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The Suicide Squad – Review | A Bold And Bombastic Bloodbath

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Has it really been five years since since David Ayer’s much derided (yet profitable) film Suicide Squad graced our screens? Maybe it feels less than that because many of us still have a bitter aftertaste left in our mouths after we first consumed it. I may still harbour some resentment toward Ayer’s film, mainly because of just how spectacularly short it measured up to expectations. The marketing for it was phenomenal but what we ended up with was a turgid, studio-meddled monster of a film.

But despite the fact it was universally panned, Suicide Squad was still a hugely profitable film – raking in over 746 million dollars worldwide. And even more bizarrely the DC movie can also brag that it won an Oscar before Marvel did. It won the Academy Award for best hair and makeup in 2017. 

Studios always always ALWAYS follow the money so it didn’t take long for Warner Brothers to give the green light on a sequel. 

But one of the things that makes us human is our ability to learn from our mistakes and WB have done just that. Instead of bringing David Ayer back to helm a followup, WB and DC snatched up one of the golden boys of their biggest competitors; James Gunn. He was unceremoniously sacked from his third volume of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise due to problematic tweets from his past – only to then be hired back a few months later following fan and cast petitions. 

At the time though Marvel’s loss was the DCEU’s gain. Given his crude and hyperactive sensibilities, James Gunn was the perfect candidate to give Suicide Squad a much needed do-over. Besides the swanky new “The” in front of the title, The Suicide Squad is more vibrant, violent and ultimately a much more enjoyable film than its predecessor. But having said that…it wasn’t exactly a tall hurdle for Gunn to leap over now was it?

THE SUICIDE SQUAD (L-r) JOEL KINNAMAN as Colonel Rich Flag, ALICE BRAGA as Sol Soria, DANIELA MELCHIOR as Ratcatcher 2, KING SHARK, IDRIS ELBA as Bloodsport and JOHN CENA as Peacemaker

In this iteration, cold-as-ice Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) once again assembles a team of captured supervillains to do her bidding. The team includes mistress-of-mayhem Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), expert marksman Bloodsport (Idris Elba), burly Peacemaker (John Cena) and a bunch of other misfits from Belle Reve prison. As Task Force X, their mission takes place on Corto Maltese where they must infiltrate a facility known as Jotenheim and destroy all evidence of something known as Project Starfish. If they are successful they will have 10 years removed from their sentence. If not – they die. And yes, Gunn isn’t afraid of killing off characters so try not to get too attached to them.

The 2016 film was disjointed, tonally-uneven and felt like it was held together by a bunch of popular and often mismatched-to-the-scene needle drops. Gunn’s version has more structure. He fuses imaginative action set-pieces with off-colour humour. Hmmm I wonder where he could’ve possibly gotten that from? But trust me, this ain’t not Guardians copycat – the R rating makes sure of that. It feels totally distinct thanks to the gratuitous and bloody violence that’s on display.

You can tell that everybody involved in this movie was having a blast on set. Everyone looks like they showed up to work on a playground – and got paid handsomely to do so. Who wouldn’t be happy? This film is positively radiating glee. From the actors performances, to the spirited visuals, to the seriously impressive CGI and very crisp camerawork in the action sequences. The editing is much cleaner than before and it’s simply more pleasing on the eye.

There’s no denying Gunn is a very capable director of superhero blockbuster movies but frustratingly he does repeat a mistake the Ayer was guilty of; favouring spectacle over character. The script is packed with lewd humour (a rant about a character named Milton had my sides splitting from laughter) but it’s also bloated with far too many characters – many of which don’t get much to do.

Joel Kinnaman returns to play Colonel Rick Flag but somehow feels like a passenger among the ensemble. As a commanding officer he lacks agency and is outshined by reluctant leader-of-the-cons Bloodsport (a terrific Elba) and the machismo Peacekeeper (Cena playing the same thing as always). 

Margot Robbie is as reliable as always as the unpredictable Harley Quinn, providing most of the laughs and the rare moments of emotionality. However it’s never made clear why she’s all of a sudden back in Waller’s custody – last we saw she was off with her Birds of Prey. What happened there? It’s unclear. But the fan favourite character certainly deserved more to do than a tacked-on subplot involving a whirlwind romance with a ridiculously sexy Guatemalan leader.  It all felt a bit unnecessary. 

