Sunday, August 7, 2016

Let’s Talk About Suicide Squad

And let’s also talk about related topics, such as bias and going into something expecting/wanting to hate it. You see, yesterday I saw the Suicide Squad film. In the lead up to it, I saw a number of reviews that were rather negative and it had around a 20% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But here’s the thing: the movie wasn’t that bad. It was actually a really fun watch, featuring characters that were actually likable and actors who did their jobs well, bringing the characters to life quite well. Well, mostly. I'm not gonna lie to you, Jared Leto was less Joker and more neon gangsta thug Marilyn Manson.

I'm sorry, Jared. I still dig you, man. Please don't shoot me in the face.

But see, after seeing it, I was very confused about all the hatred the movie was getting. Then it hit me: this is just like Ghostbusters. Calm down, I can feel the Tumblr messages right now and let me actually explain before you fill my inbox with a new batch of freshly minted hate. You see, that movie was an example of people taking the movie and judging it before it was every released, not giving it any sort of solid chance. It also wasn't a bad movie either, managing to be entertaining and even charming. And what have we seen a lot of prior to the release of this film? People complaining about Jared Leto's tattooed Joker, people jeering at the film for trying to be "too edgy", and overwhelming tirades about how terrible the Joker/Harley Quinn relationship is for romanticizing abuse while also singing the praises of Harley's relationship with Ivy.

Because Poison Ivy has never been physically or emotionally abusive towards her, right?
Now, I want to illustrate something to you. I'm a Suicide Squad fan. I grew up reading the original Ostrander penned series, it literally being my introduction to the world of DC Comics. Yeah, a book about bad guys being blackmailed into doing something resembling good was my first DC Comic book. Now, I don't really like the current book and I really haven't since the New 52 began. It had terrible characterization, busy designs, and actually did feel like it was trying too hard. This means that I never really liked any of the books where Harley Quinn was a member of the squad, meaning that if anyone should have reservations about this film going into it, it should be me.

But hey, at least the designs in the movie don't look like random Spawn characters.
I watched all the trailers, read the interviews, and you know what? I was still looking forward to seeing it. Yeah, it was different that what I grew up on, but it was also seemingly nothing like the ho-hum reboot series DC was putting out. Add to that the fact that I always go into a film hoping for it to be good, meaning I wasn't going to let anyone influence my view before even giving the movie a chance. Which is a major influence on this current article: giving things a chance. Remember that Ghostbusters comparison? Well, the main reason I made it was that the people lobbing hate towards it never even gave it a chance. They either went into already hating it or they outright refused to see it while still also hating it. That honestly feels like it's happening all over again, although not to such an extreme level. Why? Well, there's a few reasons. First being the Jared Leto Joker design and overall performance.

I will admit, performance aside, the forehead tattoo always felt like a bad idea.
Now, I do like Leto. He's not a bad actor and I do think he could still give us a good Joker if he works on it some more. But the character he played here didn't feel like the Joker, but rather felt like a basic criminal boss-type guy. His ego, vanity, and humour weren't really ever on display. Mostly he just acted like a simple unhinged thug who wanted to be with his girlfriend and would kill anyone who dared to hurt or insult her. Now, that's not totally on Leto, mind you. A big part has to be sat on the lap of the director/writer, David Ayer, for not really writing him as the Joker. But the thing to remember is that this film is not about the Joker or Harley Quinn. Despite him being used in many of the trailers, Leto's Joker is actually a very minor character in the film. This movie is about a team of bad people being forced to do good against their will. the various characters all get a fairly equal focus, barring a few examples (i.e. obvious cannon fodder).

Yes, in a film called Suicide Squad, people die. Surprise.
So, yeah, that's one fairly bullshit reason that is being held against the entire film. What next? Oh, how about that whole abusive relationship thing between the Joker and Harley! Everyone always talks about that, right? Hell, nearly every post on Tumblr I've seen in regards to this film in the last few months has been all about it. But that's the thing I want to remind you in regards to this film: the Joker here isn't quite like the previous versions. He isn't abusive to her. Yes, he does manipulate her and he does drive her crazy, which is still bad. But after that? He's completely in love with and devoted to her. When she's taken to the Belle Reve, he is literally in shambles over it, doing everything he can to find her and get her free. Thus, the abuse argument isn't going to fly here. Especially not when many of the people who make it usually only do it because they just prefer to ship Harley and Ivy together, ignoring the fact that it's an equally abusive and damaging relationship.

It's easy to ignore things when they poke holes in your ship.
But hey, we've got an alternate reality where they're together now and it's not based around one being abusive or manipulative, so that's pretty jawsome. Bombshells, go read it. It's easily one of the best DC Comics books out right now. Moving on, what's our next thing? Oh lord, it's still about Harley? Jesus, people, this isn't her movie. Quit focusing on her so much. but this one is an easy target and is equally easy to rebuff, because it's about her outfit. Yes, the constant bitching because she's wearing that outfit, which is surely something just dreamt up to sexualize her to appeal to young horny dudes. First of all, women aren't allowed to be sexy by their own choice? But no, you'll argue that down because surely it was a man that...oh wait, the concept artist is a woman? And Margot Robbie tried on a number of costumes before they all settled on that one together, meaning that it wasn't simply a man's decision? Weird. But the real thing to shut this argument down is that the outfit is an homage to one of the coolest ladies to ever exist: Deborah Harry.

Because nothing is worse than giving one of your female leads any sort of reference to a strong iconic woman.
Yeah, bugger off with that. You want to criticize the few instances of them doing things like staring at her ass? Fine, direct those at Ayer, as he wrote those. But again, Harley is kind of known for being a largely sexual character in how she's portrayed, while using that to empower her and rise up above shitty sexist bollocks. And, beyond the others looking at her ass, she's not really objectified here. She's strong, threatening, and even described as being more dangerous than her beau. Considering how tough she's shown to be in the film, coupled with Waller being the strongest female lead in any of these films and the villain being a powerful woman, this movie is kind of focused on female empowerment. If anything, I'd complain the Katana gets so little development in here, but it's really hard to give everyone a spotlight for too long in an ensemble film. But even then, she's still tough as hell and compelling in what little you get of her backstory.

But no, let's focus on her bare midriff...which you barely even notice in the film itself.
But, let's cut past all the bullshit and get to the real reason I suspect this movie is getting hate. People are simply hating DC Comics films on autopilot now because they didn't like the previous two films. Now, I actually put more of that blame on the Batman v Superman film, but it's impossible to ignore. This is a thing that has been happening. People are literally judging films before they come out based solely on films that came before. Aquaman is getting hated on, Justice League is getting eyerolls, and even some asshats have torn into Wonder Woman, a movie that had probably one of the best trailers I've seen this year. Whether you hated MOS or BvS, that doesn't mean it's okay to simply judge all these films based on them. Every one of these films is a different beast and is being handled differently, much how the comics themselves tend to be, so to judge all of them based on some of them is unfair.

Because yeah, even people who did great things with these characters can drop giant turds on us.
At the end of the day, I'm really just here doing essentially the same thing I did with Ghostbusters: preaching the importance of giving everything a fair shot before judging it. And watching it after already making a judgment on it isn't the same thing. The truth is that this movie does not deserve a 26% on Rotten Tomatoes just because of other factors that ignore the good things about the film. If I can give so many terrible movies chances a fair chance, the least people could do is give this entertaining little film an unbiased look. But I can't make anyone do that. All I can do is point out hypocrisy and bullshit, preparing myself for the various messages I will get for daring to write this. Whatever, nothing new there. Later days, bleeders.

Oh, and by the way? Will Smith was great in here. Best he's been in a long time.

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