Stixen Stones Takes on Suicide Squad!

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Stixen’s Spoiler-free summary:

Do you enjoy DC failing miserably? Or are you used to it by now? Because this movie is no exception! Because, cast, crew and director be damned- sometimes, no matter how good the set-up is, that’s just not enough to save a shaky plot.

Warning! Many spoilers lurk below this point!

Me: Thoughts going in vs. coming out?

Stixen: Coming in – I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait to see this movie. Harley is one of my favorite comic book characters. The Batman female villains (aka the Gotham City Sirens comprised of Harley, Poison Ivy and Catwoman) were a huge part of my childhood and are one of the major reasons why I started doing drag. So, I was really excited to see Harley (as well as Enchantress and Katana) kick some ass and take some names. The trailer really had it all. Witty banter, fun costumes, bad-ass villains. I really couldn’t wait. But coming out, I felt pretty disappointed. They marketed this movie all wrong. It ended up being “Deadshot & Company: The Will Smith story.”

Me: Great music. Great actors. I don’t think whoever wrote the script understands what a “villain” is. Deadpool was a darker shade of grey, and he is a flippin’ antihero.

Stixen: Too true! I think Harley was portrayed well as a villain/anti-hero but everyone else was pretty vanilla.

Me: I can’t get over the villains seriously sitting around and gasping about a guy killing a woman and children. Seriously? There are two women on the team. It is an oblivious oversight, and it doesn’t make sense that villains would be so shocked by something like that.

Stixen: Too true! It’s pretty weird to see them all so shaken when they all have downright slaughtered innocent people. It really made no sense. The more that I think of it, the more I feel like this movie feels like a sequel. The plot was so rushed and it felt as though they expected us to already know the characters. It’s as though they already gave us a first movie, in which all of these baddies have already gotten the killer instinct out of their system, they’ve bonded and they’ve already become a family. But this film really rushed that aspect in favor of more action sequences and more Will Smith quips. And I was vastly disappointed in that. I wanted to see them perform a few smaller missions. I wanted to see them piling onto the plane after they’ve failed their first mission as Killer Crock attempts to make small talk with a grunting Enchantress, and Harley bounces her hair in someone’s face and proclaims “Come on guys, it wasn’t THAT bad!” There were so many missed moments in this movie.

Me: The story was definitely too tidy. It felt like any other lack-luster superhero team movie. Villains being forced to do good is a recipe for a complicated story, and the writer/director didn’t take advantage of any of it. They tried too hard to make the characters redeemable rather than sympathetic. There’s a huge difference. We didn’t want misunderstood antiheroes, we wanted villains. And I definitely agree about the flaws of the team dynamic. They got along way too well way too early in the story. They worked too well together. And losing Enchantress to the dark side wasn’t even jarring, because she literally never DID anything with the team before she went loose.

Stixen: Oh absolutely! The loss of Enchantress wasn’t emotional in the least. That’s why I wish this was a sequel. Let us get acquainted with Enchantress before we lose her. I don’t know why, but besides Harley, Enchantress was the second biggest reason I wanted to see this film. Much like Raven in the Teen Titans, I was really hoping for lots of fun moments with her just glowering in the corner and then growing over the film. I think maybe I wanted an Avengers-type group dynamic. I want to see them all joking around, having disagreements and then eating fast food together as the credits roll.

Me: It says something when superhero teams get along worse than villains. The Avengers had more disagreements in their first film than a bunch of villains did.

Stixen: Aesthetically, did you feel a bit ripped off with this film? The trailer promised us a colorful neon punk rock world and, other than the Harley/Joker bits, it really wasn’t colorful in the least. It was barely even punk rock.

Me: It definitely felt like they expected Harley to carry the aesthetics of the team. Enchantress had an interesting style, but they removed her from the main group so quickly it didn’t matter.

Stixen: Exactly! Even killer crock had a fun style but they spent most of their time focusing on attempting to make us care about Will Smith’s character which I didn’t. He isn’t the first character in history to have a plot line that revolves around wanting to see his daughter again. Don’t get me wrong, it was sympathetic and I certainly wouldn’t have minded if it was a side plot. But it wasn’t anywhere near original or interesting enough to be a such a signifcant part of the main plot.

