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BWN Nerds’ Movie Review: The Suicide Squad (2021)

The Suicide Squad came out to mixed but mostly positive reviews. Does our Nerd squad agree with the general sentiment, or is there no saving this franchise?

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Welcome to this week’s edition of the Nerd Review!  Every week the Nerds give you their take on a different movie from the Nerd-o-sphere.  This week, Patrick, Dave and Rey Cash review James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad!  WARNING!! SPOILERS AHEAD

The Flick:  The Suicide Squad (2021)

What’s it About: A secret team of supervillains controlled by the US Government is sent to a remote tropical island to destroy an evil dictator’s ultimate weapon.

Metacritic Score: 72

The Nerds’ Take on The Suicide Squad:

Rey:  As much as I’d like to contribute to this review series, I just don’t have the time.  Usually between work, family, and podcasting, my time is split too thin.  There are certain movies, however, that I just can’t turn down the chance to talk about and I make time for.  And that includes James Gunn’s latest menagerie of insanity, The Suicide Squad.

First off, there was MASSIVE interest in this movie.  Between this being Gunn’s first movie after his high-profile firing from Marvel (and subsequent re-hiring), the critical flop that was the first Suicide Squad movie, or the fantastically paced and appetizing trailers, there was a fervor for this movie that was one of the highest in the pandemic era of straight to streaming blockbusters.  And the cast was also extremely high-profile as well.  Margot Robbie, Joel Kinneman, Jai Courtney, and Viola Davis returned to play their very recognizable characters Harley Quinn, Col. Rick Flagg, Captain Boomerang, and the ever-devious Amanda Waller.  This time, however, they were joined by Hollywood A-Lister Idris Elba, WWE legend and improv genius John Cena, and action OG Sylvester Stallone who voiced a shark.  Yeah, an anthropomorphic shark.  The cast was great, the promos were crazy, and the hype was scorching.

Now more than often, the hype for a movie this big often leads to massive disappointment.  One of my compatriots on this review this week will echo this sentiment.  I don’t feel that way, however it would be irresponsible of me to tell you that this is the best movie you’ll ever see.  It is, in every way, a fun movie.  There are amazingly thrilling scenes, side-splitting comedy, and a cacophony of colors, crime, and cadavers that you’d expect in a story about Task Force X.  So, let’s break this down a bit by breaking down what was good, bad, and ugly.

The biggest positive coming out of this movie is the fantastic portrayal of the Peacemaker by John Cena.  Cena, who notoriously has never turned heel in his main event run in the WWE, took effortlessly to playing the bad guy.  The Peacemaker, who cherishes peace so much that he’ll kill every man, woman, and kid in the way to get it, steals the show.  John’s deadpan humor, flawless delivery, and ultimate shock in his character’s arc deserves all of the credit possible.  Also, as with a story about Task Force X, the beauty of the story is in the weird mix of Z list baddies that nobody has ever heard of.  James Gunn picked his group perfectly, giving major time and moments to The Polka Dot Man, Ratcatcher 2, and the aforementioned Idris Elba’s Bloodsport.  Elba’s chemistry with Kinneman’s Flagg, Cena’s Peacemaker, and Robbie’s Harley Quinn was a sight to see.  Also, it was refreshing to see a Suicide Squad movie where the majority of the team died.  That’s kind of the point.

There aren’t many negatives of the movie, but one glaring one to me is the use of the legendary comic villain, Starro the Conqueror.  Now, Starro is in fact a giant alien starfish.  Yes.  You read that right.  It’s also the first villain the Justice League ever faced, so it has a hefty legacy in the comics.  For the story told, it made sense for Starro’s character arc given that he was essentially a prisoner that was experimented on by The Thinker and the Corto Maltese government.  The issue is that, again, Amanda Waller is the ultimate bad guy and the villain is a sympathetic figure.  And while Amanda Waller is one of the most despicable comic book characters in history, it would’ve been refreshing to see a major villain worthy of all the work Task Force X has to go through.  Also, the many unnecessary subplots took away from the main story, such as Harley’s love affair with the newly designated dictator of Corto Maltese, Silvio Luna.  And I don’t have to remind you all that Will Smith’s Deadshot character was forced on the team and primarily motivated by Waller’s manipulation of his daughter in the first Suicide Squad movie.  We didn’t need a rehash of the same story for a very similar character.  It’s a testament to Elba’s acting and the story told between him and the rest of the Squad that he was even able to distinguish his character from Smith’s.

