Suicide Squad Review

Imagine, if you will, two versions of a movie. Each scene is written out on note cards. One side is for the cartoony, colorful version of the movie. The other side is for the darker, grittier version of the movie. Then, for whatever reason, someone decides to put them all in the same box, and shake it violently. A single version of the movie is then made by pulling scenes from this box. One scene is from the cartoony version, while another is from the gritty version. For whatever reason, this is how the movie is made.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is how Suicide Squad was made.

There’s no joke about this either. Reports have surfaced since the release of the movie that there were two cuts of the movie. One was dark, the other more cartoony. Both were tested with audiences and for some reason, Warner Bros. decided to take “the best parts” of both and create what it’s in theaters today.

Instead of anything remotely cohesive, we received a tone deaf, inconsistent movie that is fun and colorful one moment, and utterly dramatic and “emotional” the next. It’s confusing, jarring, and makes for a frustrated viewing experience. The worst part is that you can very easily tell which version of the movie each scene belongs to. That’s how different they are from each other and how jarring the shift in tone is.

Let’s start with the basics though. The Suicide Squad is a team of villains from the DC universe pulled into a black ops team by Amanda Waller. She’s afraid – understandably – that the next Superman we get might not be for truth, justice, and the American way. So she wants to build a team of people with abilities in order to combat such threats. Enter Task Force X, aka the Suicide Squad.

Suicide-Squad

Under the command of Rick Flag – Joel Kinnaman, doing the worst Texas accent since Chris Pratt in Jurassic World – the squad is lead through Midway City in order to combat a swirling ring of magical trash that’s started to tear the city apart. Unfortunately, the plot doesn’t get more interesting than that. Nor does it get more complicated. The Suicide Squad is there to do two things: rescue someone, and kill the bad guy. Their rescue target takes about a minute or two to figure out and “twist” of who it is falls flat. The villain on the other hand, is such a non-presence that sometimes you forget there was a character there.

The movie generally lacks drama or consequences. While there is something pushing the team forward through the plot, it’s so thin and uninteresting that you don’t even care. The Enchantress, played by a very bored Cara Delevingne, does so little in the movie that she’s hardly a threat. The “relationship” between her and Rick Flag is almost existent on screen. Instead it’s told to us several times by various characters. Because that’s going to make the audience care, right? The fact that the two share only three scenes together doesn’t do them any favors. Even her brother, whose name I don’t even recall anymore, serves a role as “the big henchmen” only to disappear after a single action sequence.

The team itself is comprised of eight members. If that sounds like too many to you, then you’d be correct. Many of them don’t do anything of note in the whole movie. Slipknot – spoilers – gets murdered in his second scene in the whole movie. He’s so pointless he doesn’t get a special intro like most of the other characters. Katana has a total of four lines in the movie and doesn’t affect the plot in anyway. It’s referenced, kind of, that she might be friends with Rick Flag, but no backstory is given into that relationship whatsoever. Therefore, she’s a pointless entity within the movie. Other members worth mentioning in the pointless category are: Killer Croc and Captain Boomerang.

Less pointless are some of the main headliners. Will Smith shines in the movie as the hitman Deadshot, and even Margot Robbie manages to be bearable as Harley Quinn (even if her accent fades in and out throughout the movie). The two have really good chemistry and actually develop something of a friendship over the course of the movie. Their scenes together are easily the most interesting in the movie and it’s a shame that one of the more unpleasant elements in the movie distracted from this.

SUICIDE SQUAD

Before getting into that though, it’s worth noting that alongside Smith and Robbie, Viola Davis is perfect as Amanda Waller. She’s exactly as you’d imagine the character to be: cold, ruthless, and calculated. She’s even scarier than some of the Suicide Squad members. My hope is that, if this movie doesn’t get a sequel, she will continue to appear in other DC universe movies.

The flashbacks in the movie are an odd element. Because not all the characters get one, and not all of them are necessary. Harley Quinn receives the most attention in this department and most of them are unnecessary. Of all the characters in the movie, she’s the most well-known and needed the least amount of explaining to audiences. Instead we got three flashbacks, all that involve Joker, that don’t really add much to her character. It felt like an excuse to add more Joker into the movie, which it really didn’t need.

