Suicide Squad (Cinema Review)

15 – 123mins – 2016 – 3D 


 

INJUSTICE LEAGUE

Following the far from unanimous critical response to DC’s universe-kickstarter Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in March, the Marvel comic book rivals were arrogantly confident that this anti-hero team-up would return favour to their flimsy filmic franchise. The promotion was typically bombastic and all the signs were promising, and then – on August 1st – the film was finally released…

*cue evil cackle*

Much like Suicide Squad’s psychopathic power couple, The Joker (Jared Leto) and Harley Quinn (Margot The Legend of Tarzan Robbie), David Training Day Ayer’s big screen adaptation is deluded into thinking that star names, good looks, colourful clothing and an iPod-shuffle mixtape is enough to get you through. But too much ghoulish make-up, too many tattoos and too many frightful fashion faux pas and you soon realise that these beautiful bad guys, much like this big budget blockbuster, is a schizophrenic, ugly mess.

Following the shocking conclusion to BvS (too spoilerific to reveal), a secret government agency led by intelligence operative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) believes it has the answer: recruit incarcerated supervillains to undertake black ops missions in exchange for leaner prison sentences – just in time to take down supernatural terrorist The Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), her resurrected brother, Incubus (Alain Chanoine), and a horde of monstrous minions. Surely nothing can go wrong…

With a raft of new characters – hitman Deadshot (Will Independence Day Smith), special forces officer Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), Aussie thief Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), pyrokinetic El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), reptilian cannibal Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), mercenary Slipknot (Adam Beach), martial artist Katana (Karen Fukuhara) – all requiring origin story-esque introductions, the opening half of Suicide Squad is a flitting, flighty, mis-edited jumble of all-too-swift on-screen character bios, out-of-sequence Batffleck -cameoing flashbacks and random jukebox compilations.

Foregoing any “middle” to the single sentence plot, following the unsettling formation of this anti-Justice League, the film piles straight into an extended end sequence, with the unreliable rebels crossing the besieged Midway City to tackle the supernaturally-empowered witch-goddess – who has possessed the body of Flag’s girlfriend, Dr. June Moone.

There are promising aspects trapped beneath the quagmire (Will Smith is always engaging, while Harley gets the lion’s share of quirky quips), but there is simply too much going on for any of it to be given enough room to breathe. The much-hyped Joker is little more than a bit-part player intent on releasing his missus from her noble responsibilities, Killer Croc perhaps utters all of three gruff lines, while El Diablo lingers in the background for the first two action set-pieces – and these are main characters!

It’s been much-speculated that the film received an eleventh hour re-edit, so it’s hard to ascertain whether this staccato remix of Suicide Squad is David Ayer’s ultimate vision or a too-many-chefs conglomerate of audience-pandering turned sour. Either way, it’s the version we have to judge, and I’m afraid to say that on this evidence I’d be sending this reprobate back to the slammer and throwing away the key. A DC disaster which only makes me appreciate the less-than-perfect BvS more.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 2 stars

The Legend of Tarzan (Cinema Review)

12A – 108mins – 2016 – 3D


 

THE SPIRIT OF THE TREES

Before his imminent return to the wizarding world with November’s Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them, director David Yates looks to older literary inspiration in bringing Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Victorian ape-man back to the big screen for his umpteenth reimagining.

What makes The Legend of Tarzan unique, however, is that rather than again retelling John Clayton III’s (Alexander Skarsgård) oft-told origin story, we instead join up with Lord Greystroke eight years after he has returned to England with his wife, Jane (Margot Robbie), with crucial flashbacks to his formative years in the jungle integrated into this sort-of sequel.

Christoph Waltz, who I must confess I have never warmed to as an actor, returns to his moustache-twirling devious antagonist comfort zone as Captain Léon Rom, the corrupt envoy for Belgium’s debt-ridden King Leopold II. Rom devises a sinister scheme to lure the renowned Tarzan back to Boma in the Congo jungle, capture him and delivery him to an old enemy for a bounty of diamonds to save his dire government from bankruptcy.

Waltz’s Hateful Eight co-star Samuel L. Jackson plays second fiddle to the titular shirt-shy star as sharp-shooting American envoy George Washington Williams, who accompanies Tarzan and Jane on their overseas expedition, and aids in the rescue of Jane when Rom sees the sinister opportunity to lure his prey out of hiding with some wife-shaped bait.

Sumptuously imagined in a similar CG-heavy approach to Disney’s recent The Jungle Book reboot, this vine-swinging wild ride seems to have been somewhat lost in the wilderness of blockbuster season, receiving a trough of middling reviews where John Favreau’s uncanny Mowgli remake was lauded for its technical wizardry. Sure, the occasional shot is noticeably green screened, but there is far more to make you go “ooo!” than “ergh!” here.

The pacing isn’t perfect, with the grand riverboat finale reached prematurely, despite the action bobbing along nicely up to that point, but the film’s only major misstep is in expecting us to invest in little-seen African tribal leader Chief Mbonga’s (Djimon Air Hounsou) passion for revenge against the film’s hero – despite Tarzan’s earlier murder of his son only being briefly alluded to and never visualised.

Otherwise, I see no reason to lambast screenwriters Adam Cozard and Craig Brewer for their vision, which is as bestial, exotic and adventurous as a Tarzan story can be. Sadly, I fear this Legend going the same way as Disney’s doomed adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ other shaggy-haired literary property, John Carter, which flopped for no discernible reason in 2012.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 3 stars