There was never any doubt that DC/Warner Bros. Suicide Squad was going to open huge. After weeks of tracking and speculative monitoring, there was no question it was going to open number one this weekend, laying waste to every record in its path and forcing every other movie on the planet to scramble in it’s colossal wake. So Suicide Squad’s record-breaking success came as absolutely no surprise to anyone anywhere.

Now is when it gets interesting.

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Director: David Ayer

Starring: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, David Harbour, Jai Courtney, Adam Beach, Jay Hernandez, Karen Fukuhara, Cara Delevigne Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje, Viola Davis and Joel Kinnaman

Rated: PG

Studio: Warner Bros.

Running Time: 2 Hrs, 3 Mins.

To say that DC and Warner Bros. have a lot riding on Suicide Squad would be a gross understatement. Not only do they need the villain mash-up to bring in a king’s ransom at the box office, but they also need it to repair the damage done to their brand by the poor fan and critical response to last March’s Batman Vs. Superman. And while Suicide Squad will probably make a lot of money (during its first weekend, at least), it will most likely be a mixed bag as far as restoring the faith of a disillusioned and disappointed fan base.

Under the manipulative eye of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), the United States government has assembled a covert team of incarcerated super criminals to face meta-human threats above the pay grade of the conventional military. Lead by Waller’s hand picked special forces operative Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman), criminals Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtenay), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and others are recruited with one simple understanding; success is rewarded with reduced sentences while failure or disobedience results in death.

The team is thrown into action after one of its potential members (the Enchantress, played by Cara Delevigne) escapes Waller’s clutches and takes an entire city hostage. Enchantress has grander designs and the entire planet soon finds itself in her vengeful crosshairs. Just to complicate things for the newly formed Suicide Squad further, the Joker is coming for his beloved Harley Quinn. And not even an extra-dimensional sorceress and her army of demons will stand in his way.

I wanted to enjoy this movie. I really, really did. I needed it to cleanse the sour taste BvS left on my pallet months ago. But this was easily one of the most boring action movies I’ve ever seen.

While most of the promotion for the film focused on Robbie’s Harley Quinn, Smith’s portrayal of Deadshot as an anti-hero in villain’s clothing was the strongest performance in the film (giving Smith his own stand alone movie might not be the worst idea in the world). Ben Affleck makes a few cameos as Batman that are effectively used to set up origin stories and seeing Smith and Affleck’s Dark Knight share a scene will give you geek shivers. Viola Davis does severe justice to Waller, a no-nonsense, ball-busting force of authority that never backs down. Leto’s Joker is entertaining but isn’t the acting tour de force that we’ve been sold and lacks the depth that Ledger brought to the character years ago.

But for every strong performance, there’s a turn that misses the mark. While Robbie has her moments as Harley Quinn, she has just as many moments where she seems lost or the film doesn’t know what to do with her. Squad goes out of its way to identify her as its comedic conscience early, and while a fair chunk of her jokes land, just as many don’t. Kinnaman is tragically miscast as Flagg because as hard as he tries, he just can’t match Smith’s screen presence or natural charisma. His inability to hold his own against Smith undermines the tension the movie tries so hard to establish between the two characters.

Suicide Squad’s pacing is as chaotic as it is inconsistent, a result of extensive reshoots and unprecedented editing (half the scenes and zippy one liners from the first trailer didn’t even make it into the final film). The plot synopsis at the top of this review is pretty much the entire story and the movie almost trips over itself trying to get the plot out of the way as soon (and as simple) as possible. Like everything else, the movie invests little effort in developing or establishing the villain. Technically Enchantress and her plan threaten the entire world, yet the stakes don’t feel that high. Despite the global threat, Suicide Squad unfolds on a much smaller scale than Avengers or Captain America: Winter Soldier. Squad would have worked far better if the threat had been smaller or more contained.

