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SUPERHERO MOVIES: Good, Bad & Elektra

By alicebg, Oct 12 2017 07:23AM

In this episode: Suicide Squad (2016)

Amid the current avalanche of superhero movies, it was inevitable that somebody would attempt to turn the genre on its ear. Such was David Ayer's threat when he set about adapting DC's 80s hit comic Suicide Squad to the screen. Suicide Squad was by no means the first DC title to showcase villains as the lead characters, but it was hugely influential on the fast-emerging 'adult' comics genre, with its mix of amorality, paranoia and hard-core violence. The question was, could Ayer successfully translate this material into a watchable film? Sadly, we never really got the chance to find out.

Suicide Squad the movie shows such evidence of studio interference that it often feels like two films randomly stitched together. The first, presumably Ayer's original vision, is a dank, dark trip into the world of super-criminality; the second is a generic superhero flick with unappealing central characters and a particularly lame villain. It's up to the viewer which film actually wins out.

Under the auspices of ruthless (occasionally murderous) government apparatchik Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), a group of incarcerated super thieves, murderers and all-out whack jobs are made an offer - undertake ludicrously dangerous missions in exchange for sentence reduction. The catch? They have to have micro-bombs implanted in them so they are instantly killed if they attempt to abscond. To keep them in line, uber-agent Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman) is installed as Field Commander, along with the lethal Katana (Karen Fukuhara) as his personal bodyguard. But the team takes its real lead from assassin par excellence Deadshot (Will Smith), whose agenda may or may not dovetail with Flagg's.

Much of the film's hype surrounded Jared Leto's performance as the Joker, but though he certainly looks the part, he gets very little to do except look somewhat menacing. The film's other big selling point, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, is more fun, but can't hold together such an unwieldy project. It's telling that the movie is best when the good guys appear - cameos from Batman and the Flash are not only a teaser for the Justice League film, but also the most impressive moments here.

Otherwise, after a promisingly off-kilter start, Suicide Squad bogs down into a lame commando mission and face-off against a dully predictable uber-villain (hint: it's one of the team). Also the film's fantasy elements are heavily at odds with the original comic's earthy, realist vibe. Thus, a movie intended to subvert the dominant genre du jour winds up as just another also-ran.

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