Thursday, August 25, 2016

It Came From The Cineplex: Sausage Party

Welcome to the tail end of Summer Movie Slaughter 2016, as the last of the season's big tentpole pictures crash and burn on arrival. It's been a brutal summer to be sure, filled with flops, implosions and all around disappointments. Other than Captain America: Civil WarFinding Dory and The Secret Life Of Pets, I don't think any film this summer could be considered a hit, as the majority of them were DOA and lost their respective studios millions.

Sausage Party was written by Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (wow, it took a whopping FOUR people to write a screenplay about a talking hot dog?). It was directed by Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon.

Hunter and Shaffir previously wrote the Seth Rogen vehicle The Night Before. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are a prolific writing team, who previously penned Superbad, Pineapple Express, The Green Hornet, The Watch and This Is The End.

Tiernan previously directed Hero Of The Rails, which— get this— was the first Thomas The Tank Engine home video feature to use CGI animation instead of the usual scale models and sets. Wow! From the family-friendly world of Thomas to cursing, fornicating hot dogs! Vernon previously co-directed Shrek 2 and directed Monsters Vs. Aliens and Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted. Talk about strange bedfellows!

Sausage Party is rude, vulgar, racist and offensive. It also has quite a thoughtful and provocative message about religion, and how it ruins rules our lives. Wow. Who knew Seth Rogen would turn out to be a visionary filmmaker?

The film was made for a shockingly low $19 million, which is nothing short of miraculous these days. To put that amount in perspective, Finding Dory had a production budget of $200 million, while The Secret Life Of Pets cost $75 million. Heck, Pixar probably spent more than $19 million on coffee for their animators.


Unfortunately it looks like the movie's low price tag may have been the result of brutal and unfair working conditions on the part of Nitrogen Studios, which produced Sausage Party. Shortly after the film premiered there were allegations that  the studio forced their army of animators to work overtime for free. According to anonymous sources, if any animators refused, they were either reassigned or terminated. Supposedly over thirty animators left the production due to the conditions at the studio, and their names were removed from the final credits. Sadly, things like this go on all the time in the animation industry.

Seth Rogen seems like a genuinely decent guy, so I hope he was ignorant of this alleged abuse, and didn't knowingly go along with it just to get his film made under budget.

A couple of weeks ago I predicted that there'd be a huge outcry from angry Soccer Moms who cluelessly took their precious underaged snowflakes to see this hard R-rated movie, thinking it was just another family-friendly animated film. Amazingly I've not heard any reports of that happening.

My local cineplexery had numerous warning signs posted, alerting parents that Sausage Party was most definitely NOT for kids, so maybe they were able to preempt any problems before they arose. There wasn't a single kid in the audience at my screening of the film. Actually there weren't many people of any age there, but that's another story.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
"In a world, where food is alive…" Eh, let's start over. The film takes place primarily inside the Shopwell's grocery store, where all the various foods and products are alive. The foods believe the human shoppers are Gods, who appear every day to select them and take them out of the store into "The Great Beyond."


Somewhere in the store, a sausage named Frank (voiced by Seth Rogen), who lives in a package with seven of his fellow processed meat tubes, is in love with a bun named Brenda (voiced by Kristin Wiig). Frank dreams of living in The Great Beyond with Brenda, and is confident they'll be selected by the Gods during the upcoming July 4th Sale.

A jar of Honey Mustard, who was previously selected, is returned to the store by a God. Honey Mustard is shaken to his core by what he saw outside the store, and tells the others that The Great Beyond is a bald-faced lie. The other foods are so delusional, er, I mean confident in their faith that they refuse to believe him.

Frank and Brenda are ecstatic when their packages (heh) are selected by a God and placed in a grocery cart. Honey Mustard, who can't take it anymore, kills himself by leaping from the cart and smashing onto the floor below. The cart slides through the mustard and crashes into another one. The impact throws Frank and Brenda out of their cart, along with a lavash (similar to a pita bread) named Kareem, a bagel named Sammy, and a feminine douche product named, er, Douche. 


Frank and the others try to catch up with the God's cart, but they lose sight of it in the confusion. Douche, whose nozzle is bent, is swept up by a human store employee named Darren, who throws him in the trash. Douche blames Frank for causing him to miss out on the Great Beyond, and vows revenge.

As the store closes for the night, the other foods decide to try and make it back to their aisles. Along the way they hear what sounds like a party coming from the liquor aisle (natch), and Frank suggests they check it out. There they encounter Firewater, a Native American bottle of booze, along with several other older, "non perishable" foods. 


Firewater tells Frank the horrible truth— there is no Great Beyond, and the Gods are actually hungry humans, who kill and eat the foods they choose. Firewater reveals that years ago the foods all knew the truth, but he made up the story of the Gods and The Great Beyond to calm their fears. Frank refuses to believe the story, but a Twinkie named— what else, Twink— tells him to visit the Shopwell's freezer section for proof.

While Frank's having his mind blown, Brenda meets a taco named Terasa (voiced by Salma Hayek), who takes a lusty interest in her. In the back room, Douche escapes from the trash, and is shocked to discover all his fluid has leaked out. He manages to survive by filling his body with various liquids from other discarded foods. Now "juiced," he goes totally off the deep end and begins searching for Frank.

Meanwhile, Frank and Brenda's friends, who were previously chosen, arrive at the home of the God who purchased them. They're horrified to see the God kill, cook and eat their comrades, in a scene of R-rated, unbridled carnage and violence. 


