The Secret To An Empowered Female Superhero Character

Let me start by explaining something simple: there is a difference between an empowered female character and a female character that looks good while throwing a punch. All too often male directors create a character that speaks funny one-liners, kicks a little ass, but is ultimately there to look good for either the male characters or a male audience. That is not what women mean when they say they want empowered female characters.

Let’s take Harley Quinn from Suicide Squad, for example. Although she isn’t a hero, she’s a major character in a superhero-genre film. I’ve been obsessed with that character since I was a kid. She’s always used her sexuality to her advantage. In the film, however, she is sexualized for enjoyment of the male audience, not because she is using her body to her own advantage. The camera slowly pans up her body as she’s in her bra, it zooms in on her butt in her barely-there shorts, and the male characters around her make sexist comments about her looks. Sure, she can fight. Yeah, she can tell a guy off. But is that the way male action heroes are treated? The way that “empowered” female action heroes are portrayed is not the same way male action heroes are. Harley is ultimately a sexy prop. I’m not saying a sexual woman isn’t empowered. It’s the way the character is presented on screen that determines whether she is being treated as an object or as a legitimate hero. Action films with female leads usually attempt to present their characters as strong, independent women but they are ultimately objectified for the enjoyment of a male audience.

Black Widow is portrayed in a similar light in The Avengers. While men that watch the movie claim that she’s badass (which she is, at moments), they don’t understand that many women watching don’t have the same experience. Black Widow is incredibly sexualized and is shown to be emotionally weak. She can kick-ass and dishes out snappy dialogue, but in the second film she’s reduced to a love-interest for Bruce and believes she is a monster because she cannot have children. The root of her character is now diminished to an emotional woman that believes her femininity is damaged. There wasn’t even any chemistry between the two characters; it’s as if they felt the need to force a romance. Natasha even offers to give up her entire life to run away with Bruce, which is so unlike her character. But she’s the woman, right? It’s as if she can’t be a fully developed character and a love interest. She has to be either/or. In actuality, a female character can have a love interest without being weakened by it. A woman can be a hero and be in love. They’re making her choose between saving the world and loving Bruce. Black Widow has so much potential, but they made her entire characterization revolve around a male character.

Wonder Woman is a perfect example of a powerful woman with a love interest that doesn’t operate under the male gaze. She is wearing an exposing outfit, but it’s her choice to wear it and it makes her feel powerful. The camera doesn’t treat her as a prop. It doesn’t slink up her body as she walks. There are no close ups of her behind. And at the same time, she owns her sexuality. She speaks to Steve in the boat about women’s sexual pleasure, but it isn’t a sexually charged scene. Actually, none of the scenes between her and Steve seem to operate under the traditional cinematic norms of an action-film romance. Steve gives her enough strength to keep fighting, but he isn’t the reason for her success. He doesn’t weaken her or reduce her to an emotional woman dependent on the male character. Their relationship is based on mutual respect and doesn’t cloud her judgement. Rather than the woman following the man’s lead, Steve learns to respect Diana’s decisions and treats her as an equal. He even followers her lead at times. The fighting scenes are filmed the same way a fighting scene with a male hero would be shown. Wonder Woman kicks ass and isn’t objectified while she does it. The film rejects the patriarchal norms of the genre and shows what gender equality actually looks like. It was a breath of fresh air for female superhero fans.

Hopefully, Joss Whedon will learn from watching Wonder Woman and his upcoming Batgirl film will operate on a similar level of respect for female characters. We’re tired of women that appear badass on the surface but are ultimately treated as props to further the plot for male characters or look good for a male audience. Times are changing, and it’s time Hollywood changed too.

-B

Are Old Movies Worth Watching?

I was recently asked this question in one of my film classes. There were a variety of answers: for historical purposes, as relics, to romanticize the past…but I love watching old movies for a different reason. Sometimes less is more.

In older films, such as those from the 50’s, you have to analyze the scene in order to figure out what is going on. Because of the production code and moral values back then, they had to use symobls to communicate certain acts, such as sex. The meaning is hidden and you have to search for it.

Of course, there are plenty of films that do this now. Obviously I still analyze and read them, or else I wouldn’t write about so many on my blog. But there are many mainstream films that leave little to be interpreted. And by that I mean they are too on the nose. They are too obvious. Everything is on the surface.

