Darke Reviews | Suicide Squad (2016)

To say I have been harsh to the DC Cinematic Universe would be like saying summers in Arizona are a touch warm. Now, I can lay down geek cred pretty well with my comic collection – which does include one of the earlier runs with the Suicide Squad with friggin Catman (yes..Cat) as the lead with Deadshot also on the team. I grew up without Harley Quinn until the amazing and legendary Batman the Animated series invented her (all praise to Bruce Timm and Paul Dini). I’ve watched how the character has evolved and changed over time, some good, some bad – recently very good. So on the eve of her 25th birthday as a character (September next year) she gets her first cinematic appearance alongside a bunch of bad guys not a lot of folks have heard of outside of the comic scene or DCAU scene. DCAU gave us Assault on Arkham, a Suicide Squad story, two years ago and I keep a digital copy on most of my devices because it is one of the best of the DCAU. That said….

Should she and the others be thrown in a hole and then forget the hole or do we need more?

Let’s talk first about an uncredited writer, John Ostrander (who has a lovely tribute in the movie) who created the Suicide Squad back in 1987, and also created “Oracle” from the ashes of Barbara Gordon. Just a small thanks to him for creating the idea of villains working for good and being one of the team who also gave us Amanda Waller (with John Byrne and Len Wein). Thank you Mr Ostrander. The movie itself was written and directed by David Ayer, who also directed the disturbing war movie Fury, as well as End of Watch; and was the writer of the original The Fast and the Furious. He does great street level films and gritty films, and I could even say I would want to see what he would do with an Escape From New York or Dirty Dozen remake if someone were to deign to do such a thing. Here’s why…

This is what a director should do!

His blocking was spot on most of the time. There is an entire scene in the movie with very little dialogue but the body language and looks of those involved tell you everything you need to know about whats going on. Is the writing and direction perfect? No. I blame Zack “I suck the colour out of everything” Snyder for some of it. Some does go to Ayer, but overall this was a very well written and directed movie. It’s critical to consider that unlike the Snyder films thus far, all of the characters here we get to focus on feel like characters. I don’t just mean they are accurate to their comic characters, which they are, but they are dimensional entities of their own. They have motivations which they hold true to and you understand and care about. They aren’t painted with a thin veneer of character and we’re supposed to believe it. They are something you buy.

That gets some credit to the actors themselves. Will Smith was the classic charismatic Will Smith again. I had doubts after his last round of movies of him playing the Clark Gable inspired Floyd Lawton. These doubts were put to rest quickly and held through the movie. He was Deadshot. Margot Robbie (Wolf of Wall Street, Legend of Tarzan) was a version of Harley Quinn that was an amalgam of several of her more recent incarnations and even outshined Smith in the charisma department. This explains why I liked her so much in Tarzan. She was given the opportunity to show a few facets of Harley people don’t consider and it made me happy to see. Hell she made me happy.  Her and Smith had excellent chemistry which was needed for two of the most likeable villains DC has ever written. Ayer brought that to the fore and you like the villains. You enjoy them…you know you shouldn’t root for them, but you do anyway. That’s the very definition of charisma. I can’t believe I am writing this, but even Jai Courtney (Divergent, Good Day to Die Hard, Terminator Genisys) delivered. I wonder if it is because he got to speak in his natural Australian accent as the rogue Captain Boomerang. I still think Hollywood should stop trying to make him happen, but he was really good and earned more than a few laughs. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Pompeii, Mr. Eko on Lost)  gives us a wonderful Killer Croc, Cara Delevigne (Pan, Anna Karenina) is an amazing and mesmerizing Enchantress, and Joel Kinnaman (Robocop, The Killing) does pretty good as the all american normal guy – Rick Flag.

Smith and Robbie shine, but Jay Hernandez (Max, Nashville, Quarantine) takes someone I’d have trouble classifying even as high as a C lister and makes him understandable, relatable, and kinda awesome. It is the definition of standout performance. Karen Fukuhara is, in her first cinematic role, is absolutely imposing as Katana. Despite being 5’2″ she has a presence on screen and is the bad ass she should be. Oh yeah…so now we have someone else who could have played Major Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell. No I am not letting it go. Viola Davis is the Amanda Waller we have all been waiting for. I saw the movie with three friends who friggin adore ‘The Wall’ in both comic and DCAU formats and boy does Davis deliver. When Harley asks if she’s the devil in the trailer, those who knew of Waller before were going “well…” and thats what we get. Amanda Waller is a character who if the Devil showed up she would look him dead in the eye and go “You’re Late” or “Are you finally ready to deal?” without batting an eyelash. That is the Waller we got and Davis is on point.

