Contains mild spoilers for Suicide Squad. Not enough to convince you to not see the film.
Your most loyal friends are the ones that stick with you through thick and thin. I admire those who defend Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice because Zack Snyder is a unique visual stylist who at least tried, though absolutely failed to make a movie that was about… something. With Warner Bros.’Suicide Squad’ fans and the movie to which I will refer to as #Squad from now on for internet clicks and maximum screen punchability, I do not carry the same respect.
Petitioning to shut down RottenTomatoes is a ridiculous and fruitless endeavour. Considering the author of the petition has come out saying he just wants to vent and released it before he was able to review the film himself it’d be a wasted endeavour for 3 reasons. #1 If you ask my immoral self, author Abdullah Coldwater would be better off to organize a DDoS attack via an anonymous network than to try and doctrine a legally held and part Time Warner owned website to be forcefully shutdown due to mild and temporary pressure. #2 Rotten Tomatoes is not a review site itself, it is a review aggregator which just picks up published reviews from established sites (minus this one). Shutting them down would just allow people to go to their favourite sites and read a bad review from them. #3 Rotten Tomatoes has an audience score rating that shows what everyday and average audiences thought of the film. There also exists the Cinema Score as well (look it up folks or listen to Robert Downey Jr.’s wonderful People’s Choice Award speech on it). Also if you ask FilmGamer (that is me), Metacritic and RT should switch influences with the former covering films (it was kinder to #Squad giving it a 40) and the latter covering games (which it currently does not, but absolutely should).
Why is there such a divide between critics and fans on this movie? In the simplest terms ‘Critics’ are the head, and ‘Fans’ are the heart. In more complex terms, the communications system in place of film reactions and feedback is one of Professional Bureaucracy. They can talk to each other with increasing intersection (as this blog/website shows) but still each have defined roles. As organisms the brain makes sure the tone and structure of the body remains intact, which #Squad’s case it doesn’t. The film is a mishmash mess of scenes from beginning to end with whiplash between grim seriousness and a light comic banter. Some of these are good such as when Diablo reveals his back story which pays off later on, some are great like when Deadshot explains his need for his daughter to get a good education, or the rare instance when one of the members of the squad actually talks one-on-one to another. (Excluding Rick Flagg played by a boring Joel Kinnaman this is only saved for Deadshot and Harley apparently).
A lot of the rest of the scenes are pointless to the rest of the film. Take any more than one scene involving setting up the Enchantress’ brother, much of the existence of the Joker unfortunately in a wonderful yet wasted performance, using his late jailbreak scene as an example, or the final mid-credits scene. They tell us stuff we already know or can assume. Many are group scenes are poorly blocked and the fights lazily choreographed. A talented acrobatic fighter like Harley Quinn shouldn’t be standing around awkwardly grappling with a meaningless ooze monster in an elevator trying to look badass when it’s been done before so much better by Marvel.
On a fan level, they are truly is the lifeblood of the movie’s performance. Driven by the impression of feeling got by the first two excellent trailers, the first of which is one of the best trailers in four years, or six. It’s a rush. But it’s the character performances brought to life by the actors (the jury is still out on the new joker but I liked him) that soundly resonate, just like the hits on the film’s very expensive soundtrack working hard to let you know how to feel. Those two points are so strong you forget about or can soundly ignore everything else. Just listen to ultra-fan comic nerd Kevin Smith’s review on YouTube or Jeremy Jahns on how they gush about the portrayals and skip mostly everything else. I agree with them mostly, only I believe what they skip over is more important to how the film works over all and that’s where critics stand too. Essentially, for a movie titled ‘Suicide Squad’ about a squad that goes on a suicide mission, the mission they are called upon to complete is intentionally left vague and for all intents and purposes, is revealed to be non-existent. Not that it made sense in the first place. Like Amanda Waller’s travel whereabouts in the Kevin Smith review, a massive plot leaps are glossed-over in fan favour. When you see something you love you defend it and stick up for its rough points, which the fans loyally did.
It seems to me the critics saw the potential of what the film could be and from the inception of the first look trailer they saw the mission, a dirty-dozen style epic spectacle filled with beautifully shot tragedies and more than enough hyperbole to make Peters’ Hammond and Travers jealous.
The internet “fans” of Suicide Squad en-masse, many of which are trendy bandwagon hoppers and have never actually read the comics and have been known to be full of so much shit from time to time, nostalgically rubbed their balls at the hive mind tried and true Queen music queued to the trailer. Meanwhile those nostalgic to actually see their favourite characters come to life that are still into this movie don’t mind the fact that this is such a typified literally bloodless hollywood interpretation of the characters.
#Squad writer Ayer a non-comic person, doesn’t actually borrow or use any conceivable plotline or mission from the comics that would help this make sense. Harley Quinn is explicitly debased and sexualized unnecessarily in a way she never was introduced on the tv show, in the comics, or to the degree the Rocksteady video games do to their female characters. Robbie gives a standout magnificent performance here, her best in a burgeoning career of fine performances and let me tell you her bottom is far from her greatest asset as an actress. And I mean that in the highest order. Mainstay member The Enchantress becomes villain to Task Force-X and not a very good one at that. Her powers are as vaguely defined as her evil plan is tired and cliche, and their climactic final confrontation is not set up or established for a final battle in a way that has any impact. They fight her some how in a mishmash semi-improvised way the whole film has gone on and you shrug your shoulders and go okay. That’s The Enchantress I guess. Talk about the lacking fidelity in transference of Smith’s interpretation of Deadshot. While obviously quite Will Smithian, or Will Smith-esque and great, he’s suddenly playing a character here as an anti-hero who doesn’t kill women or children, though still is quite a murderer, his character is robbed of any meaningful consequence and weight that the movie strives to avoid and recapture when it matters.