As for the abundance of new characters, only a handful make an impression. Sylvester Stallone’s King Shark is to The Squad what Groot is for Guardians – a lovable creature with limited speech abilities but is also a lethal fighter. But the MVP is David Dastmachian’s tormented Polka-Dot Man. This is Dastmachian serving a delicious slice of awkward loner misfit whose very easy to sympathise with. His power is exactly as advertised – he fires deadly colourful polka-dots and the world of cinema is better off for having this character now.

But the vast majority of new characters barely get an introduction – let alone any development. There’s lots of familiar famous faces but many of their appearances can be described as a glorified cameo. Why are they here? Mostly to serve as cannon fodder. This is without question the bloodiest and most gruesome film in the DCEU. But the issue is because there’s little-to-no time to get invested in the smorgasbord of players, none of the deaths hit with any weight – regardless of how excessively pulpy their demise might be. 

Getting sliced to death by helicopter blades might be satisfying for a moment but when you leave the cinema you don’t savour the death because you didn’t feel attached to the character. 

Perhaps the most disappointing of all the new additions was Peter Capaldi’s villainous Thinker whose motivation and backstory in Project Starfish are watery at best.

The Suicide Squad is definitely more polished than the 2016 outing but it could’ve done with a couple more rewrites. It’s a bombastic action movie; it’s loud, chaotic, stylish and colourful but there’s a lot of empty noise. However, if you’re looking for an excuse to get back to the cinema then I highly recommend seeing this audaciously daft film on the biggest screen possible.

★★★★☆

The Suicide Squad is in cinemas worldwide Friday 30th July and is also available on HBO Max in certain regions. 

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Comic Book Movies

The Batman | Official Theme By Michael Giacchino Is Here

In his second year of fighting crime, Batman uncovers corruption in Gotham City that connects to his own family while facing a serial killer known as the Riddler.

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Genre:

Action, Crime, Drama

Release Date:

March 4, 2022

Director:

Matt Reeves

Cast:

Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz, Colin Farrell, Paul Dano, Andy Serkis, Peter Sarsgaard, John Turturro, Jeffrey Wright

Plot Summary:

The Batman is an upcoming American superhero film based on the DC Comics character of the same name. The film is being produced by DC Films and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, and is a reboot of the Batman film franchise. The film is directed by Matt Reeves, who wrote the screenplay with Mattson Tomlin.

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Disney +

Marvel Studios’ Moon Knight | Official Trailer | Disney +

A former U.S. marine, struggling with dissociative identity disorder, is granted the powers of an Egyptian moon god. But he soon finds out that these newfound powers can be both a blessing and a curse to his troubled life.

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Genre:

Action, Adventure, Drama

Release Date:

March 30, 2022 (Disney +)

Creator:

Doug Moench

Cast:

Starring Oscar Isaac, Ethan Hawke, Gaspard Ulliel

Plot Summary:

A former U.S. marine, struggling with dissociative identity disorder, is granted the powers of an Egyptian moon god. But he soon finds out that these newfound powers can be both a blessing and a curse to his troubled life.

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MCU

Opinion | No Way Home Can’t Actually Be Nominated For Best Picture, Can It?

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Yes, I realize that my previous opinion column was also all about superhero movies, but given that we are heading into awards season, the idea of a Best Picture push for Spider-Man: No Way Home seems asinine. I cannot be the only one that feels this way, but after seeing tweets in support of Sony’s For Your Consideration campaign, it sure feels like it.

Let me preface by saying that I loved No Way Home. Not the 1996 Tim Roth movie, which was filmed in my neighborhood in Staten Island, but the latest MCU flick. I should also say that it has felt as if Marvel has tried to lose me as a consumer; Black Widow was horrendous, Shang-Chi fumbled the ball in the third act, and Eternals was hot trash trying to disguise as something it wasn’t: artistic. Had my sister not gone with me to see it, I would have walked out. And the MCU shows have yet to grasp me, I saw WandaVision and was on board until the last episode, got about 10 minutes into The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, saw the first episode of Loki, and skipped any of the other shows that came and went.

But who doesn’t love Spider-Man? I even gave No Way Home a B+ in my review, which is higher than I expected going in. Was it the nostalgia? Probably; I can’t act like No Way Home had the smartest plot or anything like that, but it brought back a child-like joy that has been missing in other MCU movies. At the end of the day, there’s a reason Sony can reboot the character every five years, and that’s because Peter Parker is a universally-relatable character. Tom Holland’s iteration has been good, but I’ve always been critical of the young actor outside of his MCU work. I’m sorry, but Cherry is anything but sweet and I don’t even want to try and guess what Chaos Walking was. The Devil All The Time was a promising start to his post-MCU career, but projects like the aforementioned Cherry and Chaos Walking leave such a bad taste in your mouth but I digress. Maybe Uncharted can be his franchise outside of the MCU, but that is yet to be seen.

