Suicide Squad – Spoiler-free Film Review (aka – rant about critics)

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This shouldn’t be news to anyone, but film critics are undoubtedly miserable people. That’s not to say that they are terrible human beings… even if many actually are. When I say ‘miserable people’ I mean that they are generally unhappy with life. These were my thoughts as I left the theater the other night after finally watching Suicide Squad.

 

My wife and I waited until the Tuesday after the film came out to see it. As a devout DC-loving geek family, you’d expect us to be there at the first showing per our usual. Since that didn’t happen, thanks to stupid adult responsibilities, we were exposed to the witch hunt of critical reviews that took place (and continues to take place) around the much anticipated release prior to having the liberty of forming our own opinions. In the end the only thing that truly bothered me about the film was how eager critics were to engage in that witch hunt. Critics as a whole have acted like they can only be reputable if they join in on the hatred.

 

The stakes were tremendously high since DC and Warner Bros needed a hit. When Batman v Superman turned into a comic book movie pariah, bets were hedged on the non-traditional mashup as a means to right the course. Their impressively expansive advertising campaign prepared us all for a goofy action film that was sure to entertain. Guess what? That’s exactly what it was!

 

Suicide Squad never attempted to be a perfect movie, but rather, it set out to be a film the fans would enjoy. I’m a textbook fan – I’ve read the source material. I’ve bought the merchandise. I’ve watched the other movies on multiple occasions. Essentially, I’m the kind of person they made the movie for. Regardless of how much (considerable) anticipation I had going into the theater, I never forgot that I bought a ticket with the hope of being entertained. It’s pretty obvious that the critics walked into the theater prepped to utterly despise and disparage what they were going to watch. What’s the point in bitching about a movie that never stood a chance in your biased mind? That scenario completely devalues any opinion that might be expressed as a result.

 

Granted, the movie wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Harley Quinn and Deadshot were really the only characters that received any significant character development. This wasn’t surprising due to a higher notoriety for Will Smith and Margot Robbie. It would have been nice to get more out of the rest of the cast yet doing so likely would’ve bloated the run time. Casting overall was spot on with each actor embodying the spirit of their comic origins in satisfying ways. Harley Quinn was especially on point interjecting an element of fun insanity throughout. Will Smith’s Deadshot completely sold me on the egotistical asshole and simultaneous caring father that recent incarnations of the character have shifted towards. All in all, I don’t recall feeling that any of the actors didn’t belong in the part they played…. that says a lot about a movie!

 

Jared Leto’s Joker was certainly interesting. Initially, I didn’t care for the “gangsta” that they portrayed. When I expressed this thought to my wife, she slapped some sense into me with a reminder that a gangster is exactly who the Joker is supposed to be – they merely adopted a form of it that would be more believable in the world DC/Warners has created. Her point was solid (as they tend to be) and changed my view. Leto’s Joker is very believable in the current DC Cinematic Universe. As much as I adore the psychotically terrifying Heath Ledger version, it wouldn’t fit into the new era. The chrome smile is probably my biggest objection to this Joker. His tattoos were actually quite appropriate – especially the smile on his hand.

 

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Brush your teeth, kids.

 

I’ve heard a huge amount of criticism stemming from ‘under-utilization’ of the Joker. True, he wasn’t in the movie a huge amount, however, ‘under-utilize’ would imply that he deserved a larger role. In the comics the Joker was never an overreaching thread; he primarily served as a motivator behind Harley Quinn’s actions. David Ayer stayed true to this by not allowing him sufficient screen time to steal the show. Jared Leto put enough into portraying the character that he likely would have stolen the show if given the chance. I’d love to see him in a future Batman installment. Perhaps the criticism in this area would be lessened if Joker hadn’t been made such a focal point in the advertising campaign. Anyone who was pumped to see the movie as a result would feel rightfully slighted.

 

Special effects were also commendable. The only weak points might be the ‘big bad’ – his overall look was interesting while a few scenes with his face looked a tad rough. If you were going to compare it to the CGI abortion that was Doomsday in BvS then he looked great. Certain segments with Enchantress came off as distracting. I didn’t care for the parts later in the movie where she looked brighter or more mystical. She definitely shined as the dark and creepy other-dimensional being from her first transformation. Seeing Cara Delevingne transform into this was very well handled.