I love watching older films, like the old 3:10 to Yuma, and trying to figure out the message. The remake, however, changes the meaning of the film by making Dan Evan’s weakness too apparent. He is disabled with a bum leg. In the original, he was not a veteran who had been injured. He was just bad at trying to get Ben Wade on the train. My point is, older movies showed less a lot of the time and we weren’t given everything, which is sometimes more impactful.

I also love old films because I’m watching them from a completely different perspective than the audience it was meant for. Watching Citizen Kane in 2016 has a much different effect than it had in 1941. You can’t do that with current films. I have a different kind of appreciation for old films because of the time period I live in. It’s amazing to see what directors could do without the technology we have now.

Watching old films gives me a greater appreciation for filmmaking. Seeing these films helps me understand the way people from a different decade thought about and executed films. The writing has to be more complicated and intricate to get around the production code and to avoid inappropriate material for audiences. They also help me understand some of the “cliché” plots we run into constantly now. At one point, these plots were original, as well as camera techniques we are used to. Quentin Tarantino made Django Unchained , which was heavily influenced by old spaghetti western’s such as A Fistful of Dollars.

I suppose what I am trying to say is that classic films are worth watching because filmmaking was still fairly new, and there were innovative and new techniques directors were trying. The way they told stories was unique and interesting. It’s something different to watch compared to the repeated action films that are released now.

Like I said earlier, there are still films that create new techniques and have interesting writing. But I’d rather watch Double Indemnity than the new Pirates of the Caribbean coming out, that’s for sure.

-B

Johnny Guitar (1954)- Feminist or Antifeminist?

Johnny Guitar is the first western I have watched with a strong female protagonist that acts in a dominating and powerful way. She is featured on more posters for the film than the character the film is named after, Johnny. However, I found myself questioning how strong the character actually is, and whether or not the film presents a feminist viewpoint or not.

On the surface, I suppose it does. Joan Crawford portrays Vienna as a headstrong, resilient, and hardworking woman—all masculine traits. Her costuming is like what a male Western hero would wear. She is often seen sporting pants and a collared shirt, and has a gun on her. Her hair is short and conservative. When we first see her, she is towering above the men in her saloon and we hear them complaining about working for a woman. She is still in charge, none the less, and doesn’t let this criticism get to her. She has two men vying for her affections, rather than two women vying for a man’s affection. This is all progressive for the Western genre.

If you look deeper, though, you begin to see the cracks in the masculine, empowered view of this character. Both her and Emma, the villain of this film, are stereotypes even though they are powerful. Vienna is punished for her dominant ways. The entire town is after her, with very little evidence of any criminal activity. Emma leads this witch hunt, representing the woman who is jealous of another woman’s power, control, and sexuality. She resents Vienna’s freedom, a result of resisting traditional feminine gender roles. The men follow her lead without question because they demonize Vienna for being an empowered female. They attempt to kill a woman in a position of authority and destroy all she has worked hard for, symbolically representing the fear of powerful, successful women. Emma, the other women with a position of authority, is shot and killed. Regardless of how the women are punished, the point is that both women in the film are treated terribly because of their positions of power. The underlying message of Johnny Guitar is that powerful women are dangerous.

The film also ends on a romantic note, regardless of the fact that Vienna has lost everything. One of her closest friends was shot, her business burned, and she was almost hung and then shot. But all that matters is that she found love again (eye roll). This movie is progressive because it places women in traditionally male roles, but it still stereotypes these women and ultimately ends with Vienna as lesser than the male characters around her.

She has lost everything and is back to fulfilling the role that women are meant to play—the lover.  The film allows women to be empowered temporarily, just not too empowered to the point they surpass all the male characters in the end.

-B

The Importance of Supergirl

I just started watching Supergirl on Netflix, and while I am aware I’m behind, I felt that I needed to acknowledge the show’s importance, particularly to female audience members.

As I watched the first episode, I found myself getting emotional but I couldn’t figure out why. I’m not going to lie, the show is pretty cheesy and is very similar to other shows of its genre, like Arrow and The Flash. But when I finally saw Supergirl in her costume flying through the air, it hit me: I’ve never seen a superhero television show with a female lead.

