Saturday, August 13, 2016

Spoiler Saturday--The Moral Terpitude Of Suicide Squad (2016)

Oh dear.

Look, I'm going to spoil the living hell out of the Suicide Squad movie, so if you care, perhaps you should come back after you've endured that piece of cinema.

Spoiler commence after the 5 Suicide Squad pictures....

You guys know me by now. You know I'm not too big on the glorification of murderers as heroes, or even anti-heroes.

But that's never been an absolutist position. You can do a good story based on hard-assed goods guys defending the greater good by forcing villains to fight the good fight. Hell, I read the Ostrander Suicide Squad in its original run, and for the most part, it was cracking good fun.

But it's important that the creators remember whom they're dealing with in stories like this--these are bad guys. They're in prison/the criminal insane asylum for a reason. And well certainly redemption and recovery is possible, if you're not careful in how you portray these characters, you lose sight of who they truly are, and turn them into cuddly misunderstood heroes, instead of the damaged and extraordinarily dangerous people they are.

That's why Ostrander usually had heroes--often several--working with the Squad, for contrast. And he rarely lost the satiric edge that set the "let's use the bad guys to do good" thing into proper perspective.

Not this movie, though.

Perhaps the worst sin of this movie is that, in its efforts to make the villains more likeable and heroic, the make Amanda Waller into the worst villain of all.

Scene: Amanda Waller and several techies are trapped in the Midway City Federal Building during the movie's little crisis, and Waller has tasked Task Force X with rescuing them.

Now, the first thing to note is that Waller's mishandling of June Moone/Enchantress is what caused this whole mess in the first place. Because she was terrible in her assessment of Enchantress and Rick Flag, and because she kept extremely dangerous artifacts around, she is responsible for the devastation in Midway. Task Force X was supposed to keep metas in check. Instead, it created one, and let a U.S. city be destroyed.

And note that Waller does NOT call in the Suicide Squad to defeat the threat. Remember, Waller had spent the first 20 minutes of the movie arguing that her Suicide Squad was the only way to combat the threat of metas and protect the country. Yet for their first mission, rather than confront the meta, or help the people of Midway, the Squad's mission rescue Waller, and do nothing else. Hell, according to Flag, they were specifically prohibited from engaging the meta. In other words, everything in the beginning of the movie was a lie. These guys aren't here to "cross the lines that heroes won't cross," or whatever other hardass patriotic bullshit Waller spun--Task Force X is there to function as her personal bodyguard. Period.

Oh, but wait. After the Suicide Squad gets to her HQ in the skyscraper, Waller has her employees "wipe the hard drives" and all of that other evacuation-speak. And after they do...she shoots them. In cold blood All five of them. She kills her own employees. Why? "They weren't cleared for this."

Put aside the fact that this makes no sense--they were in her HQ, helping her track and guide special ops teams, including the Squad. Why were they there if they weren't cleared? Did Waller just grab random people and take them into her safe room? And let's not forget that the Squad rendezvoused at, got dressed and geared up, in broad daylight in a refugee center, where hundreds of civilians and presumably not-cleared-for-this soldiers saw them, and heard their briefing!!! So, top secret doesn't apply when you want to show a scene of dozens of men staring at Harley's hinder, but it does for your support staff who saved your ass?!?

The bottom line is, those 5 people did their jobs. None of them was evil. No one was a traitor. No one was going to the press, or selling secrets to Qarac, or under the control of the meta, or in any way remotely failing her in any way whatsoever.

But because they didn't have sufficient security clearance, Amanda Waller straight up murdered 5 federal employees, point blank. Summary execution, no chance to defend themselves (they weren't even armed).

Just so we're crystal clear, Waller accidentally created the very threats she claimed she wanted to stop through utter incompetence; she refused to let the Suicide Squad fight the meta or save the city, because they were there only to get her out; AND SHE SHOT 5 FEDERAL EMPLOYEES WHO HAD HELPED SAVE HER LIFE IN THE HEAD.

And Bruce Wayne makes a deal with this woman. Just sayin.'

Now, there are hard-ass leaders who are willing to cross the line for greater good, and there are criminal sociopaths who are a greater threat than any of the villain's she's commanding. She's not Lee Marvin in the Dirty Dozen, she's one of the evil CIA bosses from a Bourne movie.

