Monthly Archives: August 2016

Suicide Squad Review

Starring: Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis and Jared Leto

First half of this review is spoiler free, second half has spoilers but they’ve basically all been shown in trailers (I’ve included a spoiler warning at the right point).

So after a mixed response to Man of Steel and the critical (if not commercial) failure of Batman vs Superman, did DC finally get back to Dark Knight Trilogy quality with Suicide Squad?

Short answer: No. Oh dear.

Suicide Squad isn’t a terrible movie. What it is is a mediocre action film that throws away most of it’s potential with a simple plot and a slightly directionless story. Like Batman vs Superman it could (and should) have been so much better. There is a lot of promise shown here, mainly by the casting – all of them are pretty much perfect in their assigned roles, particularly Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. The rest get their share of cool moments, but none really get enough screentime to shine properly (hopefully any future films can rectify this).

The way the film introduces all the villains who make up the squad is done well in the first 30 mins, giving enough away to give a sense of who these people are but without turning into an info-dump that drags on forever (as apart from Harley Quinn most of the audience probably haven’t heard of any of the other squad members unless they watch Arrow, read the comics or have played the Arkham video games). That said, I know all but two of the characters, so I may have found the opening sequence less confusing than some people will.

To give a quick rundown we have: Deadshot (Master assassin and renowned sniper), Harley (Joker’s psychiatrist turned girlfriend), Enchantress (an explorer possessed by a crazy witch – both played by Cara Delevingne), Killer Croc (a vicious human with a reptilian appearance but dry sense of humour), Captain Boomerang (Yes really, he kills people with razor sharp boomerangs), El Diablo (a metahuman who can control fire) and the three ‘good guys’ keeping them in check: squad captain Rick Flag (an excellent Joel Kinnaman), Japanese sword expert Katana (her badassery really needed more screentime) and bitch in chief Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) the amoral squad leader.

The film wants to be DC’s equivalent of Guardians of the Galaxy (AKA a funny, not-to-serious superhero flick where a group of criminal/anti-hero misfits band together to stop a truly evil villain). But it falls well short of that. The main villain’s motivations are barely explored and unlike in Guardians the villain barely gets any meaningful screentime – even Ronan the Accuser (not Marvel’s best villain by a long shot) got a good half an hour of screentime in Guardians including standoffs and fight scenes. The villain in suicide squad gets even less and really needed more backstory. The soundtrack isn’t as well chosen as guardians’ was either (I doubt I’ll be rushing to buy either the mix of songs or the OST itself), the humour wasn’t nearly as effective (a few choice lines from Deadshot, Harley and Killer Croc excepted) and the plot was a great deal thinner.

A lot of the movie’s problems do stem from it’s script and plotline, which are just… lacking ambition really, and as a consequence doesn’t spark enough (I had a feeling of ‘is this it???’ when I realised just how little story there actually is in the film). I sense most of the issues can be blamed on scriptwriter and director David Ayer – who rushes through the best scenes in the film far too quickly (though admittedly this may be due to – urgh – studio interference as it’s clear quite a lot of scenes got cut… again DC!). I won’t say much about Joker in the spoiler-free section – simply that Jared Leto is very good but needed more screen time to really make a mark.

Warning: Spoilers from this point onwards! (skip to the end for the rating)

For those of you who’ve seen the film (or don’t care about spoilers) I can be a bit more explicit. Jared’s Leto’s Joker doesn’t work because he really shouldn’t have been in this film apart from Harley’s flashbacks. He just overshadows the main plot and does nothing particularly interesting (though this may be due to a lot of his scenes being cut – urgh again DC?!?!? (That’s what fucked up Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor! – he was already bad but the deleted scenes would have helped explain his motivations). Even though his version of Joker is good, the film doesn’t seem to know what to do with him. I’ll reserve judgement on Leto until he gets better material, but he does show promise, if not a Ledger defining performance as of yet.

With Joker sidelined, the main villain role is left to Enchantress (a female lead villain in a superhero movie? About fucking time!!! I’ll give this to DC – I’ve always said they’ve had more balls than Marvel about taking risks or breaking new ground – they’ve given us a black lead actor and a female lead villain in the third film in their series – Marvel haven’t managed that in 13 tries (somewhat shamefully and I suspect more due to studio execs than the producers), although they will rectify that in the coming years). Cara Delevingne certainly looks the part as an ancient evil sorceress possessing a helpless explorer, but unfortunately the script doesn’t give her enough to do or flesh her character enough to realise any potential there. I kind of wish we could have the character turn up on Arrow or Flash though – her powers would make for a very interesting episode!

