Career Suicide Squad?

suicide squad

It appears the world has gone somewhat mad after the trailer for David Ayer’s Suicide Squad debuted at Comic-Con, however there are still few of us left feeling rather apprehensive. 

I’m trying to convince myself that I wasn’t the only one to watch the trailer for Suicide Squad and think “what the fuck was that rubbish?”. Seriously, I know people have been waiting a long time for this and it has comic book nerds fainting worldwide every time a new photo is released online, but I was honestly expecting a lot more.

The premise of the film is something that I do not have any problems with, it actually sounds like it could be rather interesting, but the delivery as of yet looks as though it’s going to make quite a dull film. I don’t know, I’m just never really taken in when a trailer tried to ram as much action down my throat as possible and convince me that it’s going to be a thrilling experience. In the case of this trailer I gave a heavy sigh as soon as I realised it was a trailer that was going to consist of quiet “emotional” music with intercut scenes of action, with infrequent voice overs from mysterious characters.

What we have to consider is the person who is at the helm of this project, Mr David Ayer. Now I’m not about to completely dissect his back catalogue because he has been involved in some good films in the past. Most notably I did like Fury just recently, and Training Day still stands as something of a guilty pleasure for me, so he is a man that does have the potential to make good films. The person who wrote the line “king kong aint got shit on me!” deserves at least some credit. However, I do have to question someone whose back catalogue also contains S.W.A.TEnd of Watch and the starting point of the franchise we have all come to know and dislike: The Fast and Furious. It is films such as those that make me question how this project is going to turn out, not just because he is the director but because he is writing it too. I think if you’re going to have a project as big as this being made, with high expectations from cinema goers all over the world, it would at least be wise to place it in the hands of someone we trust a little more. I don’t want to sound like a culture fascist, but we are living in a world where filmmakers such as Christopher Nolan are working so hard to radically reinvent the action genre and change it for the better, the result of which is our expectations being raised considerably.

This leads me onto the next element of the film that makes me feel uneasy: the cast. It is all over the place. You have a few big names thrown in there to make us think “oh they’re in it! nice!” but then the rest are just people that make you think “who?” and that’s a problem considering the fact it’s quite a big film that has a lot of people’s attention. I’m already questioning why certain people are in it, but it’s in two different ways. For example the first would be for people such as Jai Courtney, the ones I am questioning for being in it because as of yet their acting capabilities have been shown as rather limited. The second applies to people such as Margot Robbie and Will Smith, the ones I am questioning for being in the film because surely they have better things to be doing with their time than attaching their name to a project such as this (hence my rather smug altering of the title as shown above). From the trailer the performances appear to be quite varied, ranging from the cliched to the hopeful, which again makes me feel quite on edge. When dealing with big villain names we are all familiar with there needs to be some consistency.

What I also found quite interesting about the cast is how Ben Affleck is listed as playing Batman, having been announced to play this character in the upcoming Zack Snyder project Batman v Superman next year. I am still intrigued by this, not only because people are still finding it hard to forgive Affleck twelve years on from Daredevil, but also because we haven’t even seen him in one film as Batman yet. So why then would you sign him up to do multiple films as this character before you have feedback from the audience? It’s what my old sociologist teacher would call the “test drive”: you wouldn’t buy a car without testing it first, so in this case you wouldn’t sign an actor to a role for multiple films without testing them first. I think if anything this would be the first film I’d sign them up for because Batman is something of a secondary character here, with the focus shifting more onto the villains, but plans have already gone ahead and it’s still going to result in me being pissed off. Hooray.

The only character that is looking promising at the moment is Harley Quinn, and that is because they have cast the fantastic Margot Robbie to play her. It’s the first time that the character has been brought properly to the big screen, and already it looks as though Robbie has mastered the beautiful chaotic nature of her character. I admit the character has been altered aesthetically for the modern audience, but it still looks as though the mannerisms and the voice of Robbie’s Harley Quinn are really going to bring this character alive on screen. It has been a long time coming but finally we are not only going to see this character on screen, but we’re going to see them at their best. I truly believe it is performances such as Robbies’ that could work in this film’s favour. I can only hope that as the writer and director Ayer has utilised Robbie’s talents properly.

