Thursday, January 12, 2017

Suicide Squad

Year 9, Day 12 - 1/12/17 - Movie #2,512

BEFORE: It's subtle, I realize - so subtle that you might draw the conclusion that it was unintentional, but I did set out to watch some more politically-themed films in the new year, because I watched so few of them in election year 2016.  But "The Conversation" was about wire-tapping, "Reds" was about the rise of Communism, and "The Parallax View" was about political assassinations.  Let's throw "Assassins" in there, too, and even "The Specialist" was about a bomb expert who once worked for the government on covert operations.  To stretch the point a little further, we saw how the Chilean president handled a crisis in "The 33" and even got a taste of the politics and customs of the Arab world in "Ishtar" and "The Black Stallion Returns".

It's all part of my coincidental plan to get ready for life in Trump's America - I'm going to use the "Reds" tie-in to claim that I predicted this guy was in Russia's pocket all along.  Looking back, I realize that the Movie Year has only (mostly) existed under the Obama administration (I began on 1/1/09) so we don't really know yet what our cultural freedoms will be like when Pres. Twitler takes office.  Will I even be able to watch whatever movies I want and speak my mind?

And once our new Russian overlords take control of our country, who knows what else will happen?  My non-reliable cinema-based sources point to more dirty politics, including advancement by assassination (just like in the "Star Trek" mirror universe...), eavesdropping on U.S. citizens, political unrest, smuggling of Mexican artifacts (gotta get them before the wall gets built) and lots of con games and pickpocketing.  And I hope you're not too attached to that horse, because he'll probably get stolen by Arabs.

It all comes to a head tonight, as we deal with super-villains, working for the government to commute their sentences.  Don't say it couldn't happen here, because I'm about to watch the proof, as both Will Smith AND Margot Robbie carry over from "Focus".  The truth is out there...

THE PLOT: A secret government agency recruits some of the most dangerous incarcerated super-villains to form a defensive task force.  Their first mission: save the world from the apocalypse.

AFTER: This is what the DC Movie Universe looks like, in a post-Avengers, post-Guardians of the Galaxy world - it's cool to be in a group of outlaws, who preferably come with their own soundtrack of (well-worn, overused) 1970's and 80's songs.

(However, the songs they chose - ugh, each one has been used in movies about 1,000 times, so they're all really played out.  Really? "Bohemian Rhapsody"?  "Spirit in the Sky"?  "House of the Rising Sun", "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap", "Fortunate Son"?  It's a lot like listening to that classic rock station while at work, because nothing's really too edgy or will get you in trouble with the boss, but since their playlist is only about 100 songs total, you end up hearing the same stuff every damn day.)

It's also a post-Superman world, because he's umm, out of action for a while, so who's going to step up and defend the world?  That's right, the Justice League.  But it takes time to get those superheroes together, they've got to find a space for their headquarters, file the articles of incorporation, and all that - so in the meantime, we've got the Suicide Squad.  When it comes to the DC Universe, I don't read all of the comics, just the Batman and Superman lines, and I catch up with the Justice League when the trade paperbacks come out.  (Unlike Marvel, where I read about 1/2 of their books.)

So I already knew about some of these characters, particularly Harley Quinn and Killer Croc, who are Batman villains, and I know Captain Boomerang is a Flash villain from way back.  But the others, I was starting from scratch - Katana, Slipknot, Enchantress, Deadshot, Diablo and Rick Flag.  These are 2nd-tier characters at best, but then the question becomes, if you put them together on a team, and force the villains to act like heroes, can the team become greater than the sum of its parts?

For the most part, yes.  Dramatic tension is created by putting these characters in a situation where they have to serve the greater good, while their natural tendencies are to do the opposite.  And since each is trying to achieve their own goals (reduced prison sentences, visitation rights with family), these all can be folded in to achieve the larger "squad goals".  The main one, however, involves taking down one of their own members (no spoilers), who is just starting to be aware of their own true power.  From a narrative standpoint, I would have preferred to see the Suicide Squad take on an external threat, rather than in internal one, because I think the story would have been stronger if they had faced a threat that wasn't caused indirectly by the team's own formation.  In essence, the Suicide Squad is the solution that carries within its own problem.

Once again, the classic three-act structure is in play, very obvious tonight.  Act 1: Backstory, exposition, motivations, establish the team.  Act 2: Enter Midway City, climb the tower, rescue objective, minor setbacks.  Act 3: Main conflict, complications, "all is lost" moment, rally and resolution.  If I'm going to quibble over anything, it would be the fact that there was a helicopter crash in each act - very repetitive in that sense.

It's basic, but it works, and this film obviously struck a chord with fans - I saw more "Daddy's Little Monster" Harley Quinns at NY Comic-Con last October than I did "Red + Black Latex" Harley Quinns.  OK, so not many people dressed like Killer Croc or Deadshot, but I'm sure we may see an uptick in Jared Leto Joker cosplay that could eventually overtake the Heath Ledger Joker cosplay.

I almost went to see this film in the theaters last year, and I can't quite recall why I didn't - I must have gotten busy in August, playing catch-up after missing a week at Comic-Con, perhaps.  Anyway, I think it would have been a challenge to work this into last year's chain, even with the large cast.  When I realized I had another couple of Will Smith films that got re-scheduled from fall to spring, it made more sense to ask for the DVD as a Christmas gift, and build the January chain around it.  Everything in due time...

Also starring Jared Leto (last seen in "Dallas Buyers Club"), Viola Davis (last seen in "Get On Up"), Joel Kinnaman (last seen in "Run All Night"), Jay Hernandez (last seen in "The Rookie"), Jai Courtney (last seen in "Terminator Genisys"), Cara Delevingne (last seen in "Anna Karenina"), Adewale Akkinnuoye-Agbaje (last seen in "The Thing" (2011)), Adam Beach (last seen in "Cowboys & Aliens"), Karen Fukuhara, David Harbour (last seen in "A Walk Among the Tombstones"), Ike Barinholtz (last seen in "Sisters"), Ted Whittall, Jim Parrack, Common (last seen in "Run All Night"), Scott Eastwood (last seen in "Fury"), Alain Chanoine, with cameos from Ben Affleck (last seen in "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice", Ezra Miller (ditto).

RATING: 7 out of 10 nano bombs

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