So what about Leto? I know some of you are waiting for it. This was the Clown Prince of Crime. This was a Joker we had never seen on the big screen,…or any for that matter. My friends and I shivered in one scene going “make him stop”. His costume choices were all from various art and comics over the years. Am I still upset that they lied and said “this isn’t the look” …when it damn well was. Yes. Did it grow on me in the movie? Mostly. I get the no teeth thing the number of times he has crossed The Bat. The ink …eh a bit overdone, but whatever, its aesthetics. Not mine, but it doesn’t detract too badly. Something one of my friends noted was how he interacted with Harley is actually what we should be seeing. It ain’t healthy folks, that might be a bit spoilerish from me – but Joker/Harley *is not healthy*. The movie only begins to hint at it and we are A-OK with that. In short (too late) he was fine.

From a technical perspective, some effects work. Some don’t. Enchantress looks and sounds amazing. It’s also the first introduction of magic and they did it well. The Killer Croc make up was absolutely incredible (thanks KNB/Greg Nicotero) and further proof why you need to go practical more Hollywood. Musically, this is the soundtrack I’ve been missing. I grew up in the 80’s with awesome movie soundtracks and I was thinking the other day how those are missing. Not anymore. It’s all it should be and a bag of chips. The editing….


I can count roughly…15-20 minutes of movie that is missing. I can see the lines of the reshoots. I can see where scenes were cut short, I can see where scenes are even missing. An important lesson Hollywood. Do not focus on scenes in trailers and your production stills if they don’t make it into the movie. Roughly a quarter of material from the trailers is not to be seen. While the editing isn’t as criminally bad as Ghostbusters…it is pretty bad.


This is the movie I have been dreading and hoping for all summer. The wait is over and I already want a sequel. I really enjoyed the hell out of this. Please for the love of all you hold dear Geoff Johns and the rest of the producers at Warner Bros. learn the *right* lessons from this. This is how you make a superhero (villain?) movie. You gave me a good antagonist, good protagonists, people I cared about and oh yeah real characters. It wasn’t as dark and gloomy as the last two movies and if the reshoots were to thank for that – GOOD! They were worth it. Do not ever give us another BvS when you have this as an option. I am so bloody thankful that they moved away from the grey scale they were teasing us with initially. I don’t think it was planned. I think it was reaction to BvS and it was a good reaction to have.

This felt more to me of the quality of the DC Animated Universe than it did the Cinematic…and it shows as people are you know…enjoying it!

Should you see it?

Like action? Yes. Like comic book movies? Yes. Like a violence? Yes. Like Harley, Deadshot, Waller, Croc, Diablo, Katana, Enchantress? Then Yes. Yes you should see this. They earned the PG-13 Rating and it felt like the PG-13 that I grew up with versus the overly sanitized PG-13s we’ve had of late. Remember when Red Dawn and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom created PG-13…yeah this is right there with them. Thankfully.

Will you buy it?

I am irritated I can’t pre order it. I just checked…

Anything else?

Give us Pamela Isley in the next film so we can see Harley move onto a nice far more stable sociopath.


I am probably seeing it again this weekend, or next week…or something. I am still undecided on Pete’s Dragon so may see this again. I didn’t realize how much I needed this in my life until now.

Darke Reviews | The Legend of Tarzan (2016)

I was asked “who even wanted a Tarzan movie? why did they bother?” earlier this week when I mentioned going to see it. I explained that there’s an entire generation who grew up still with Tarzan still in the regular popular consciousness. I had the comics, the Christopher Lambert movie (1984 Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes), the cartoon series; and yes even copies of some of the original Edgar Rice Burroughs stories. Of course I also was able to enjoy the Disney version back in 99. So there are quite a few my age, slightly younger, and older who would love to see a Tarzan movie done well. Something we really haven’t had since 1999. It’s an opportunity to introduce another generation to Tarzan….

But did they miss the mark?

