Posts Tagged ‘Will Smith’

Director: David Ayer

Starring: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood, Cara Delevigne

When the character of Harley Quinn first arrived on the scene in 1992’s “Batman: The Animated Series,” I never would have guessed that she would become a part of the comic book lineage as well, nor that she would ever be anything more than a throwaway sidekick/love interest for the Joker whose very presence undermined the more famous supervillain. Since that time, it had always been my belief that the Joker was better off without being tied to Harley Quinn. Now, with the release of Suicide Squad in 2016, I am left to wonder if the opposite can’t also be true.

The events of Batman v. Superman have (at least temporarily) led to a hole in the Earth’s protection against threats it can’t handle alone.  Enter the Suicide Squad: DC Comics’ version of The Dirty Dozen. This ragtag group of misfits and criminals who’ve been jailed by the likes of Batman, the Flash and others are recruited against their will by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). Waller is tough as nails, takes no crap from anyone, and has as much of a mean streak as any of her new “recruits” do. All except for one: The Enchantress (Cara Delevigne), an ancient witch with god-like powers which has attached itself to the mind and body of Dr. June Moone. Enchantress doesn’t much care for being imprisoned and paraded around by mortals, so she bolts the first chance she gets and sets off on her plan to destroy the human race, with an assist from her brother, Incubus.

Even though it’s a mess of her own creation, Waller expects the Suicide Squad to clean it up for her, adding that she’s had nano-bombs implanted in each of their necks. Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) incorrectly calls her bluff, leading to an attempted escape by team member Slipknot, who is quickly killed as a demonstration. Captain Boomerang and the others acquiesce and follow the lead of Col. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), who unbeknownst to them is the lover of Dr. June Moone. The rest of the Suicide Squad includes Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Deadshot (Will Smith), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) and Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje).

The group’s mission is a simple extraction. Turns out the person in need of removal from the city is Waller herself. In the meantime, the Joker (Jared Leto) has come to free Harley. Having arranged for her implant to be disabled, the Joker steals a helicopter; the very one that was meant for the team’s extraction. Harley boards the helicopter, but falls out when it takes fire from Waller’s men. Deadshot is ordered to kill Harley, but he intentionally misses. The helicopter goes down, leading Harley to assume the Joker is dead.

Citizens and military personnel under the Enchantress’s control kidnap Waller, while Deadshot gets a hold of Waller’s confidential files, revealing the truth of the mission and Flag’s connection to it. Flag relieves the team of their obligation, and they all find the nearest bar. After downing a round or two (or three), they regroup and decide to take on the Enchantress anyway. Deadshot has the biggest motivation to do so, as he has a young and impressionable daughter who was present the night he was captured by Batman, and whom he wants to think highly of him.

The team climbs a long flight of stairs like in the original Ghostbusters, and gear up for the fight against Enchantress and Incubus. Diablo takes on Incubus alone. With the aid of explosive charges, Incubus is defeated, though not without the self-sacrifice of Diablo. Enchantress is not so easily handled, in fact she is nearly invincible. Ultimately, Harley Quinn acts as a distraction, pretending to have interest in joining the Enchantress’s cause. Instead, Harley Quinn cuts out the Enchantress’s heart. Acting as a team, Killer Croc then tosses an explosive into Enchantress’s doomsday weapon, while Deadshot fires the shot that destroys it. Flag then takes the heart and threatens to crush it unless June is brought back. Enchantress defiantly dares him to do it, even though it means her death. Flag is despondent, believing his lover dead, but she arises from the Enchantress’s carcass (yet another Ghostbusters nod).

The group is ready to disperse back into society, when a very much alive Waller emerges, still holding her finger on the kill button connected to the implants in their necks. Relunctantly, each returns to their cells, though not without special requests. Deadshot is allowed supervised visitations with his daughter. Harley Quinn, enjoying her new espresso machine, is broken out of prison by the Joker.

Like Batman v. SupermanSuicide Squad is a deeply flawed superhero film. The flaws begin almost immediately, as the audience is besieged by a soundtrack that can best be described as an amateur mixtape. Nearly the entirety of the first 45 minutes plays out like an elongated series of mini-music videos. Spread out, this wouldn’t be a problem, but there’s no chance for anyone to take a breath. Every character introduction requires another song.

Let’s talk about the characters in this movie. Of the main cast, only a handful has what one would call development. Viola Davis and Will Smith are both reliably good. Joel Kinnaman plays the conflicted hero role well enough. Jay Hernandez’s El Diablo is a decent tragic figure. On the other hand, Jai Courtney, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Adam Beach and Karen Fukuhara are disposable as Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc, Slipknot and Katana.

Hands down, this movie belongs to Margot Robbie and her definitive performance as Harley Quinn. Robbie’s Harley is equal parts sexy, funny, and batshit crazy. More Harley is wanted, and more Harley is what we’ll get in both Gotham City Sirens and a Suicide Squad sequel. What I’m hoping to see as little as possible of in the future is Jared Leto’s Joker. Less psychopathic and more just plain weird, Leto’s performance takes up maybe seven minutes of actual screen time here. More footage was left out of the Theatrical Cut (I assume some is reinserted into the Extended Cut). Despite the insistence of Jared Leto and director David Ayer, I can’t imagine any more of this person masquerading as the Joker doing anything but harm the movie even further.

The plot itself is copied and pasted from other capers, superhero flicks and comedies, with a villain that is far too weak to be an ancient immortal god/witch. Fault in the Enchantress’s threat level may lie simply in the casting of supermodel-turned-actress Cara Delevigne. A flaw like this might have been overlooked had the Suicide Squad itself not been short on character development. Ultimately, Suicide Squad represents a step up from the mostly disastrous superhero films of a generation ago, but stands as below average in the same genre of today.