The Joker is by far the worst element of the movie. Jared Leto plays some kind of gangster version of the Joker that’s extremely unappealing. More offensive than that is the fact that he doesn’t do anything in the movie. If he were to be removed from the story completely, it would not affect the main plot whatsoever. There was potential there for something interesting to happen, but instead it does the exact opposite.

The action in the movie is fairly rote. It’s basically your standard fare, not making any special use of the character’s abilities or what makes them interested. Most of them are against fodder anyways, and it seems like most of the scenes were put in the movie in order to fill time. This and the flashbacks for certain characters, could easily have been cut in order to make a tighter film.

The most frustrating thing about Suicide Squad is that when it works, it works really well. There’s a good movie in there somewhere. The first thirty minutes of the movie are awesome. It’s colorful, cartoony, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. The character intros that the members get are well done and fit the tone they’re going for in that moment. Unfortunately, it’s once the mission gets going that things bounce back and forth every other scene. It’s maddening that movie like this was made.

The film also includes a few cameos from other characters, mostly Batman, since most of the Suicide Squad members are Batman villains. One of the more interesting scenes in the movie is Deadshots flashback, where Batman comes to arrest him. If nothing else, this movie’s biggest crime is making me want a Batman movie where Will Smith is the villain.

Overall Suicide Squad is a mess. It’s a poorly made movie that’s made even more frustrating by the fact that there is potential there. This could have been a fun movie. But it’s a movie that symptomatic of Warner Bros. current position, and it’s unfortunate that it got swept up in all this. If you’re looking for a reason to see Suicide Squad, you won’t find one here. In fact, you should just wait until the movie is on TV some time, and you catch it accidentally.

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Captain America: Civil War Review

Even though it has the title “Civil War”, it actually has very little to do with the comic storyline it takes the title from. There’s the core starting point: registration for all super-powered beings on earth. And like in the comics, Tony Stark sits on one side while Captain America sits on the other. But that’s about where the similarities start and end.

This version of Civil War deals with the search for the Winter Soldier after he supposedly blew up a political conference, killing several high profile people including the father of The Black Panther. This sets him on a quest for vengeance, Tony Stark wants to arrest the Winter Soldier, and naturally, Captain America wants to find his friend and keep him safe.

SRyYQZ.0.0You may be led to believe that the villain of this film is someone named Zemo. He has nothing to do with his comic book counterpart in this film and more or less meanders around the movie. His entire purpose exists to be a plot mechanic instead of an actual antagonist. He moves around the world, causing problems and setting up things in order for the movie to move along. But in the end he does very little, especially since his plan hinges on people being in a certain spot at a certain time, at the same time. It’s all very convenient and kind of damages the impact of certain scenes.

But the real action of the movie has to do with Cap and Stark. Their relationship has always been one of begrudged friendship and that’s been crumbling steadily since the opening of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Things go into overdrive over the course of the film, and thanks to a third act revelation, pretty much falls apart entirely. Civil War is a movie that – like other Marvel movies – you can more or less enjoy without having seen the others, but things wouldn’t have the same impact if you’ve been following the movies since the beginning. These characters have come super far since the original Iron Man movie and this movie feels like a culmination of that.

There are a few additional standouts. Black Panther is pretty amazing in this movie. Chadwick Boseman’s fits the role so well that the movie is immediately better when he’s on screen. I’m definitely excited to see how Black Panther’s solo movie turns out.

3058531-1280_captain_america_civil_war_black_pantherThe other is of course the one and only Spider-man. Spider-man is one of the best and worst things about Civil War. Tom Holland is great in the role, and Spider-man’s action scenes are great. But you can tell that Spider-man wasn’t meant to be in this movie originally. The plot literally stops for fifteen minutes in order to introduce Peter Parker and get him up to speed with the rest of the movie. It’s unfortunate, as the movie suffers from enough pacing problem as it is.

Of course the most important aspect of a mash up movie such as this is the action. What we really want is to see our favorite heroes knock each other around and boy does this movie live up to that. There’s a really good fight between both “teams” in the middle of the movie where everyone from Spider-man to Ant-man gets to show off their skills. The fight kind of suffers from a “why didn’t you open with that” mentality a bit, but otherwise it’s really exciting.