Jessica Jones has a female lead, of course, but Supergirl feels different and is on an actual network, unlike Netflix. While Jessica Jones is dark and socially relevant, Supergirl is shown in the same cheesy, hopeful light that male hero television shows have. She is treated the same exact way as Green Arrow and Flash are. The tropes are the same, including the damsel roles. Except rather than the beautiful girl being the damsel, it’s the beautiful man. In one episode, James is taken hostage and handcuffed helplessly while Supergirl fights to free him and save the day.

While watching this show the little girl came out in me, and I imagined what it would have been like to grow up watching this show. To know that female superheroes are just as capable and deserving as male superheroes. My first glimpse into the life of a female superhero was weirdly enough in the 1960’s Batman show. My dad watched it as a kid and showed it to me as a kid too. Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl meant everything to me, although I was too young to fully understand why. She showed me that girls can kick ass too.

But Supergirl does that in a more prominent way, by being the star of her own TV show. She isn’t just there as a sidekick, or as a love interest. She’s the hero. And not just as Supergirl, but as her “secret identity” Kara Danvers as well. Even in her office job she’s intelligent, cheerful, and does not put up with people’s crap, while also seeing the good in everyone. She is well rounded and well developed, and her boss is a fierce and intelligent woman as well.

Although Supergirl is more of an important, impactful show than fantastic one, it is still enjoyable. Targeting a show of this stature at a female lead instead of a male one is a big risk, but for many women and young girls out there it is a necessary one. It’s sometimes a bit too chick-flicky for my taste, but it is better than having no female led superhero television shows at all.

-B

Masculinity in Red River (1948)

The name John Wayne immediately evokes images of a tough, American Western hero. His character’s ooze testosterone and are considered by some the epitome of manhood. The 1948 Western Red River is a tale of masculinity that attempts to critique certain tropes of the Western genre. As I watched it I noticed a few things that represented this idea and thought I would share a few of them.

Wayne plays Tom Dunson, a rough and tough cowboy, headstrong and possessing big dreams. Montgomery Clift plays his adopted son, Matthew Garth, who wants to live up to his father’s expectations but is more softhearted than his elder. Throughout the film, Garth struggles to fulfill his father’s dream of driving cattle north to Missouri and it results in a tale of masculine power.

In one scene in particular, two men symbolically compare their masculinity. In what could also be read as homoerotic subtext, Garth and Cherry Valance compare their guns. Guns are a traditionally phallic symbol. By comparing their “guns”, they are measuring each other’s levels of toughness and strength.

As the film goes on, Dunson grows more irritable, cruel, and violent in his leadership role. This equates extreme masculine power to violence. When he exerts control, it usually involves him shooting, whipping, or wanting to hang someone. When someone disagrees with him, he sees this as threatening to his masculine control and lashes out. He sees his son as being weak, by showing a heart. Garth stops Dunson from killing men multiple times, and is essentially seen as less dominant because of it. When he finally “man’s up” and takes control of the cattle, his father threatens to kill him in order to feel less emasculated for losing his control of the group.

Later on in the film, Garth meets Tess Millay, played by Joanne Dru. She illustrates and interesting take on masculine/feminine roles. When we first see her, it is in the middle of a battle with Native Americans, and rather than cowering and screaming, she is shown shooting a gun. Even after she is shot, she doesn’t immediately faint. She manages to slap Garth in the face first. As I said early, violence can be equated to masculinity, and by shooting a gun and hitting him in the face she takes on masculine characteristics.

Millay is continuously shown taking on masculine characteristics, as well as holding on to her femininity in her way of dress and the romantic subplot involving Garth. Her character is mainly driven by love, but she isn’t a damsel. She is actually the driving character of the ending.

In the final “showdown” between Dunson and Garth, the typical masculine tropes of the Western genre are subverted. Dunson shows up to follow through with his threat to kill Garth, which would cause him to resume a dominant, masculine role. Garth, however, refuses to use his gun. Dunson is frustrated with this act, and throws both his gun and his son’s gun away, castrating himself and his son of their manhood (remember early the comparison of the guns as a way of comparing manhood). They result to a fist fight.  Millay finally steps in, the only person holding a gun. This gives her control of the scene as she is holding the phallic object. She uses this masculine form of control to speak about how ridiculous their battle for masculinity is in the first place. Not only does she illustrate the stubbornness of the battle over manhood, she also speaks about a man loving another man. She symbolizes both femininity and masculinity in that moment, holding control over the scene but also expressing love.