 

 

In the end I can happily say that I enjoyed the film. It walks a line that’s both cooky and entertaining. It’s certainly re-watchable as a fun action flick with a healthy whetting of the appetite for future DC Cinematic Universe entries.

 

Go watch Suicide Squad and form your own opinion. Don’t let those miserable critics unfairly sway what could be an enjoyable experience for you.

 

My rating of Suicide Squad is 7 out of 10.

 

7 out of 10

Batman: The Killing Joke (film) Review

 

If you ask many longtime fans what was the first (memorable) Batman title they ever read was, the answer will most likely be Alan Moore’s legendary one-shot, The Killing Joke. It’s sort of ironic that an entire generation of Batman fandom associates the beginning of their Dark Knight love with one of the character’s darkest literary titles.

 

The Killing Joke has remained one of the most divisive comics to this day; the kind of book that takes on different meaning during repeated readings set years apart. I read the book as a kid and was captivated while still protected by rightful naiveté. Ten years later, I reread the book to find equal parts captivation and anxiety as its previously unrealized deeper themes came into my realization. Now, as a father, I read the book again and experienced the full horror that had blissfully alluded me in the years past. Anyone who dismisses the literary power of comic books is missing out – Alan Moore has proven that time and time again.

 

Twenty-eight years after its release, we’re finally able to see the property adapted for film. DC Comics has an unparalleled average with its animated films so it was the best possible outlet for Moore’s work to be brought to life. News that the supreme talents of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill would be used to voice Batman and the Joker, respectively, meant that the movie would be done right. Topping everything off, they allowed it to be Rated R so there would be no diluting of the source material. I bought my wife and I tickets for the one night Fathom Events screening mere hours after they became available for presale.

 

So how was it? Here’s your obligatory “spoiler warning” (which should be unnecessary for this specific title)…

 

Batman: The Killing Joke – directed by Sam Liu

 

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The film starts out by showing a short interview with Mark Hamill. He discusses his past and what led him to become the iconic voice of one of the most iconic comic book characters. It was fascinating to hear his direct take on it; how he wanted to be involved with Batman: The Animated Series in any role BUT the Joker. He felt that a character like Luke Skywalker couldn’t have any association with the depravity of the Joker. We’re all so fortunate that he decided to do it anyway! Hamill’s segment was an unexpected way to begin the movie which also turned out to be perfect. It was a unique way to incite excitement then segue into the actual film.

 

Much of the criticism I’ve read about the movie is directed towards its first act which centered around Batgirl. The fact of the matter is, Alan Moore’s novel is only 48 pages long – a third of the length of your average graphic novel. They had to add a significant amount of material in order to not only adapt the story properly, but to also make it long enough to warrant production. Batgirl’s story acts as a framing device that helps tie everything together while setting the emotional stakes appropriately for what was to come. It also contributes to what I feel was the overall theme (something I’ll get to in a moment). It threw me off when Batman and Batgirl bumped vigilante uglies under the voyeuristic eyes of a stone gargoyle, but not to the extent that I thought anything less of the movie. If anything, the scene emphasized the fact that there are still people under the cape and cowl. Plus – Batgirl is a hot, kick ass librarian… can you blame Batman for giving into the moment? Some of the more vocal critics have focused on this scene for the wrong reasons, in my humble opinion. Batgirl isn’t just a jilted lover but rather she’s undergoing a transformation in line with the theme (again, I’ll get to that). Tara Strong’s voice acting definitely sells the emotional uneasiness that reverberated as a result of the rooftop scene. If you focus on the relatable humanity of the scenario then it’s easy to overlook the strength of character she forges as a result of everything that occurs.

 

The rest of the movie follows very closely with the novel. It doesn’t spare the audience from any of the depraved brutality of the source. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill’s vocal chemistry is just as powerful now as it was back in 1992 during “Joker’s Favor” (the first aired B:TAS episode featuring the two titans). You can hear the age in both actor’s voices which contributed to the grizzled dread that is so palpable in the original work. I absolutely loved additions made to the dialogue like the twistedly funny librarian puns made by the Joker standing over Batgirl’s wounded form. I will never tire of the Hamill/Conroy team up. I’ve heard their voices in my head with every comic appearance for as long as I can remember. One day I’d love to meet the actors because they both seem like the nicest guys around.

