2. Suicide Squad (2016)

I want to talk about why Suicide Squad didn’t work.

It was something I touched upon very briefly in my last post, where I repeated, less eloquently, what Richard Brody said in The New Yorker about the film’s lack of style, and David Ayer’s inability to commit to either naturalism or stylization. I’ll talk more about that later. First, though, there’s one point in particular that I don’t think anyone else has picked up on in as great detail as it deserves: this film is really racist.

Let’s just do a quick roll call of some of the major characters:

A beer-swigging Aussie class clown?

Check.

Hispanic gang-banger who calls everyone “homes” and who everyone else calls “esé”, with suitably cute Roman Catholic outlook on God, Satan and damnation?

Check.

Wise-cracking African American dude?

Check.

Edit: It’s been pointed out to me that Killer Croc, who is also black, or was before he was a reptile, or something, demands BET broadcast into his cell during negotiations with the authorities. Happily for me first time round, I missed that line, because it’s almost impossible to understand the few lines the crocodile is given. Another example of some good ol’ light-hearted racial stereotyping.

And finally, the icing on the cake: silent unsmiling Asian woman who wears a mask, carries an enchanted sword which she speaks to in Japanese and whose only mission is to avenge her husband’s death at the hands of the Yakuza?

Double check.

I realize that it could be argued that Captain Boomerang (and by the way, what a fucking terrible name) and Deadshot are just lazy types, but Katana, and to a lesser extent El Diablo, were embarrassingly racist caricatures of ethnicities that have been abused by Hollywood for aeons. I felt uncomfortable watching this film.

There has been some chat about this online but somehow, because this is a mainstream Hollywood movie and we are so used to the horrendous typecasting, normalized whitewashing and crap writing of minorities (Google Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall for real controversy-based fun if you’ve missed it), it hasn’t caused too much of a storm. One reviewer summed it up perfectly, asking of Cpt. Boomerang: “What’s next? Does he ride a kangaroo, too?”

Then, of course, there is the gun worship.

If I had watched this in the USA I would have felt incredibly unnerved. It was weirdly scary in the UK anyway, watching Deadshot drill burning holes through the heads of human-shaped targets then break into a wide grin, but in a film featuring the Joker—and thus a constant reminder of the Aurora shootings—having so many guns in one film was distasteful at best and dangerous at worst. Literally everyone is packing heat in this movie, and it’s not light-hearted enough to shrug off the implications of that.

This sort of links into another criticism that I have, which is that the climax of this film begins so early that you don’t even realize that it is the climax. There’s the standard giant-beam-of-light-going-into-the-sky ending where the heroes (or villains or whatever you want to call them, I don’t care) have to stop the Big Bad’s Final Form from manifesting, but the build-up to that is just a really long gunfight in an empty city.

And I mean really long. I thought this was going to be a brief foray into action for the Suicide Squad (which, annoyingly for movie bloggers, can’t be shortened to “the SS”), before they got the hell out of there, maybe after some predictable treachery from one of the amoral bad types, and had some sort of reflective moment about the nature of good and evil (yawn) before going back for a final confrontation with Enchantress, perhaps in a different setting like her spooky jungle home.

But nope, they just go into the city, fight, and fight a bit more, argue with one another, fight some more, then fight the Big Bad. Then the film tries to trick us into believing that June Moone has died; she clearly hasn’t and only a child would have bought that moment. The apparent true love between Rick Flag—the hillbilly soldier—and the timid scientist conquers all. Things go back to how they were before and we’re set up for the inevitable sequel.

Bleh. There was no style to it.

I was hopeful in the opening scenes. Twisted neon factoids introduced the characters, overlaid on the screen, that were playful and almost amusing, and set up some decent rolling jokes like Cpt. Boomerang’s pink unicorn fetish. Creedence Clearwater Revival played over the opening montages, as did the Rolling Stones, in a pale but workable imitation of “Gimme Shelter” in The Departed and every other Scorsese movie. Enchantress appeared on-screen and actually looked very cool (her SFX were wicked, to make up for the fact that Cara Delevingne can’t really act).

But then it just turned into running battles in rainy cities (cliché), nonsensical declarations from Amanda Waller that I think were meant to be badass, and that giant pillar of light and shit going up into the sky. It was a bit like The Mummy Returns, with the Scorpion King and Imhotep and all their friends, only less fun.

Which was sad, because I was really excited for this film. As nearly everyone has correctly said, the only ray of light was Margot Robbie, because she had a lot of fun with a character that gave her a fair amount to work with. As for Jared, The Atlantic has said everything that needs to be said about him. Heath Ledger was better, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t even think Ledger was that brilliant in The Dark Knight. I don’t think it’s that difficult to play a murderous psychopath, really.

Oh, and also, was Will Smith’s daughter and the fact that he “doesn’t kill women or children” meant to make us like him? The dude is a professional assassin and we’re meant to somehow feel bad because he went to prison and now his daughter can’t hang out with him. Sorry guys, but here’s a quick newsflash: that’s what happens if you kill people for money.

Anyway.

@tom_boc

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