Obviously based on the works of Sir Edgar Rice Burroughs, this telling was brought to the screen by Craig Brewer and Adam Conzad. Conzad’s only other credit is the lack luster Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit. Brewer for his part was the writer behind the Footloose remake (which I adore), Hustle & Flow, and Black Snake Moan. While the pair give us flashbacks to the origin story, it’s wisely not told in full as many comic book movies could learn from. This is instead a story of after. After Tarzan meets Jane, after he returned to London…and is called back to the jungles of Africa. I would like to say they did well here, but alas I can but say they did ok. The movie has trademark fingerprints of studio over production where much is sanitized and the film retains one of the more problematic aspects of Tarzan in this day and age of “The Great White Savior.” I don’t think you can reasonably tell the film without that last component and it is an artifact of it’s time – but they probably could have tried.  Beyond that, motives are vague, the plot is as thin as rice paper, and the characters are told with strokes broad enough to paint an aircraft carrier with a single stroke. Even if it has elements of rarely known historical accuracy in it…it yeah.

Yet at the same time, I was still engaged; which may be due to David Yates directing. Yates, who got the unenviable chair of director for Harry Pottery from Order of the Phoenix until the end. No easy task. I can easily lay the beats of the movie that work so well on him. He elevates with good shots, blocking, and overall direction of his actors; but even his talent has limits. What he is able to do is salvage many moments of mediocrity into something trying to push the bounds of it. Intelligent moves make some character far more interesting and compelling than the story itself. He can’t save it all, but what few audience members there were tonight (about 10) laughed at times and cheered at others. That is something.

I would like to give all the actors credit, but only some get it. Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood, Battleship), is not one of them however. He is *very* pretty. I maintain his abs have abs. His performance however, lacks something …feral? I don’t feel the Lord of the Jungle. I don’t feel a Lord of a Manor…I just don’t feel. Script, actor, or directing? I can’t tell. Based on what I saw in 2012’s Battleship? Actor…sorry True Blood fans, his Eric is very pretty, but I got nothing here. Samuel L Jackson surprised me here, as I find even a phoned in performance from him actually pretty decent. He kinda grew on me, even if the character weren’t needed. Christoph Waltz, does his best but the script does him no favors. He tries to get callbacks to Hans Landa here, but just can’t surpass the character he was given but damnit if he didn’t try. Margot Robbie as Jane? I wanted to see a movie about her by the end (of act I…). This is the Jane we didn’t know we needed. If they had called this Tarzan and Jane and had them together kicking ass through this? It would be a different review. She is absolutely fearless and I love her. More Margot please. More of this Jane please.

At a technical level…I just sighed writing that. That should brace you. Nothing is real. I can tell. I check the filming locations and not one lists Africa. Why? Budget? You had $180 million! It’s an amazing and beautiful continent and you know if you can’t film in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or the Republic of the Congo…where it’s supposed to be; you could try Angola, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea? Ok…so you went to Gabon and did filming without your cast. Audiences can tell.  We’re getting better at picking up composite shots and you may just have to try a bit harder. The green screen is evident in shots where you could have lit better or differently. It’s sad as there’s some shots which could have been more amazing. If anything though they got the animals right. The movement and some of the behaviors were spot on even if the effect wasn’t perfect. From an action standpoint I am concerned as well, as it’s clear Skarsgard is ripped and athletic…you can teach him to fight and let us see it. You can’t pull an argument that this is for kids and have some of the other things you do in this movie. Also…don’t put shots in trailers…then have the same shot with a different backdrop entirely in the movie – it adds to the fake.


The movie is safe. It’s over produced Hollywood churn factory. It’s hollow and without any real weight, feeling, or emotion. The action is…ok and could have been better. It’s a movie of “almost” and “missed opportunities” . Sorry folks, I can’t give it better than that. What I can say is – it’s ok Popcorn fare.

I am not angry for having seen it. I don’t hate it. It doesn’t irritate as bad as Independence Day did. You’d think I did hate it from how I ripped it above, but…

I did find myself enjoying it if I didn’t think too hard or care too much. It has a plenty of moments of good, touching on things no other movie in this genre actually has. Moments that made me see what it could have been. I enjoyed it, but the moment I think about it I get slightly annoyed at “if you just did…”. The adventure was almost there; an adventure I wanted to go on and they made me want to go on.

Should you see it?

Matinee fodder easily. 3D not really. If you want a popcorn movie to relax into this weekend…you could do worse.

Would you watch it again?

Truth be told? Maybe if I had nothing better to do. It’s not that bad…it just could have been more.

Will Jess buy it?

Yeah probably. It has more than enough for a purchase into the collection.

What’s the next review?

Pending any surprises between then and now – Ghostbusters on July 14.  Star Trek Beyond July 21, Jason Bourne and Nerve the following week, then Suicide Squad. I am uncertain on Pete’s Dragon. Kubo and the Two Strings is absolute.

That’s the rest of my ‘official’ summer schedule. Who knows what else may crop up?