Another sausage named Barry (voiced by Michael Cera) escapes the human's house and enters the outside world. He sees a human carrying a Shopwell's bag and grabs on, hoping to be taken back to the store. Unfortunately, the human is a junkie who takes him back to his disheveled home.

Inside the Junkie's house, Barry meets various snack foods, including a bag of chips and a very Stephen Hawking-like wad of discarded gum, who rides around in a makeshift wheelchair. The Junkie injects himself with bath salts, which alters his perception and allows him to "see" that the foods in his home are alive. Barry tries to talk with the Junkie, who thinks he's just hallucinating. When the drugs wear off, the Junkie grabs Barry and tries to cook him. Barry jumps out of the pot, and the Junkie trips, knocks a decorative axe off the wall and decapitates himself (!). Barry talks Gum and the others into accompanying him to Shopwell's.

Back at the store, Frank tells Brenda and the others that he's going to the freezer section for answers. Brenda doesn't want him to go, saying he's going to anger the Gods by doubting them and asking too many questions. They argue, break up and go their separate ways. Brenda sneaks into another bag of buns, hoping to be chosen again.

Frank travels to the frozen section, where he finds a cookbook. He leafs through it and is horrified to find it's filled with pages of humans massacring food. He tears out several pages and holds them up to the security cameras to broadcast them to the entire store. He tells everyone the Gods and The Great Beyond aren't real, and they're all idiots for believing in them. The foods don't take kindly to having their lifelong beliefs ridiculed, and reject Frank's proof.

The store opens again, and Brenda's chosen a second time. Just then Barry and his new friends return to the store. Barry confirms that the shoppers are false gods, and can be killed. As proof, he shows them the Junkie's decapitated head (!). Frank gives a second speech to the store, apologizing for not respecting the others' beliefs. This time they rally around him.

Barry and Gum fire then fire bath salt-laden toothpicks at the shoppers. As the drug takes effect, the shoppers see the talking foods and predictably freak out. A huge battle takes place, as the foods begin fighting back against the shoppers. Frank manages to rescue Brenda in the confusion. Douche appears, and takes control of Darren by shoving his nozzle up his ass and working him like a Japanese mecha.

Eventually the shoppers are all killed, along with Douche/Darren. With the store rid of the false Gods, the foods all engage in a massive, R-rated orgy (!).

At the end of the film, Gum announces that he and Firewater have discovered that their entire universe is an artificial construct and they're all fictional characters, created for the amusement of humans. Gum builds a Stargate, er, I mean a dimensional portal that will allow them to travel to this dimension. Frank and the others enter the portal to confront their creators.

Thoughts:
• 
It's probably pointless to nitpick a film like this since it's a cartoon fantasy. I will endeavor to do my best though.

• Sausage Party is a very odd film. It contains a ton of food-based puns and jokes, EXACTLY like you'd find in a Pixar, Disney or Dreamworks film. In fact if it weren't for all the R-rated language, violence, sex and anti-religious stuff, it could very well be a Disney film.

Maybe that's what the filmmakers were going for? Making the movie seem as much like a kiddie cartoon as possible, so it'd be all the more shocking when the R-rated material kicked in?

• Like most cartoon fantasies, the world of this film doesn't hold up to much scrutiny. Heck, even Toy Story, the gold standard of CGI animated films, has some pretty shaky logic. Think about it— Buzz Lightyear truly believes he's a human when he first arrives, yet whenever Andy enters the room, he falls over and acts like an inanimate object, like Woody and all the other toys. Why would he do that if he believed he was real?

Likewise, the rules in Sausage Party seem to make sense at first, but if think about them for a while, you'll say, "Hey, wait a minute…"

For example: In addition to the thousands of types of talking foods, we also see a few sentient non-edible items, such as a douche, a used condom (!) and a roll of toilet paper. 

So just how is intelligence doled out in this universe? Obviously everything isn't self-aware. The shopping carts aren't alive, and we don't see any talking cars or lamps. Maybe only items that are consumed or used on the human body have intelligence?

• Another thing that don't quite make sense: The foods all worship the "Gods" and believe in "The Great Beyond," except when they don't. For example, Kareem seems to be Muslim, while Sammy is obviously a Jew. Sammy even lives in the Kosher section of the store!

So which is it? Do the foods believe in their respective ethic deities and the Human Gods at the same time?


• Yet another example of things that are off in this world: Based on their dialogue, the foods inside Shopwell's all act as if they've been living there for months, if not years. But that can't be— the produce would all get tossed out after a day or two if not "chosen," and Frank and Brenda couldn't possibly have been in the store for much more than a week. Maybe time passes more slowly for food, and they feel like they've been alive for years?

As I said, I realize this is a fantasy, so I don't really expect the filmmakers to work out every tiny detail like these, and it doesn't detract from the story. I just thought I'd mention it.

• At the risk of sounding like a Brittle Soccer Mom, I thought the cursing in the film was way over the top. Obviously it was done for the shock value of seeing an animated character spout F-bombs and C-words, but after the thousandth time, the effect was a bit dulled. There were times when it seemed like the dialogue went out of its way just to include a curse. I wasn't offended by it, but after a while it was like being bludgeoned in the head by the sheer amount of cursing. It felt like a little kid learning a new cuss word, and then using it as much as humanly possible.

