An Inconsequential Protest
Earlier today I was offered the opportunity to see Suicide Squad for free. It’s a film that has had tons of hype and one that I myself have been tentatively keen for, not least because in Jared Leto’s Joker it promises an exciting new version of one of my favourite ever fictional characters. Plus my ongoing fascination with the trainwreck that is Warner Brothers’ attempt at a DC Cinematic Universe pretty much dictates that I’d have to see it out of morbid curiosity if nothing else.
But you know what? I don’t want to.
I don’t even want to watch it so that I can try to tackle fixing it on Movie Maintenance. I don’t want to give that film my time, energy or money. Because despite good wishes everywhere, the first reviews have come in and they are savage; Suicide Squad is by all accounts another ugly, dreary mess of a film ending with a cacophony of soulless CGI that expects people to turn up because it is at least tangentially a superhero film.
Now obviously opinions are subjective and there is every chance that I could watch the film and love it. But I don’t think I will, because the general consensus of critics seems to confirm what I suspected about the movie based on the trailers and while they might not reflect how I would feel watching it I think in this case they probably will. And I have finally reached a point where I no longer am compelled to watch something just because it’s another ‘must-see’ geek tentpole.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m no film snob. I see almost every superhero film as it comes out, I thoroughly enjoy most of Marvel’s output, I get giddy for Star Wars and the much derided Jurassic World was some of the most fun I’ve ever had in a cinema. I am a proud geek and I don’t really give a shit about the scoffing attitude many people I know have toward blockbuster cinema; the fact is if I enjoy something personally I don’t really care what anyone else thinks, and I happen to enjoy fun popcorn movies. As long as at least some care went into making them.
See, I hate films like Transformers because everything about them reeks of ugly corporate cynicism. The producers of these movies know that they’ll make millions of dollars, so when all is said and done who cares about trying to make it good? The same principle applied to Batman Vs Superman, an exercise in unbridled cinematic arrogance where a studio legitimately thought that they could just drop two famous heroes into a dreary, poorly developed slog and rake in the cash.
Look, we all know that filmmaking is a business and that moneymaking potential is the biggest motivator in cinema, but when it’s the only motivator we have a problem. The reason Marvel films are good is because there is legitimate care taken in each case to make sure their output is consistently entertaining and enjoyable, even if the films themselves are often a little interchangeable and lack much individuality. And while Marvel and DC are different franchises with ostensibly different sensibilities, the key point of divergence seems to be that one always tries to make sure the people paying money for their product are having a good time while the other couldn’t seem to care less. Simply put, fuck that. It’s not that superhero movies can’t be dark, it’s that if they are you damn well better put the effort into justifying it. Because superheroes are inherently silly and you have to work extra hard to make a gritty take work.
So no, I won’t watch Suicide Squad. I won’t watch Wonder Woman which looks dull and manipulative or Justice League which looks like somebody put a gun to Zack Snyder’s head and told him to make a Marvel movie. DC might get better, but frankly they’ve had ample chances and thus far they seem to be more interested in playing catch up with their rivals than putting any care whatsoever into what they produce. And I love movies too much to continue to support that kind of cynicism in any way, shape or form, even if it excludes me from the cultural conversation.
Even writing that makes me feel weirdly liberated.
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