The fight towards the third act is not only way more brutal, but more tragic. It’s here that you realize the damage that’s been done by both people can’t be repaired easily and both are looking to spill blood. This one isn’t made for cheering and popcorn fluff, it rings more sad than fun.

captain-america-civil-war-still-1The movie also attempts to deal with some heavy themes, as most comic book movies do. In this case it’s the idea of a world police and the freedom to choose. It’s here that the movie feels almost too short, as the ideas aren’t nearly as explored as they could be. The movie takes more time dealing with the comic book-y aspects of the plot and sort of passes off the debates of these themes after the first act. By the time the movie finishes, you’ll forget entirely that the movie began because of a registration act.

Overall Captain America: Civil War is a great film. It isn’t as tight as Winter Soldier, or even Guardians of the Galaxy, but it ranks up there as one of Marvel’s top films. The implications of this film on the wider MCU are large and will no doubt take their toll on films to come (in a good, dramatic way that is). It’s worth remembering that this is the last time we’ll see most of these heroes – Black Panther and Spider-man not withstanding – for several years to come. So for things to end on a tragic note is bittersweet, but one that feels earned over the course of three Iron Man movies, two Avengers movies, and three Captain America movies.

The Fantastic Four (My Version)

You know whenever there’s a horrid comic book movie most people say they could write a better movie? Well, that’s what I said when the latest Fantastic Four movie was released last August. I didn’t even see the movie, the reviews were so terrible. But I knew as someone who understood basic storytelling, that I could write a better movie than what was being put on screens.

So I did! It took a long time, mostly because I took about a three month break to finish school but in the past few days I went from 52 pages to 91. It’s probably shorter than it should be, but I don’t really have a clear idea on how to write action scenes. So those are probably much shorter than they would be on screen.

(For those curious, the script will be linked at the bottom of the post and in the screenplays section of the blog)

So when coming up with the plot for this movie, I decided that I would ignore licensing issues and write this movie as if it were being included in phase three or phase four of the MCU. The Fantastic Four desperately needs the support of the universe and other movies. Without it, it doesn’t make their conflicts seem threatening. The added weight of what’s come before is extremely helpful.

It also helps with certain characters. One of Doctor Doom’s strongest abilities is his magic. In fact he was the Sorcerer Supreme after Doctor Strange. So instead of giving him nonsensical telekenesis or whatever else he gets assigned in older movies, he has something that ties into the larger universe. When the cosmic radiation hits, his magical powers are enhanced ten fold.

I was also able to layer in a few hints to additional Fantastic Four mythology. Characters like Maria Hill and Nick Fury opened up several opportunities for such things.

Reed Richards and Ben Grimm remain mostly untouched in terms of powers and abilities. I made it so Ben evolves over time due to the level of radiation he receives. So he’ll start out kind of small and grow larger over the course of the movie.

Reed has more personality changes than anything else. He’s definitely as arrogant as always, but it hides a larger weakness in which he’s actually more cowardly than he seems.

Sue and Johnny are the ones I changed the most. I made them twins for starters. I did this so they I could make their powers intertwined. This allowed Sue to be more active in action scenes and for some really fun power combinations.

The basis of the plot involves the usual origin, they group goes to space and gets hit by cosmic radiation that gives them various powers. Only because this film is set in the MCU, it has additional context. They’re going up there to study alien signals and figure out where the portals from the first Avengers came from (and if they could detect others before they happen).

The cosmic radiation is from the Silver Surfer, who is going to earth to prepare it for Galactus. He serves as the main antagonist of the movie. But as I list below, he isn’t featured super heavily in the movie and that’s something I would need to fix in a second draft.

The script isn’t perfect, far from it. It’s only a first draft though. I’ll go back one day and fix the various errors within. But for now here’s a basic list of what’s wrong:

  • Script is very plot driven
  • The rule of threes isn’t as obeyed as it needs to be
  • Not enough conflict between some of the characters
  • Certain motivations need more explaining
  • Characterization needs to be carried throughout the entire film
  • Probably need to drop more hints about Dr. Doom being an actual villain
  • Silver Surfer has…. four scenes? Probably should include more
  • Various dialogue/formatting touchups

These are the eight that I can list off the top of my head.