• The aftermath of the shopping cart crash is an homage to the "Storming The Beach" scene in Saving Private Ryan. We see lots of carnage in the aftermath of the crash, like a burst can of spaghetti trying to scoop his "guts" back in, a jar of peanut butter cradling a dead jar of jelly, and a shellshocked Oreo cookie searching through the rubble for his back half that's been blown off.


If only there were more clever scenes like this in the film...

• There's quite a bit of stereotypical racial and ethnic humor in the film. There's the Firewater character who's a Native American, an African-American box of grits, and a Twinkie who's gay. There are also Asian-accented bottles of soy sauce, Mexican salsa bottles, and Nazi bratwursts who want to eliminate the Juices (get it?). 


Given the Politically Correct Hellscape that passes for our current society, I'm very, very surprised that no one's complained about this. The film doesn't play favorites— it seems to insult and make fun of virtually everyone equally. Maybe that's the secret? When you offend everyone, no one's offended?

• I'm not a fan of the character design in the film, as most of it looked simplistic and cheap. It looked like the animators just slapped eyes and a mouth on various grocery items and called it a day.

On the other hand, there's probably only one way to design a talking sausage.

I thought the hot dog buns in particular were very off-putting. I think the problem was their vertical mouths— that never looks right. And yes, I'm aware of what the buns' slit-mouths were supposed to look like. That doesn't make it good character design though.

• Speaking of character design— when the Junkie ingests the bath salts, he's suddenly able to see and hear the various foods in his home for the first time. I liked that he mentioned they were all wearing little white gloves and shoes! How did that ever become the standard in cartoons? Nearly every old school cartoon character wore white gloves!

• As I mentioned earlier, the film features a surprisingly insightful look at religion, atheism and blind zealotry. 

Firewater admits to Frank that he made up the entire Shopwell's religion to help calm the various foods and quell their fears. He says what he didn't expect though, was for some of the foods— like the Nazi ones— to add to the religion and pervert it for their own ends. That's a pretty sophisticated concept for a sophomoric cartoon about talking food!

Frank then offers proof that the Gods and The Great Beyond are fake, and tells all the foods in the store that they're idiots for believing. Predictably, the foods don't take kindly to being called morons, and reject his proof. I see this in the real world all the time, as atheists can be just as smug and zealous in their outlook as the faithful are in their beliefs.

The film's correct here— you can't just call someone an idiot for believing in something you don't, and then expect them to come around to your way of thinking. The best you can do is believe what you think is best, and try to be respectful of others.

I was definitely not expecting any kind of thought provoking message like that, especially in a movie about cursing hot dogs.

• After the foods reject Frank's proof, he apologizes and says he was wrong to ridicule them. He then says their beliefs are all valid, and they need to work together to defeat the Gods. Amazingly, the foods all agree with him and attack!

Well, that was certainly easy! One second the foods view humans as literal Gods, the next they're killing them with wild abandon.

• In the third act, Barry and his new friends shoot toothpicks coated with bath salts into the Shopwell's shoppers. So where'd Barry get more bath salts? 
When we first see the Junkie, he buys a tiny little bag of salts from a dealer, and it looks like he used it all when he dosed himself. The drug isn't really made of bath salts, so where'd Barry and his pals get more? Did they visit the dealer? 

This is another one of those things you shouldn't think about too much.

• I liked the film overall, but I have to say I absolutely hated the Stargate ending, in which Frank and the others presumably travel to our dimension to meet the makers of the movie. I felt that went one step too far, and it came close to ruining the movie for me. It's almost like they couldn't think of an ending, so they just stuck that scene in there. Better to have ended it a minute or two sooner.


I have a feeling this scene was grafted onto the ending to set up a potential sequel, as Frank and the others travel to our world, looking for Seth Rogen and demanding answers. Look for Sausage Party: The Real World in a year or two.

Sausage Party is crude, tasteless and outrageous, and does its level best to offend. But it also has a few brief astute insights about religion and tolerance, which is surprising in a film like this. The vulgarity grows stale after a while, but on the whole it's way better than I expected. Definitely not for kids though! I give it a B-.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Oh, Hacienda, You've Done It Again!

Regional restaurant chain Hacienda (that's "house" to you and me) is in hot water yet again for their latest billboard. The ad reads, "The Best Mexican Food This Side Of The Wall," and is obviously a jab at human pumpkin Donald Trump and his insane plan to build a barrier between the U.S. and our neighbor to the South.

Naturally, tons of people here in the no-fun Offended States Of America lost their sh*t and complained bitterly about the billboard, calling it tasteless and offensive.

I'm glad to see all other problems in our nation have been solved, so we can finally focus our efforts on outrage over a goddamned billboard. For the record, I thought the billboard was mildly amusing at best, but I'm not the least bit offended by it. I've got better things to do than try to get a billboard taken down.

Sam Centellas, executive director of La Casa de Amistad (that's the House of Friendship to you and me) was foremost among the whiners, saying, "There's a difference between being funny and being offensive. What I'd love to hear is how do their employees feel and how are they treated in a culture that regularly puts out pretty offensive advertising related to Latino culture?"

Well first of all, Sam, the billboard isn't making fun of Latino culture. It's making fun of the loudmouthed orange homunculus that's pretending to run for president. As for what Hacienda's employees think, they're no doubt far too busy working three jobs in an effort to get by to worry about a message on a billboard.

Hacienda's Executive Vice President Jeff Lesie said, "We don't intend to upset anybody, but we do use humor. When you use humor, there's going to be some groups that are particularly sensitive to certain things."