It should be noted that there's not one single attempt to humanize Waller, or explain her, or her beliefs, or her actions. Not one sentence about her background, her history, not a single word. Nope, she's just an incompetent who doesn't do any of the things that she promises in the movie's set-up, and callously murders allies because the movie couldn't thing of any other way to make her look mean compared to the "villains."

But the David Ayer script really didn't need to do that, because it does everything in it's power to make our villains cute and likeable.

Deadshot is a professional assassin. he kills people, dead, for money. But this movie starts with him being tortured by sadistic prison guards. so we're sympathetic to him. Aww, poor guy. When we get a flashback to his killing a man in cold blood, it's played for comedy (he wants more money for the hit!!). He has an adorable daughter, who loves him and forgives despite the hundreds of bodies that he's responsible for! He wants to protect her from her negligent mother!! Aww, he's a great dad!! He avers that he never kills women or children (although he did promise to kill a guard's entire, that was just tough talk!)! Hell, Waller kills several women in the movie--Deadshot is obviously a better person than she is!!! He's really not so bad!!

And good old Harley Quinn--again, we start with her being tortured, to set up the sympathy. So what if she helps the Joker escape, and goes on killing sprees with him? She's in love, so it doesn't count!! And she's attractive, and she says funny things, and she agrees to stay and help, and for some reason she gets all heroic (and uses someone else's weapon...because...?) to strike the final blow!! And she wants a espresso machine!! How adorable!! She's not really a bad guy--just a misunderstood woman who love drove to do ill-advised things!!

Captain Boomerang? Well, sure, he murders all his accomplices, and he's got 3 consecutive life sentences--but he's got a funny accent, and he says funny things, and really, he's more an irritating guy than a killer, right? Killer Croc--sure, he's a cannibal, but he's really sweet underneath!

Of course, there's fighting, but until they reach the big bad, 100% of the fighting is against humanoid blobs, because we can't show our protagonists actually killing people!! That might make them unsympathetic!! We've assembled a team of killers, but we can't show them actually killing!!  (Bonus--killing only inhuman blobs means we also get to keep our PG-13 rating, because we're so damned edgy!!)

My bottom line? Don't worry about whether the movie is poorly written (oh, boy, is it) or ham-fistedly directed and edited (yup, it is) or whether the attempt to ape Guardians Of The Galaxy in its use of music shows all the inspiration and creativity of a drive-time DJ on a classic rock station.

No, the biggest problem with this film is that it summarizes the DC Cinematic Murderverse in a very clear and concise manner. There are no good guys. Your leaders are murderers and scumbags. The same Batman who tried to kill Superman because he couldn't be trusted now makes deals with mass murderers, because how else could he form the Justice League? And the criminals, the murderers? To a man, they're not so bad--geez, they all just want to take care of the families, and be with their loved ones, and gee, some of them are awfully sorry for murdering people-- can't we just love them the way they deserve to be loved? It is a film where every villain is a better human being, and a better developed character, than the good guys.

And nothing--nothing--can erase from my mind the sight of Amanda Waller calmly murdering five loyal, innocent people who work for her because "they weren't cleared for this." That is the movie, folks.


Kyle said...

Excellent review... sums up my thoughts pretty well. I want these DC movies to be good, but disappointment after disappointment. I am really dreading the upcoming Wonder Woman film, I have high hopes, but they always end up let down. I haven't regularly read any DC comics since the 90's, are they all this dark and murderous these days? I remember the online talk about Identity Crisis and all the Rage and Death Lanterns awhile back but I haven't kept up in a long while. Anyway, with the amount of money this movie pulled in I don't see them having any incentive to change.


Warren JB said...

Shoot, I still smart from Captain America going rogue and aiding an unstable assassin (and the rest) because of his 'feelings'. The moral/ethical dissonance in this movie would probably make my head blow like that guy from Scanners.

B Smith said...

I tried explaining to a friend who didn't understand the discomfort by saying that I was waiting for the new movie wherein Jeffrey Dahmer, David Berkowitz, John Wayne Gacy, Aileen Wuornos and the Zodiac are brought together by a government agent, armed to the teeth and let loose in order to fight crime, with hilarious consequences and a 70s hits soundtrack.

SallyP said...

Well, that just killed any possible reasons I would have seen this movie. Because frankly, I have always adored Amanda Waller. But not like this... parody.