Perhaps its biggest flaw is the action. Or more accurately, the lack of action. For a super hero action movie, there isn’t a lot of it. Most of what it does have is predictable, stale and boring. There are a few beats during the climax that are almost captivating, but otherwise nothing in this movie is going to push your pulse any faster. There are a few chuckles but no moments of genuine humour, despite a number of serious attempts. Suicide Squad is a joyless exercise in how not to make a successful super hero movie and it lacks anything resembling intensity. When its at its very best its still only mediocre and never memorable.

How much of this is director David Ayer’s fault and how much is the result of reshoots ordered and shoehorned in following the embarrassing reaction to BvS earlier in the year remains to be seen. We may not know until the DVD release, but there were two very different visions of this movie; Ayers’ darker tone and the studio’s lighter one. Having the two of them forced together obscures the best part of both while letting their worst parts shine through.

It looks like the task of salvaging DC’s movie universe falls on the shoulders of Wonder Woman, which is already generating serious buzz a year before its release. Can the Amazon Princess succeed where Man of Steel, Batman Vs. Superman and now Suicide Squad have failed? After this summer Warner Bros better have its fingers-and everything else-crossed that she can.

Shayne Kempton


My Final Words on Batman Vs. Superman, Why Marvel Is Doing Movies So Much Better Than DC and Why You Should Go See Ghostbusters Despite The Unbelievable Hate

Dr. Ted had me on his podcast last week to talk about some of the big movies coming out this summer season. Included are my (hopefully) final thoughts on Batman Vs. Superman, why the Ghostbusters remake is getting so much hate and why everyone should go see it anyway and a few other observations about some other movies hitting the big screen this summer season. Enjoy.

Heroic Struggle

Love It or Hate It, Batman Vs Superman Proves That Warner Bros. and DC Seriously Have to Step Up They’re Game If They Want To Compete With Disney And Marvel

Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jesse Eisenberg, Gal Godot, Amy Adams, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne and Holly Hunter

Director: Zack Snyder

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 2 Hrs, 31 Mins.

Studio: Warner Bros.

After years of hype and anticipation, Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (a title that is way too long and busy) is finally here, and it may well prove to be the most polarizing blockbuster of 2016. This looks like it’s going to be one of those love it or hate movies, dissecting opinion right down the middle. This year’s presidential debates are probably going to pale in comparison to the thousands of online fights this movie will inspire. And with an estimated budget of 250 million dollars and the future of DC’s cinematic universe riding on BVS’s performance, there’ll probably be no shortage of execs at Warner Bros. head offices downing Pepto Bismal shooters this weekend.

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English: Ben Affleck at the premiere for He's ...

English: Ben Affleck at the premiere for He’s Just Not That Into You. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Take a deep breath.  Have you calmed down yet?  Does your world make sense once more?  Because when the news that Ben Affleck had been cast as Batman in Warner Bros. upcoming Superman/Batman movie (scheduled for a 2015 release) hit the internet like a fanboy tsunami, the response was a seismic outcry of anger, shock and amusement.  I initially wasn’t going to comment on it but when I saw CNN running the story (and fan’s angry reaction) on its ticker while Piers Morgan was interviewing a man convicted of murdering his parents, a good twenty-four hours after the story first broke, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hold my tongue (or my keyboard) any longer.  And let’s be honest, while no one expects all that much from CNN these days, my Facebook feed is still going nuts over this.  The story is trending higher than news the United States is planning possible missile strikes against Syria for using chemical weapons against rebels and civilians, that San Diego mayor Bob Filner is being chased from office by a sexual harassment scandal he’s spent months denying or dismissing and that a doctor in the highly catholic Ireland performed that country’s first ever legal abortion.  In fact, the news that Affleck was going to be donning the cape and cowl has trumped every other news story on the planet since it broke.  To borrow a phrase from our British cousins across the pond, everyone needs to calm down and carry on.  Besides, everyone’s so obsessed with Affleck’s casting as the Dark Knight, they’re missing the real reason they should be concerned about the film.  And that’s why I’m dragging out my soap box (see, and you thought I was going to judge your priorities.  Suckers).

