Matt talked me into seeing Suicide Squad, which I actually forgot to give him crap about on this podcast special.
We talk about the movie, we talk about the comics, we talk about comic book movies. It’s Marvel Comics movies vs. DC Comics movies from a couple DC Comics fans (definitely more so than not, anyway) who don’t even like the Marvel Comics movies too much. Suicide Squad is just so objectively bad, it forces uneasy alliances and unlikely sympathies.
In hindsight, however, the Suicide Squad trailer did have Jared Leto’s Tony Montana meets Patrick Bateman rendition of The Joker promising to hurt someone really, really bad. And the movie delivers. It hurts your brain, really, really bad. Because it’s really, really bad.
So join Matt and I as we relive the lows and lowers and lowests of David Ayer’s 2016 Suicide Squad.
Suicide Squad is a terrible film. It’s poorly directed, it’s poorly written, it’s poorly acted (some of the bad acting is the fault of the script, which doesn’t have a good moment in it, some of it’s just the actors), it’s terribly photographed, edited, it’s got lousy special effects, it’s this kind of bad, it’s that kind of bad.
Suicide Squad is the pits of mainstream motion pictures–though, you take a movie about a bunch of comic book supervillains and give them lame, pseudo-edgy back stories, and try to entertain the eight year old boys seeing it, with director Ayer and his risibly inept crew, what else could it be? From the first few minutes–outside a couple decent flashback sets (not shots, not scenes, just the sets)–it’s clear the film’s terrible. Once it’s clear Viola Davis is going to have a terribly written role and be terrible in it–you can see the pain of accepting the role in her eyes–there’s nothing to look forward to in the film.
Almost every performance is either bad or awful. Scott Eastwood has about four lines and is background scenery the rest of the time, but he’s far better than most of the other actors. Cara Delevingne is easily the worst performance in the film, followed by Joel Kinnaman as her love interest and the guy who bosses all the supervillains on their lame mission (Ayer’s script is crap at exposition, it’s crap at character development, it’s crap at plotting).
You know, let’s go through the performances bad to best. I might be able to handle that approach, because otherwise the reaction to Suicide Squad is to never want to see another film again. It’s such a disservice to the medium.
Worst is actually Jared Leto, not Delevingne. Delevingne’s awful, but Leto’s far worse. His Joker isn’t crazy, just a blinged-out crime lord who doesn’t so much commit crime as fetishize committing crime. In clubs. Where girlfriend Margot Robbie pole dances. She used to be his psychiatrist. Robbie seems way too young to have gone from clinical psychologist to deranged “queen of crime,” but there are far more obviously deficiencies as far as her character goes. Director Ayer relishes objectifying her; along with the casual violent misogyny and occasional but consistent racist jokes, Robbie betrays Ayer’s target audience: immature male viewers stupid enough to think his movie is cool. Because Suicide Squad isn’t even chilly. Not at its most outlandish moments does it even approach chilly, Ayer’s really bad at directing his bad script. His photographer–Roman Vasyanov–is incompetent at shooting it. His editor, John Gilroy, can’t cut it either. Though Gilroy gets the closest to a pass because it’s not like there are any good takes or setups.
Back to the actors. Leto’s the worst, then Delevingne, then Kinnaman. At that point it starts to get a little confusing. Robbie’s not good. Her part’s lousy, Ayer’s direction of her is lousy, but she never gets a good moment across either. Maybe because Ayer really enjoys victimizing her throughout. Oh, Adam Beach. He likes to hit women. Though he’s convincing in the role. He doesn’t do anything else really.
Maybe sorting the performances isn’t a good idea. There a lot of crappy supporting ones too.
The least embarrassed actor is Jai Courtney. He doesn’t have enough material and his “manic” character is barely around enough to leave an impression, good or bad. He’s trying though. Jay Hernandez is also trying. He’s got a lot of terrible material, but he does try. Will Smith isn’t as bad as he could be. He’s got some bad dialogue and a dumb character arc, but he’s better than most of his costars. Ike Barinholtz is terrible. Sure, his part of abusive sadist is thin, but he’s still bad.
Suicide Squad is an abject waste of time. It’s not well-made in any way, its only surprises come from Ayer’s constant inabilities to direct any of his crap screenplay. The saddest thing about the film is its existence at all. It’s embarrassing it could get made. Any Warner Bros. executives with their fingerprints on this piece of excrement should take the Long Walk as an act of contrition.
Written and directed by David Ayer; director of photography, Roman Vasyanov; edited by John Gilroy; music by Steven Price; production designer, Oliver Scholl; produced by Charles Roven and Richard Suckle; released by Warner Bros.