Fortunately, there is no ugly to break down in this movie.  Other than the Weasel.  That thing is UGLY.  And of course, he lives to weasel on another day.

All in all, this is a very fun movie that gives you everything you’d want from a movie of this ilk.  A story about Task Force X shouldn’t be funny, but it’s a testament to the story, the writing, and the acting that it is.  And it’s the humor that navigates you through all of the gore that is rampant in this movie.  All in all, I give it a very good 4 out of 5.  I’ve already watched this movie multiple times and look forward to watching it some more.  DC seems to finally have found a model that works for them.  Just make standalone movies and see what happens.  And as long as we get more John Cena, you’ll be able to see their future loud and clear.

See what I did there?

Of course you didn’t.  Because you can’t see Cena.

Okay. I’m done.

Rey’s Rating: 4.0/5.0

Patrick: How about that, we have a Rey Cash review this week!  That’s good because he and Dave will need to offset my decidedly tepid feelings regarding The Suicide Squad.  I don’t know if it was the hype surrounding the film’s release, my love of James Gunn as a director or what.  But while I enjoyed The Suicide Squad well enough, I can’t deny that I found myself wanting so much more.

I won’t summarize too much of the movie.  Dave does a bang up job every week giving a good blow by blow.  For those who remember the setup from the previous film, Intelligence Officer Amanda Waller assembles a team of imprisoned supervillains to take extraordinarily dangerous missions on the promise of a reduction in their sentence.  However, if a villain attempts to escape, Waller triggers an explosive in the Villain’s head and they die.  This time around Waller assembles Team Force X to invade an island known as Corto Maltese after and anti-American regime rises to power.  Waller directs the team to find an old Nazi Base called Jötunheim.  Why Jötunheim? Because a top secret program known as project Starfish is now in the hands of an evil dictatorial government.  Waller directs the team to destroy Jötunheim and all evidence of the project.  Needless to say, many deaths are had and explosions reign supreme.

There are too many characters in The Suicide Squad to do a full cast rundown, so here are my highlights.  Viola Davis is back, reprising her role as Amanda Waller.  She was one of the bright spots of the original film.  Waller is no-nonsense hard ass, and Davis deftly carries this attitude that brings this hardened character to life.  Idris Elbs plays Bloodsport, the handpicked leader of the team by Waller.  I can’t help but notice the similarities in character to the original’s Deadshot, played by Will Smith as both characters are coerced by Waller through their daughters.  Bloodsport, though, does not have what one would call a healthy father daughter relationship.  He does love her and Elba does well channeling his rage at Waller, his frustration and love for his daughter and bearing the burden of reluctant leadership.  Elba is the glue of the film guiding the audience through the ordeal.

Margot Robbie is also back, reprising her role as Harley Quinn.  There’s not too much to say about her performance, she’s been in the role for multiple performances and she really has found her niche with the character and plays her very, very well.  She brings a level of violent joy to the character that audiences these days expect.  The breakout star of The Suicide Squad, though is one former-ish WWE superstar John Cena.  I say former-ish because he is back making a run with the WWE, but I think this run could be the beginning of the end of a wrestling career.  Cena plays ultra-violent, freedom lover Peacemaker.  It is quickly clear why it was announce Cena would be carrying the Peacemaker character while production was still happening for The Suicide Squad.  John was brilliant.  He’s dangerously violent, he is righteous in his convictions, he is completely devoid of self-awareness and because of that he’s hilarious.  To make a comparison to another character made famous by Gunn, Peacemaker is basically a less morally centered Drax the Destroyer.  Peacemaker shows no mercy, no remorse.  But what makes him truly dangerous is that he believes his cause is just.  I honestly didn’t realize Cena had the acting chops to pull off so much depth in a character.  I think the sky is the limit in acting for Mr. Cena.

