. Your review is absolutely on point.

However, I will say this. Suicide Squad will come handy as something of a “taste” barometer. From now on, anybody who doesn’t give it a 0 out of 10 rating will lose all credibility to my eyes!

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