Suicide Squad

Suicide squad

DC studios continues to make attempts to establish franchise super heroes beyond the Christopher Nolan batman series.  With the highly anticipated “Justice League” in the works DC studios continues to trail behind Marvel studios with regards to quality of product as well as fan interest.  Enter Suicide Squad, a less widely known (among casual fans) DC property that brings together a group of “meta-humans” to fight against threats to the US government.  On literal paper (in the comic books) this worked because of the comic’s commitment to maintaining that these were indeed villains bound only by self preservation rather than any inherent need to do good for goodness sake.  (you better watch out)  On film, this translated as a ragtag bunch of antiheroes with hearts of gold who maybe, just maybe would make a friend in the process of doing a good deed.

A few thoughts about Suicide Squad:

  1. A solid performance from Will Smith – Will Smith leans into his role as Deadshot an antihero hit man who only cares about the welfare of his daughter.  He is funny, at times serious, and all in all refreshing to watch as he breaks from his typical character archetype.  Seeing Will Smith play an ensemble player in a movie that did not necessarily revolve around him was a definite break from the norm.
  2. Clunky pacing – This movie was the victim of some second guessing from the studio after the successful release of “Deadpool”.  At times it was easy to spots the portions of the film that had been updated to fit a more silly tone.  However this happened at the cost of a well paced film with any clear intentions.  As the tone shifted wildly from serious to fun, to grave, and at times ridiculous, it could be easy to forget where the viewer was at any given scene.
  3. Strange villain – Not like “Dr. Strange”, but strange as in strangely placed.  This villain at times seemed to be overly powerful for this group as a first obstacle.  The foot soldiers seemed to be placed in the film as a low level enough challenge to showcase the powers of the protagonists.  This felt very plot device-y.  However the way the team came together seemed to indicate that there will be other adventures and obstacles for the team to face in future films.
  4. Suicide Squad felt like “antiheroes” – In some cases the poison was taken out of the fangs of these villains.  The Suicide squad was meant to be a group of dangerous super criminals who were only released to do the government’s bidding.  At times they felt more like the superhero response to the expendables.  The decision was clearly made to soften these criminals to make them “likable” for the audience. This was done at the cost of complexity to the characters, making some of them seem like flat stock pieces of a typical “team” movie.
  5. Off screen backstory – This film, much like “Batman V Superman:  Dawn of Justice” leaves much assumption to the viewer.  There is some character development and plot that occurs off screen that clearly affects the decisions made by the characters on screen.  Except for some flashbacks to explain some of these decisions or feelings, it seems as much is left to the assumption of the viewer.  This film definitely expects you to know the backstory of batman and the joker.  Speaking of the Joker…..
  6. The Joker’s presence was not necessary – This movie did no real service to the Joker as a character as the viewer is not actually introduced to the Joker as a character with any depth.  While one should not immediately compare this Joker to the Joker from “The Dark Knight” there was definitely a sense that his presence in this movie was either thought necessary by studio executives or some sort of fan service.  This would have been a far more intriguing movie with just the Joker’s finger prints and bread crumbs in the film rather than the lackluster performance from Jared Leto.  (also plot wise, the Joker could have been anyone as far as his actual effect on the story)
  7. Better than most of the other DC movies – Except for the Christopher Nolan Batman films this movie stood out as a minor success for DC.  Not a disaster, while not a resounding success, this film was not as problematic as many of the other DC films in rotation.  (read: superman)

All in all, a nice distraction from the Washington DC summer heat.  Bring the teenagers, leave the young children at the house.  2.99 of 5 stars.

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Independence Day: Resurgence

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There have been several movies in recent years looking to recapture the magic felt by those who attended movies in the 80s and 90s, either by creating a new experience or by playing on the nostalgia felt by the movie goer.  Two movies that capitalized on that nostalgia by creating new stories in familiar worlds were ‘Jurassic World’ and ‘Star Wars Episode 7 The Force Awakens’.  Both of these movies take their tasks seriously, using a familiar story or environment to forge a new path, sometimes with familiar characters and other times with new ones.  Both movies did well at the box office and among fans who went to see them both casual and dedicated.  It is with this in mind a movie goer could hope that the newest iteration of Independence Day would be an enjoyable or at least fun film.  Unfortunately it was not.

A few thoughts about ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’:

  1. The pacing in this movie (which had a two hours and nine minutes run time) was poor.  In the first act it seemed as if the film hoped to just catch the movie goes up to speed in the quickest and not necessarily most efficient way possible.  Many jump cuts from one scene to the next and in some cases from space to earth without much explanation.  By the time action is taking place, new characters have been introduced and characters from the previous film reintroduced without much in the way of an actual introduction.
  2. Poor character development.  While there are familiar faces in many ways those faces are completely foreign as the choices they make and gravitas they had in the first film has been squandered through the writing and direction.  Some characters that have grown up since “The battle of 1996” are portrayed by lesser known and unfamiliar faces which creates a sense of separation between the viewer and the characters.  The feeble attempts to create a backstory fall victim to the normal tropes of any movie in the alien/military genre.  (in at least one case a character from the first film has made a complete and inexplicable career change)  Also there are some brand new characters introduced in the movie who are shown to explain more of the world as the viewer should see it, but are then relied on heavily to advance the plot in a way that seem to stray the film from familiar yet again.
  3. Too many aliens.  In this iteration of the movie the aliens are out of the ships and on the ground fighting in some cases.  This takes away from the feel of the original movie and even changes the genre from a more disaster oriented science fiction film, to a full science fiction film.  The words “intergalactic” are uttered which for some reason felt out of place.
  4. No real decision made on tone.  This movie at times wanted to be funny, and at other times wanted to have heart.  All in all, the jokes felt tired and because of the aforementioned lack of character development the stakes for the danger felt ultimately too low.
  5. Poor use of minority and women characters.  While this movies boasts diversity among both minority and women many of their roles add no real value to the movie.  Eventually white men are called upon to do the majority of the thinking and the saving of the world.
  6. Silly Plot.  Now for the actual story, the motivation of the protagonists, the motivation of the antagonists, it all seemed very silly at its core.  This may have to do with the fact that when the plot zooms out wide from the original film expanding on the universe reveals the many plot holes that went previously unaddressed.  Simple things like why after twenty years would they not have some sort of unofficial name for the aliens, they were still literally calling them “the aliens”.  The world building was rushed with every advance in technology being explained by saying they used the alien technology to enhance their own.  The fact that of course despite that the world was working to together against the “aliens” the US was still the head of the global government, which came off self serving.  At one point in the movie, a character refers to it being the 4th of July (“It’s the fourth of July lets give them some fireworks” a poor attempt to reference Will Smith whose absence is felt for the duration of this movie) which is off putting because the date (besides it being 20 years after the first incident) is not really addressed, in general the passage of time from day to day in the present period of time is basically ignored.  This seems odd when in the first film they clearly give parameters to the time period in which the events happened setting up events on each day.  By not adhering to this tactic in the sequel (going back to pacing) the film seems lost in establishing the high stakes vs. the ever changing timeline.
  7. Visually appealing.  This movie clearly spent its budget on CGI which looked very good on screen.  From the mother ships, to the fighter ships, weapons and even the aliens themselves, visually this movie was fun to watch.

With the visual aspect this movie is worth seeing as a respite from the summer heat, however the poor everything else about it puts in on the low end of films worth seeing this summer.  2 of 5 stars.