Supposedly Hacienda caved in to the whiners and promised to remove the billboards around the state. Either they were lying, or they just haven't got to my city yet, because they're still up.

Hacienda is no stranger to advertising controversy. A few years ago they ran this billboard. As you no doubt know, many hospitals use the "code" terminology to alert the staff of an emergency without alarming the public. Code Red means "Emergency." Code Blue means "Cardiac Arrest." And Code Brown means "Patient has soiled themselves, their bed and possibly the walls, bring a mop and bucket." Probably not something you want your clientele to think about while they're eating your highly volatile Mexican food.
.
Earlier this year they ran this ad, which I assume is a play on "Sh*t Faced." Crude and provocative perhaps, but not offensive.


And then there's this one, which is obviously a reference to the Jonestown Massacre. Yeah, this really happened-- it's not one of my Photoshop fakes. Even I have to admit they went too far with this one. Especially with the little "To Die For" tag, which is like one final little twist of the knife. Jesus Christ! I guess they couldn't think of any Holocaust-related food puns?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Things I Would Tweet If I Tweeted: Ryan Lochte


A couple of weeks ago Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte and several of his dude-bros allegedly destroyed a gas station bathroom in a drunken rage. When confronted by the Rio authorities, Lochte stated they'd been robbed at gunpoint by local thugs, a claim which has since been disproved.

Lochte's idiotic antics reportedly caused him to lose all FOUR of his lucrative product endorsement deals— including Speedo and Ralph Lauren— which will cost him millions.

Maybe if Mr. Lochte plays his cards right, he could get an endorsement deal with Massengill.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

It Came From The Cineplex: Suicide Squad

Welp, looks like Summer Movie Slaughter 2016 is finally winding down, as the last of the season's big tentpole pictures crash and burn on arrival. It's been a brutal summer to be sure, filled with flops, implosions and all around disappointments. Other than Finding Dory and The Secret Life Of Pets, I don't think any film this summer could be considered a hit, as the majority of them were DOA and lost their respective studios millions.

Suicide Squad was written and directed by David Ayer. It's based on the DC comic book of the same name. This is actually the third live action version of the Suicide Squad. The team previously appeared on Smallville in 2001, and on Arrow in 2012.


Ayer previously wrote U-571, Training Day, The Fast And The Furious, Dark Blue and S.W.A.T. He wrote and directed End Of Watch, Sabotage and Fury.

Take The Dirty Dozen, populate it with comic book super villains instead of convicts and you'll have a pretty good idea of what this movie's about. Unfortunately Suicide Squad is a muddled, murky and schizophrenic mess that can't settle on a consistent tone. I was hoping that this would be the film to finally break the DC Movie Curse, but sadly that just isn't the case.


For the past several years Warner Bros. has frantically been trying to ape Marvel Studio's massive success with their DC Extended Universe films. Unfortunately they just can't seem to get their little shared theatrical universe off the ground.

For reasons I can't quite fathom, Warner Bros. was certain that the relatively unknown Suicide Squad would finally rival Marvel's output. To that end, they hired director David Ayer, who specializes in gritty, urban street dramas, to shoot a gritty, urban street superhero film for them. And that's just what he delivered— by all accounts Ayer's original cut of Suicide Squad was dark and brutal, which fit the tone of the subject matter perfectly.

And then a couple of things happened...

First of all, Warner Bros. executives were absolutely blindsided by the negative critical and fan reaction to the execrable Batman V. Superman. They honestly thought they had a masterpiece on their hands, and were gobsmacked when the film underperformed at the box office after the public rejected it for being too grim and joyless. 


Meanwhile, Fox Studios released a little superhero film called Deadpool, which, despite the fact that it was about a violent mercenary, was fun, lively and upbeat. Audiences obviously loved its irreverent feel, as it grossed a kaskillion dollars.


These incidents sent the Warner Bros. executives into a panic. 
Knee-jerk reactions are always the best reactions, dontcha know! Fearing disaster if they released yet another grimdark superhero film, they ordered extensive reshoots on Suicide Squad to lighten its tone and make it more fun. This of course made perfect sense, because lord knows a Superman film should be grim and violent, while a movie about a team of expendable killers should be cheerful and airy.


They then began assembling several different versions of the film with wildly different structures and tones, 
in a desperate attempt to see which scored better with test audiences.


You don't have to be a film scholar to tell that the final product's been extensively recut and shuffled. Storylines that were obviously meant to happen in "real time" were cut down considerably and used as brief flashbacks, while the tone varies wildly from scene to scene. This gives the film a patchwork, disjointed feel that I have a feeling wasn't present in the original cut. It's a Franken-film!


Nowhere is the schizophrenic nature of this film more evident than in the marketing. Just look at these various posters! I'm not seeing anything here that screams "edgy, gritty street drama." With their bright colors and pop art aesthetic, they look more like ads for the next Pixar cartoon. Or some Japanese kawaii girl group.

I have a feeling that Suicide Squad was meant to be DC's answer to Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy
Both movies feature a team made up of outlaws, criminals and assassins who spout humorous one-liners and quips, along with soundtracks packed full of 1970s hits. Heck, Suicide Squad even uses Norman Greenbaum's Spirit In The Sky, which appeared on the Guardians soundtrack as well! Talk about blatant!


The music in Guardians had a reason for being there, as it was actually integrated into the plot. Unfortunately Suicide Squad is nowhere near as clever, as the film simply blares song after song over various scenes, with no discernible rhyme or reason. "Hey look, the Squad's gearing up! Let's hear Bohemian Rhapsody! Oops, the scene's changed! Let's switch to Fortunate Son! That song positively screams 'team of mercenaries!"


