Suicide Squad Divide: Critics v. Fans


Contains mild spoilers for Suicide Squad. Not enough to convince you to 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 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, 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 would be a wasted endeavour for 3 reasons. 1) Author Abdullah Coldwater would be better off organizing a DDoS blitz via an anonymous network than to try to shutdown a powerful website through mild and temporary pressure. 2) Rotten Tomatoes is not a review site, it is a review aggregator. It 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 or listen to Robert Downey Jr.’s wonderful People’s Choice Award speech). Also if you ask FilmGamer (that’s me), Metacritic is better. Covering films in a more divorced and accurate way (it gave #Squad giving it a 40) and covering games (which RT currently does not, but absolutely should).

eastayerWhy 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 of scenes from beginning to end with tonal whiplash between grim drama 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) Which mostly happens for Deadshot and Harley Quinn apparently).

A lot of scenes are pointless to the rest of the film. Take any more than one scene involving setting up the Enchantress’ brother. The Joker subplot which wastes a good performance. Using the Joker’s late jailbreak scene as an example, or the final mid-credits scene. These tell the audience things already known or to be assumed. Many 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.

datwt
With his non-comic background; apart from some improvised zingers in End of Watch by the performers, I find it hard to believe that Ayer would go back purposely for reshoots. Still if he was forced to add humour it did help and his gamesmanship and is aspiringly professional. #moreaction didn’t help.

Fans are truly the lifeblood of the film’s performance. Driven by the excellent feeling of the first two trailers, the first of which is one of the best trailers in 4 years, or 6. It’s a rush. But it’s the character performances brought to life by the actors (the jury is out on Leto’s Joker but I like him) resonate, just like the hits on the film’s very expensive soundtrack working overtime to let you know how to feel. Those 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 everything else. I agree with them mostly, only I believe what they skip over is more important to how the film works overall 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 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 blowing smoke from time to time, nostalgically reminisced a la Wayne’s World to the Queen music queued to the trailer. Meanwhile those truly nostalgic to see their favourite characters come to life that are still into this movie don’t mind the typically literal bloodless Hollywood interpretation of characters.

wbcake
Just like the Will Smith character in I Am Legend’s ending. WB again tries to have its cake and eat it too.

#Squad writer Ayer a non-comic person, doesn’t borrow or use any plotline from the comics that would help this plot make sense. Harley Quinn is explicitly debased and sexualized unnecessarily in a way she is not in other media 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. 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 cliché. Her climactic confrontation with the squad is not set up in a way that has any impact. They fight her in a mishmashed semi-improvised way reflective of the whole film. The audience is expected to shrug and go along with it. That’s The Enchantress I guess. Talk about the lacking fidelity in Smith’s interpretation of Deadshot. While obviously quite Smithian, or Will Smith-esque and great, he’s playing the character as an anti-hero who doesn’t kill women or children, though still quite a murderer. Splitting his character’s rough edges robs it of any meaningful consequence and weight the movie strives to both capture and avoid.

This brings to mind the larger issue of its underserved rating. The PG-13 rating has come a long way in the second half of its lifetime since Marvel’s X-MEN in 2000. It’s sci-fi action violence I saw when I was 6. There was a children’s tv show for it, age appropriate comics and toys. I had 12, 11, and 8-year-old brothers whose parents weren’t gonna leave me out so I was lucky. In comparison today, there was a 7-year old next to me present at a DC film which are 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 seems a bit dangerous for 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 readers to take an honest look and wonder if they haven’t become more de-sensitized to violence, as violent crime increases and overall crime decreases. The art on-screen will be imitated by kids time and time again. And it only takes one bad apple to ruin it for everyone. A clear line needs to be drawn when it comes to the film titled Suicide Squad

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 be? It would have been better than this movie. Even if it was only age 16 rating like in the U.K. We Canadians at least have 14A. I’ll say I might be biased on this stance because the kid beside me was annoying burping, bouncing around, making this sound with his drink. For the first time I stood up and said something to his dad. “He’s seven.” he replied. “Yeah he’s 7.” I replied. Do you want to see that at your next film? It is not good for anybody. It needs mending.
rtmeterThe 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 has 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. Yes this does make for a trashy piece of art.

Those who appreciate the film 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. For an intended PG-13, the move also works critically against the film’s favour in a way that hurts more now that when the The Avengers took on the Chitauri. If it doesn’t matter who the protagonists are disposing there’s a weightlessness to the conflict and no character momentum. Faceless hoards are an uninspired enough trope for video games. Piling up and resting on the characters when not given enough meaningful work to do. The impressions of the Squad are not enough to gain a favourable rating in reviews and with the MPAA. A more dynamic choice with rating would have made a better film 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 weak 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, that have validated the returns of both Ice Age and Transformers franchises. Though box-office gross is not often 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 can’t figure out. Audiences want to be entertained and have been searching for the 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 what 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 loudmouth fans really want to tolerate the 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 audiences deserve better! The most crushing part of the critical consensus is the wasted potential of the film. Seen 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?

Much like Harley Quinn's alliances in the film. The question must be asked "Who will you stand with?"
Much like Harley Quinn’s alliances in the film. The question must be asked “Who will you stand with?”

Tidbit:

  • 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, it was 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 in part due to its pandering to a young audience. It allowed me my first Batman theatre experience and second movie review to be the appropriately titled Batman Begins. Now there’s a film that adults, audiences and critics can all enjoy.

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