Ok, so I liked the top billed cast and their character, so what was my problem?  I just kept wanting more.  There were some cool action pieces, but I found them kind of repetitive and dull to a point.  There was humor, but it didn’t always feel particularly organic or funny.  During this week’s Bandwagon Nerds podcast I mentioned that a lot of the payoffs for jokes were predictable.  That made the movie less funny to me.  Then there’s the problem of Harley Quinn.  Dave and I disagree here because I felt the whole Harley subplot was pretty unnecessary and was little more than fan service.  Her little side venture did nothing to really move the story forward and actually left me a little annoyed.

And that’s where I think I’m going to land here a little annoyed.  I hoped for a tighter film.  I hoped for something more audacious.  I hoped for a movie that not only embraced its violent roots, but also had me rooting for the team.  Outside of Peacemaker, I didn’t feel the stakes, and that is with team members dying left and right.  Maybe I was in a bad mood.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that I’m in the Nerd minority here as I felt the movie was fine.  Not great, just fine.

Patrick’s Rating:  2.62/5.0

Dave:  Let’s be honest. The old motto that “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” does not generally work too well with super-hero-based movies. For instance, every attempt to make a decent movie based on the Dark Phoenix saga has been an abysmal failure. Attempts at making a good Fantastic Four movie have been equally terrible. So, when news broke that director James Gunn was going to be at the helm of a new Suicide Squad movie, I was somewhat skeptical. The 2016 movie was hit and miss in the most hit and miss ways possible. Despite Gunn’s enormous success with The Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, I had my doubts that the Suicide Squad franchise could be redeemed. I am happy to admit that, for the most part, my fears were misplaced.

This new movie is equal parts reboot and sequel, which is a pretty neat trick all on its own. There are some holdovers from the first film, such as Amanda Waller, Rick Flag, Captain Boomerang, and, of course, Harley Quinn. The rest of the characters though are new and Gunn’s imprints are all over them. The plot of the movie is, as you might expect, all over the place. The Suicide Squad is sent to the island nation of Corto Maltese to infiltrate a secret laboratory called Jötunheim and acquire intel on something called Project Starfish. Two separate teams are sent in. One team is, in essence, used as cannon fodder so that a second team can make a beach landing. It is this second team that has the most iconic and important of the characters: Bloodsport, Peacemaker, Harley, Polka Dot Man, King Shark, and Ratcatcher 2. Flagg survives the landing of Team 1 and soon joins Team 2. From here, everything goes crazy and in multiple directions all at once.

It is almost pointless to delve too deeply into the plot. It is bat-shit crazy for the most part. It is kind of like Guardians with a lot of F Bombs. Instead, I will focus on some of the highlights. Most of the characters are great, especially Peacemaker and King Shark. Peacemaker, played by John Cena, has the best and funniest lines in the movie. Cena plays hm perfectly. Peacemaker is all about maintaining the peace, no matter who has to die to achieve it. He has a warped, but consistent, sense of loyalty. The movie might not have meant to have Peacemaker be its focus but, in this instance, Cena really does steal the show. King Shark is a CGI based character and one can’t help but learn to love this guy. On BWN this week, I compared him to Dumb Hulk from the MCU. He is not too bright but immensely endearing and tremendously funny.

Naturally, you have to mention Harley Quinn. A big concern I had when I learned Harley was going to be in this version of The Suicide Squad was a concern I know many people had. Harley, especially as she is portrayed by Margot Robbie, is a true Tour-de-Force. This is both a blessing and a curse because the 2016 version of Suicide Squad and the Birds of Prey struggled, in part, because almost all of the focus shifted to Harley and all the other characters just kind of got sucked under the tsunami that was Harleen Quinzell. Harley overpowered both of those movies to the point that anything else going on was largely irrelevant. This time though, I feel like they handled this conundrum much better. Yes, Harley is still a focal point, so much so that she has her own mini-story-line. But by giving her her own story-line that was running contemporaneous to the primary story arc, Gunn was able to tell both stories effectively. When Harley eventually rejoins the main group, the other characters have been given enough time to develop so that the movie remains more about the Suicide Squad and not just about Harley.

