I blame @DrSkySkull

@DrSkySkull went to see Suicide Squad, and claimed that it was better than the reviews said.

I took that as a challenge, so I held my nose and went to the theater last night. He was right, and he was wrong. It’s not as bad as the worst reviews say, but it also fails to reach the minimal level of what I expect from a good movie. It’s incoherent, over-stuffed, and ultimately nonsensical. Most of the characters are unpleasant and there are so many of them, that none of them are developed in any interesting way.

But a lot of the problems aren’t problems with this specific movie, but with the whole genre. Superhero movies are being made with a cookie cutter, and the only difference is the color of the sprinkles on top.

I call it the “flat weightless apocalypse” problem.

Flat: There’s a kind of pseudo-diversity to the characters, and you must have noticed this. The Avengers are a team to fight invading aliens. They’ve got a literal god fighting for them…and a guy with a bow and arrow. The Suicide Squad has a man who is a walking flamethrower, incinerating his enemies with a wave of his hands, and it’s got crazy woman with a baseball bat. This makes no sense. You’re building a team to take on threats of the level of Superman, and you pick up some random psychotic violent lady at the local asylum? Why? Because she looks sexy in her booty shorts? (Don’t answer that, I know the answer. It’s “yes”.)

There isn’t a good solution to this problem, either. The X-Men franchise stocks their movies with milling hordes of people with over-the-top superpowers, and you end up not caring.

Weightless: People die all over the place in these movies. In Suicide Squad and evil witch turns the innocent citizens of a metropolitan area into hideous blob-headed monsters who attack the ‘heroes’ and are gunned down en masse. The city is a wrecked ruin. Helicopters crash in the streets every few minutes, it seems. This is all shrugged off or ignored, because we have to care about the action hero who wants to be reunited with his little girl. What about all the little girls crushed under debris or set on fire by flaming helicopter fuel or turned into slimy vicious monsters by an evil witch, huh?

Apocalypse: Every time. There is an existential threat to the entire world which can be neatly blamed on a single villain, and that can be solved with punching. And the villain is always completely inscrutable: why do they want to destroy the world? Because they’re evil, that’s why. How about a little moral ambiguity sometime? How about if we see someone dealing with a more complex and subtle problem?

So I might agree with @DrSkySkull that it’s not that much worse than other super-movies, but I’d also have to say that the genre is imploding over its own limitations, and Suicide Squad is simply another example of a universal problem.


  1. davidnangle says

    These intended blockbuster movies all suffer from a worse fate than written-by-committee. They are changed–damaged–last-minute, by desperate money men who believe either that their ideas are creative, or that emulating some other movie in some way is the key to winning everyone’s money. They so desperately want to find the one simple trick that will force the public to storm the theaters in droves, to empty their pockets, over and over again. And they will never stop working at it.

  2. says

    Yes, I’m pretty tired of the “epic” end of the world plots. Common in fantasy and role-playing and video games too.
    But it’s especially irksome in these universes full of super-powered people where only one or a small team notice.

  3. says

    I’ll still see it, because Adam Beach. This is a seriously great movie time for Indiginerds, because Indigenous people are actually in mainstream movies, and not being reduced to idiot stereotypes for once. Adam Beach in Suicide Squad, Jason Momoa in Justice League, Eugene Black Rock in Wonder Woman, and Taika Waititi directing Thor: Ragnarok. I’ll see them all, because for once, I can see a part of myself represented.

  4. says

    I’m going to derail this from Suicide Squad a little bit. I haven’t seen the movie, nor do I intend to (still haven’t seen BvS either).

    Apocalypse: Every time. There is an existential threat to the entire world which can be neatly blamed on a single villain, and that can be solved with punching. And the villain is always completely inscrutable: why do they want to destroy the world? Because they’re evil, that’s why. How about a little moral ambiguity sometime? How about if we see someone dealing with a more complex and subtle problem?

    I give some credit to Captain America: Civil War because of this. The villain isn’t destroying the entire world – he’s destroying their world. Sure, the differences between heroes were settled by punching, but at the end of the day, punching didn’t stop the bad guy. He won. The team was made fugitive and split up. The villain wasn’t doing it because he was evil; he was doing it because the heroes were reckless with their carnage in stopping the bad guy and he lost people who were important to him. He wasn’t on a mission to sow discord throughout the world, only to rain ruin onto those who ruined him. Was he a bad guy? Maybe, but not necessarily. Maybe he was right and that the world would have been better off without the heroes (after all, the heroes’ hubris created the bad guy of the second Avengers movie). Was there more punching and violence than necessary? Absolutely. But, it was also deeper than most of the super hero flicks coming out.