On the positive side: loved the Batman and Flash cameos!

Overall: The cast are great and its a fun enough 2 hours, but there’s a real sense that this should have a lot better with a meatier storyline or more focus on either Joker or Enchantress. Well done Robbie and Smith. But Ayer… you have failed this audience.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

5 superhero films down, 1 to go in 2016. And as Marvel are trashing DC 3-0 in terms of quality, if Doctor Strange delivers, they will have absolutely crushed their rivals in the first year the two have really gone head to head.

For anyone curious, so far my ranking of Superhero films this year is looking like this:

  1. Captain America Civil War (a well-scripted, funny and great film aside from a cop out in the final confrontation between Iron Man, Winter Soldier and Cap)
  2. X-Men Apocalypse (Simple but pure fun, with a great young cast)
  3. Deadpool (Funny as hell but a very generic plot drags it down)
  4. Batman vs Superman (Great fight scenes and good performances by Gadot and Affleck let down by convulted plots, awful dialogue and a mad Jesse Eisenberg)
  5. Suicide Squad (More fun than Dawn of Justice but the plot goes nowhere and none of the characters get the screen time they deserve)

Jessica Jones: Season 1 Review

Starring Krysten Ritter and David Tennant

Looking for a quick Netflix binge or a new superhero fix? Jessica Jones might be just what you’re looking for…

Warning: Minor spoilers!

Marvel might have stolen a march on DC in film since the Dark Knight Trilogy, but thanks to Arrow, Flash, Gotham and Supergirl, DC’s pretty much owned the TV side of things. Or at least, it did whilst it’s only competition was the by-the-numbers and underperforming Agents of Shield. But Marvel has struck back. Agent Carter, Daredevil and Jessica Jones are three Marvel shows that have received critical acclaim, and as I had some time on my hands this summer, I decided to check them out, starting with Jessica Jones.

Jessica Jones isn’t your standard superhero TV show. She doesn’t wear a costume, have an alter-ego or superhero name, and the shows much more psychological than action-packed, and has a very noir feel, emphasised by the trippy opening titles and unusual, jazzy soundtrack. Jessica has some classic superhero powers (namely super-strength) but the show avoids the usual cliché of having a villain with similar powers for her origin story or first onscreen outing (aka like Superman and General Zod, Iron Man and Iron Monger, Green Arrow and Malcolm Merlyn etc.).

Instead we get Kilgrave (David Tennant) who might just be the most unsettling villain I’ve seen since the J0ker. His powers? Mind-control. He can compel others to do anything – be it throw coffee in their own face, kill someone they love or jump off a rooftop. Very few superpowered villains are terrifying simply by the nature of their powers – Kilgrave is an exception. Having a super-strong heroine go up against a villain who can effectively turn anyone in the whole city, her closest friends or even herself against her leads to a very tense 13 episodes. That said, he isn’t an entirely unsympathetic villain, his motivation and his past, once later episodes shed light on them, spark some pity for the man, helped in part by Tennant’s marvellous performance.

The acting in general is superb, Ritter makes Jessica a very complex heroine to root for – you won’t agree with everything she does in her quest to catch Kilgrave. The supporting cast all shine, particularly Carrie-Anne Moss as ruthless lawyer Jeri and Mike Colter as fellow superhuman Luke Cage.

The show as a whole is very dark – dealing with very adult topics such as suicide, rape, abortion and PTSD – sometimes you forget this is a superhero drama – anyone who wants the happy go-lucky feel of Marvel films, go somewhere else – this is properly compelling drama that only Winter Soldier and Civil War have come close to delivering. It has it’s lighter moments, particularly in the opening episodes, but overall this is something of an emotional roller-coaster.

So far all good. Issues? Well the show has a few. It’s 13 episode run-time feels undeserved – a few unnecessary plot developments could have been scrapped a delivered a much tighter 10 episode run. Will Simpson, a love interest of Jess’ surrogate sister Trish, has a plotline that really drags in the second half of the season, and even though it’s obviously setting something up for a second season it detracts from the main plot too much to have been necessary. The final showdown between Jess and Kilgrave is satisfying to watch but predictable. In general though, it was a solid first season and a sign that on TV at least, Marvel is willing to take risks with it’s storyline and characters.

Overall: Murky morals, an unsettling villain and a conflicted heroine makes this compelling viewing. It’s not a smash hit and won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but its very much worth a look.

Season Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (would have been 4/5 if it hadn’t dragged out the story too long)

Reviews coming soon: iZombie – season 1 review, followed by Suicide Squad, Orange is the New Black Season 4 and iZombie season 2!