Red River comments on the traditional ideas of masculinity in Western film that helped perpetuate myths of the American West.

-B

 

Sunshine Blogger Award

This isn’t my normal type of blog post because I was nominated for a Sunshine Blogger Award by Plain, Simple Tom Reviews!

Here’s the rules for the award:

Post the award on your blog

Thank the person who nominated you

Answer the 11 questions they set you

Pick another 11 bloggers (and let them know they are nominated!)

Set them 11 questions

So, here it goes,

Questions for me:

1.What’s would you do with £1 million?

Well, first, I’m American so I believe that would convert to a bit more than that. But regardless, I’d use it to pay off my student loans and then travel.

2.What’s the best way to spend a Friday night?

It depends on my mood. If I want to go out I like going for drinks in Atlanta somewhere, if I stay in I like to binge watch Netflix with my boyfriend and order pizza.

3.What is your favourite animated TV series?

Young Justice. It was canceled and I am forever mad about it.

4.What are your 3 favourite drinks?

Is this alcoholic or not? Does me even asking that make me look like an alcoholic?

Alcoholic: Rum & Coke, Ace’s Pinapple Cider, Seabreeze

Non-Alcoholic: Coke, Coffee (with cream and sugar), Any kind of tea

  1. What do you enjoy most about blogging?

Writing has always been my stress relief or way of expressing myself. I like to get my thoughts out on paper, and I love mixing that with my other passion, which is film. Just getting my words out there feels great, even if only one or two people see them.

  1. Which famous person would you most want to slap in the face?

Ooooh boy, this is a difficult one. I’m usually not physically violent, but if I had to it would probably be Kanye West. Scratch that—definitely Kanye West.

  1. Bionic arm or Bionic leg?

I mean, neither really. I like my arm and legs the way they are, intact and human. But I guess bionic arm. I have no reasoning. I just chose.

  1. What’s your favourite Disney song?

There are so many directions this could go. Animated Disney or Disney Channel? Because I grew up in the Jonas Brothers and Hannah Montana generation. If I had to choose it would be Won’t Say I’m in Love from Hercules. I belt that out in the car or shower all the time. I love Meg.

  1. What is the best film to watch for when you’re feeling low?

I like to watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty directed by Ben Stiller. I think it’s an underrated film. It changed my outlook on life when I saw it. It makes me smile and want to travel the world, take risks. It’s just a feel-good film.

  1. Chocolate or sex?

Chocolate. Especially dark chocolate.

  1. Which 5 actors/actresses would you have at a dinner party?

Can I choose dead ones? That seems like a stretch. I’ll do current ones (sorry Robert Mitchum).

  1. Ryan Gosling
  2. Margot Robbie
  3. Oscar Isaac
  4. Jared Leto
  5. Emma Watson

My questions for others:

  1. Do you prefer a certain genre of film, and if so, why?
  2. If you could meet one actor that has passed away, who would it be?
  3. Which do you like better: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO, or none of the above?
  4. Do you prefer to watch movies at home or in the theater?
  5. What does being a writer mean to you?
  6. What song would you consider your personal theme song?
  7. Who is your celebrity crush?
  8. Favorite film from before this century?
  9. Favorite film from the current century?
  10. What is your opinion on remakes of classic films? Love them or hate them?
  11. What is your favorite thing about yourself? Practice self- love more often 🙂

I tag: 

Let’s Go To The Movies

Jordan And Eddie 

Evelyn Film Fan

Film Fan Stake 

Popcorn Guzzler 

Content For You Blog

Film Carnage 

Movie Rob

Noodle Break

Big Flick Reviews 

KG’s Rants

 

Thanks to Tom for nominating me!

 

-B

Best Films of the 21st Century That Weren’t on BBC’s List

BBC recently developed their list of the top 100 films of the century. While I agreed with many of them, there were other films that I noticed were missing but were worthy of the list. Among those films were Drive (2011), Ex Machina (2015), and American Psycho (2000), some of the most beautiful, unique, and definitive films of my lifetime (I’m only 21, but this is still a big deal to me).