The action sequences are top notch and the movie is very funny. It has a lot of the qualities that make the MCU movies so popular in that it is very light-hearted in some places. The DCEU movies have a well-deserved reputation as being too dark. That was the case in the beginning, although that has lightened up considerably with movies like Aquaman and Shazam. The Suicide Squad is definitely in this latter category and it does a great job at not taking itself too seriously, even though it deals with some rather serious topics, especially near the end of the movie.

Alas, it is not all good. My biggest gripe is that I felt like Bloodsport was, in many ways, identical to Deadshot from the 2016 movie. They had the same sort of “power-set” and did the same sorts of things. They also resurrected the angle of using a daughter to get to the father that they dabbled with in 2016. They even had Bloodsport go through a similar character progression as Deadshot where he starts off cynical and pissed off at the world but, by the end, he has seemingly turned the corner and moved away from his criminal past to become a protector and defender of the innocent. I did not like that at all and felt it was some “lazy booking”. There is a definite lack of cohesion in certain places in the movie. The biggest problem, however, might have been the use of Starro the Conqueror as the main antagonist for the Suicide Squad. Make no mistake: Amanda Waller and Peacemaker are the real villains in the movie. But everything gets funneled through Starro. Starro is a curious choice because he was the original villain that the Justice League faced when the JLA was formed in The Brave & the Bold #28 way back in 1960. In the comics anyway, I do not recall Starro being an adversary of Task Force X. But, that issue aside, by the end of everything, Starro becomes the most sympathetic of adversaries possible. When he is killed, you definitely feel bad about it. Whether that was what Gunn intended or not is unknown. But in a movie with this sort of reach and scope, not having a clear-cut villain for the heroes to go against hurt the overall impact of the film.

Thus far, the movie is a critical hit and fans are very pleased with it. Its box office numbers have been pretty spotty, which was to be expected since folks can watch it safely at home on HBO Max. With the Delta variant out there at full force, there was no way this movie would generate Black Widow-like numbers. I will say this though: The fans aren’t wrong with their feelings about the movie. No, the story is not going to blow you away. The over-the-top action and mature humor, on the other hand, just might. The movie is a massive step up from the 2016 disappointment and is another example of how good the DCEU can be. It is definitely not perfect, but it is a very fun, very funny, very enjoyable romp that will keep you entertained for all of its 2 hour and 12-minute run time. If you have HBO Max, this should absolutely be the next movie you watch, if you have not done so already.

Dave’s Rating:  3.75/5.0

 

Overall Nerds’ Rating for The Suicide Squad (2021): 3.46/5.0


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Bandwagon Nerds #108: Skynet’s Coming

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Bandwagon Nerds #108: Skynet's Coming

Patrick returns to find a packed Bandwagon after a week off.  Christopher Platt returns along with PC Tunney, Dave Ungar, Rey Cash to cover the week that was in the Nerdosphere.  Patrick, Dave and Tunney continue their coverage of Locke and Key.  They guys return to the Trailer Park this week, highlighted with a review of the first trailer for Spide-Man: Across the Spiderverse! In News around the Nerdosphere, scientists have created robots that can reproduce on their own.  Are the machines finally taking over?  Plus, Halle Berry signs a big movie deal with Netflix and what’s up with Hawkeye’s streaming numbers?

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BWN Nerds’ Review: Hawkeye: Episodes 1 & 2(2021)

The Nerds are of course right on top of all things Marvel. Is Hawkeye starting strong or will it be a mixed bag like most of the other Marvel series this year?

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Welcome to this week’s edition of the Nerd Review!  Every week the Nerds give you their take on entertainment from the Nerd-o-sphere.  This week, Patrick and Dave review Episodes 1 and 2 of the MCU Disney+ miniseries Hawkeye!

  • The Show:  Hawkeye
  • What’s it About:  Stil struggling to rebuild his life after the battle with Thanos, Clint Barton is spending Christmas in New York with his children. When someone is spotted fighting crime in the guise of Barton’s dark alter ego Ronin, Clint knows he must take action. Barton finds himself facing his past demons and mentoring a new hero.
  • IMDB Score: 8.1/10

The Nerds’ Take on Hawkeye (2021):

Dave: The Nerd Review returns to the MCU for the next few weeks as we offer our thoughts and opinions on a series that Rey Cash was so excited about he could barely contain himself….Hawkeye.