Independence Day (1996)

Director: Roland Emmerich

Starring: Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia, James Rebhorn, Harvey Fierstein

It was twenty years ago today that I sat down inside of an absolutely packed movie theater for my first look at that summer’s big blockbuster hit, the alien invasion film “Independence Day.” That I should revisit it on this day has more to do with that anniversary, my acknowledgement that I’m that much older now, and my nostalgia for the film than it does with the franchise’s recent ‘resurgence.’ The term ‘blockbuster’ doesn’t mean near as much now as it did back in 1996. The hype surrounding this movie was beyond ridiculous. We’d all seen the image of the White House being blown to smithereens dozens of times over before the movie was even released, and this was a full decade before the invention of YouTube. With few exceptions, I don’t know of too many movies being released today that have been capable of provoking the same level of anticipation.

The movie takes place over the course of three days… which, if you’re keeping score, means that the war between mankind and a space-faring alien race takes ends far more quickly than any wars we fight among ourselves. Like a scene right out of the “V” miniseries, the alien spacecraft enter our atmosphere without much warning, scaring the bejesus out of most while fascinating the rest. “Independence Day” features what may be the most honest response to discovering that we are not alone which I have ever seen on film. Sure, you have the typical “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” crowd who stand around with both their jaws and their arms wide open, but there’s also the panicked masses who are in such a hurry to get the heck out of town that they will toss their belongings out the window toward their waiting cars, while subsequently crashing into other vehicles due either to being unable to see the obstruction or just because they’re in so much of a hurry that they won’t wait for traffic. Add to that one particular news report discouraging viewers from firing their guns at the alien ships. If this were going on for real, I’d expect all of this behavior.

David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) believes he knows the cause of all the satellite disruption: The aliens are on a countdown to an attack. He gets his father to drive him to the White House (since David, the health nut, only has a much slower bicycle to get from point A to point B ), and convinces his ex-wife Connie (Margaret Colin), the White House Press Secretary, to allow him to talk with President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) about what he thinks he knows. The President doesn’t act on David’s advice immediately; it’s only after three helicopter pilots have died that Whitmore decides to evacuate the city. It’s about this time that the alien spaceships all begin to open simultaneously. Any remaining idiots… I mean bystanders… are treated to a fancy blue light show and then… BOOM!!! One shot immediately obliterates the national landmarks that each craft is parked over, and the resulting fiery shock wave takes care of the rest. It’s by some great bloody miracle (and a poor display of the laws of physics) that Air Force One escapes unharmed. Perhaps the creepiest image of the entire film comes when we are shown the aftermath of the attack in New York City: the Statue of Liberty is seen toppled over in the foreground, while the World Trade Center towers are in flames in the background. Yeesh…

The next day, we don’t fare much better. An entire squadron of Marine Corps pilots is taken down easily by the heavily-shielded aliens. The only surviving pilot, Capt. Steven Hiller (Will Smith), manages to bring one of his enemies down with him and drags the alien through the burning desert until he’s met by a caravan of survivors led by former alien abductee Russell Casse (Randy Quaid), who give him a ride to Area 51. Air Force One heads there, too and, once all are there, they meet with Dr. Okun (Brent Spiner). The doctor is pleased as punch that they’ve brought a live specimen for him to examine. Pity the doctor neglected to sedate the creature. You can guess what happens next. When our heroes arrive on the scene of the carnage, the alien speaks to them through Dr. Okun (who is quite clearly already dead) through some form of telepathy. When President Whitmore attempts to negotiate, he is told in no uncertain terms that what the aliens want us to do nothing more than just die.

On July 4th, after what has to be the winner for the most mind-blowing instance of a random idea hatching from an unrelated comment, David come up with a plan to plant a computer virus into the alien mother ship, in the hopes that it will give everyone down on Earth time enough to take down the city-leveling monstrosities hovering overhead. The President gathers all the survivors with piloting experience and gives them an uplifting speech. David and Capt. Hiller, the would-be NASA astronaut who is finally living his dream of going into space, volunteer to upload the computer virus. The upload is successful, though I’m not sure quite how. It’s hard enough trying to get Macs and PCs to talk to each other!

An alien ship approaches Area 51, and so the President and his pilots go in for the kill. Their missiles don’t do near enough damage, though, and they find it difficult to hit the aliens’ primary weapon, which has been engaged. Eventually, the only man left with a missile is Russell Casse. The missile won’t fire, however, and so Russell opts for a heroic suicide flight directly into a collision course with the aliens’ weapon, causing a chain reaction that completely destroys the alien ship. I’ve heard a lot of people compare this scene to that of Bugs Bunny plugging up the barrel of Elmer Fudd’s gun with his fingers. I get why, but I have to say I’ve never had a problem with it. I’ve always seen it as just a matter of the weapon ironically being the aliens’ Achilles heel. David and Capt. Hiller also manage to destroy the mother ship, and we’ve finally won the day.

“Independence Day” is a tribute not only to the flying saucer films of the 1950’s, but also the star-studded disaster films of the 1970’s. It owes so much to “War of the Worlds” that it may be the reason why Steven Spielberg waited until 2005 to do his own remake of the H.G. Wells classic. An admittedly flawed movie, “Independence Day” nevertheless rises above its silly plot thanks its terrific ensemble cast, in particular Jeff Goldblum and the scenery-chewing Will Smith. The score by David Arnold is as genuinely uplifting as it is memorable. Like any decent alien invasion/disaster popcorn flick, “Independence Day” is also really good at building tension, piling adversity on top of adversity for our heroes to dig themselves out from underneath. I’ve seen this movie more times in the last two decades than I can personally count, but I always have fun with it. If it shows up on television, I’m compelled to watch. Though the event movie is slowly going out of style, this one’s still guaranteed to raise a smile.