  5. birgerjohansson says

    The only interesting superhero I have seen for a while is the Midnighter, a super-vigilante with a quantum computer in his brain.
    This allows him to track a million possible ways the fight will go in parallel, and choose what will be the winning moves.

    It also gives him time to make razor-sharp sarcastic remarks on a par with Jon Stewart and Steve Colbert.
    The villains are rarely the usual blue-collar expendables, but corporate yuppies and politicians who have discovered the profitability of being assholes. (MN has killed two American presidents so far. Wishful thinking is fun).

  6. strangerinastrangeland says

    The “flat/pseudo-diversity” point reminds me of a great sketch from the show “That Mitchel and Webb Look” called “Angel Summoner and the BMX Bandit”. One hero could call the heavenly host to do his bidding, basically giving him the power of a god, and the other hero was really good at riding a bike (… together they fight crime). BMX Bandit was always complaining that his buddy did all the work, so Angel Summoner let him deal on his own with a bunch of heavily armed terrorists. It did not go well…

  7. says

    Caine, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but Adam Beach plays the Red Shirt in Suicide Squad. It was “let’s introduce a member of the team with an offhand comment instead of a comic book intro like the rest. I wonder how long he’s going to last?” I won’t even count this as a spoiler, since it’s heavily telegraphed in the movie.

    I saw Suicide Squad last night. It was a fairly average comic book movie. I would have liked it a lot better without the frequent sexism. Harley is the damsel in distress and gives the smooch of victory at least twice. Deadshot says he doesn’t kill women (but the Enchantress isn’t a woman, apparently?). Dr. Moone is both damsel in distress and woman in the refrigerator. Gendered slurs are used liberally.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    And the villain is always completely inscrutable: why do they want to destroy the world? Because they’re evil, that’s why. How about a little moral ambiguity sometime?

    They started out (sorta) with such a premise: pls recall the young Magneto, in the first Avengers flick, turned into the Black Panther Party of supermutants because of his (family’s) treatment by the Nazis.

    Then they lost it.

  9. cartomancer says

    Damn, at least two people have beaten me to the Angel Summoner / BMX Bandit sketches…

    As a classics teacher I am often irked by the modern usage of the word “epic” to describe these kinds of situations and plots. I think modern film-makers and comic writers would do well to consider that the actual epic tradition (it doesn’t mean big and important, it’s a kind of hexameter poetry!) really isn’t like that. The Iliad is about the anger of one warrior in the ninth year of a war of revenge against one city, and the fallout from that. The Odyssey is about a lost king returning home to reclaim his tiny island kingdom. Gilgamesh is about two guys beating up forest monsters and trying (and failing) to achieve immortality. Beowulf is about a monster that threatens a mead-hall and the old age and death of its slayer.

    The reason they’re considered so grandiose and powerful and universal is because of the themes they explore – anger, revenge, comradeship, authority, love, the desire to leave one’s mark, growing up and growing old. I suppose the christian ethic of Milton and Tolkien is probably to blame for later epics adopting a kind of exaggerated cosmological scheme as their plot, though even in Tolkien’s case the War of the Ring is the backdrop to much less vaunted struggles, and the heroes are helpless, clever, stubborn everyday folk rather than great kings and godlike beings.

    I’m not sure it’s fair to blame the progenitors of modern fantasy though. Or the comic-inspired films themselves. This aesthetic and style is entirely of a piece with their source material. I suspect that there is a healthy dose of cold war superpower envy, American exceptionalism, toxic masculinity and distinctively US delusions of grandeur behind that.

  10. martha says

    Caine @ 4: Jason Momoa ???. Saw the trailer for Justice League. Words fail. Must resort to emojis.

  11. says

    This is one of my arguments in favour of Ghostbusters. People kept arguing that the villain was underwritten, but how often is the villain not underwritten. At least this time we had a bad guy with an actual reason for wanting to destroy everything, and one with real life counterparts who have gone on shooting sprees so it’s not like it’s unbelievable.

  12. brett says

    I’ll second @Mkoormtbalt on Civil War being good in this regard. These movies seem to have trouble creating even the semblance of tension without a world-wide calamity being the stakes, yet Civil War does it and takes the stakes much lower and more personal.