 

The Killing Joke’s underlying theme is about a person’s breaking point. When you’ve hit your lowest moment, the ultimate “bad day”, what direction will you take? What will you become after being taken beyond the brink? Batman and Joker are presented as both opposites and equals. They were each taken to that point then returned on completely opposite terms. We all know Batman’s story (thank god they didn’t feel the need to show any of it like every other Batman adaptation seems to) so seeing the Joker’s past was extra captivating. Personally, I prefer the vague approach Christopher Nolan later took with the Joker: his rabid unpredictability and untraceable origin makes him all the more terrifying. With that said, I cannot deny that the scene when Joker emerges from the chemicals and sees his reflection is powerful. I think I got chills hearing the transformation taking place with Mark Hamill’s haunting Joker cackle scoring the shattering of a man. An origin story for Joker was necessary to show the other extreme that could happen when that ultimate bad day occurs.

 

This story isn’t just a Batman/Joker story, it’s also a Batgirl and Commissioner Gordon story. Perhaps that’s what the negative critics are missing. If you look at the movie as only a Batman tale, then Batgirl does indeed become wrongly objectified and weak overall. Barbara Gordon’s story frames the entire film because it starts with her at her best, leads her along the edge of a disturbing abyss, before allowing her to emerge strong and confident regardless of what horrors she experienced. Commissioner Gordon’s side is the least developed yet still important since he’s the one to directly prove the Joker wrong by desiring to go “by the book” rather than embracing the laughable insanity craved by Joker.

 

The ending did slightly vary from the graphic novel… At first I didn’t like the difference but have since pondered the change and think it was the best route they could have taken. In the book, Batman shares a laugh with his equally mad counterpart then seemingly kills him. This works for the book but would have felt somewhat disjointed for the movie. After stressing the theme of returning from that breaking point, it wouldn’t have been right for the film to immediately go the other way by having Batman stoop to the Joker’s level. They openly acknowledge that the end of their story is clear: one of them will end up killing the other. Yet it’s Batman who chooses to take the route of redemption with an open offer for Joker to work with him in search of an end to the madness. He believes that their story doesn’t have to end that way; insanity doesn’t need to be all that remains when all is lost. The final scene with Barbara Gordon becoming Oracle further contributes to this thinking while bringing everything full circle. It was a far more defined ending than that of the book.

 

So don’t let the critics determine your own personal opinion of it. Watch the film and look beyond the surface to the expansive past that a wealth of source material has granted the characters on screen. There is much more present in this tale than just victims and villains. The Killing Joke is a raw, worthy adaptation of a milestone in comic history that features talented art direction and legendary voice acting.

 

My rating of Batman: The Killing Joke is 8 out of 10.

 

8 out of 10

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Review (with and without spoilers)

The time has finally come to see two of the most established characters in comic book, even literature, history to clash on the big screen. After years of hype and harsh fandom scrutiny, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has been served for theatrical consumption. It’s well documented that I’m a DC loyalist so you know my family and I were in line for the first Thursday night showing holding tickets we’d bought three weeks before.

 

Due to the nature of this movie, it’s difficult to review at length without spoilers. I’ll kick things off with a very short, yet spoiler-free, review of the film. After that I’ll venture into SpoilerTown. If you explore beyond my spoiler warnings then it’s your own damn fault. Until those warnings come, you can read the initial review without having anything to worry about.

 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Spoiler Free Review

 

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Not the official poster – but Mondo never fails to be amazing!

 

If you haven’t seen the movie yet I must implore you to not go into the theater expecting The Avengers. Remember – Marvel had six full feature films leading into their first crossover event. DC/Warner Bros has made it clear they have a very different vision for their cinematic universe. To assume they’re all the same because of a comic book origin is downright ignorant of an all-too-often overlooked/underestimated art form. The only expectation you should have is to enjoy a cinematic spectacle that frequently serves as a proper homage to a rich character history and its printed highlights.

 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is hardly the steaming pile of visual effects the critics are making it out to be. I’ve read thousands of pages containing the characters and left the theater feeling like they’d done right by these pillars of the comic medium. With that said…. the theatrical cut is two hours and thirty-three minutes long and feels like it. Oftentimes a movie of that length (or longer) flies by because you’re so engrossed in what’s happening, that the passage of time is relative. It was very difficult to get this involved thanks, in part, to the fact I was sitting next to my twitchy six year old daughter during the premiere. After a superbly executed first 15-20 minutes, the first half of the movie is largely setup. This was necessary to address Superman’s place in the world after Man of Steel while showing us a version of the Batman that is relatively unknown to the comic book uninitiated.