When DC announced Jared Leto was cast as the Joker, fans predictably lost their collective minds and took to the internet to register their outrage. I have to say I'm with them on this one.


Leto plays what is possibly the worst version of the Joker in cinema history. It's a given that Heath Ledger would be a tough act to follow, but Leto can't even hold a candle to Caesar Romero! The filmmakers obviously intended Leto's Joker to be chilling and terrifying, but he looks for all the world like adult Macaulay Culkin smeared with white greasepaint. And about as threatening!

Plus this Joker doesn't even have any disturbing facial deformities! Jack Nicholson's Joker had a permanent smirk as a result of botched plastic surgery, while Heath Ledger's version mutilated his own face into a twisted smile. Leto's Joker has a mouth full of capped teeth. Ooh, scary! This Joker, with his tatted-up body and Hot Topic aesthetic, is obviously supposed to be edgy and chilling, but honestly I've seen more extreme-looking specimens in the grocery store.

DC fanboys were reportedly incensed when the film received middling to poor critical reviews, especially from the Rotten Tomatoes movie review website. One disgruntled fan— Abdullah Coldwater of Alexandria, Egypt— was so incensed over Rotten Tomatoes' alleged poor treatment of the film that he accused the site of having a vendetta against DC films, and started a petition to have it immediately shut down (!). Gosh, it's nice to see people exhibit such passion over things that truly matter, like movie reviews.


What Mr. Coldwater doesn't seem to understand is that Rotten Tomatoes is an aggregate site. They don't actually write the reviews on their site, they compile them from all over the internet. If Suicide Squad is only getting a 27% positive rating, then that's just the general consensus around the web— it doesn't reflect the opinions of Rotten Tomatoes at all.

Plus Rotten Tomatoes is actually owned (in a roundabout way) by Warner Bros. If the site was really full of falsified and biased reviews, wouldn't they all give the movie a glowing recommendation?

Another angry fan, this time from Scotland, is suing Warner Bros. for false advertising, as the trailers made it look like the Joker was the main villain in the film, when in reality he's in the movie for under ten minutes.


Sadly, these various lawsuits are far more entertaining than the actual film. Better luck with Wonder Woman, DC! Maybe in ten or twenty more years, you may finally make a superhero film as good as Marvel Studios.


This may be the one time when the Asylum Studio's "mockbuster" actually outdoes the source material…

In the end, it doesn't really matter what I think of this film. Against all logic and reason it's already grossed almost $500 million worldwide! We're never going to get better movies if the public keeps rewarding studios for making terrible ones.

SPOILERS, I GUESS!

The Plot:
After the death of the Man Of Steel in Batman V. Superman (everyone who believes he's really dead, stand on their head…), the government is worried about the escalating threat posed by rogue metahumans. Government agent Amanda Waller (played by Viola Davis) comes up with a brilliant plan— to assemble a team of dangerous supervillains to send on covert missions to counter the metahuman menace. Why she doesn't recruit a group of more easily controlled superheroes instead is apparently none of our concern.


Waller's squad consists of Colonel Rick Flag (played by Joel Kinsman), a special forces operative, Deadshot (played by Will Smith), a deadly assassin who never misses, Harley Quinn (played by Margot Robbie), psychotic girlfriend of the Joker, El Diablo, a gang member with pyrokinetic powers, Captain Boomerang (played by Jai Courtney), an Australian career criminal, Killer Croc (played by an unrecognizable Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), a half man/half amphibian monster, Slipknot, a criminal "who can climb anything (?) and the Enchantress, a powerful ancient goddess. They're joined by Katana, a Japanese superhero who carries a soul-sucking sword and is there to keep eye on the villains. Each of the villains has has a miniature bomb implanted in their neck, which can be remotely detonated (with a phone app!) by Waller or Flag if any of them gets out of line.


Flag is romantically involved with Dr. June Moon (seriously— that's her name), an archeologist who's been possessed by the highly dangerous and unstable Enchantress. Predictably, the Enchantress soon takes complete control over Moon, turns on the team and escapes. She summons her demonic brother Incubus, and the two begin attacking Midway City, turning the citizens into faceless, zombie-like monsters and constructing a world-ending machine.


Waller activates the Squad and tells them they'll be countering a simple terrorist attack in Midway City. As they're helicoptered into the city, the Joker texts Harley Quinn (?) and says he's on his way to free her. Suddenly the chopper's shot down and crashes. Miraculously none of the Squad members suffers so much as a bruise. Boomerang talks Slipknot into making a break for it, which he does. Waller activates the bomb in Slipknot's head, instantly killing him, and convincing Boomerang that their "leashes" are real. The Squad is then attacked by the Enchantress' minions, but they manage to make short work of them.


The Squad makes it to the top of a skyscraper and catch their breath. While there, they learn that the mission is actually to rescue Waller herself, who's trying to cover her involvement in the whole Enchantress mess (which she caused). The supervillains are incensed at being misled (and rightly so), but Waller threatens to blow their heads off if they don't comply.


They escort her to the roof for extraction, but they find the Joker's commandeered the chopper and uses it to rescue Harley (whose neck bomb has been deactivated— just go with it). Waller's men shoot down the chopper. Harley leaps to safety while the Joker seeming dies in the crash (uh-huh). Apparently having nothing better to do, Harley rejoins the Squad (!). Waller's then captured by the Enchantress' minions.