Rather than do a blow-by-blow recap of the first two Episodes, let’s focus more on what this series is really all about: The passing of the Hawkeye torch from Clint Barton to Kate Bishop. In many ways, this series is right in the cross hairs of a surprising amount of MCU backlash we have seen recently. The root cause of that backlash is a relative impatience on the part of some of the viewing public to move beyond the characters they know and love from the Infinity Saga and accept the fact that Marvel is telling a different story with new characters in familiar roles. This, as noted in my review of Eternals, was a key factor that had led to some poor reviews for that movie. After just two Episodes of Hawkeye, we are hearing some of the same sort of refrain.

As a character, Hawkeye is very similar to Black Widow in that his story has not really been told, at least not in any sort of detail. Those of us who are comics fans know that Hawkeye’s story is a very deep, branching, and fascinating one. True enough, the MCU’s version of Hawkeye is the more family-oriented version of the character. Still, there seems to be a lot of backstory that had not been presented as of yet.

Then, running parallel to this, is the story of Kate Bishop, Clint Barton’s successor. The first two Episodes introduce us to Kate. We get to see how the Chitahuri invasion of New York from 2012’s The Avengers dramatically altered her life and how Hawkeye became such a huge influence on her that day. We learn that Kate is a martial arts expert and a world champion archer in her own right. Early on, we get to meet Kate’s mother and, more importantly, her fiancée Jack Duquesne, who we know from the comics as the villainous Swordsman. Duquesne’s sword skill is on full display in an impromptu fencing bout between he and Kate. Before that happens though, Kate goes into stealth mode to discover that Duquesne and his uncle were taking part in a black marker auction where, of all things, the Ronin sword and Ronin costume were being auctioned off. Kate ends up donning the Ronin outfit and kicking a lot of ass. But, when Clint sees video of someone running around with the Ronin costume on, the impact of this visual is so powerful that he has to intervene, even at the expense of spending Christmas with his family.

Keep in mind, that is the first Christmas together for the Barton family since the unfathomable events of Infinity War and Endgame. Clint clearly is suffering from a form of PTSD from the horrific things he did while he was wearing the Ronin costume, not to mention the death of Natasha (Black Widow) Romanoff. Nat’s death clearly still haunts him and this is evident when he sees her character being portrayed in Rogers: The Musical, a musical, albeit historically inaccurate, portrayal of the Infinity Saga. So, Clint has to go and track down who has stolen the Ronin costume and, more importantly, why? This leads him to Kate, just in time to rescue her from the Tracksuit Mafia. Clint knows the rabbit hole goes much deeper here and he allows himself to be caught by the Tracksuit mafia. Luckily for Hawkeye, the Tracksuit Mafia is as inept as a platoon of Stormtroopers and this allows Clint and Kate to make a getaway. Episode 2 ends with the apparent introduction of Echo and a definite curiosity as to where we are heading next.

Any criticism directed at these first two Episodes seems very petty. These were both very enjoyable Episodes and very necessary to establish some credibility for Kate Bishop as a character who we can not only care about, but who can command a certain level of respect as she, presumably, replaces Clint Barton in a new version of the Avengers. Kate is fearless, but still naïve as to certain things. She may be over-confident to a fault. Then again, the same can be said for Clint Barton. Clint has every intention to walk away from the whole situation but it becomes quite clear early on that is not going to happen. This is made all the more powerful by the knowledge that Clint just wants to get back to his family for Christmas but, alas, the life of a super hero is never that simple or easy.

Episodes 1 & 2 are very good, foundational Episodes. We are not really world building here so much as we are character defining. As far as getting people up to speed and interested in Kate Bishop, then Episodes 1 & 2 more than pass the test. I always go back to, was I entertained, and did I want to see what happens next and, on both fronts, I answer with a resounding yes. As I said at the outset, judging any of these MCU series off of 1 or 2 Episodes is just kind of dumb, as we have learned from WandaVision, Falcon & Winter Solider, & Loki. Hawkeye is no different. There is a lot of really cool stuff that is likely going to happen over the next four Episodes. As far as selling me on the whole concept, Episodes 1 & 2 were highly successful.