 

The last act quickly adjusts the pace all the way through to the finish. Action scenes are smaller in scope than those in Man of Steel without losing the gravity expected when a demigod clashes with the embodiment of justice. There are many instances where Snyder went overboard with the special effects to the point of distraction. However, enough separation exists in those moments to keep it from being a consistent bother. Casting is another highlight – I think Ben Affleck played the part of Batman AND Bruce Wayne perfectly. He should be applauded for pulling off such an unenviable feat. Henry Cavill played a great Superman before and continued to do so. Everything sets the stage for what is to come with Justice League and beyond.

 

So how was I feeling in the end? I very much enjoyed the film, however, I strongly feel there are multiple moments of fluff that could/should have been shaved to reduce the runtime. Several of the scenes, with terrific comic origins, enlivened the giddy fanboy in me. I’ll elaborate on those last two sentences in spoiler-ridden second portion below.

 

One thing’s for sure, I can’t wait to see what’s to come in the DC Cinematic Universe!

 

You’ve made it this far – shall we open the gates to SpoilerTown?

 

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Alright…. Last warning!

 

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Spoiler Filled Review

 

My spoiler-free review already summarized any general feelings I had towards the film. For this section I’ll just list bullet points for what I liked or didn’t like in a semi-logical order. I don’t have the attention span to touch on everything so here are some thoughts.

 

  • The Wayne Murder – this was easily the best depiction of Thomas and Martha’s murder outside of the comic book pages. There is nothing pleasant about Batman’s origin… why pretend it’s anything but traumatizing? Of all the times we’ve seen the event unfold in crime alley, I cannot recall it ever seeming so raw even it was shown through a dream sequence. Seeing the pearls scatter after a point blank execution was jarring. It was gritty and viscerally traumatizing scene that was absolutely necessary for Affleck’s Batman to exist. I also love the fact that Thomas Wayne tried to take the shooter down before getting hit; there were hints of the Flashpoint Batman there. How awesome would it be to see Jeffrey Dean Morgan play the trigger-happy alternate universe Batman?!
    • I could have done without the bats lifting wee-Bruce up like he was flying or something. It force fed us the thought of the transformative impact the death of his parents had for his future. Yes, I know it was a dream, but that little aspect made it kind of silly…

 

  • Zod’s Attack from the Streets – I liked Man of Steel so viewing the cataclysm of Superman’s fight with Zod from a different perspective was fantastic. Seeing the battle from Bruce’s viewpoint forced you into the xenophobic mindset that was required to appreciate the events in the first half as intended.
    • The only part of this scene I hated was how Bruce HAD TO CALL for his employees to evacuate. I mean, the dude answered the phone then looked out his window to see the destruction of the Kryptonian World Engine a few blocks away… why in the hell would you wait for the call? Wayne Enterprises must pay really, really well for that kind of job dedication.

 

  • Batman – I love this portrayal of Batman. He’s as brutal as the crime he fights and it’s great. The influence of Frank Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS was prevalent in his look/feel. I can’t wait to see what else Affleck can do with the character in Suicide Squad and beyond.
    • The visual influence of Frank Miller’s work is obvious, but that’s where it stops. I wish they’d incorporated more of the classic moments from the story.

 

  • The “Knightmare” – It would have been nice if we hadn’t already seen a lot of this in the trailers. The visuals were cool along with the heavy-handed foreshadowing for Darkseid’s arrival. I really, really wish the first time we’d seen the omega symbol burned into the landscape was in the theater. Instead, thanks to an all-too-revealing advertising campaign, my reaction was less exuberant. Seeing the fiery columns in the background reminded me of the burning hellspores from Apokolips. What we little saw of the Parademons also looked pretty spot on. I’m sure we’ll get our fill in Justice League.
    • Batman + Guns = what the hell? Even for a dream sequence this is too far out of character.
    • My wife pointed this out – Remind you of anything?