    They also seem to be afraid to do a superhero movie where there’s no super-villain to punch. It’s too bad, really, because I could easily see a melding of “superhero movie” and “natural disaster” movie where the hero/heroine is up against nature, or some more impersonal calamity that they have to stop.

  13. ragdish says

    When will this nauseating superhero movie franchise end? The majority have incoherent plots with too many characters. Storylines and character development are sacrificed at the expense of special effects. Superheroes are supposed to be troubled and flawed 3 dimensional individuals (eg. Rorschach was the best example from Watchmen) but translating that onto the big screen requires talent and effort. Let’s take Joss Whedon as an example who has done great work eg. Firefly and Serenity. Avengers: Age of Ultron should have been renamed Age of Crap. Whedon abandoned creativity for the sake of special effects. Captain America: Civil War was even worse.

    Don’t get me wrong. Superhero films don’t have to be Shakesperean nor be Oscar worthy. But recall The Incredible Hulk in the 1980s. It had low budget effects. They painted Lou Ferrigno green and gave Bill Bixby white contact lenses when David Banner hulked out. But the show had heart and dwelled on David Banner’s personal struggles as he always tried to do good. I have yet to see a contemporary big budget Marvel or DC flick that is just as good as those old tv superhero shows.

    But I do have hope. I still recall my childhood watching Shazam on Saturday AM:


    I have hopes that the new upcoming Shazam movie with a female Captain Marvel will not only be badass but also have a plot.

  14. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    The problem is trying to make the fun of comic books, REALISTIC, gritty and dark.
    The reason people read comic books about superheroes is for the fun, and casual magic of flicking problems away with a single hand-swipe.
    Trying to turn these into actual people with realistic concerns throws away all the fun and cartoon-ness of the character. Plus all the blood and gore. Look at Batman’66 that was directly a TV production of comic book Batman. Never any blood with overlay graphics of “ShaBang” “Bop”, “Bazoom”. totally fun with occassional passing references to current events, without preaching proposed solutions.

  15. says

    ragdish @15

    I have hopes that the new upcoming Shazam movie with a female Captain Marvel will not only be badass but also have a plot.

    I think you’re getting your Captain Marvels mixed up. There’s the DC Captain Marvel who shouts “SHAZAM!” to transform from young Billy Batson into the superhero, then there’s the Marvel Captain Marvel who has had the mantle taken up by a few people, the most recent being Carol Danvers who was formerly Ms. Marvel. The latter is getting the movie you’re thinking off, and the former has had a movie announced with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the villainous Black Adam but nobody yet cast as the titular hero.

  16. says

    Isilzha Mir @ 8:

    Caine, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but Adam Beach plays the Red Shirt in Suicide Squad.

    I know that. I also know it was a damn stupid character, and Adam Beach knew that too, said as much at Comic-con. You’re missing the point. It’s not about the fucking character, it’s about Indigenous people getting roles in mainstream movies, where they don’t end up playing some stupid fucking white-fueled stereotype of a character, which is most of Hollywood’s relationship with Indians, when they could be bothered to actually hire Indians to play Indians. It is a huge thing for Indigenous people to have such presence in movies.

    Martha @ 12:

    Caine @ 4: Jason Momoa . Saw the trailer for Justice League. Words fail. Must resort to emojis.

    Oh, I know. Have you seen Eugene Black Rock?

    Rob @ 16:

    I’d much rather see What We Do in the Shadows.

    I own it. I’ll still see the Thor flick, because he directs, and because I want to see more Indigenous people involved in mainstream movies.

  17. emergence says

    I can agree with a lot of the criticism, but I do have a few differences of opinion.

    With regard to the characters having disproportionate abilities, I’m not hugely bothered by the idea of mundane characters fighting alongside or against superpowered characters. I think the idea is that occasionally there’s a rare mundane human who, simply by going through extreme mental and physical conditioning and having access to the right equipment, can at least somewhat measure up to superhuman characters. Of course, this is actually seems to be a fairly long-running issue in any sort of media with characters that have magic, superpowers, technological augmentations, or whatever. I’m pretty sure that the comics these movies are based on have touched on this issue quite a lot. I think one reason that this is such a problem is that a lot of settings with superhuman characters tend to make said characters too strong for anything they face to be a credible threat. Maybe a solution would be to just reign their abilities in a bit or give them compensatory weaknesses?

