Suicide Squad

What a fucking mess. There were apparently two versions of Suicide Squad, the dark original and a funnier reshoot. It shows. This movie doesn’t know what the fuck it is doing.

A full run-down isn’t necessary; it’s been catalogued elsewhere by a variety of scathing reviews.

Two less-discussed aspects that stood out for me:

The character who creates the Suicide Squad, FBI something-something Amanda Waller, is the most incompetent government official in the history Hollywood blockbusters. The weird thing is she’s presented as a capable bad-arse, despite the omni-directional clusterfuck she presides over.

This is what happens: she creates the Squad, the pretext being they need a group capable of stopping a bad superman (not quite sure how Harley Quinn’s baseball bat is going to do that). Included in the list of misfits is this interdimensional witch / god called ‘Enchantress’ who Waller thinks she can control because Waller is a certified idiot. The witch gets away (obviously) and creates CGI brother, who sucks people up or melts them or turns them into automatons with the skin texture of burnt octopus.

So then the Suicide Squad is called into action by Waller to kill the thing she herself created. Yet, inexplicably, everyone seems to be apologising to her about it. It’s so fucking dumb. And then Waller straight-up murders a bunch of FBI people for knowing too much, even though blind Freddy could see the city has been attacked by CGI-brother-of-witch and what are you trying to hide given the four agents you killed in the super-secret room anyway?

In short: Amanda Waller grossly incompetent sociopath who’d probably succeed on Wall Street, but shouldn’t be put within cooee of superhero wrangling.

The only good thing about this train wreck was the two Australian actors, Margot Robbie and Jai Courtney, who play Harley Quinn and Captain Boomerang respectively. Harley Quinn has a bunch of stupid lines and questionable character motivation, but Margot Robbie pulls it off with charisma and verve. Captain Boomerang’s main job is to drop Aussie one-liners and drink beer, and he does both to perfection. I’d happily watch a Harley Quinn – Captain Boomerang buddy movie. Preferably one where they hunt down Amanda Waller and throw her in a grease fire.

This fucking thing made money, as well. A lot. Which presumably means the cumquats that produced it haven’t learnt their lessons, which, in turn means we’ll get more of these illogical montages of limp money shots masquerading as an ensemble movie.

Logan

The best X-Men movie and it’s not really close. They’ve belatedly realised a character as dark as Wolverine, whose primary attributes are alcoholism and stabbing people with claws, warrants an R rating. If nothing else, the action scenes are more credible, visceral, and real.

But there’s not nothing else. There’s plenty. Patrick Stewart gives, I think, his career best performance – in any role – as Professor Xavier suffering dementia.  It’s quite moving to see this once-mighty X-man brought so low, so weak, and so dependent. I wondered, while watching, if Stewart was acting out some of the fears he holds for his later years.

It’s Hugh Jackman’s best performance as the Wolverine, as well. My problem with Jackman is he’s so damn likeable. I’ve found it hard to suspend disbelief and actually believe he’s this angry, emotionally scarred loner. But in Logan, he pulls it off. He feels like a man barely holding onto life, to the last vestiges of meaning or purpose. He’s meant to be tired, worn down by tragedy, and yeah, Jackman makes the viewer feel that.

It is a sad, often brutal film that nonetheless is a surprisingly effective mediation on violence and loss. On power and its abuses. The movie unfolds with a sense of pathos and inevitability. They don’t shirk from the set-up; the end that must come, does.

Comic Book Girl 19, who runs a YouTube channel I quite enjoy watching, had quite an emotional response to the movie. She comes at it from the point of view of someone deeply immersed in the comic book world (whereas I never read comics, so am judging these movies as things-in-themselves).

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is perfectly adequate. It’s the best of the modern batch of DC movies, which admittedly is a low bar to step over.

I laughed a few times. Two of the fights were cool. And the casting – with one or two notable exceptions – was spot on.

Chris Pine as Captain Steve Trevor does an excellent job – good enough to give his character’s death emotional resonance. I thought it was one of the better performances of his career actually, and his chemistry with Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman helped elevate the movie.

While the two have the standard blossoming romance thing required by these sorts of films (though I expected them not to have such a sub-plot here in order to prove a political point) it surprisingly works very well in the movie, with the duo making a believable, charismatic love match.

The opening on the Amazon Island was one of the better sections of the movie, as was the point, about halfway in, where Wonder Woman charges across no-man’s land under a hail of machine gun fire, blasts through the trenches, throws a tank, and explodes a sniper nest at the top of a church.

Fucken good stuff.

This is interspersed with mostly flat, unmemorable scenes in London. I’m not sure what idiot thought a Wonder Woman / Pretty Woman fashion montage was a good idea, but fuck off please and let’s have Gal Gadot throwing more tanks.

Still the best Wonder Woman

The inclusion of a Native American as part of the team that travels through enemy lines to save the day was a baffling casting choice. Presumably it was done to tick some sort of diversity box the creators thought needed ticking. If this is the case, they could have least have gone for a persecuted minority that actually lives in Europe, like the Roma, for example. Perhaps the writers could have been smart and foreshadowed their persecution under the Germans in the following War.

Instead they had the ‘chief’ doing smoke signals. Good lord.

The final act was pretty bad (except Steve Trevor’s death, which was affecting). Wonder Woman had one of those modern superhero battles that apparently requires endless CGI and undergraduate philosophising. The End-Level Boss, in this case, was the god of war, Ares.

The final scene, essentially:

Wonder Woman: “I just want the world to love” (throws tank)

Ares: “I want the world to fight!” (hurls lightning)

Wonder Woman: “Love is love!” (blocks lightning with bracers)

Ares: “Murdering shit is awesome!” (explodes airport with god rage)

Wonder Woman: “Love!” (hurls thunderbolt, kills Ares)

So the ending was stupid, and the film overall would have been improved with 20 minutes cut out of it.

But look, it’s not a bad outing. Wonder Woman may well have revived the DC extended universe, for good or ill. I’m not sure I’ll watch any of the other new DCEU films, but I’ll definitely see the Wonder Woman sequel.

 

 

 

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