The main problem I have with the cast, and I am not alone in saying this, is the utterly absurd decision to cast Jared Leto as The Joker. Now people have flocked to the internet to moan about how the appearance of The Joker isn’t right and it doesn’t look good, but quite frankly I couldn’t care less about that because that is the least of our troubles. What concerns me is that Leto is not a good enough actor to take over the role of The Joker. We’ve already had acting heavyweights play the role brilliantly, including Heath Ledger in what is essentially one of the best acting performances of all time, so why would they choose to pass on such a complex character to someone who has barely proven himself as an actor? The thing is I care about the character of The Joker, he is one that I have been fascinated with from a very young age, starting with Jack Nicholson in Burton’s Batman and Mark Hamill’s voice work for animated projects, it is a character that means a lot to me. I do not want to see this character ruined by someone as flimsy and annoying as Jared Leto.

If you have seen the trailer then all you will see of Leto is that he is trying to sound like Heath Ledger’s Joker, and failing quite badly. I think with The Joker he does have quite a distinct voice and laugh but there is of course free roam for the actor playing him to adapt their own take on it, and this is what we would expect. With Leto is just sounds like he is recycling previous incarnations we have seen of The Joker, he doesn’t appear to be bringing anything new or noteworthy to the role.  It doesn’t look as though the character is right for him at all and at the moment I’m not buying into this idea of him being The Joker. It’s funny because when it comes to comic books films you’ll quite often find on Youtube that many fanboys, prior to the release of a film, have made “unofficial trailers” which usually consist of rehashed footage from existing films along with footage they have shot of themselves in fancy dress in their bedrooms. They’re usually very poorly acted and give us all a good laugh. That is what Jared Leto’s appearance in this trailer felt like. As soon as I saw him on screen and heard him talking, it just felt like I was watching an “unofficial trailer” shot by and starring a teenager who is currently experimenting with a new camera as part of their creative media course at college. It didn’t frighten me, it didn’t excite me, it didn’t grab my attention in the slightest. All it made me do is think “I told you so”.

However, I can’t possibly pass too heavy a judgement on the film having not seen it. I would like to make it clear that I am not forming an opinion on the film based solely on the trailer. Just because the trailer isn’t particularly impressive and I don’t like the director that doesn’t mean to say that the film won’t be good. I honestly want it to be good, I want it to be the sort of film that proves me completely wrong. There’s a common misapprehension that film fanatics and film critics like being right all of the time WRONG! One of the best things is being proven wrong. When you have a predisposition and expect a film to be bad it is the best experience to find that actually you were wrong and it is a fantastic film. That’s what I want to happen here.

Overall I would say I’m quite apathetic at the moment. What I see and know of the film as of yet have not grasped my attention enough as I perhaps would have liked, but that does not mean to say it will be bad. I genuinely want this film to work and for it to be a good film because I love the concept and I love the characters so it would make me a very happy man if they nail. Quite often people accuse me of being too bitter and only wanting to write about bad film, but actually I much prefer writing about about good films. It’s too easy to find rubbish films and have a rant about them, and quickly people become bored of reading it, but when you manage to find a genuinely good film that you can write about and praise, that’s something special. I am hoping that Suicide Squad pulls it off and makes me eat humble pie, so watch this space a year from now and see whether or not Ayer has succeeded.

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Keeping Horror Cinema Alive

Crimson-Peak

Keep your attention turned towards your local multiplex, because this year may just bring us one of the best horror films of the modern age

If you listen carefully whilst looking down the listings at your local cinema, you’ll hear a faint beeping noise at irregular intervals

Beep…….Beep……….Beep……Beep………………Beep

That’s the sound of the horror genre’s heartbeat nearly flatlining as more and more awful horror films are released on a frequent basis.

It’s getting to the point now where I am asking when horror got so boring. When did we decide that we would stop making genuinely scary films that are paced perfectly and that have intelligent brains, and would instead switch to the dull formulaic structure of slashers and supernatural nonsense? Who made that decision?