    I can see a few ways of fixing the lack of weight for any of the destruction. The first would be to have the story take place somewhere where collateral damage (as in property destruction) and dead civilians wouldn’t be an issue. Another would be to have the characters’ antics be downplayed and limited enough in scope that they simply wouldn’t cause any widespread destruction. Finally, if you really want to include bombed out cities and widespread death, actually have it be acknowledged in the story and have the heroes realize that they still technically lost even though they stopped the villains. I’ll give credit to Suicide Squad for one thing; it looks like all of the civilians who weren’t already dead or transformed got out of dodge rather than sticking around to watch the heroes fight.

    As for the apocalypse thing, I suppose that having the threat be more limited and not about all of human civilization potentially collapsing would be nice. You can still have stakes without having the entire planet explode, and you can still have a plot without the heroes making a whole complex problem go away in 2 hours. The punching thing is more difficult. Action as a genre is driven by physical challenges, and if you have an antagonist that’s a living being, it seems almost unavoidable that combat is going to drive the plot, even if it isn’t how the plot is ultimately resolved.

  18. taraskan says

    It’s pretty bad, but you shouldn’t think of this as a film. It’s at best 40% of one, restitched together with footage from other reshoots. Multiple shoots, editors (one of them was a company who until now had only taken on jobs for trailers), writers, and (you can bet) audience test groups.

    When the point is marketing and not art, it’s a mistake to look at a finished product as a finished product, but as the process that went into it, and criticize that process instead. Of course the end result will be shitty, because look how it was accomplished.

    Being that it’s just a product, the audience is not obligated to buy that product or like it once it’s been sold to them. I’m thrown for a loop every time someone comes to the defense of a shitty movie. You don’t see people doing that with, say, kitchen equipment from Costco that doesn’t work out of the box the way it should have, and that often costs more than a movie ticket.

  19. busterggi says

    brett @ 14 – And that is why 50+ years later the episode ‘Panic in the Sky’ from the original George Reeves tv version of Superman remains a great show to watch. Less than 30 minutes yet with more character than entire film series now have and not one bad guy present.

  20. says

    slithey tove@17 superhero movies just reflect the comics they’re based on. Dark and gritty has been pretty much standard, with exceptions, in one way or another for American superhero comics since the early ’80s. You could probably blame Chris Claremont, Frank Miller, and Alan Moore for a lot of it, since their writing was some of the most influential in the ’80s, and their writing was often more grim than earlier writers. Moore’s Watchmen and The Killing Joke and Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns are classic examples and influenced so much of what came after.

  21. wzrd1 says

    I’ll say this from a war veteran’s perspective.
    In war, one follows lawful orders, to hell (within the commander’s intent, which is vociferously described to the point of occasional unit momentum paralysis of the point where men wait to quite literally be killed or civilians end up caught upon pure, unmitigated hell).
    That much, many, many movies pull a fuck ton of punches.
    War is damned, fucking ugly. Worse than anyone here, who hasn’t experienced it, could imagine at all.
    To the point where, were I the emperor of Earth, I’d outlaw the damned thing entirely. Not even to expand the empire to near world level dominance.
    I still get awakened by dreams from those disasters of our own creation.

    That said, in war, I always did require an extremely diverse team, in terms of capabilities and skills.
    Hence, that “girl with a baseball bat”, might potentially fill a niche that even I am incapable of describing, but it’s a potential possibility.
    In some very real ways, “The Dirty Dozen” is a potentiality in war. Unlikely as me flapping my ears and flying, which is saying much, as the only way that my ears move is if my hands are involved, but it’s still a potentiality. Hell, I’ve read war plans that involved an invasion of the continental US (CONUS, for military types), where down to 8 year old children get armed and trained as best we could train them. Still, that’s a near extinction of a nation scenario and all who reviewed it considered it a lower probability than flying saucers from other star systems showing up to make war.
    No, the last scenario *and* our winning level of improbable.
    But, people are paid very real money to think of every possible contingency and during the Cold War, there were a supertanker of contingencies to consider. :/
    Never, ever get me started on the concept of MAD. We’ll be here for a week and a day and I’ve barely would’ve scratched the surface of the insanity of that bullshit.

    As for “Apocalypse: Every time”, yeah, Hollywood has entirely failed to use anything near creativity. It’s either old remakes or lazy Life. Ends. Now. Unless. Our. Heroes. Win. Trope swill.
    With plenty of explosions.