Starring Will Smith (Deadshot), Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn), Joel Kinnaman (Flag), Viola Davis (Amanda Waller), Jai Courtney (Captain Boomerang), Jay Hernandez (El Diablo), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Killer Croc), Karen Fukuhara (Katana), Cara Delevingne (June Moone), Adam Beach (Slipknot), Ike Barinholtz (Griggs), Scott Eastwood (GQ) and Jared Leto (The Joker).
There’s a mature way to talk about Independence Day. I should know, I’ve started writing this response about twelve times and this attempt is an entirely new draft. The mature way involves complementing David Brenner’s editing, complementing director Emmerich’s ability to integrate the special effects (regardless of their quality) and saying something nice about some of those special effects. Not all of them. The film has laughably bad explosions and lame matte shots. One could argue it was early in the CG days and it did actually have a limited budget so it did all right.
One could argue those things and, if trying to be mature, one might accept them and consider them.
I won’t be considering them further than this paragraph. Because what Independence Day does is embrace being a half measure, it tells its audience the recognizable but not exactly A-list cast is good enough, it tells its audience David Arnold’s “I’m like John Williams but bad” score is good enough. And it worked, because Emmerich and co-writer Dean Devlin aren’t serious filmmakers. I mean, they might take Independence Day seriously, which is a mistake because it means the jokes never quite work–Bill Pullman, the stupidest person on the face of the earth, as the President of the United States, in a terrible performance. It ought to be amazing. And it’s never even all right.
Because Emmerich and Devlin aren’t serious. They don’t care about integrity or craft and they know there’s a lot of potential audience who don’t care about it either. And they were right. Emmerich’s handling of the special effects, which very well may have done wonders in acclimating general moviegoers to science fiction action, isn’t thoughtful. His multiple homages to Spielberg are so awkward because he’s clueless. Emmerich knows how to present the visual information for consumption, but he can’t make a single artful thing. And he knows it. Independence Day is hilariously comfortable in its own mediocrity, which is a complement. It would actually be worse if it resented being so lame.
Not to say Devlin and Emmerich don’t exhibit confidence in the screenplay. They do, even down to Harry Connick Jr.’s moron sidekick to Will Smith. Or Randy Quaid’s lovably drunk Vietnam vet crop duster. They know how to do what they want to do. They just don’t want to do too much. Mary McDonnell as the First Lady, for example. She gets a similar treatment as Connick or Quaid, but McDonnell’s good enough to get through the part (she has less to do). She, Judd Hirsch and Adam Baldwin get through Independence Day the best. Baldwin probably gives the best performance (in the film), while Hirsch is downright terrible. But part of the point is admiring Hirsch’s professionalism in his terrible performance. Of course it’s awful, but look at how consistent he is with it. He’s a pro.
Not so much with Jeff Goldblum, who’s playing the really smart guy, only Emmerich and Devlin’s understanding of intelligence is apparently based on reruns of “Head of the Class.”
As for breakout star Will Smith. He’s good about twenty percent of the time. He’s got some annoying dialogue, which Smith essays with gusto, but he still manages to be somewhat likable. Maybe that sympathy comes from the film eventually treating him like a moron. The plot’s moronic, yet Smith has to be even more moronic so Goldblum can explain things to him (and the audience). Smith’s dialogue then has him spout of non sequiturs meant to maintain his independent likability while still acknowledging Goldblum’s superior intellect.
It’s heinously manipulative but also awfully rendered, so who cares? Emmerich’s direction of Smith and Goldblum’s scenes is his worst direction of actors in the film and his direction of actors is atrocious.
The first third, setting up the alien attack, isn’t godawful. It’s fine, if still poorly acted and poorly written. It does start to go downhill when Goldblum and Hirsch join Pullman’s storyline, but there’s still a pace (and some of the film’s best effects sequences).
The rest of it? So much worse. Even Arnold’s music gets worse.
Independence Day is a film with a bad James Rebhorn performance. Such a thing should not exist.
Directed by Roland Emmerich; written by Dean Devlin and Emmerich; director of photography, Karl Walter Lindenlaub; edited by David Brenner; music by David Arnold; production designers, Patrick Tatopoulos and Oliver Scholl; produced by Devlin; released by 20th Century Fox.
Starring Will Smith (Captain Steven Hiller), Bill Pullman (President Thomas J. Whitmore), Jeff Goldblum (David Levinson), Mary McDonnell (First Lady Marilyn Whitmore), Judd Hirsch (Julius Levinson), Robert Loggia (General William Grey), Randy Quaid (Russell Casse), Margaret Colin (Constance Spano), Vivica A. Fox (Jasmine Dubrow), James Rebhorn (Albert Nimziki), Harvey Fierstein (Marty Gilbert), Adam Baldwin (Major Mitchell) and Brent Spiner (Dr. Brakish Okun).