DRIVE (2011)

The first time I saw the film I knew it was special. It felt different than any movie I had seen previously, although it used similar plot themes. Director Nicolas Winding Refn effortlessly mixes the tropes of both classic film noir and car films, adds a modern, dreamlike atmosphere, resulting in a beautifully violent American neo-noir. The film manages to include elements of overdone plots in a way that feels new and unique.

Drive is incredibly stylish, including everything from the scorpion jacket worn by Ryan Gosling to the beautifully crafted cinematography. Although it’s a driving film, it’s full of sophistication and sincere emotion. Realistic rather than fantastic, you care about the storyline instead of mindless chase sequences and violent fights. Through the believable performances by actors such as Ryan Gosling, Bryan Cranston, and Cary Mulligan, the film is a one of a kind movie that should have been not only on the list, but fairly high up.

EX MACHINA (2015)

Image result for ex machina screencap

Ex Machina is my absolute favorite film. It is a brilliant, thought-inducing film that touches on both modern technology and gender roles. Alex Garland wrote and directed the sci-fi drama, which revolves around the idea of humanity. This sort-of twist on Frankenstein switches genders and updates the story to modern day. The film is narratively clever and aesthetically beautiful, although the plot itself is twisted, resulting in a grotesquely intriguing film.

The lighting of the film is exquisite, echoing the techniques of German expressionism. Full of shadows and distorting angles, the cinematography adds to the viewers growing feelings of discomfort as they watch the story unfold. The tension in the film builds slowly and naturally. The special effects are mesmerizing, convincing you that what is on the screen is real rather than being laughably fake. Sleek, ambiguous, and erotic, this commentary on male dominance and personal identity exudes originality. It deserves to be recognized as one of the best films of the century so far.

AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000)

Image result for american psycho film

This film barely even fits in the timeline of the 21st century, but BBC counted films from 2000 so I will too. Although I don’t think American Psycho is as deserving as Ex Machina or Drive, I do think it should be on the list. Dark, satirical, and haunting, American Psycho is a film that is memorable. The quick-witted film is a gruesome commentary on materialism and narcissism. The characters represent the indifference that Americans possess in regards to other people and the ways in which society has become too self-involved. It takes mundane, every day conversations and forces you to realize the mechanical ways in which people interact.

Christian Bale plays Patrick Bateman as socially inept, and so blunt it is laughable, evoking a dark humor in the audience. We laugh at his mannerisms, particularly in the scene where he kills a colleague with an ax while dancing to Huey Lewis and the News. The contrast between the two actions is a theme that continues throughout the whole film, which is what makes the audience feel so off-kilter. You laugh uncomfortably during the film and when it is finished you feel completely disoriented. The darkness of the plot mixed with elegant cinematography results in an unnerving beauty that viewers will not forget, which is why I think it’s one of the best films of the century.

-B

Misogynistic Adaptation of Batgirl in The Killing Joke (2016)

I was so excited to finally watch the movie adaptation of the popular comic The Killing Joke. I had heard there was an extra prologue with a story centered around Batgirl, one of my favorite female superheroes. However, as the film went on, I grew sad. I was sad that this strong female character had been reduced to nothing but a prop for the male heroes.

In the original comic, that was the only role she played. She was there to be shot by the Joker to further the torment of her father, Commissioner Gordon. The writers decided that wasn’t good enough for a character as popular as Barbara Gordon, so they added in the prologue. What they didn’t do, like they originally intended, was make her character into something other than a prop. The prologue actually perpetuates that idea.

In the first half of the movie, on the surface it appears Batgirl is the focus. However, even when it’s just her on the screen, Batman is the actual focus. She is constantly pining for his love, talking to her coworker about him, and eventually quitting fighting crime because Batman isn’t reciprocating her feelings. All this does is set up Bruce’s pain in the second half of the movie. Her love for him is what puts her in danger. He goes after the Joker in a more violent manner because of Barbara.

Barbara getting shot is not about her pain. It is not about her struggle at all It is about perpetuating the pain that both Batman and Commissioner Gordon feel. She is used, in a more extensive way than the comic, as a prop for their emotions. The film also supports the idea that strong female characters are only strong because of the men around them. She only fights crime because Batman does, and she’s in love with him.