    That said, I love explosions – as long as they’re utterly unrealistic and quieter than the real thing.
    Trust me, I had to have men secure a perimeter, while also trying to treat a close friend after an IED blast. The IED, being typical for the device at the time (erm, it’s still close to that today), it contained high explosive devices and propane cylinders. Adding protracted heat to the immediate heat of the initial blast.
    The burns were beyond horrific and I’ll spare one and all to them. Hell, I’d be happy to remember them, if my friend wasn’t experiencing, even today, half of his body incinerated.
    To this very day, his family refuses to permit any of us to visit him.
    I’ll suffice it to say, he lost one external ear, internal function of that ear, an eye, half of his toes, all of his fingers on one side.
    So, yeah, explosives can do some really, really, really fucked up things.
    They’re also extremely good at specific tasks, such as cutting steel immediately, dropping a building that’s otherwise a threat and a fun way to launch things around an explosive range (and get kicked off of the range and have a long weekend).
    The latter, actually a true story and the effect was equally true.
    They also suck.
    They’re spherical in nature of blast wave, save for certain specific units (see RPG). They’ll dump an innocent neighbor’s home on top of a family. Trust me, been there, done that, totally uncool. The latter’s one of the reasons that I drink so much. Even group ain’t quite helping that one, but I’m working my through it.
    If anyone wants, I’ll be more than happy to explain precisely what happens with high explosives and human tissue, but never, ever here. That intrepid individual will discover madness rapidly.
    So, I’ll not recommend that one at all. But, for naysayers, I’ll unhappily provide information, figures and some imagery.
    It’s a lot beyond ugly.

    Would that Hollywood got it’s collective heads out of the participant’s collective asses and stopped with explosions and actually had actors and actresses, I don’t know, maybe act? Not substitute planetary destruction via high explosives (largely being gasoline) for actual fucking lot and actually earn their god damned salary for a change!
    No, it’s, “our ratings are down, we need a war, as loud and destructive as possible”.

    Gee, I wonder why I so rarely go to the movie theater or even watch a current production?
    This, from a man who owns around 4000 DVD’s. The rate of accumulation has slowed tremendously over the decade.
    Shit, if I had used high explosives to resolve problems throughout my entire near three decade long military career, we’d be missing a hell of a lot of mountains and population levels would not be of concern.
    It’s Godzilla, done to high explosive, via gasoline being lit by TNT. If anyone recalls the number of Godzilla movies, Japan should’ve been a wasteland, utterly depopulated by 1970.
    Oops, we all are still here.
    But, the entire bullshit gets relabeled and released as new.
    Instead, it’s more often lamer than a one legged horse.

  22. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    I just came back from seeing the movie. It doesn’t quite reach “so bad it was good” level.

    Deadshot and Harley are as great as they could be, Amanda Waller is great too in all her evilness. Others are barely sketches of characters. Diablo and Enchantress had some potential, but the rest might as well have been played by cardboard cutouts. Sure, Katana had some great fight scenes but I’ve also seen Katana in Arrow. I saw her development as a character. Here, her whole story was summed up in two sentences of exposition by an obnoxious dude.

    Oh yeah, there was Joker in the movie too. For all the talk about him, he was completely forgettable.

    I’d go back for a Deadshot & Harley show. Hell, I’d even go back for a Suicide Squad show, if they actually made a movie about them rather than slap some scenes together into a barely coherent mess that only accidentally stumbles on a couple of good Suicide Deadshot & Harley Squad scenes.

    Random Army Dude Who Just Disappears Before The Final Attack Without Explanation had more presence in the movie than Slipknot…

    Anyway. It wasn’t good. It wasn’t a completely wasted night either. But compared to Ghostbusters, it sucks.

  23. antigone10 says

    People are blaming the fact that this movie is a superhero movie for why it’s bad.

    That’s not fair. A genre* of any type has good and bad versions. This movie was terrible because it was unfinished. It had terrible editing, unnecessary characters**, the worst integration of a soundtrack I’ve ever seen, and need a dialogue coach to punch it up “like wow”. The actors*** did their best, but even a whole ton of natural charisma and acting skill can’t save these lines.

    I like movies with superheroes in them. Seeing as I’ve been reading books with superheroes and magicians for decades I doubt I’m going to get “superhero fatigue”**** any time soon. That doesn’t let bad movies suddenly become good movies because they have elements I like.

