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Suicide Squad ••

Suicide_Squad_(film)_PosterStarring: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie |
Director: David Ayer
Screenplay: David Ayer
Action/Adventure/Comedy, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 123 minutes
Release Date: August 5, 2016


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(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, don’t look now but a group of supervillains is on the loose.

If you’re a fan of The Dirty Dozen, this will be only half as good. Let’s recap:

With Superman gone, the world is vulnerable to attack by evil beings who have Superman’s powers. CIA operative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) decides to assemble a team of incarcerated supervillains who will carry out missions for the government in exchange for reduced time for their crimes. The villains include Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), and Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje).

Their mission, should they decide to accept it, is to rescue a VIP from the top of a skyscraper where evil witch Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) has imprisoned them. The team is reluctant to oblige, but they’ve all be implanted with super-small but super-powerful subcutaneous neck-bombs. If they don’t comply, off with their heads. And so we’re off to fight the coal-men minions protecting the tower.

Greg, Suicide Squad was a movie with great potential. Some of it was realized but much of it wasted. The strength of this movie resides in the memorability of two of its villainous characters: Deadshot and Harley Quinn. Both these villains exude charisma and left me wanting to see more of them and know more about them. The remaining three villains (Diablo, Boomerang, and Croc) were largely forgettable characters, and the movie suffers from devoting so much time on them. In fact, Suicide Squad spends far too much film time introducing its cast at the expense of offering good storytelling.

I heartily agree, Scott. I thought Will Smith and Margot Robbie delivered great performances. As did Jared Lito with his interpretation of the Joker. If somehow the focus was on these three characters I think DC/Warner would have had the basis for great follow-on stories. But as we’ve seen so many times this year (and with last year’s Batman v. Superman) special effects and action/fight scenes were emphasized over story.

I like to compare this story to 1967’s The Dirty Dozen. It’s essentially the same story. A bunch of bad guys are sprung from jail to perform one impossible mission. And in return the bad guys get clemency. The older movie took care to emphasize the evolution of the team with a focus on just a few of the lead characters. It was a successful mix which made Dozen a classic.

There is a hero’s journey for our heroic/villainous ensemble, although as you point out, Greg, it is hardly original. Our super villains must do the nearly impossible task of defeating a super powerful villainous entity and its hench-creatures. The interesting feature of this journey is that while it doesn’t really transform the ensemble, it transforms our perception of them. We learn that Deadshot is a family man with a soft heart. We learn that Harley Quinn yearns for a normal family life with the Joker. The movie does its best to convince us that these villains are hopelessly evil but we learn differently.

This is a DC Universe origin story. The purpose of the film was to introduce us to the fleet of villains we’ll see in movies to come. And as such, it succeeds. There isn’t much of a character arc to these characters because we want to learn who they are and why the are who they are. We don’t see much a transformation here so the hero’s journey is weak. We do see a bit of a “coming together” for the team. But the motivations for this teamwork are also weak. There’s not much holding this team together, and so the story itself doesn’t hold together well, either.

Mentorship is hard to come by in this film. There are samples of mentors, but none that were central to the story. We see Deadshot mentoring his daughter in a parent/child relationship. And we see the Joker as a dark mentor for Harley Quinn. I don’t think there are any mentors for the anti-heroes themselves. The “leader,” Captain Rich Flagg (Joel Kinnaman ) is less of a mentor and more of a animal trainer – keeping the villains in check. But when he destroys the control for the neck-explosive, somehow he and the crew of five agree to work together for the common good. But not due to some powerful mentoring on Flagg’s part. But for inexplicable reasons that each of the villains has for themselves. It all makes for a very weak mentoring plot.

Suicide Squad is a mixed bag. On the one hand, we are delighted to encounter a colorful and dynamic — not to mention formidable — collection of villains who are tasked with saving the world from all-powerful evil. On the other hand, not all the villains prove to be interesting and the film is so preoccupied with introducing and building up the ensemble that we’re left with a rather flimsy story. This movie was close to being good but falls short in key areas. I can only award it 2 Reels out of 5.

Our ensemble of heroic villains is fun to watch at times, particularly Deadshot and Harley Quinn. These two characters pack a lot of charismatic punch and left me wanting to see more of them and less of the others. The hero’s journey is in plain sight but I sensed that the characters are not terribly transformed by their journey. It is more the case that their story gives us, the audience, insight into their humanity (or in Croc’s case, his reptility). Because two of the supervillains impressed me with their charisma (one of the great eight traits of heroes), I can justify awarding our heroes a rating of 3 Heroes out of 5.

You’re right, Greg, that mentorship was not a central concern of Suicide Squad. Flagg and Waller play more of a zookeeper role than mentor role to our heroes. Deadshot seems to be the voice of reason within the ensemble but I called it more of a leadership role than mentorship. Good call, Greg, on the Joker’s sinister “grooming” of Harley Quinn. Overall, this film eeks out a mentorship rating of 2 out of 5.

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Suicide Squad was an introduction, of sorts, to the villains of the DC Universe. Stand outs Deadshot and Harley Quinn will be welcomed additions due to their complex natures and apparent flaws. Diablo, Boomerang, and Killer Croc are not so interesting and are likely to play lesser roles in the future. The movie is a visual feast, but lacks story and character development. I give it 2 out of 5 Reels.

This is an anti-hero story so we look for how well the villains devolve into their villainous roles. The seem no more evil and no more heroic at the end of the film than they do at the start. What we do get is a nice insight into what makes them villains. That is good considering this is an origin story for our villains. I give the anti-heroes just 2 out of 5 Heroes.

And Scott and I agree there is a lack of mentorship here. Captain Rich Flagg and his puppet master/mastermind Amanda Waller don’t mentor our villains into something more heroic so they get no points. We are witness to the Joker’s dark mentorship of Harley Quinn. I can only muster 1 Mentor point out of 5.

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