Me: What were your thoughts on the threat? Enchantress and her brother, I mean.

Stixen: I don’t even know what they were thinking. It created a completely sexist undertone for the rest of the film. Enchantress “needs” her brother in order to fulfill world domination. She needs it so badly that it is the first move she makes. Her brother then takes his godly form in a nine foot tall Mayan quarterback. Meanwhile, Enchantress’s godly form is just prettier and wearing less clothes? But the worst part of this plot line was that Enchantress had a major weakness – her heart, which basically controls her. So, of course, she needs a male presence to help her conquer the earth because she’s too “weak.” Which is interesting, considering her brother doesn’t end up contributing to her cause in any way. She still ends up attempting to conquer the earth by herself and she does a fairly good job of it while it lasts. I feel like the brother was a useless plot device. We didn’t need him but it took up time and quieted down the pissy fanboys who might throw a fit over having a female villain in a male-dominated film.

Me: Enchantress was definitely under-utilized, and her brother was… boring? I don’t know. He wasn’t scary. He wasn’t sympathetic, and all he did was distract from the primary villain. The whole movie had that vibe. It wasn’t a bad movie, so I couldn’t just brush it off, but it wasn’t anywhere near as good as it could/should have been. That felt worse.

I think it comes back to a lack of development. The characters were the same at the end as they were at the beginning: more sympathetic than they probably should be, surprisingly friendly, and neutrally evil.

Stixen: I think that what bothers me the most. The bare bones are all there. You have a fantastic starting plot, an amazing cast, fabulous characters, great costumes. Like it’s all there. And yet, somehow, they managed to under-utilize every aspect involved, except, of course, Will Smith.

Me: Will Smith, who is Will Smith in everything.

Stixen: Apparently so! His character almost felt like he was too normal. He was pretty similar to other characters Will has played; except he has deadly weapons. No shade to Will – I think he’s very talented. I just think the writers banked too much on his star power to carry the film.

Me: They wanted to show off Will, not explore Deadshot. This is a pretty prevalent attitude in all DC movies, though. They cast big stars as often as possible to draw an audience and then don’t pay enough attention to the script.

Stixen: Unfortunately, that’s very true. Case in point: Superman vs. Batman.

Me: Let’s discuss costumes. This movie got a lot of flack leading up to its release due to attire, after all.

Stixen: It’s interesting- as a costume designer- I wasn’t particularly bothered by the costumes. I did have an issue with Harley’s booty shorts, which seem just ridiculously impractical. I also had a problem with the Joker’s “damaged” tattoo, but then again, didn’t everyone?

As a whole though, I enjoyed what they did. Each of the characters had some interesting pieces. Enchantress was visually stunning. Killer Crock and Captain Boomerang were both really fun in their styling. I mention this, mainly, because I was so taken with how they gave Killer Crock something of a personal style, when they could’ve easily stuck him in some leather pants and called it a day. On a whole though, I really enjoyed the visual elements of Harley and the Joker and how they played together. It makes sense to have Harley in this very modern street gang get up, meanwhile the Joker had a very mobster vibe. It seemed like a very natural path to take them down, and I’m surprised no one has thought of that yet. If you think about it, it makes sense. If the Joker was real, I could totally seem him owning a nightclub where Harley is the main attraction, meanwhile he’s owning the underground crime ring. And then it makes sense for Harley to have this very punky street gang vibe to her when she goes to be a part of the Suicide Squad. I think the designer made some great choices between the two of them…and some not so great choices as well. I wished that the designer had used some of that amazing creative energy on some of the other characters- instead of spending so much time on the Joker’s forehead tattoo and Harley’s booty shorts,

Me: I think I liked Enchantress’s appearance the best, and she was played so freakin’ well. The way she moved… it worked. But apart from Harley, the rest of the Squad was pretty boring. It was like they put all their cards on Harley and Joker and were afraid to experiment with anyone else.