Here’s an idea… take a script from the guy who wrote Midnight Run–I imagine that film had some rewrites from Martin Brest, but George Gallo did come up with it–and turn it into a complete mess.
What’s interesting about Bad Boys is what isn’t wrong with it… what nearly works in it….
Michael Bay doesn’t do a bad job at all here. He can direct scenes with good actors. He can’t direct scenes with bad actors giving bad performances–most awkward are his scenes with Martin Lawrence, because Lawrence is really funny but essentially giving a sitcom performance. Bay doesn’t know how to direct him and so Lawrence’s lines fail more often than they should.
Will Smith is another story. Will Smith’s performance is unbearably bad. The film would have been better suited teaming Lawrence with a mannequin.
The supporting cast has some real highlights too, which is strange. Not Marg Helgenberger, who’s so laughably awful she and Smith should have gone off into another movie and left Lawrence with the otherwise capable supporting cast. (Except Karen Alexander, she’s terrible too).
First, Joe Pantoliano. I’m not sure if he ever did the yelling police captain in anything else, but he’s perfect for it. Then there’s Nestor Serrano and Julio Oscar Mechoso, both great. Michael Imperioli, great.
Téa Leoni doesn’t work. Her performance isn’t bad… it’s just clear, she really doesn’t belong here.
I’m not surprised Bad Boys is dreadful, I’m shocked there’s so much good stuff about it.
Directed by Michael Bay; screenplay by Michael Barrie, Jim Mulholland and Doug Richardson, based on a story by George Gallo; director of photography, Howard Atherton; edited by Christian Wagner; music by Mark Mancina; produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson; released by Columbia Pictures.
Starring Martin Lawrence (Det. Marcus Burnett), Will Smith (Det. Mike Lowrey), Téa Leoni (Julie Mott), Tchéky Karyo (Fouchet), Joe Pantoliano (Captain Howard), Emmanuel Xuereb (Eddie Dominguez), Nestor Serrano (Detective Sanchez), Julio Oscar Mechoso (Detective Ruiz), Theresa Randle (Theresa Burnett), John Salley (Fletcher), Marg Helgenberger (Capt. Alison Sinclair) and Michael Imperioli (Jojo).
There should be laws against remaking terrible Charlton Heston movies worse than the source movie. Though, given I Am Legend plays a little like Christian Scientist propaganda… I doubt Republicans would do it… even if it did give Heston a legacy besides being a heartless liar (Bowling for Columbine). It’s also interesting how the material appeals so much to Republican leading men. First Heston, then Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to get it made, and now Will Smith. It’s odd….
The movie is one of the stupider films–just in terms of suspension of disbelief… it constantly contradicts itself. Obviously, screenwriters Mark Protosevich and Akiva Goldsman are terrible (Goldsman wrote, for example, Batman and Robin among other attacks on filmic decency). But it’s really, really dumb. Almost impossible to describe how stupid. These jokers don’t, apparently, even know what the word ‘legend’ means and misuse it horribly.
Francis Lawrence is an okay director, though. He switches poorly between handheld and not, but he can compose a sequence with a good shock. Bad director of actors, but Will Smith playing a “smart” scientist (who does the stupidest things a protagonist has done in any film I can remember) is kind of hilarious. Like if Rob Schneider played FDR.
Also interesting is how most of the film’s sequences and ideas are lifted from better and much smaller-budgeted films. Warner took Resident Evil, 28 Days Later and the Omega Man screenplay they still owned and rolled it up in to a Will Smith Christmas movie. I can’t say holiday, because I Am Legend is a Christian movie. I’m shocked they didn’t play it up some more, trying to get church groups to go.
But the opening special effects, which every review has commented on, of the abandoned New York City, are excellent. Not as effective or good as Twelve Monkeys or Vanilla Sky, but good. The monsters are terrible CG… there’s a scene in the movie centered around Shrek and the CG in it looked more realistic than the monsters. It’s like they ran out of time, because at a very clear point, the CG effects team also stopped working so hard on the Manhattan backdrop.
But… yeah… if you’ve seen Omega Man and know how atrocious it is… it’s genius compared to this one.
Directed by Francis Lawrence; screenplay by Mark Protosevich and Akiva Goldsman, based on a screenplay by John William Corrington and Joyce Hooper Corrington and on a novel by Richard Matheson; director of photography, Andrew Lesnie; edited by Wayne Wahrman; music by James Newton Howard; production designers, David Lazan and Naomi Shohan; produced by Goldsman, David Heyman, James Lassiter, Neal H. Moritz and Erwin Stoff; released by Warner Bros.
Starring Will Smith (Robert Neville), Alice Braga (Anna), Charlie Tahan (Ethan), Salli Richardson (Zoe) and Willow Smith (Marley).