Thursday, August 11, 2016

DC Finds the Right Tone With a Wrong Crowd

After two dark and dismal showings of their icon of hope, DC finally found proof that the classic Superhero ideology extolling:

Every life is worthwhile

Most criminals have some redeeming values that make rehabilitation a possibility

Is viable by using some of its lesser known characters.

Granted, they found it using some of the nastiest, deadliest, most sociopathic, super villains of the DCU.

But hey, they found the fun that comics are supposed to have too, so …yay!

It was also cool to see them figuring out that if the goal is to feature a character who believes they’re on the side of right, and acting in the interest and safety of the American people, while operating entirely through an "ends justify the means" mindset, they don’t need to mangle the members of the Justice League.

They already have Amanda Waller- a woman who can rival Bruce Wayne in the areas of planning ahead and manipulation - that is willing to do absolutely anything to reach her goals.

Using cameos to highlight bits of that rivalry, as well as showing Batman do more than just bring in criminals alive (which is progress in itself) but even preventing them from dying, and treating them with some respect defined those differences and made me excited for the new Justice League and solo Batman movies for the first time.

Other reasons this film works comes from the world they’ve been working to create.  When the protagonists are a group of hardened super criminals, whether or not they’re willing to kill opponents isn’t up for much debate.  Amazingly, that debate was brought up, and brought up in a far cooler and more honorable way than in Man of Steel

Yes, dangerous nutcases though they were, the Comic Book staples of Honor, Friendship and Team Work all played large roles with this bunch. Again, yay!

Having the word “Suicide” right in the name also helped maintain the suspense when the gang was in mortal peril. By design they’re not all supposed to make it home.  My daughter figured out why one of the gang wasn't too prominent in the trailers way before I did...That's my girl.

I realize I may have been complaining about Warner Brother’s films’ treatment of DC superheroes excessively


For most of my adult life.

However I am prepared to give credit where I see it and indicate an area where Suicide Squad displayed something about the DC movieverse that is superior to the Marvel one I’ve been heaping praise on since the first Iron Man.

The Marvel films and TV shows always hang their hat on “alien technology” as explanations for Asgardian Artifacts, Infinity Stones or whatever other mystical doo-dads show up. The rumor is the appearance of the Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider on SHIELD and the release of the Doctor Strange film will not change the paradigm.

Suicide Squad gave us the Enchantress and said straight out, “She’s a witch, and she uses magic spells, deal with it.”

That doesn’t mean other comic book ridiculousness got reduced.  Captain Boomerang had the standard “dark and gritty” bladed and exploding versions of his signature weapon. But he also had a surveillance camera one. 

And Killer Croc wasn’t a deformed criminal muscle man…he was a human/gator hybrid looking weirdo that ate people.

Once more…yay!

The soundtrack was not only an awesome selection of tunes, which is common these days in superhero films, but was a larger mix of eras than Guardians of the Galaxy and combined more genres than Deadpool, showing an understanding of the characters that DC has lacked on the big screen for many years now.

Have I said “yay!” enough yet?

Although sadly, the best of them didn't make it onto the CD, because they still hate me a little.

Edit- Correction, all but one of the good songs did not make it onto the CD, as there are a majority of crappy remixes and covers on it...I guess they still hate me more than a little.

The movie did follow the same rises and falls as the AvengersThat can’t be a valid criticism since every group formation film since at least the Seven Samurai traversed that arc:

The team forms, and while they bicker, still work together somewhat well.
Then there’s a dark turn where it looks like all is lost. 
An “El Guapo” speech rallies the troops to go against the big bad army/ monster/ giant fountain of shiny explodyness.
And the team wins…(ish in this case)

The execution and characterization employed as it followed this arc was where the success lay.  Spending enough time on flashbacks and introductions kept things fresh, and did some interesting world building as it went along though.

Dare I say it…yay!

Much like the John Ostrander Suicide Squad run the film pulls heavily from, and its spiritual successor Gail Simone’s Secret Six, these are most definitely not the good guys.  However, they’re incredibly fun to watch and had enough positive traits to get the audience rooting for them, and if not like them, at least enjoy watching their exploits.