Also, there’s an extremely unnecessary sex scene between Batgirl and Batman. He is seen in this film acting as a father figure or a mentor. He constantly tells her how to fight, who to fight, and what not to do. The writers stated that they saw him acting in a parental manner towards Batgirl. So why did he then have sex with her? It’s also extremely telling that she’s the one shown stripping down. The only skin shown is Barbara in her bra. And then when Batman doesn’t want to “date” her, or whatever you’d call it in the crime fighting world, she is seen spiraling out of control and acting recklessly.

And what was up with Batman explaining what objectifying women is? Or the awkward period comment made by the villain “Paris Franz”? This movie is trying so hard to scream, “look, we aren’t sexist!” when in reality it treats its only female characters as a prop. Batgirl is the embodiment of misogynistic tropes. The film repeatedly presses the idea that women are too emotional to be rational crime-fighters. Her love for Bruce gets in the way of her properly dealing with the bad people. And her weird attraction for the sexist bad guy is totally off key. She naively falls into his traps as if she’s a kid, when she clearly is not a teenager in this movie. Batgirls literally calls the villain’s stalking of her “cute” and “flattering”, in a way that is not sarcastic. My jaw dropped. She isn’t treated as a hero in this film at all—she’s treated as a victim. Also, she’s completely objectified. There are multiple close ups of her butt as she jogs, and her breasts as she fights crime.

Barbara was assaulted and abused simply because they wanted to further Batman’s story and give him emotional depth. During a panel at Comic-Con, Brian Azzarello, the screenwriter of The Killing Joke actually said, “She controls the men in her life in the story” but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Initiating sex does not mean a woman controls the story. Batman controls her emotions and her crime-fighting and Joker controls her physical body when he cripples her and then sexually assaults her. Sex is definitely a way that women hold power in many films, but this is not one of them. The sex doesn’t come off as her acting empowered, it seems like it is pandering to the male gaze. And it honestly felt more like a fan-fiction that anything that would be written into the Batman Universe.

This film is an insult to everything the character of Batgirl represents, and I was incredibly upset by it. I’m tired of female characters in comic-books and their screen adaptations being there to simply serve as an object for male characters or readers.

Next time, don’t write about a strong female character if you know nothing about strong female characters. Batgirl deserved better.

-B

Review: Nerve (2016)

2.5 stars

Fast-paced, charming, and a bit predictable, Nerve offers viewers an entertaining, although forgettable, movie with flashy cinematography and editing.

Dave Franco and Emma Roberts star in this teenage-aimed, high-paced internet parable. The characters are cliché, but not unbearably so. Franco plays the mysterious bad boy, while Roberts plays the good girl—and everyone knows they’ll end up together from the first time they meet. Regardless, the actors had great chemistry and the audience was rooting for them to be together all the same.

The plot itself is a little too extreme to believe completely, but the commentary is relevant (although it’s obvious). Teenagers around the country begin to play a game called Nerve. They must choose if they want to be a “watcher” or a “player”. Watchers pay money to see the player act out ridiculous dares. Clearly, it escalates out of control and is highly dangerous to those involved. The entire premise is based around the cultural obsession of being on phones, and the ways in which the internet desensitizes us to violence. It’s easy to hide behind a screen, blah, blah, blah.

Nerve has a consistent tone of suspense throughout it, and many people in the theater were literally on the edge of their seat. I found myself biting my nails a few times, even though I acknowledged that much of the risk-taking was bound to end in a predictable way (and it did). The ending is wrapped up all too easily, but the film had its moments of thrilling suspense that didn’t feel too cliché and offered a few real scares.

The glowing, colorful lights of New York City provided the needed neon backdrop for such a technologically centered film, meshing with the synthesized pop songs playing in the background. The glitzy lighting makes it feel almost like a music video, highlighting the focus on pop culture and social media. The editing was well-matched with the modern, atmospheric shots, taking us inside of the character’s phones and into the world of social media. In the scenes meant to be riddled with tension, the editing is perfectly paced, letting moments linger just a little longer to cause viewers to feel uneasy, or snapping different shots together quickly to make them feel overwhelmed.