With the mission a spectacular failure, Flag destroys his remote and tells the Squad they're free to go, and sets out to rescue Waller by himself. Amazingly the villains decide to help him, in an effort to "prove themselves" or something. 


Meanwhile the Enchantress uses the power of her machine to target and destroy military installations around the world, threatening the entire planet.


They locate the Enchantress, Incubus and Waller in an abandoned subway station. Playing to his strengths, Killer Croc volunteers to plant a bomb in the flooded area below the station. El Diablo reluctantly unleashes his full power and attacks Incubus. He manages to wrestle him over the bomb, which explodes, killing them both. 


The rest of the Squad battles the Enchantress, but she easily disarms them. She uses her powers to give each of them their fondest desire, if they'll only join her cause. Harley accepts her offer. She gets close enough to embrace the Enchantress, and then reveals she was lying and cuts her heart out. Deadshot detonates explosives inside the Enchantress' machine, destroying it. Flag takes the Enchantress' heart and crushes it, which kills her once and for all. Fortunately this frees June Moon from the evil goddess' influence, and she's back to normal.


With their mission a success (well, more or less), the Squad members figure they're now free to go. Not so fast, says Waller, as they only get ten years deducted from their sentences. What a gyp!


At the end of the film we see Harley Quinn enjoying a latte in her prison cell, when the Joker and his "SWAT" team bust in to rescue her.


In the mid credits scene, Waller meets with Bruce Wayne, who agrees to protect her in exchange for her files on all known metahumans.


By the way, if this synopsis seems choppy and incoherent, it's because it's trying to summarize a choppy and incoherent plot.


Thoughts:

• Nearly every one of the supervillains in Suicide Squad is written as a sympathetic character. Deadshot may be an assassin, but he'd do anything for his young daughter. Harley Quinn's a psychotic killer, but she's devoted to the Joker. El Diablo's filled with guilt and remorse after accidentally killing his family. And on and on.

I am not a fan of this modern take on comic book supervillains. Why can't we simply have a villain who's a plain old evil bastard? Why do they always have to have some sort of justification for their villainy? Why can't a villain just be an asshole who likes to cause trouble?


When you give a villain a tragic and compelling backstory, you end up neutering them. They're no longer evil, they're just misguided.

I suppose this trope was necessary in Suicide Squad, since most everyone's a bad guy. If the characters weren't sympathetic then the audience wouldn't care if they lived or died, and then there's no reason to watch the film. That still doesn't mean I have to like it though.

Suicide Squad is hardly the first film to do this. In Batman And Robin, Mr. Freeze steals diamonds to cure his dying wife. In Spider-Man 3, the Sandman only turns to crime to raise money for his daughter's operation. In the X-Men films, Magneto wants to punish those who persecute mutantkind. 

• At the beginning of the film, we're told that the Suicide Squad is necessary in order to fight the rising threat of rogue metahumans in the DCEU. In fact a senator even says, "What if Superman had decided to fly down, rip off the roof of the White House, and grab the president right out of the Oval Office. Who would have stopped him?"


Setting aside the fact that Superman pretty much did something like that in Man Of Steel, what the hell good would this particular team be against such a superpowered opponent? They're all normal people! Diablo's the only squad member with actual superpowers! The rest of the team is made up of a sharpshooter, a guy who throws boomerangs, a crocodile man who may or may not have super strength, and— brace yourself— a girl with a baseball bat. Whew! I feel safer already! I'll bet if Superman were still alive, he'd be quaking in his boots after seeing this team of heavy hitters!

• It would have made a lot more sense if the Squad faced off against a realistic, street level villain. Like a drug kingpin or a group of terrorists, for example. Pitting them against a supernatural foe like the Enchantress was a huge misfire, and completely changed the tone of the film. It's like two completely different movies clumsily mashed together.


• Once again we get another superhero film with a woefully underdeveloped villain. That's fast becoming the new normal these days. The Enchantress is about as lame a foe as you can possibly imagine, and her motivations are as usual, practically nonexistent. What exactly does she want? To destroy the world? Then what? Where's she gonna keep all her stuff?


When I saw the movie I was very surprised to find out she was the actual villain of the piece. Based on the trailers, I expected the Joker to be the big bad that the Squad needed to take down. That certainly would have made more sense, and would have made for a much more compelling film. 


Plus making the Joker the main antagonist would have given him something to actually do, and a reason for being in the movie. He's in it for maybe a total of ten minutes, and never does much of anything except try to look menacing and laugh. You could cut out every one of his scenes and it wouldn't affect the plot one bit. It's obvious that the only reason he's in the film is to introduce him into the DCEU.


• For months before the film premiered, there were numerous on-set reports that actor Jared Leto threw himself whole hog into the role, completely submerging himself into the character. He reportedly shaved off his eyebrows, watched torture porn videos and stayed in character at all times during the shoot. He even went so far as to mail dead rats and used condoms to his cast mates (!). How charming.


I've always been suspicious of these extreme method actors. Yes, I'm sure there are times when one needs to get pumped up or energized before a difficult scene. But actors who insist they have to actually be sad in order to act sad... eh, I don't know. To me that says they're just not a very good actor.

There's a famous (and probably apocryphal) story about Dustin Hoffman and Lawrence Olivier during the filming of Marathon Man. Olivier came into the makeup trailer and noticed Hoffman looking a bit rough, and asked what was wrong. Hoffman said his character was supposed to have trouble sleeping, so to that end he'd actually stayed up for several days straight. Olivier was amazed and said, "Why don't you try acting, dear boy?" That's pretty much how I feel about the whole thing.