The movie was wise enough to have almost all the crimes they’d been placed into the maximum security “threw him in a hole and threw away the hole” Belle Reeve prison for happen off screen.  We saw the criminals get caught, by the appropriate hero in a few cases (nice!) but didn’t actually see the nasty stuff they’re really being punished for.  It allowed the audience to acknowledge they are “bad guys” but judge them primarily on their actions in Task Force X.

The one criminal we did get to see at his worst, was the Joker.  I think my favorite thing about the performance was it being the first time the Joker had been in a modern comic book film and didn’t completely dominate it.  He’s part of one of the team’s back story, and (rightly so I suppose) a Wild Card element.  When he was on screen, he commanded the scenes, as befitting the force of nature - arch enemy - super criminal he is.  But it wasn’t his film and he was wisely used sparingly, and mostly as an element to drive Harley’s story.

I didn’t have issues with the new interpretation either.  Joker has always been the leader of a criminal gang.  Most writers who use him, however, neglect the fact that criminal gangs have shifted their image substantially since the Fifties.  He’s a twenty first century movie gangbanger…and the Joker at the same time.

The key to this film, again, goes back to the works of Ostrander and Simone.  The Squad is a hoot to watch, and with a few exceptions to build those key moments of friendship honor and teamwork, infused every action with a dark sense of humor. (Yay!)  Rick Flag was their straight man, and Katana served as the noble warrior who lets the audience know it's OK as she gets swayed by the frequently pointed to by me  friendship honor and teamwork.

Deadshot (leading the honor and teamwork things, El Diablo led the redemption things for anyone still paying attention that remembers the beginning of this post) and Harley were the two main focus characters, and were played by actors who unquestionably handled that burden, but the rest all got their moments of fun, darkness, and awesomeness. (And making me go, “yay!”)    

I guess that’s all I have. These Superheroic genre outings are much easier on my blood pressure and in terms of volume of prose required when I like them.  My daughter expected to like the action, but was happily surprised at how funny it was too.

Because she has a dark and twisted sense of humor, like her dad.  (Really big YAY!)

That’s my girl!

So go see it, if only to be amazed at Margot Robbie’s range (especially if you listened to one of my other “Go See Its” and saw her as Jane in the latest Tarzan film) as she plays the completely loopy, psychotic, and yet somehow sweet, Harley.   

I feel bad not complaining about anything in a DC movie post, so I’ll mention I also saw the animated Killing Joke movie.  

Unlike most of my random tangents and asides, this one is technically on topic, since the Oracle persona of Barbara Gordon was created by Ostrander and Kim Yale in the aforementioned Suicide Squad  run.  Also, Harley, the one member of the team who premiered after that amazing run, was created in Batman the Animated Series, which shared many creative personnel with this feature.   

If you have enough useless crap in your head...everything is on topic.

The adaptation featuring the return of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hammil as Batman and the Joker was perfect recreation and everything one could expect.

My complaint comes from the fact that it only takes up a little over half of the movie. The rest is a cross between a “Why Barbara gave up being Batgirl” story and “Why Barbara’s picture was in the montage of Bruce’s past loves in Batman Beyond” story.  It had Tara Strong back as Batgirl, yay for that.  The problem was the original stuff got rushed to get to the adaptation in the title, and both ended up suffering.   The creators said they wanted to make it a story about Babs since the Killing Joke objectified her. 

But it was supposed to objectify her.  And I don’t mean in a sexual way or anything. She’s an object in the Joker’s plan to driver her father crazy in order to prove a point to Batman, since Batman is the only one who isn't an object in the Joker’s viewpoint. Technically, there’s no indication in the comic as written, especially in comic book land, that her condition had to be permanent.

Having her fight a criminal whose main sickness was that he objectified her in the poorly handled opening section didn’t add much to the writer’s explanation.

As fantastic as the adaptation was-

-And it was a fantastic recreation. Mark Hamil singing the “Looney” song was every bit as horrifying and funny as I believed it would be-

I trust these creators enough that I would have much preferred large changes to the graphic novel in order to get the fully developed and executed Barbara Gordon story from the animated universe.  They kinda, sorta, half way tried to tell it, but it ended up clunky, and shifted the tone of some scenes in the Killing Joke in a way that detracted from the source material.

There, you had some complaining, now go see Suicide Squad.  

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