Horror films of the modern age, it would appear, are made for an entirely different audience, an audience that’s been raised to believe films like Paranormal Activity are good. When we think about modern horror the main element that springs to mind is jump scares. Volume increasing from low to high suddenly, often accompanied by an image appearing on screen. That’s scary? Really? We jump sure, but that’s not because it’s scary. It’s because our central nervous system naturally responds to a change in the environment. It’s not scary, it’s jumpy, but that’s what people of this generation prefer. So when a genuinely scary and well made horror film is released people don’t have the patience for it. They don’t want intelligent horror with a beating pulse, they want cheap jump scares and a hollow carcass of a film.

I remember getting quite annoyed just recently because I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and I found a tweet from someone roughly my age, simply saying:

“The Babadook is the worst film ever made” 

What made me annoyed is that this is the mentality that a lot of people share. I know many people of my age who watched The Babadook and claimed that it was rubbish, that it was boring, that it wasn’t scary. I’m not going to say they’re wrong on that front because they’re entitled their opinion, but it was obvious they said those things because they do not have the patience for it. Jennifer Kent’s writing for The Babadook is superb, and while it may not be a film full of jump scares and graphic violence, it is genuinely scary. It is a film that uses the power of suggestion, that focuses on the things you see in the corner of the screen, that really crawls under your skin and makes every hair stand on end. For me it is one of the most important films of our generation and stands as one of the best modern horror films, it’s just such a shame that more people did not have the patience for it.

When I listen to film critics, journalists and just people who are generally older than me I hear such fantastic stories of how cinema used to be. I hear stories of how every Friday night a group of friends would pile together as much money as they had to go and see and latest horror flick that would scare the living daylights out of them, stories of film critics trying to dress like adults in order to enter a screening of a horror film, and it all sounded fantastic. What we have nowadays is films being dimmed down in order for the BBFC to give them a 15 certificate rating, thus allowing more people to see the film and the film to make more money.

It’s annoying that money should even be valued with horror cinema because originally money wasn’t even thought about. You had people independently financing films and making them on their own terms. If you look back far enough you’ll hear stories of Alfred Hitchcock risking his entire career and his money to make the version of Psycho that he wanted cinema audiences to see and it showed how filmmakers had spines and would strive to make the film they wanted people to see, not what made money. In Business terms it was what you might call “one off production”. Nowadays it has switched to mass production, with film companies pulling the levers, churning out generic film after generic film, which is why we’re faced with cinema listing this year that contain a third Insidious film and yet another Paranormal Activity installment and it is all just so tedious.

Obviously I couldn’t possibly look to discredit all modern horror as this would unforgivably neglect the modern horror films that are very good. Most notably I would draw your attention to films such as The Descent, a very small budget film that showed just how little money is needed to terrify the audience, and also The Borderlands which completely surprised me and managed to transcend my expectations as a found footage film, so clearly not all modern horror films are ruining the genre, it would just be nice to see more keeping it alive.

This brings me to the main point of this post, and quite possibly some of the most exciting news I have heard regarding cinema for some time. Later this year we will be able to see a new horror film entitled Crimson Peak. The reason this is exciting news is because the film is directed and co-written by one of the greatest minds working in cinema today: Guillermo Del Toro.

If you are unfamiliar with his work then I cannot recommend him highly enough. Someone who started out making horror films such as Cronos and The Devil’s Backbone which are hard hitting horror films that really crawl inside your head, and then moved on to make more mainstream work many will be familiar with such as HellboyPacific Rim, and his triumph Pan’s Labyrinth. The man is a genius, and he has proven on numerous occasions that he is the king of dark worlds, he is the absolute master of bringing darkness to the screen and making the audience love every minute of it.

What makes me happiest about Del Toro making a horror film for modern audiences is that his head and his heart are in the right place. This is the man who strives to make films on his own terms. He has had trouble with film studios before and it resulted in him hating the films that he made, most notably Mimic is the one film he claims to be his worst due to the studio interfering. Since then he works on his own terms. He constantly turns down offers from film companies because he knows he would lose the power to make the film he wants to. He has already proven he is the king of horror film through not only his early directing work but his modern work in which we see him as producer, such as The Orphanage and Julia’s Eyes. The fact he is now making another horror film is exactly what horror cinema needs, it needs a filmmaker who will work their hands to the bone in order to get the version of their film they want it.