    *I’m not even entirely convinced that “Superheroes” count as a genre. We have spy thriller superhero movie, heist superhero movies, mad genius superhero movie. I think it’s more of a convention than a genre.
    ** If we completely got rid of Captain Boomerang, Climber, and the Joker, what about the movie changes? A bit of character development for Harley? Demonstration of the bomb that could have been done with a dummy?
    ** Well, Will Smith, Margot Robbie, and Viola Davis with a special shout-out for Jay Hernandez and Cara Delevingne for having a presence despite the movie sandbagging them at every turn.
    **** I hate almost all romantic comedies, and war movies, and horror movies and there have been hundreds of bad films in that genre. For more recent ones, I hate comedy movies where the “comedy” comes from second-hand embarrassment or “cringe comedy”. But no one’s talking about THAT sort of genre fatigue. If it’s not your think, it’s not your thing. Do what I do- don’t watch or wait out the fad.

  24. leerudolph says

    It’s incoherent, over-stuffed, and ultimately nonsensical. Most of the characters are unpleasant and there are so many of them, that none of them are developed in any interesting way.

    Look, the Republican convention’s been over for weeks; time to let it go.

  25. andyo says

    Rob @16.

    I’d much rather see What We Do in the Shadows

    Do it. It’s amazing.

    He has a new movie as well, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, but I haven’t seen it yet.

  26. Bruce Gorton says

    This is my problem with the DC movies.

    Batman at his best is awesome by analysis, He is a character whose core value is in his ability to work stuff out, to be a detective.

    And what does Hollywood do? Make him mad Wayne the people puncher, who somehow forgot the whole “not killing people” thing that has defined his central character conflict for decades.

    Superman meanwhile is a character who exists as a response to the idea that “absolute power corrupts absolutely” and the authoritarian idea of discipline. Superman couldn’t be physically disciplined growing up – so all of his fears would be for other things.

    If he plays too roughly with that toy he breaks it, if he plays to rough with the puppy he breaks it, he had to learn to live in the “world of cardboard”. He got used to thinking that way and it made him a better person.

    So what do they have him doing? Punching people through buildings without a thought for collateral damage.

    If they cut down on the violence and action and added more character moments, more moments of people just talking, heck throw in scenes where Superman talks down a jumper or Batman goes undercover to get needed knowledge, it would make for much better movies.

    Not the least because it would give you a bit of an idea of the world outside the protagonists, making the epic battles feel more personal and less like videogame cut-scenes.

  27. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    As a classics teacher I am often irked by the modern usage of the word “epic” to describe these kinds of situations and plots. I think modern film-makers and comic writers would do well to consider that the actual epic tradition (it doesn’t mean big and important, it’s a kind of hexameter poetry!) really isn’t like that.

    Worse, a lot of “disaster” films have ZERO evil stars in them!

  28. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    This movie was terrible because it was unfinished. It had terrible editing, unnecessary characters**, the worst integration of a soundtrack I’ve ever seen, and need a dialogue coach to punch it up “like wow”.

    You missed “lighting so horrid it was literally impossible to tell what was going on during an often-critical 1/3 of the time.”

  29. says

    The thing is, you don’t like superhero movies. Which is fine, not everything is for everybody, but it does bias you against things like this. From what most everybody is saying, Suicide Squad is by any reasonable measure a much worse movie than for example Deadpool.

    I found Deadpool to be very funny at the expense of any depth, which I suppose is a justifiable trade, I think it would have been near impossible to do both at once. The superhero genre is capable of anything any other kind of film can do, it’s arguably a subset of science fantasy, which is a wonderfully versatile mechanism for exploring metaphysical ideas. Unfortunately Warner Bros have repeatedly demonstrated a serious inability to hold onto any kind of structural integrity in their ‘extended universe’. Suicide Squad is just another example of a studio that has no clue how to do what it is trying to do.

  30. andyo says

    Another thing with the Rotten Tomatoes ratings is that it’s based on a binary interpretation of the critics’ reviews. If 100% of the critics give a movie, say 4 out of 10, then the movie gets a 0% tomato rating. I think a better bet is to stick with one or a few reviewers that you generally agree with and go with them. I used to like Ebert’s reviews, even though sometimes I didn’t agree with him at all (looking at you, Avatar you awful, awful POS). Reading the reviews, I would know if I’d agree or disagree with him about the movie before I’d seen it because of his way of explaining them and his vast knowledge and comparisons to older movies.