What Holland was missing in his Spider-Man movies was some growth. The “Iron Boy” conversation has been talked about ad nauseam, but the criticism was fair. What happened to the “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man” that stuck to street-level crime? Thankfully, No Way Home seemingly opens the door for that to come to fruition in the inevitable next trilogy. To his credit, Holland showed his ability to actually act emotionally for the first time outside of The Devil All The Time in No Way Home. Not that Holland’s acting in a scene with a major loss and the subsequent scene should get him Oscar gold, but it was a great step in the right direction. This is where the conversation about No Way Home and Oscars gets messy. Yes, Holland was great in the scene, but are those two scenes really good enough to bump Andrew Garfield, Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Benedict Cumberbatch, or Nicolas Cage (who should be nominated for Pig) out of the Best Actor race? I guess the campaign isn’t pushing Holland too heavily, but it felt needed to touch on.

But with all of that being said, does No Way Home even belong in the Best Picture conversation? Look, it was probably one of the best movie-going experiences of my life, even the press screening was eating it up, but favorite films and the best films need to have some separation. No Way Home is great, but it shouldn’t take away the shine from films that feel on the brink like tick, tick… BOOM!, CODA, or Drive My Car for goodness’ sake. All three of those pack just as, if not more emotion than No Way Home did with its one major death.

And on the subject of the emotional beats of No Way Home, do you really care if that character dies if you haven’t seen the previous two movies? Let alone all of the nostalgic gimmicks the film pulls out of its web. Do we really expect that Oscar voters are going to sit through the Raimi trilogy and the two Amazing Spider-Man movies just so they can understand why Alfred Molina is hilariously de-aged in No Way Home? Or why (seemingly) every other joke is a wink directly at the camera? That’s a laughable proposition.

Alfred Molina as Doc Ock in Columbia Pictures’ SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME.

We can all agree that Holland is great in No Way Home, but the whole movie is full of good performances. Marisa Tomei and Willem Dafoe are both great, especially the latter, but why can’t we just nominate Dafoe for the right movies such as The Lighthouse or Nightmare Alley? It’s the Pacino situation all over again, and it would be even worse given that Dafoe never gives an “I’m too fucking old” monologue as Pacino did in his Oscar-winning performance in Scent of a Woman. Jokes aside, Dafoe deserves an Oscar sooner than later, but No Way Home feels like the wrong movie at the right time.

“But what about the box office?” Well, it feels like a no-brainer that No Way Home did gangbusters at the box office. Is the ascent to the top six all-time domestically and top ten worldwide impressive given its time in theaters? Absolutely. That accomplishment cannot be taken away from it. But are we just going to act like Far From Home didn’t gross a billion dollars? Add in the leaks and levels of speculation going into No Way Home. Yes, the likely journey to the top five in terms of highest-grossing movies worldwide is impressive, but this isn’t the “little indie that could.”

I’m not an Oscar voter, but at the end of the day, there are more than ten films that feel more worthy of one of the ten Best Picture slots. Oscar-darlings like Belfast and King Richard may be divisive among critics, but it could be argued that both films told important stories that outweigh that of No Way Home. The Power of the Dog may seem like a “pretentious critic” movie, with the pacing of a snail, but it’s another film that handles heavy themes like toxic masculinity in a poetic way. If I had a ballot, as of now, the ten films that would fill my Best Picture category would be (in alphabetical order): Belfast, Bergman Island, CODA, Don’t Look Up, Drive My Car, King Richard, Licorice Pizza, The Mitchells vs. The Machines, The Power of the Dog, and The Worst Person in the World.

THE POWER OF THE DOG BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH as PHIL BURBANK in THE POWER OF THE DOG. Cr. KIRSTY GRIFFIN/NETFLIX © 2021

None of this is to take away from No Way Home‘s accomplishments or what it has done for theaters. When I was at Scream last night people were still flooding into the IMAX theater to see No Way Home. It’s a wonderful thing, but I also think that we are getting ahead of ourselves to think it should be worthy of Best Picture contention because, at the end of the day, it’s taking away attention from smaller, intimate movies that tell stories with equal emotion and are not contingent on knowledge of eight other movies. Don’t these tentpole movies already take enough attention away from the mid-to-small budget movies at theaters?

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