Interestingly Pan’s Labyrinth is Del Toro’s best film and one of the greatest films ever made, and he proved with that film that having the confidence to protect your work really pays off. Del Toro received multiple offers from Hollywood producers, offering him twice the budget provided that the film was made in English. He said no. Del Toro didn’t trust translator’s to get the English subtitles for his film right, so what did he do? He did the work himself and translated the spanish screenplay into English alone. To get the film recognised what did he do? He gave up his entire salary and put the money towards pushing his film out there. And what was the result of this? It has become one of the greatest films of all time, it received multiple Oscars, and best of all when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival it received a standing ovation and applause for over twenty straight minutes. That ladies and gentleman, is how you make a film. Del Toro is a man that knows what he wants and will go above and beyond to protect it because he cares about cinema.

It would be foolish to discuss Del Toro’s work without mentioning visuals. Now if you have ever seen a film made by Del Toro then you will understand how visually impressive his films are. He is one for experimenting with prosthetics and physical effects as opposed to relying solely on computers. All you have to do is look at a project like Pan’s Labyrinth to see how visually stunning his work is. The sequences in which the faun glides across screen, or the scene in which we see the creature known only as ‘pale man’ which is such a surreal but mesmerising piece of cinema. It is clear that Del Toro is very good at creating such fantastic creatures and bringing them to life on screen, which is a part of what can make good horror work so well, when it presents beings that the audience does not understand, that are physically scary and just as a whole make us feel uneasy. I think we can expect a lot of this in Crimson Peak as it is an old school horror with a dickensian feel to it, and I am thoroughly excited to see what creatures are presented to us this time.

The whole idea of working with physical effects is something that seems to have died out, with more filmmakers relying on CG and flashier directing styles. Jennifer Kent did provide us with some impressive visuals for The Babadook but other than that the best examples of visual effects in horror come from films that are a lot older:

The Fly (1986)this is one that won’t surprise many. Cronenberg was famous for using visual effects in films such as Videodrome and the famous head exploding scene at the start of Scanners, but The Fly is undoubtedly his masterpiece. The visuals of the film still manage to terrify modern audiences, with sequences of Jeff Goldblum pulling his fingernails off, or spewing acid onto someone, or seeing his skin splitting to make way for new bodily forms, it is still jaw droppingly brilliant.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984): before Michael Bay’s appalling reboot you had Wes Craven’s original masterpiece. Craven was famous for experimenting with plastic moulds and physical effects to present scenes that were shocking and actually looked real. That is why the original NOES has such memorable scenes, such as Freddy Krueger’s mouth appearing at the mouthpiece of a phone, or the figure of Krueger being pressed through the wall above someone’s bed as they sleep, filmed literally by pressing actor Robert Englund into a sheet of leathery plastic.

The Thing (1982): words cannot even begin to describe how much I love this film. I watched it a few years ago and it terrified me, and I watched it again recently and it still has the same impact on me. It is one of the most impressive pieces of horror cinema to have been made, and it is the plastic moulds and the physical effects that make it so.

Alien (1979): The artist H R Giger did fantastic work with Alien, not only for the set but in actually making the creatures we see on screen. The design for the Alien itself has become one of the most iconic, along with the famous ‘chest bursting’ scenes which impressively was shot in just one take. It stands as one of the best films ever to have been made, and the visuals triumph over any modern horror.

It films such as the ones mentioned above that stand as the epitome of good horror films. That is the sort of film that Del Toro will make. He is already well known for being the king of visual effects in modern cinema so it would not be surprising to see his talents transferred appropriately for Crimson Peak.

There isn’t really much else to say, other than I am thoroughly excited to see Crimson Peak and I think it will be one of the best films of this year. I’m trying to avoid learning too much about it, hence I’ve watched the trailer once and avoided doing too much research into it. I want to go in with an open mind and see what Del Toro has for me this time. I have every faith in Del Toro to make the film he wants, which based on his back catalogue, we can assume will be nothing short of terrifyingly beautiful.