  31. antigone10 says


    Oh god yes. The only thing that ever seemed to be properly lit was Harley’s ass, because clearly, that is plot critical. Also, can we kill shaky cam? Pretty please? It is lazy, it is over-used, and it makes me literally sick.

    Fred Astaire once said (probably) “Either the camera dances or I do”. Fight scenes are just dance scenes. Get a damn tripod, hire an actual fight choreographer, train the actors, and STOP BEING LAZY! The actors in the Princess Bride studied fencing for 6 months plus what they could fit into during filming to get a 6 minute scene. And the scene is great! They were dedicated to the craft! I want the same effort, by the actors, by the choreographers, by the directors, by everybody, for every action movie.

  32. lanir says

    I think this one just didn’t have very good writing or directing. Honestly if you want an interesting take on superheroes try Hancock or Defendor or Kickass. When the big studios try to do straight superhero films they mostly just remake the same handful over and over again with the serial numbers filed off.

    For the flat bit, there is a way to tell stories with very disparate people. It’s not even really difficult, they just didn’t bother with it here. Partly because they never had a complex problem and that’s where having people with different perspectives suggest the solutions that make sense to them really shines.

  33. Rob Grigjanis says

    antigone10 @35:

    Fight scenes are just dance scenes.

    Yeah. Best cinematic sword fight I’ve seen was early in The Three Musketeers (1948), with Gene Kelly.

  34. wzrd1 says

    The best sword fight I ever saw was between our eldest daughter, with foils and myself, in the driveway of our home, after she defeated all challengers.
    Even money, I could still do the same feat today.
    Although, where I blew out a knee and won, I’d likely be laid up in bed today for a few days.

    Still, that SF edged weapons training comes in handy today. Took another injury, catching my wife, shortly after she returned from day surgery that not all that long ago, took a two day recovery in hospital. She started falling, I took a significant lower back injury catching her.
    Been stuck using a cane since, two weeks and change after.
    I can still use my father’s old oak cane to jab an elevator button or door button.
    Some skills are actually useful in civilian life. The cane thing and the ability to utilize a wheelchair to athletic levels.
    Those are both cool to me and annoying to have to know those abilities.
    Cool, I can cope functionally! What happens when I lose upper body capabilities?
    Stephen Hawking, lacking the math?
    My wife, a fine art artist, lacking art or even the ability to wipe her own ass?

    Welcome to a corner of our world, where such is a very real potential reality.
    Worse, Dr Kevorkian is dead.
    Maybe an ANFO device, scaled down, triggered by a nod by both at once…

    Yeah, that’s the darkness of our thoughts at times.
    Thankfully, she’s the least likely to nod. :)
    That keeps me sane.

  35. Gregory Greenwood says

    ***Spoilers Ahead***

    PZ is absolutely right about the limitations and problems with the comic book movie genre as a whole, and Suicide squad certainly shares a great many of those issues, but…

    … I am afraid I am going to be that guy; the movie wasn’t entirely, irredeemably awful by quite a surprisingly long chalk, at least to my mind – there, I’ve said it.

    Obviously, there were flaws – so, so many flaws – ranging from at times painful dialogue, to an early sequence that felt like someone was just playing their favourite mixtape over the movie (there is such a thing as too much, obtrusive musical accompaniment as this movie proves) to a third act that at times didn’t really come together, and the very poor way the movie treated Adam Beach’s character of Slipknot, but there were also better aspects, mostly to do with the character performances.

    Now yes, as an ensemble piece with very limited time some of the secondary characters were woefully under developed with regard to their motivations (I am looking at you Captain Boomerang/Digger Harkness and Katana), but there were a few stand out performances, first of which was Viola Davies as Amanda Waller. In a movie all about the villains of the DC universe, she is the actually the true villain of the movie – not the Joker, not Enchantress or her brother, but Waller. And her villainy is so much more effective than that of most comic book antagonists because it is so much more credible – her brand of my-nation-right-or-wrong pseudo-patriotism used as a justification for any act no matter how monstrous or self-serving very much does exist in the world, and has caused all manner of problems. Like all too many unethical people, she does not see herself as a villain. Instead, she believes she is a righteous person doing what must be done in pursuit of an overwhelmingly important moral imperative; that all things are justified in the name of America the Beautiful. It was her shortsighted and egotistical belief that she could yoke something a dangerous as the Enchantress to her agenda as a tool of US power that set the events of the movie in motion, and she was the one who cynically used the Suicide Squad to try to clean up her mess before finally making a dodgy backroom deal with Bruce Wayne to keep it all quiet in return for a dossier on the potential members of the Justice League. That all feels like a comic book universe version of the kind of thing all too many powerful recent political and intelligence community figures might have done. As villains go, she is already streets ahead of most of the comic book fare, and looks to be a returning character to boot.