Stixen: Yeah! Enchantress was just that – enchanting. The design and the actress really did an amazing job of pulling us in and making us want to know more. I’d never heard of DC’s Enchantress before and by the time I finally got my ass in the seat, I was thirsty to know everything about her. But as you said, the rest of the characters really took a visual backseat. They could’ve expounded on so many of the characters, but chose to focus too heavily on Joker and Harley. Speaking on which, what did you think of the portrayal of the Joker/Harley relationship in this film? I know many people were put out that the film didn’t show the abusive elements of their relationship and instead chose to treat them as start-crossed lovers.

Me: They pulled a lot of punches with Harley and Joker. They simplified their relationship to make it more palatable. I am noticing a theme here, are you?

Stixen: I don’t know how I feel about it. I’m torn. I know that they filmed some more abusive scenes, including one where Harley denounced the Joker. But for whatever reason, they left it out. I’m sincerely hoping they left it out in the hopes that they can use it for Harley’s stand alone film (which I desperately hope they are still planning.) I think the theme of rising up from abuse would fit beautifully in a Harley stand-alone film. But, again, I’m torn. Was their intent to save this theme for more material down the road or was it simply to water down a difficult issue for the fanboys who would no doubt throw a fit? It’s a tough call. I liked, in some ways, seeing the small moments of joy in their relationship. Especially when he dove into the toxic vat to save her. I saw why she loved him. It seems strange, but it was good, for once, to see them working together in this universe. I’m so used to seeing the toxic parts of their relationship. But, the Harley fan in me knows that there’s history of abuse in their relationship, so because of that, I found it hard to truly believe that in this universe, they were just two kooky criminals in love. It seemed too good to be true.

Either way, I know Harley’s story has helped many fans who have experienced abusive relationships. So I sincerely hope they intend to use this somewhere down the road. I think that’s one of the reasons why Harley is so popular – she is relate-able in her love of things that are bad for her. It’s great to see the comic book writers finally saying “Alright, Harley’s had enough of this abuse. It’s time for her to rise up.” So I hope that the filmmakers can see the success of Harley’s current comic incarnation and can realize how important it is for fans to see that played out on-screen.

Me: Agreed. There was just enough abuse in the film that not addressing it and hyping their connection is a bit dangerous. It kind of says, “Let him abuse you! He just wants you to understand him! It’s true love!”

Stixen: Very true! It’s very Rhianna-like, in that way. After Rhianna’s massive breakup with Chris Brown, I had high hopes that she could speak out and become the face of domestic abuse. And then months later she appeared with the single “S&M.” It very much sent the same message, I think. “Hit me! It’s okay! I like it! It’s just part of our unique relationship!”

Me: So, what other thoughts did you have on Suicide Squad?

Stixen: What were your thoughts on Rick Flag? He stuck out as clearly the secondary main character next to Deadshot. And while he stood out to me, it wasn’t for any great reason. He was yet another male archetype that we’ve seen before.

Me: He was very boring. They added a drop of vanilla to show off the other flavors, but since the other flavors were muted, the vanilla fell a bit flat.

Stixen: Couldn’t have said it better myself! It made me laugh that the most villainous and crazy of the entire crew was Waller, played by Viola Davis. Her behavior was the most shocking and erratic compared to everyone else.

Me: She did a great job, but her character would have made more sense if the villains were as vicious as she was. An equality of brutality would have been interesting, especially if Rick Flag stayed as the vanilla base for comparison. As it was, it felt like the only difference between Flag and the villains was that they did or did not take orders from Waller.

Stixen: Waller was severely understated – especially when you consider the fact that Viola freaking Davis was the actress. I mean, come on! She could’ve used way more screen time.

Me: And she only makes sense if the villains she’s handling are actually threatening. And they weren’t. She was more villainous than the villains, which was a pretty shit story line.

Stixen: Too true. As with everything in this film, the set-up was there but the execution fell flat. The writers had it all: amazing cast, great designers and fantastic characters. But unfortunately, it was all squandered on a useless plot.

 

Official Heel Rating

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My official heel review would be maybe 3 heels. It had some really solid elements and it was overall a fun film, but it was a miss for me considering it had so much potential that was never met.


M. Leigh Hood is a rare beast of the Cincinnati wilderness typically preoccupied with writing, nerding, and filming The Spittoon List. For more articles and stories by M. Leigh Hood, look HERE.

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