Tag Archives: James Gunn

The Suicide Squad

We actually saw this movie a few weeks ago, and like a good sport, I left it to Sean to review. You may have noticed it’s almost always Sean who reviews the super hero genre, and that’s me being my magnanimous self, giving these films a fair shake by not reviewing them myself. But Sean seems to have very little to say about this one, an indictment in itself, so it’s up to me to save the day.

I didn’t like it.

I really didn’t care for the first one either. I thought the music was both the best and worst part, the constant stream of pop songs perking me up, but their overuse indicative of weak writing and poor editing. This one doesn’t even feel as memorably bad, it was just a movie that failed to interest me despite a bevy of recognizable names and some enjoyable James-Gunn-isms.

Yes, the man has a way with manic expression, and away from Marvel’s PG-13 cage, he explodes with violent glee, shooting off confetti cannons loaded with human flesh, painting the scene with guts and gore. And while I welcome the sanguineous spectacle, I wish it splattered an actual story.

So we all know that Belle Reve is the prison where all the very worst super villains are kept, and that shady Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is at it again. When she’s got a job that’s so high-risk only the most expendable will do, she assembles Task Force X, a gang of villains chosen from the prison’s population. They’re promised freedom if they survive the mission, and no one expects them to survive. That’s why they call them the Suicide Squad.

We’ve got some new faces and some familiar faces in this particular squad: Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), and King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), among others, and Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman) to keep them all in line. Armed and dangerous, they’re dropped into the jungle of Corto Maltese, an island that’s overrun by enemies, including militaries, guerrilla forces, super villains, and a Big Bad that’s very Big and very Bad, threatening to take over the entire island – and then the world!

Much like the first, the only character worth watching is Harley Quinn, and that’s largely due to Robbie. Suicide Squad’s Harley Quinn isn’t nearly as compelling as Birds of Prey’s, but she’s charming, manipulative, and unpredictable, an irrepressible combination, And though Robbie’s boxed in by the male gaze and the narrower interpretation of her character, she still brings a psychotic empathy to the role that’s a lot of fun to watch. Unfortunately, with such a large ensemble, she can’t be on the screen at all times. More the pity. Once again, DC bites off more than it can chew, padding out the squad with forgettable villains who are ill-used and badly introduced, if at all. Since they don’t care, neither do we, which is the most disappointing part of this film. The first Suicide Squad didn’t get this right either, but considering James Gunn was able to galvanize a bunch of unknown galaxy-guarding losers into crowd-pleasing heroes, we hoped he’d be able to do it again. No doubt DC was counting on him for this as well, but instead this movie doubles down on stacking the deck with mostly filler – not enough to engage the audience, but just enough to steal time from the few things in the film that do work. Bummer.

I think this movie was relatively well-received because we’ve been living in a blockbuster drought. If you’re thirsty enough, you’ll drink muddy puddle water gratefully. James Gunn’s Suicide Squad is muddy puddle water: it will do in a pinch. People will drink it during a time of scarcity, but given any choice at all, they’d rather drink anything else. It’s already on its way to being forgotten with other drinks that ultimately flopped despite lots of hype and fanfare: Crystal Pepsi, New Coke, Suicide Squad.

Guardians of the Galaxy

Nominated for Visual Effects and Makeup and Hairstyling Oscars, Guardians of the Galaxy was the third highest grossing movie of 2014. So, when I talk about GOTG, I’m going to assume you know what movie I’m talking about and won’t waste any of your time describing the plot. Which is just fine with me because I’m not sure I followed it all.

I don’t watch these kinds of movies all that often- ones where I am introduced to multiple alien Guardians makeupraces so I’m not used to having to keep track of sci-fi mythologies. This one felt particularly complicated to me and I found it especially hard to keep Thanos and Ronan straight. By the end, I was surprised by how little that wound up mattering. I got it without really getting it.

The five Guardians of the Galaxy are easy enough to tell apart: Christ Pratt, a green woman, a grey guy, a raccoon, and a tree. These five were a blast to watch especially when they were all Guardians visual effectstogether. They were different enough from each other- in looks, in personality, in worldview, in fighting styles- that their unlikely alliance was almost always funny to watch. Their banter helped give me engaged through chase scenes that I found otherwise hard to follow and made me forget problems- mainly that I wasn’t always clear what was at stake here- that would have been unforgivable had the movie insisted on being taken more seriously.

The fact that director James Gunn was having so much fun with these characters helped make the necessary plot-advancing scenes so much less dull than, say, The Avengers. In fact, give me these characters over The Avengers any day. This whole project had so much more life and creativity than 2012’s Avengers film and I am as excited for a GOTG sequel as I am indifferent to this summer’s Avengers: Age of Ultron.

On a final note, I’ve rooted for Chris Pratt ever since I started watching Parks and Recreation and I thought his charm in this was a big part of what made this film work. But is it just me or does Star-Lord (well, his mom really) have terrible taste in music?

For another asshole’s opinion, read Sean’s review here.