    Next, we have Will Smith… essentially playing Will Smith in a Deadshot costume rather than anything else. While he presents a very different version of the character to the usual depictions, his likeability serves him well in the role (and that is as well, since it is what he trades on in most of his roles in the movies he makes). His character arc relating to his daughter may be cliche (actually – it is cliche, really, really cliche), but it does serve to humanize the character and allow the other character who the movie makes an effort to grant a more humane side – like Rick Flag and Harley Quinn – a motivation to carry on the mission that is more personal rather than an sudden transition to abstract, altruistic goodness, more on which later. In many ways, he is the audience’s point of view character for much of the movie, and is written to provide a bridge to a villainous-but-not-too-monstrous mindset that helps us empathize with why his character, and more broadly the other figures in the Suicide Squad, are how they are and do what they do, and for the most part the writers succeed in that.

    And then there is Harley Quinn, and you can’t talk about her without talking about the Joker too. The character undeniably has problems – the ‘Harley pants’ and indeed her entire costume is needlessly revealing and sexist, and while I know the film makers would argue they are trying to be true to the source material’s often problematic depiction of Harley, I was mostly left thinking the poor actor playing her (and the one playing Enchantress for that matter) would probably catch her death in that get up, and the dream sequence implying that Harley’s deepest, unspoken desire is to marry the Joker, have 2.4 kids, and live a very conventional life in the leafy suburbs does not ring true to the character as depicted at all – but I feel that Margot Robbie did a good job of capturing the various aspects of Harley Quinn’s extreme personality well, she also functioned as an interesting foil for Will Smith’s Deadshot, and oddly enough she was a major part of the glue that held the other characters in the ensemble together.

    Her relationship with the Joker also wasn’t the horror show I feared it might be. While the heavy cuts applied to their scenes together met with controversy from many fans, this version of the Harley/Joker dynamic, while still clearly toxic and very, very broken, was probably the least abusive of all, which at least mitigated what could have been a very problematic depiction of one of the most harmful relationships in the DC fiction.

    As for Jared Leto’s Joker, he had extremely little screen time, and his was a very different depiction of the character from what has come before, almost shockingly so, but I found myself warming to it more as the movie progressed, and there is certainly room for further development in the inevitable future expansion of the DC cinematic universe. A clash between Leto’s Joker and Affleck’s murder-y Batman seems very likely in the relatively near future.

    On a more general note, the Suicide Squad has always operated on the hook that it is essentially the Dirty Dozen in the DC universe, and the movie is very faithful to the source material in that regard, perhaps to its detriment, but I did appreciate at least one aspect of Ayer’s handling of the conceit – no effort is made to magically transform this team of villains into heroes by some kind of directorial fiat. This is not a story about how if you scratch a villain you find a damaged hero struggling to get out, but that is not to say the members of the team have no code – instead, their imperatives and sense of priorities are different.

    They aren’t motivated by high minded ideals or a desire to protect the innocent, but rather bond with one another over the course of the shared adversity of the movie, and ultimately are driven to keep fighting after the threat of the nano-explosives in their necks seems to be removed not only out of self interest (Enchantress is hell bent on killing everybody, so stopping her is the only way any of them will be safe), but also out of loyalty to each other, on the basis that you fight for the man or woman next to you, not for a higher cause, in this case helping Rick Flag try to rescue Dr Moon from Enchantress and assisting Deadshot in doing one thing that allows his daughter to be proud of him (and at the same time stop her being killed by the weird floating apocalypse engine thing). It all gives a credible reason why usually self-serving villains would risk their own hides in this fashion while avoiding the need for the usual Hollywood trope of accelerated redemption arcs (nought to virtuous in sixty seconds) and unexpected hero syndrome.

    So on balance I would say Suicide Squad is perfectly watchable as a comic book movie within the limitations of the genre, being no worse than the bulk of its peers, though that is admittedly not the highest of bars to begin with. If it sounds like your thing, go and watch it and you probably find it enjoyable enough as a diverting couple of hours of mindless fun, but go in with your eyes open and a preparedness to put up with the downsides of comic book movies. Including the likely hypothermia of half the female cast.