Dave’s Rating:  4.25/5.0

Patrick:  There has been a plethora of new content dropping all around the Nerdosphere in November and early December. In fact, there has been so much content the Bandwagon doesn’t have enough time on the podcast to fully review all the shows we would like to review. This is what led to today’s (and the next four) review. This week, we begin our weekly review of the Hawkeye miniseries on Disney+. This tale sees Jeremy Renner return to the MCU as Clint Barton as Clint tries to move on from his superhero days after the battle with Thanos. While spending time with his children in New York City, Clint sees a news report where someone dressed as his vigilante alter ego Ronin flees a crime scene. Upon investigating Clint learns his old costume was “acquired” by young Kate Bishop (played by Hailee Steinfeld).  Kate just happens to be enamored with Hawkeye because he saved(unknowingly) Kate’s life when she was a child during the Battle of New York. Unfortunately for Kate, the Ronin made some enemies while active and one group of enemies known as the Tracksuit Mafia wants Ronin’s blood.

These first two episodes of the series are all about building a foundation for the story. Renner does well in the first episode of showing the Clint is still not completely past the events of Avengers Endgame, particularly when it comes to memories f his closest friend Natasha Romanov. Renner also does a great job of showing Barton’s discomfort with his status as a hero. Clint wants little recognition from the public, even awkwardly attempting to refuse a comped meal at a restaurant. This is contrasted by Steinfeld’s Bishop. After witnessing Barton in action, she does everything she can to train herself to become a superhero. Steinfeld plays the role of rebellious youth very, very well an brings an energy to the role that acts as a very nice counter point to the dour Renner.

And it’s the interplay between Renner and Steinfeld is going to carry this series. It is clear that the design of Hawkeye is to continue the transition into the next generation of Marvel heroes.  Kate will be the next Hawkeye and this series is going to show us how. We know Bishop and Barton will eventually bond, but there will be work getting there.  In these first two episodes the audience sees the clashing of two generations in Renner and Steinfeld as the two work together to try and recover a stolen Ronin costume. Steinfeld’s Bishop is wide-eyed and horribly naïve, yet she also recognizes what it takes to succeed in 2021. Steinfeld appears to be taking a great amount of joy playing this character and it reflects well on the screen so far. It is clear that Barton is supposed to be taking on more of that world weary hero mantle, but at times I did find Renner’s portrayal a little wooden and less engaging.  Perhaps he was resentful over having to LARP? Who knows? I do have faith in Renner that this will change over the course of the series. Both Steinfeld and Renner still seem to be finding their footing in these first two episodes, but there is time for them to find a groove.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge the great Vera Farmiga as Kate’s exasperated mother Eleanor. Vera does a terrific job portraying an affluent, single mother trying desperately to connect with her daughter, no matte what kind of trouble she causes. There is also a strength in Eleanor that Farmiga brings to the fore as she navigates high society functions and getting engaged to enigmatic philanthropist Jack Duquesne, played by brilliantly by Tony Dalton. Dalton plays Jack as a smarmy, sleazy phony that everyone seems to see through except Eleanor. It really is my one problem with Eleanor. Here’s this smart, confident, wealthy woman getting sucked in by a guy who anyone with eyes can tell is shady at best. I hope she smartens up over the next four episodes.

Ok, so review time. As I mentioned above, these first two episodes are really all about building some foundations and relationships. Episode one in particular is all about catching the audience up on Barton’s life and introducing the audience to Kate Bishop and her motivations.  Episode two starts the two on their journey together.  They will bond, fall apart, and ultimately come together positively to move the Hawkeye legacy forward.  These opening episodes serve their purpose well, but I won’t say they are in the same ballpark as WandaVision or even Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but the opening of episodes of Hawkeye are solid in their own right.

Patrick’s Rating:  3.86/5.0

 

Overall Nerds’ Rating for Hawkeye (2021) : 4.05/5.0


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