Suicide Squad (USA, 2016)

suicide_squad_ver12Directed by: David Ayer. First of all, what this guy said is a pretty good assessment. Big surprise—this film is a mess, a Hollywood hack job right out of the metaphorical textbook, and its production story is apparently a pretty common story in modern Hollywood. Technically speaking, I thought this movie was definitely dumb and incoherent, but it was definitely more coherent than, say, The Expendables or Furious 7, and approximately as dumb as any superhero movie. So though it makes me sad any time a dumb movie make millions of dollars, it’s not really a surprise, and it’s way less annoying than the giant circus-level negativity around this movie. It’s a dumb comic book movie, so what? But some people HATE this movie, as if it’s single-handedly responsible for destroying cinema itself. It’s certainly being blamed for the “death of the DC Universe”, and apparently Jared Leto’s performance here “ruined Method acting”, although the article itself is mostly about the gender double-standard in Hollywood and not very persuasive in arguing its click-bait headline. This movie has become, within a week, a symbol of everything that certain people hate about modern cinema and, arguably, modern culture. And it’s not like I don’t get it—this movie, to me, read as a huge, flashy, multi-coloured graffiti art symptom of every inarticulate prejudice and deep-seated fear I have of everything that’s wrong with modern society. This movie is Donald Trump in Juggalo makeup eating McDonalds while masturbating to hardcore porn with one hand and shooting a gun with the other. Not a very articulate or intelligent assessment, of course—all just irrational, lizard-brain shit. But I feel like this kind of dumb, paranoid fear is what is responsible for the extraordinary popularity of the film, and for what all of the uptight squares like me find so reprehensible about it. And, watching this film, it sort of clicked in me that everyone’s reaction to the film—the love and the hate—is fuelled by the paranoid fear and suspicion that civilization as we know it is sliding into the toilet. And this, remember, is what lies at the root of Trumpism anyway, right? He is a force to be reckoned with because the people he’s reaching are people who feel like civilization is already in the toilet, or who never got anything out of “civilization” in the first place, and in the absence (or in ignorance) of any better ideas, the best thing is to “Make America Great Again”, which means treating other people like shit in pursuit of your own selfish desires.

In the case of this film, it’s really just a matter of more of the same apocalypse-porn that moviegoers have been subject to on a regular basis for the last 15 years—an entire generation of teenagers, remember—only this time, there’s no appeal to higher morals, the greater good, etc. Captain America acts like a fascist while the world explodes, and it’s supposed to be intelligent and inspiring. At least Suicide Squad is honest—it’s a nihilistic, self-centred, violent, anti-authoritarian anarchist shooting spree that embraces personal freedom utterly, at the expense of the greater good, because the greater good doesn’t exist in this universe (until it does, with the surprising and disappointing lite-humanism at the resolution, one more reason why the film fails at a technical level). Every angle I look at it, no matter how wrong I think the premises of this worldview are, or how much I want to “cure” that worldview with a few books and articles for these kids to read, it’s a totally understandable collateral damage to a society that raises kids on a pablum of brain-dead patriotism and doesn’t give them anything real to sink their brains into. No wonder they use those brains to bring up Illuminati conspiracy theories, MRA/Gamergate misogyny, and Donald Trump shit. The world that this movie lives in is the underbelly of the Trump world, where they are the social outcasts, where America never liked them in the first place. To me, in shorthand—Juggaloes. The resolution of the plot was pretty weak—they still decided to work for civilization, to protect their families (even though only one of them has a family), and because…just because? Because they “got nothing better to do.” So yes, incoherent. And for that matter, the thing actually makes America not great in the first place is the way it’s treated people of colour and women, and that makes it all the more unforgivable how little screentime they gave to the great Canadian Indigenous actor Adam Beach. I was really excited for this movie in that sense—Adam Beach is one of the great actors out of Canada today, and probably the most high-profile, good-looking young dramatic actor of Indigenous origin around, hacking it out in Hollywood. And here he was, in a weird costume, playing a weird villain in this weird comic book movie. Cool! And then, when they decide to introduce a character at the last minute, give no background for him, give him two lines of dialogue, and then kill him off in order to demonstrate a plot point, they had to pick him. They couldn’t pick, I dunno, the fucking Australian guy, who was fucking boring in the first place, to be the one who gets rushed in and rushed out. Is this what progress is to Hollywood, where the black guy carries the movie but now the Indigenous guy is the first one to get killed? So yes, this was a sore point for me because I wanted to see Adam Beach do his thing, and also, I wanted to see more stuff done with Killer Croc, who’s a way more interesting character than the fucking Australian guy too.

Again, this is a fucking mess of a movie, a dumb, dumb, dumb Hollywood hack job of a dumb movie. But yes, it’s fun and flashy, and yes, Margot Robbie doing Harley Quinn is one of the more interesting characters in superhero movie I’ve ever seen, and yes Jared Leto is pretty great as the Joker (for what little he gets to do), and yes they were smart getting Will Smith to carry the movie, and yes Viola Davis is awesome in this. This movie also, most prominently, is some kind of milestone for the transformation of the superhero genre. We’ve already had a superhero parody with misfits poking fun at the genre (Guardians of the Galaxy) and an R-rated, ultraviolent anti-hero Family Guy of superhero movies (Deadpool), but this is the first time the movie is about villains. Ultimately, the structure of the film tries to eliminate that difference (and really, this is a pretty conservative movie in that sense), but the difference in tone is unmistakable when you stack this against an Avengers movie. And really, if DC knew what was good for them, they would nudge their cinematic universe further in this direction instead of trying to beat the Marvel Universe at their own game. I, for one, am already drowning in cookie-cutter superhero movies, but if somebody was willing to do something interesting, something weird—more interesting and weird than Suicide Squad—that might be pretty awesome.


3 responses to “Suicide Squad (USA, 2016)

  1. Pingback: X-Men: Apocalypse (USA, 2016) | Offhand Reviews·

  2. Pingback: Ant-Man (USA, 2015) | Offhand Reviews·

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