The entire movie was obviously meant to be relatable to teenagers, and it does that very well. My little sister is 17 and she adored the film. I enjoyed it, although it was a bit too cheesy for my taste. Going in I wasn’t too excited, but I came out liking it more than originally expected. The film isn’t groundbreaking by any means, but it’s a fun and fast-paced movie to watch.

There are worse films to watch on movie night.

-B

Review: Suicide Squad (2016)

 

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Suicide Squad is probably the most anticipated film of the year—and according to a lot of viewers, the biggest let down. The film struggles to deliver the irreverent, dark, and quirky story the trailers promised and manages to entangle its characters in an overdone, unoriginal plot and horrible CGI. While it isn’t a colossal mess like Batman v Superman, it is by no means where DC needs to be. However, I found the film to be enjoyable and was mostly pleased with the performances and characterization of the beloved DC comic book characters. Suicide Squad manages to provide mindless fun regardless of the meager storyline and whirlwind pacing. Comic book fans will be fairly satisfied.

A secret task force of the most dangerous supervillains in the world working to save the world is promising, when done correctly. The movie was so hyped up by the studios that it was hard to go in without being slightly disappointed. The characters have so much potential and that potential was underutilized. The characterization of Harley Quinn was certainly a highlight of the film. I’ve adored the character since I was a little kid, so her live action debut was extremely important to me, and I was pleasantly surprised with it. Margot Robbie portrays the unstable, Joker-crazed character perfectly, depicting Harley’s damaged and chaotic personality in an empowering and emotional manner. The cotton-candy colored character enacts violence with a giddiness that is straight from the pages of a comic book, and she included the iconic accent on a more subtle level than past cartoons. Robbie did the best she could under the misogynistic situation the film put her in. While Harley’s character has always been sexual and uses that sexuality as a weapon of power, the film manages to objectify her, presenting her as an object for the male audience with slow, sensual pans up her half-naked body. It was curious to me that Harley Quinn and Enchantress were scantily clad while the majority of male characters were in head to toe armor. There’s a difference between being sexual and being objectified, and the director clearly didn’t acknowledge that line (and if you’re argument is that Harley is over-sexualized in the comics, well, surprise, comics can be misogynistic too).

Other cast members stood out as well, although none as brightly as Robbie. Will Smith shone as the gun-slinging assassin Deadshot, bringing a more stable and realistic characterization to the movie than any of his teammates. He and Robbie manage to anchor their cast mates and bring some stability to a chaotic plot. Unlike many audience-members, I applauded Jared Leto’s performance as a twisted, flashy Joker, which he played with instability and an underlying psychotic rage that was mystifying and impressive. According to Leto, many of the scenes he filmed were cut, which results in a lack of continuity in his storyline. His parts of the film seem a bit inconsistent and he continually shows up seemingly out of nowhere. Compared to the hype of his character, there was a severe lack of the Clown Prince of Crime in the film.

The pace of the film was incredibly jarring. The beginning of the film was a whirlwind of trying to set up identities of each of the main characters. They were each summarized in a way that seemed forced, but worked well enough. The film is set up better than Batman v Superman, and the cast has a great chemistry that helps the banter amongst the team feel believable. The second half of the film was fully of each character fighting in their own personal ways, but there was a lack of urgency as they grew closer to the “end of the world” (and what exactly was Enchantresses plan, anyway? It’s not exactly clear).Throughout the film the tone shifts drastically, trying to be lighthearted and funny while dark and gritty. The flashback scenes of Harley and Joker were mystical, psychedelic, and tragic, while the scenes of the entire squad working together were attempting to be quirky, comical, and irreverent.  The film was split between those two tones, failing to choose one and resulting in inconsistency and confusion. It’s as if David Ayer wanted to tell a dark and cynical story while the studio pressured him to make a film more lighthearted, like Guardians of the Galaxy, in order to compete with Marvel. Ayer has his name on this film, but I don’t believe it is the film he set out to make.

Suicide Squad does not deserve the horrific reviews it is receiving, but it doesn’t deserve any awards either. Although it didn’t live up to the hype, it manages to be a fun and entertaining movie with lovable characters worthy of a comic book nerd’s time. It was a small step forward for DC compared to Batman v Superman, but they still have a long way to walk. Hopefully this is a trend, and each movie will be better than the last.

Help us Wonder Woman, you’re our only hope.

-B