I’ll be honest, as a huge Batman fan, I initially had my doubts.  I thought he’d be a make a much better Bruce Wayne than he would a Batman but upon further reflection, I’ve mellowed out.  I overcame my knee-jerk reaction and a lot of other grumbling fans should too.  The man can project a pretty strong screen presence, despite having more than a few duds in his closet.  And honestly, what actor doesn’t have a few roles they’d love to forget.  Kevin Costner, who drew praise for his portrayal as Pa Kent in this summer’s Man of Steel, wrote the book on starring in movie’s you’d wish never saw the light of day.  Affleck was more than solid in 2010’s The Town (which he also directed) and he was impressive in last year’s Argo, the movie that won the Oscar for Best Picture.  And he looks like he’s showing off some pretty meaty acting  chops later this year as a villainous online gambling mafioso in Runner Runner.  And his portrayal of a fallen angel in Kevin Smith’s Dogma? Arguably it was Oscar worthy.  Before any one brings up 2003’s Daredevil-AGAIN-I agree that it stank more than a thirty year old pair of bowling shoes.  But Daredevil’s epic levels of suck weren’t Affleck’s fault.  Instead, you should blame the story, the directing, and then the story some more.  And while The Man With No Fear’s only cinematic foray has become the butt of more than it’s fair share of jokes, it did make a very handsome profit despite being released in February, Hollywood’s no man’s land of release dates.  Plus, at 41, Affleck still has enough of the physical goods to be convincing as a crime fighter, given the proper stunt work and special effects support.  And remember a few years ago when then relatively unknown Daniel Craig was chosen as the new agent 007, James Bond fans became hysterical, taking to the internet to describe the decision as the worst one ever made in the history of human civilization.  Well, Casino Royale breathed new life into the franchise and last year’s Skyfall became the highest grossing James Bond film of all time, topping the one billion dollar mark (maybe Craig wasn’t such a bad choice after all).

What should truly be concerning fans about Superman/Batman isn’t any of the actors in front of the camera, but the director behind it.  While Zack Snyder did direct this year’s blockbuster Man of Steel, he did so with Christopher Nolan riding shotgun as producer.  Nolan, the mastermind behind the uber successful trilogy of Batman films that came to an end last summer with Dark Knight Rises, has essentially divorced himself from Warner Bros. studios for the time being and has surrendered all rights to DC comic book properties as part of the split.  And while Man of Steel was a financial success, it deeply divided both movie and comic book fans.  Some most die-hard fans of the Big Blue Boy Scout absolutely loathed the movie.  Making matters worse, the few elements Super-fans liked about MoS seemed to have Nolan’s fingerprints all over them.  His absence from Superman/Batman doesn’t bode well for the movie or the marquee characters.

As we saw in 300, Watchmen and Sucker Punch, Snyder is a visuals man who strives for the spectacle, trying to brand as many shots as possible with a very stylized, signature aesthetic. But what we also saw from those movies was that he favours style over substance, and giving his films a glossy, striking look seems to take priority over telling a story or developing his characters.  How he might decide to indulge that habit with the world’s two most popular super heroes should fill fans with more concern than how Ben Affleck is going to pull off playing Gotham’s Caped Crusader.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Affleck is going to make everyone forget Christian Bale; he could just as easily sink the role-and the movie-worse than an errant iceberg sank a little dinghy called the Titanic.  Nor am I saying that Snyder will destroy the film; there’s a good chance this could be the movie where he realizes the potential so many people believed he’s been capable of in the past, but unable to deliver on.  But if I were to lay money down on who has the greater potential to derail Superman/Batman before it even starts shooting, my bet would be the guy siting in the director’s chair and not the one who’s been handed the keys to the Batmobile.

Shayne Kempton

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