 

  • Wonder Woman – Gal Gadot is fantastic as Diana Prince. I love that we get to see her both as the elegant Diana and the kickass Amazonian warrior. Everything from her visual style to the smirk she flashed in the heat of battle was very well done. I’ve read several interviews that criticize Zack Snyder for “not developing” her character or “underutilizing” her in the film… and those critics need to shut the hell up. Remember – she’s getting her own movie! There was no need to do anything other than tease her presence.

 

  • Lex Luthor – I get what Jesse Eisenberg was going for here. We’re all very familiar with the ‘Zuckerberg-type’ billionaires out there breaking the mold. It’s appropriate that the modern cinematic take is one that current generations believe is likely to exist in real life. Realism aside, I still found his portrayal on the annoying side. The unstable/crazy/daddy issues there are undeniable and significant to his behavior. I’m more curious to see how his character evolves if/when he’s included in future films.
    •  Did they ever say that no one had been able to access the crashed Kryptonian ship? When he used Zod’s fingertips to get in I was a little confused that no one had thought of doing that before then.
    • A little too much was left to the imagination in regards to Lex’s implied knowledge or contact with Darkseid.

 

  • Other Justice League Members – the movie’s cameo of the other heroes was a terribly kept secret leading up to the movie. As neat as it was to see them on the big screen, I really wish they’d left them out. Zack Snyder has never been a fan of leaving anything to the imagination; in this instance I believe it served as a detriment. BvS is one of those cases where hinting instead of outright showing could have been beneficial. When Batman is looking at the file with the logos for the heroes (nice job on those, Lex. I hope the heroes pay him royalties for the artwork), I think he should have clicked on Wonder Woman and left it at that. The mere existence was enough of a tease that certainly would have left me hungry for more. Not to mention the fact that shaving these scenes would have reduced the bloated runtime. In regards to Cyborg, how cool was it to see the Mother Box act up as it neared his mangled remains?
    • The part when “Future Flash” pops out of a disturbance to warn Bruce about Superman was wholly unnecessary. Not only that, but it looked so jarringly out of place that I thought it was Cyborg until going home and reading another review. They were clearly setting something up for the future at the expense of fluidity in the present story.

 

  • The Fight – the battle between Bats and Supes was fantastic. I’ve heard many complain about the special effects here but it didn’t bother me in the slightest. That moment when Batman realize Superman is a person with earthly connections was intense.
    • Again, the previews showed us too much of this conflict. Seeing the majority for the first time in the theater would have made it that much more thrilling.
    • They missed a major opportunity by skipping Batman’s “I’m the one who beat you” speech from DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. I bet they would have won a lot more fanboys over if they had worked it in while Batman had his foot on Superman’s chest.

 

  • Doomsday – one of the deadliest characters in DC history ended up being the weakest part of the entire movie. At first he looked ridiculously like the Hulk with downs. His evolution after each substantial injury help a bit but it was still way off. Couldn’t the movie had culminated in Lex turning Batman AND Wonder Woman against Superman without Doomsday? I think they could have done it.

 

  • The Death of Superman – I was not expecting them to loop this in and couldn’t have been happier to legitimately be surprised! In the book, DEATH OF SUPERMAN, the battle between Doomsday and Superman is spectacular. Each punch they throw hits with enough force to break surrounding windows. As cool as it would have been to see this battle truly brought to life (the animated film Superman: Doomsday didn’t quite get it right either), I think the way they adapted it for BvS was appropriate for both the stage that has been set and for what’s to come. The funerary sequence was particularly good and true to the source. Amidst the tragedy of his “death”, it was nice to see the public embrace him as the hero he truly is, rather than the feared legend they made him out to be in the first act.
    • It’s good they showed that split second of the soil rising from his casket. Not everyone is familiar with the cluster fuck of a comic book volume that is THE RETURN OF SUPERMAN. Seeing this served as a quick dose of hope to carry the audience through the long gap before resolution.

 

  • No after credits scene – why are so many people bitching about this? DC IS NOT MARVEL!

 

  • The Score – Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL nailed it. Both are insanely talented and perfectly assigned to score the separate characters. I’m strongly considering buying a copy!

 

So here we are! Thanks for making it through this erratic thought process as I continue to digest my viewing of the long awaited film. I pondered my rating of it for a while and think I’ve come up with a solid score… my rating of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is 7 out of 10.

 

7 out of 10

 

I don’t see myself going again while it’s in the theater but I will definitely buy the Blu Ray the day it’s released. What did you think?

 

 

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