This brings to mind the larger issue of its underserved rating. The PG-13 rating has gone a long way beyond in the second half of its lifetime since the Marvel’s X-MEN in 2000’s sci-fi action violence which I saw when I was 6. In my defense there was a children’s tv show for it then, appropriate comics and toys and I had 12, 11, and 8-year-old brothers whose parents weren’t gonna leave me out so I was lucky. In comparison here, there was a 7-year old next to me present at a DC film which are usually known to be darker, more mature, and less family friendly, watching a film now given the same rating for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behaviour, suggestive content and language. It just seems a bit dangerous for our kids. You might think as I did myself at that age is that it doesn’t bother you what you’re exposed to. I watched R-rated movies as a kid and I’m fine blah blah blah. I encourage you to take an honest look and wonder if you haven’t become more desensitized than your parents were to witnessing violence, as violent crime increases and overall crime goes down. Multiply that effect by 10 for your kid. The art you see on-screen is what will be imitated by your kids time and time again and if not yours then someone else’s who doesn’t know better will ruin it for everyone. A clearer line has needed to be redrawn here for some time, and if not for a movie titled Suicide Squad then what?
We need a line, not one that divides critics and fans against each other, but one that complements appropriate groups. How amazing would Ayer’s R-rated Suicide Squad have been? It would have been better than this movie. Even if a rated 16 was invented like the U.K. rating system has. We Canadians at least have 14A. I’ll say I might be biased on this stance because man, that kid I was beside was annoying frequently throughout most of that film, burping, bouncing around, making this sound with his drink. Do you want to see that at your next film? That’s not good for anybody. It can be mended.
The movie should have been upgraded to an R-rating that Deadpool occupies and Ayer’s wheelhouse making the film’s he was meant to make as a director. The movie does have a lot of gun violence and Ayer has a fetish for it. The continuing problem with a PG-13 rating is that it depicts a world where violence has no consequence, contrasted with Ayer’s past better films which have been better served due to appropriate ratings. I won’t make anything of the turbulent times of gun violence in America and across the world because I believe art should be viewed as timeless. And yes this does make for one trashy piece of art.
Those that appreciate the film, for what it is will defend it by saying with most of the film’s casualties, aside from a shock moment in an office building are faceless monsters. They may be storytelling cannon fodder but they were human once. The philosophy of accepting dark yet weightless storytelling decisions in filmmaking is like a maw stretching out into an abyss. Done for an intended PG-13 rating, such a move also works critically against the film’s favour in a way that hurts more now that the The Avengers’ Chitauri have come and gone onscreen. If it doesn’t matter who the protagonists are disposing of there’s a sense of weightlessness to the conflict, no character or momentum to it. Faceless hoards are a tired and uninspired enough trope for video games. And it is hard not to be lame here. Piling up again and resting on the characters not given enough meaningful work to do. The kind they were assigned for. I don’t think the impressions of the Squad are enough alone to garner the film a generally favourable rating in both reviews and with the MPAA. With a more dynamic choice from the latter I strongly believe it would have made a better film here and even one more financially successful.
If you don’t believe me, I bet you this PG-13 film will not be able to outgross Deadpool at the North American box-office due to not as strong word of mouth. Despite being given a prime proven summer slot, bigger star power a slightly higher opening weekend and more money thrown at its production. I won’t indulge foreign audiences because they take more to loaded CGI bonanza and #Squad has more rendered v/fx shots, as well they have validated the continuation of Ice Age and Transformers franchises. Though box-office gross never often is indicative of a film’s quality, after all my least favourite film of all-time Night at the Museum is a perfect example of a huge hit with poor reviews. There’s something to account for audiences which miraculously execs still can’t figure out the formula for success. Audiences want to be entertained and have been searching for the newly unexplored since the beginning of film. #Squad at least has, a certain brand of originality. An original property at least interpreted in a new is way that audiences have an appetite for. It’s why Deadpool, The Secret Life of Pets, and The Revenant were successes, though existing in another medium it’s best to think of movie audiences as semi-literate. Nonetheless new is exciting and exciting is good and good is profit!
Do we really want to tolerate this film lowering the bar for excitement of movies. Well then you argue the film is meant to be taken lightly and fun or without thought. Check your brain at the door, well there goes the critics! But deserve better! Not just them, but all of us. I think the most crushing part of the critical consensus is the wasted potential we see the film could have had that we saw in the trailer that amounted to pop fizz. What if this was a better darker Guardians of the Galaxy? How chest-pounding would that have been? In a summer where sequels have been ho-hum critically and financially with the lone exception of Civil War, wouldn’t that truly be #SquadGoals?
- Funnily enough the first film I saw in theatres was Disney’s Hercules in 1997 when I was 3 with my sister and mother, because my parents believed Batman & Robin, rated a tame PG-13 then if you believe it, despite WB’s efforts to make it more family friendly, might be too dark for me. In retrospect this is considered a good move not only because we got two sets of Famous Players cups and Hercules plates, but because Batman & Robin was considered a bad move both critically and commercially. It allowed me to have my first Batman theatre experience and second movie review with the appropriately titled Batman Begins in 2005 when I was 11.