In the end Leto's antics were much ado about nothing. He's barely in the film, appearing for under ten minutes. And even when he is onscreen, he never seems like much of a threat. He's all flash, with no substance. Hell, Amanda Waller seems like she could probably take him out singlehandedly!


Supposedly Leto filmed a ton of Joker scenes, but almost all of them were edited from the final cut. Would more of the Joker have made the film better? Eh, I doubt it. I don't think anything could have helped this mishmash.


• Much has been made in the press over Leto's patented "Joker Laugh," and how he arrived at the unique chortle. In an interview, Leto said, "I worked on the laugh walking around the streets of New York and Toronto, and I kinda would walk around the streets and see what laughs would get under people's skin… I tried them out. And I got to a place where I would laugh and people are always turning around like, 'Who is this creepy guy behind me?"

For the record I didn't find his laugh the least bit unsettling or terrifying, mostly because it sounded almost exactly like Phantom Of Krankor from Prince Of Space.

• Call me old school, but I like Harley Quinn's original costume, which looked like, well, a harlequin. I am not a fan of the "crack whore" costume she wears in the film.


Her original costume actually does show up in a couple of very brief blink-and-you'll-miss-'em scenes. I wish they'd have just skipped it altogether though, because throwing it in without having her wear it for the whole film felt like a tease. Don't show it if she ain't gonna wear it!

I can't blame the movie for her new look though, as it's just following the comics. She's been dressing like a skank for quite some time now on the printed page, as apparently no one at DC understands what "harlequin" means.

• Harley speaks in her trademark Brooklyn accent a couple of times early on ("Hoiya, Mistah J!") and then completely drops it for the rest of the movie.


 During Harley's on screen "stats", it briefly flashes that she assisted in the murder of Robin, whose costume we saw in the Batcave in Batman V. Superman.


• The biggest casualty of the studio meddling is the Joker/Harley relationship. Supposedly in the original cut of the film, their affair was very one sided. Harley was deeply in love with the Joker and worshipped him, while he couldn't possibly care less whether she lived or died, and even showed outright contempt toward her.

Their abusive relationship supposedly gave test audiences icky bad feelings, so the numerous reshoots completely changed the nature of their dynamic. 

Some of the various changes:
In the original cut, the Joker actually shoves Harley into the same vat of industrial chemicals that transformed him. In the final version, the Joker politely asks her to jump in to prove her love.  
In the original cut, the Joker and Harley get into a heated argument and she pulls a gun on him. He then sweet talks her into lowering the gun, and when she does, he backhands her across the face. They then kiss.
In the original cut, the Joker rescues Harley in a helicopter. They get into yet another argument and he shoves her out of the chopper in a fit of rage, as she seemingly falls to her doom. The copter then gets shot down with the Joker onboard. In the final version, the chopper is shot down first, and the Joker pushes Harley out in order to save her.
Obviously these alterations were made to soften the Joker and make him less abusive toward Harley. This was a huge mistake, in my opinion. It's not that I like seeing violence toward women, but we're talking about an evil, psychotic supervillain here. Of course he's going to knock his girlfriend around! Making him a loving and tender partner completely neuters him, and eliminates any sense of menace he may have had. Who the hell wants to see a likable, touchy-feely, politically correct Joker?

• Deadshot spends at least 99.9% of the movie without his trademark white mask. He's shown picking it up and carrying it a couple of times, but I don't think we ever actually see him wear it (I'd have to see the movie again to make sure, and that ain't happening).

I expected this the second I saw they'd cast Will Smith in the role. There's no way in hell a studio's going to pay millions for a prominent actor and then cover his face for the entire film.


• Is there any reason why, whenever we see Deadshot in his civilian clothing, he's dressed like a 1970s pimp?

• Just think, Will Smith passed up Independence Day: Resurgence to star in this film (although to be fair, I doubt his presence would have saved that film either).

• Credit where credit's due— I actually liked the scene in which the Squad members geared up, and Deadshot demonstrated his sharpshooting abilities by firing every round in a machine gun clip through the same tiny bullet hole. Kudos!

• Dr. June Moon has to be the world's worst archeologist. In a flashback we see her exploring a remote cave, where she finds a small clay idol. She picks it up and for no good reason whatsoever, immediately rips its head off. This releases the Enchantress' life force, which then possesses her.

Jesus, Indiana Jones was pretty reckless, but even he wouldn't have been that stupid.

I suppose we could say the Enchantress' spirit somehow compelled Moon to tear off the idol's head and free her, but I don't see why we should.

• When the Squad members are all fitted with neck bombs, Captain Boomerang isn't convinced they're real, so he talks Slipknot into trying to escape. When Slipknot gets his head blown off real good, Boomerang's finally convinced.


This scene was lifted almost word for word from the Suicide Squad comic. The only difference is that there the team all wore high tech bracelets that would blow off their hand if they strayed too far away from Rick Flagg. Well done!


Of course I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't point out that the whole neck bomb thing was done first in Escape From New York.


• Speaking of Boomerang, he was definitely the most useless member of the team. He didn't do anything but bitch and whine! Did he even toss a single boomerang in the entire film?

• I assume Boomerang's bizarre and poorly-written obsession with pink unicorns was thrown in to make him seem quirky? I'm also betting it was a lame attempt at making him more like Deadpool, who had a similar fetish.


