Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Harley Quinn vs Enchantress, or Thoughts on Suicide Squad

There are so many reviews online of Suicide Squad (2016) and while this is nowhere near the best summer movie of 2016 it’s certainly the biggest in terms of hype, anticipation and box office.  The Joker has evolved to reflect our time period and zeitgeist; Batman 66’s Caesar Romero’s was an anti-establishment literal clown prince of crime, while Jack Nicholson’s reinvention in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) was a more patrician, ambitious Joker reminiscent of Gordon Gecko in Wall Street (1987).  Heath Ledger’s post 9/11 Joker was an agent of chaos in direct response to the economic meltdown and collapse of the middle class.  And now we have Jared Leto’s gun toting LMFAO rave culture molly Joker, an unpredictable thug life gangster reminiscent of Tuco Salamanca in Breaking Bad, but with updated teeth and tattoos.
Margot Robbie’s sly, maniac and charming Harley Quinn brings to mind Uma Thurmann’s overlooked performance as Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin (1997), and completely overshadowed Cara Delvigne’s Enchantress, a character I found equally if not more intriguing.  I know, given my history you might expect me to list Karen Fukuhara's portrayal of Katana as my favorite suicide girl (pun intended), but we have seen the sexy Asian martial arts assassin before, in so many movies, and she brings nothing new to this one.
The Suicide Squad has Snake Plissken implants in their necks to control them, alluding to a quieter and yet more thrilling action movie about another antihero criminal who has to save the day.  But Escape From New York (1981) followed one antihero, and here we have 6, or 8 if we count The Joker and Enchantress.  Each of these characters have rich back stories, literally pages and pages if not novels have been written about them, and through the constraints of cinema they all must be introduced in mere minutes.  The ensemble cast with A-list stars is difficult for the audience; it fractures attention when every story is equally important to follow, and the flashbacks become another confusing yet stylish mess.
To serve both story and character you really need a 12 episode series on Netflix or HBO, not a bloated summer movie distracting you with special effects, overblown fight scenes and layers of pop music.  It’s a disservice to the audience to make them wait another year to continue the story, and profoundly disrespectful to assume we’ll wait, simply because we have no means.
I’m not a comic book nerd; I’m a movie nerd.  I love movies with the same passion as all those comic book people, however I don’t generally compare these movies to the source novels, I compare to other movies.  The graphic novels from 300 (2006) and Sin City (2005) seem like story boards with directorial text, and the corresponding movies are like moving panels or graphic novels come to life.  It can be argued that the movie medium is the logical extension of the graphic novel, a way of telling stories with moving images and sound.  But are there too many comic book movies now?  Or is this just the world we live in now?
However, I am pleasantly surprised that no attention other than praise has been given to Viola Davis as Amanda Waller and Will Smith as Deadshot, two black leads in a summer blockbuster; given the uproar over John Boyega being cast as a black stormtrooper last summer or the unfortunate racist vitriol Leslie Jones was subjected to on social media for Ghostbusters (2016).  So maybe this is indeed the world we live in now; movies blend into video games and vice versa, but social issues also take a couple steps forward and backward.  Incremental changes in a positive direction, but also taking a cue from Heath Ledger’s Joker and not being so serious.

my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hr diner with the best pie in town…