Sunday, 21 August 2016

Suicide Squad (15)

For those who care about such things, there is actually a rule here at Popcorn Towers - write the review as soon after seeing the film as possible.

Granted this isn't aways as soon as I would like, but hey - life can bugger about with your plans, no?

So it is with Suicide Squad - a film I saw while on holiday, and which I was going to write-up the minute I got back.

But then things got in the way. Kind of.

Or that's what I told myself.

The truth is a bit simpler, and a bit more painful.

I just didn't want to write the review.

It's not that I had nothing to say, I have plenty. Or that I thought others had said what I was going to say, because let's face it that's never stopped me before.

No, I realised that I didn't want to stick the boot in. I didn't want to lay into it. I like these characters, I love DC comics as a whole.

I wanted to love this film.

But I couldn't.

For a start it's too long. It feels too long, it drags, the fights go on forever. That kind of too long.

Then there's the dialogue. Snappy took a holiday with Suicide Squad. Banal and obvious stood in.

Already at this point, I know I'm in trouble.

I'd studiously ignored all reviews and talk, but some had bled through - talk of rewrites, re-shoots, studio execs grabbing an arm load of oars each and getting stuck in.

And actually, you need to know about the studio thing, because it's only by knowing this does Suicide Squad make sense.

It doesn't make it a better film, sure, but it softens the blow.

Because what Suicide Squad is, more than anything, is a film designed by committee.

Take the "jokes".

Someone in a suit somewhere wanted them. And why not? Avengers has them, Ant Man has them, Guardians Of The Galaxy has them, why shouldn't Suicide Squad have them?

Jokes are funny things. No, really. Those who can write them know how they work and how hard they are to come up with.

Those who have no idea of the craft - studio execs, for example - think you can just stick two guys in a room for half an hour and suddenly your script will become Duck Soup.

If it was that easy, as someone richer than me once said, we'd all be doing it.

Which is why you get lines that end with "...and wipe my hard drive."

It doesn't work for many, many reasons - but it's what you get when all you ask for is "jokes" with no sense of how they might actually stitch into the narrative.

Then there's the music.

Remember Guardians Of The Galaxy and how the soundtrack was an integral part of the whole story?

Well, that's exactly how it isn't in Suicide Squad.

From the off, every scene has its own song. Literally. Change scene, change tune.

And it's not that each character has their own soundtrack, no no - that would be too easy. Each tableau gets a tune, never to be repeated.

And it stays that way for two-thirds of the film. When suddenly we have a score. FOR NO REASON.

It sounds, to someone who wasn't in the process, as if the whole thing was scored and then someone in a suit went "hey, did you guys see that Guardians film?" - only there wasn't the budget to have the same song several times...

And it feels like this at every turn.

The cast, to be fair, do the best they can. Will Smith is Will Smith (clearly not being given direction) while Margot Robbie sets about stealing the whole film - thankfully through her wonderful performance and not because of the ridiculous shorts she had to wear.

Then we have Jai Courtney. He plays Boomerang. Boomerang is Australian. as is Jai.

However, someone higher up the chain obviously didn't think his authentic accent was Australian enough, so we end up with something so think and OTT it almost needs subtitles.

And it's not Jai's fault - the kid can act. He was one of the few good things in the last Die Hard film.


And it's a big but.

All of this could have probably been forgiven, if they'd made one crucial decision.

And that was to leave Joker at home.

This film doesn't need him. Suicide Squad don't need him. Harley Quinn needs him, but she'd have coped for a couple of hours here.

So why was he here? Who looked at the characters, the assembled stew of DC villains, and decided to spoil the dish by adding some greenery?


It's that simple. Someone in a suit, again, wanted to ensure this film would sell. And what sells? Joker. Look how Heath Ledger made the roll his own! Sure we can do that again!

Only we can't. For many, many reasons.

For a start, it was 16 years between Jack Nicholson's iconic performance in Batman Returns and Ledger's rightly lauded role in 2008.

And Ledger is still fresh in our minds, so powerful was his performance. So trying again after a mere eight years was always going to be a big ask.

Which makes you wonder why Leto was asked. Were better people busy? Did everyone else get to look at the script first?

Because what we are given is not the king of mayhem, the prince of psychos, the master of malevolence. No.

We get Jared Leto doing an impression of mid-90s Marilyn Manson, all grand gestures but no substance, a lover of bling for no discernible reason.

And to add insult to, well, insult, he's not even the Big Bad.

He's Joker. And he's playing a bit-part.

Who's big idea was that?

As things stand, DC are just sitting and watching Marvel rule the waves - first on the big screen, and now on the small one too (where DC seemed to have stolen a march).

And it's clear that the guys in charge have no idea what to do about this. The answer, and I want to be crystal clear about this, isn't Suicide Squad.

DC has a wonderful array of characters to choose from, and Christopher Nolan led the way. Now, with the New 52 relaunches in the book world there are new characters and stories to draw on.

Including a new look Joker, one might add.

But until someone bites the bullet and decides to tread a new path instead of careering down this dimly lit, doom-laden back alley, we're all in for a very rocky ride.