If you’re curious about a cast, well, do I have a list for you. Though it lacks any explanations because those are boring. This is simply to give you someone to visualize when you read it! You’re free to ignore it 🙂

Doctor Doom

Reed Richards

Sue Storm

Johnny Storm

Ben Grimm

And here’s the script! If for whatever you reason you lose this post you can find the script up in the top right corner area that says “Screenplays”.

Fantastic Four

“The Martian” Review

The Martian, directed by Ridley Scott, and based on the book written by Andy Weir is a surprisingly simple film. That isn’t a criticism, but if you read the book, you’ll remember that it’s filled with tons of scientific jargon. The film streamlines a lot of that and it’s to the film’s credit that it balances the science while trying not to confuse the viewer.

But the simplicity continues into the plot as well. It starts in a perfectly normal mission to Mars. The team is out and about when a storm hits. It’s too strong for them to stay on the planet, so they scrub the mission and begin to head home. But on the way to the rocket, Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) is struck by debris and left for dead. The crew simply cannot risk going back for him or everyone else might die.

But surprise! He lives! Of course he does or else there’d be no movie. So Watney awakens and has to survive on Mars until he can either be rescued or the next Mars mission arrives and can retrieve him. Most of the movie’s first act is Watney adjusted to his new situation. He never intended to stay on Mars by himself. But thankfully Mars is a botanist, so he knows a thing or two about growing his own food and surviving off the land.

There are two other subplots in the movie. One encompasses all the NASA people. At first they deal with the fact that Mark is dead and what that means for future Mars missions. Then they have to deal with the fact that he’s actually alive! Now they have to get him back. It’s here that the plot because stuffed with characters.

There’s the director of NASA – played by Jeff Daniels – the PR director, the leader of the Mars missions, the engineer, and a tech person. That’s probably not even all the characters. Many of them are played by very good actors. The cast includes Kristen Wiig, Mackenzie Davis, Donald Glover, Sean Bean, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. I’m probably forgetting one or two names but that’s already a ton of people for a subplot. Actors like Sean Bean only have two or three scenes in the whole movie. It’s kind of a waste of talent.

The second subplot of the movie involves the remaining crew. They’re currently on their ship, on course to earth, when they receive the news that Mark is alive. The crew is comprised of Kate Mara, Jessica Chastain, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, and Michael Pena. They have even fewer scenes in the movie than the NASA crew until around the third act when everyone comes together for the finale. Their characters are interesting, but they have so little time on screen that it’s hard to get attached to any of them.

Back to Watney though, his journey on Mars is akin to Cast Away. There are several major things that happen to him that cause you to wonder if he’s going to get off the planet alive. The interesting aspect of his is that Mark will explain why things went wrong… sometimes. When he tries to make water and nearly sets himself on fire, Mark will explain – through video diaries – what went wrong. But when other major things happen Mark completely ignores any explanation. It’s unfortunate and a bit confusing for the viewer who hasn’t read the book before.

Despite that, the movie thrives on Damon’s performance. He’s almost always acting with nothing else in the room with him and yet he makes his scenes completely interesting. There are times that he cheers that you want to cheer along beside him. You want to root for him, and it’s fun.

Mars is basically a character in of itself. Boy is it beautiful to look at too. The red and orange plains of Mars make you sit back and wonder about visiting another planet.

Another thing that was bothersome is towards the third act, all conflict flies out the window until the grand finale of the movie. Mark is supposed to make a very long journey in order to attempt something to get home. The whole thing is going to take seven months, but it’s entirely passed over by the film. So there’s a huge gap in time where everything goes right for Watney and doesn’t exactly make his rescue feel as rewarding as it should be.

That said, the film does do a few things better than the book. There’s an epilogue in the movie that shows the state of the crew and other characters after the mission. This is really appreciated as it helps the audience decompress from the anxiety of the climax. The book itself just sort of… ends. Full stop. It was a pacing decision that I’m glad the movie fixes.

Overall the movie is completely worth watching. It’s got some pacing issues and it makes you wonder why certain characters were ever there in the first place. But aside from those, it’s worth the charm of seeing a foreign planet like you never have before.