• On their first mission, the Suicide Squad is traveling by chopper to a rendezvous point. Harley whips out her cell phone and sees she's got a text from the Joker (complete with a pasty-skinned, green-haired emoji!).

Many viewers— including myself— wondered where the hell she got a cell phone. Apparently this is (poorly) explained in the film. The Joker's men abduct sleazy prison guard Griggs (played by Ike Barinholtz) and hand him a cell phone. He then supposedly slipped the phone to Harley before she left on the mission, when we weren't looking.


Why they devoted so much valuable screen time to this minor little detail, I have no idea. Especially when virtually nothing else is explained! They could have eliminated the Griggs scene entirely and clarified the situation by simply showing Harley brush up against one of the prison guards or soldiers and expertly pick his phone from his pocket.

Now where exactly she was hiding the phone after she got it is another question entirely, especially considering she's wearing hot pants that are all of three inches high.


• Say, I almost forgot— Batman's in this movie, in a flailing attempt to remind us that this is a shared universe just like Marvel's! Unfortunately Batman (played once again by Ben Affleck) only shows up in a couple of brief flashbacks— to arrest Deadshot, and to rescue Harley from a sinking car (as well as punch her in the face!). 

Gosh, it's too bad Waller forgot all about Batman. He might have been able to help against the Enchantress, and would probably have been more reliable than a team of unstable supervillains.

• As the Squad enters Midway City, we see a large digital billboard announcing there's a Mandatory Evacuation Notice in effect! 


Apparently Warner Bros. is still stinging from the spanking they received over the massive collateral damage caused by Superman in Man Of Steel. They're now going hilariously out of their way to assure the audience that 
no innocent blood was spilled this time, as the Squad members are free to battle in a completely empty city.

So I guess the filmmakers expect us to believe that every one of the millions of residents of Midway City was somehow evacuated to safety in the space of an hour or two, or however long it took the Squad to fly there from their prison headquarters (!). I'd have less trouble believing in the Enchantress than I would that situation!

By the way, in the comics, Midway City was the home of the superhero couple Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Too bad they didn't show up to help.


• So the Suicide Squad exists so the government can use them against metahuman threats, and not risk the lives of regular military troops. So of course it makes perfect sense that the Squad is accompanied at all times by a team of highly competent, elite soldiers who seem like they could handle any threat themselves.


• At one point we see that Waller's trapped inside the John F. Ostrander Federal Building. That name probably sailed far over the heads of most of the audience, but comic fans will recognize the name. John Ostrander was the creator of the modern Suicide Squad comic (there was an earlier version from the 1960s that few remember).


• In the 2005 Fantastic 4 movie, the team accidentally caused a major disaster on a bridge. The FF then used their powers to save the citizenry and contain the damage. The media goes nuts, praising them and turning them into celebrities. No one seems to notice that the Fantastic 4 themselves created the disaster in the first place. It's the Bootstrap Paradox— they solved the very problem they created!


Something very similar happens in Suicide Squad. Amanda Waller assembles a covert team of supervillains. Against all logic and reason, she recruits the Enchantress, a highly dangerous and uncontrollable witch. Naturally the Enchantress escapes and goes on a destructive and deadly rampage. Waller's then forced to use the Squad to save the world from the very problem she herself caused!


• After the whole Enchantress debacle, Waller goes into ass-covering mode. She has her people wipe their hard drives and destroy all evidence linking her to the matter. She then coldly and brutally executes her people at point blank range. When a shocked Rick Flagg asks her what the hell, she says they didn't have proper clearance and she couldn't risk them talking.


So she murdered six or seven innocent people to keep them quiet, but she's fine with a group of immoral supervillains knowing her secrets. Got it.


• After Waller's captured by the Enchantress' minions, a disillusioned Rick Flag destroys his phone containing the killer app and tells the Squad they're free to go. Captain Boomerang immediately buggers off and exits the bar, practically leaving a hole in the wall in the shape of his body. 


Literally sixty seconds later the rest of the Squad decides to stay and help Flag rescue Waller. Suddenly Boomerang's with them again, as they scope out the Enchantress' hideout. 


This flub is a prime example of the studio's meddling and reshoots, and just a sample of the passion and care they poured into this production.

• It was nice to see the Blue Shaft Of Energy™ get some work in this film. The bright, pencil-thin beam has shown up in virtually every superhero movie made in the last ten years or so.


• At the end of the film, the Squad believes they're all free to go. Not so fast, says Waller— they're all going back to prison with just ten years knocked off their sentences. The Squad members balk and start to walk off anyway. Waller then whips out her phone with the killer app and says she'll use it if they don't stop immediately.

Funny thing is, the way she's holding the phone, her fingers are actually touching two of the Squad members' faces on the app! Luckily for them the phone somehow knew not to make their heads explode.

• In the post credits sequence, Waller gives Bruce Wayne a file containing info on all known metahumans, such as the Flash and Aquaman. He thanks her for the info.

Um... why does Bruce/Batman need these files? He already saw (and copied) them on Luthor's computer in Batman V Superman! Why's he need to be handed them a second time?


There's probably a decent version of Suicide Squad lying somewhere in Warner Bros. vault, but their lack of confidence in David Ayers' direction and their irrational desire to turn it into a Guardians Of The Galaxy clone completely torpedoed the project, resulting in a muddled, schizophrenic, nonsensical mess. I give it a C.
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