05 August 2016

The Nine Lives of the Suicide Squad

We're really winding down, folks. This is ultimately the last big weekend that we'll care about monster blockbuster releases, although truth be told there'll be some hangover for the next few weeks that we'll continue to cover. Let us try to predict the cultural, commercial, and critical potential of the two nationwide releases this week, Nine Lives (2016) and Suicide Squad (2016). I'll give you a spoiler warning - only one of these films is going to be something anyone cares about. Guess which one! We'll start with the crap:
Oh no! He's a cat now!

Believe it or not, I first learned about Nine Lives from a huge terrible cat display in a movie theater. That's not a great sign when you're a dude who writes about movies every week. It stars Kevin Spacey who finds himself inside the body of a cat! It's kind of unbelievable that this film is coming out in 2016. Aren't we better than this tired, overused, and never-loved trope?

I am literally sitting here in disbelief that this is a thing that's happening. Did Kevin Spacey really need the money? There's no way. Is it a favour to his agent? Why does this exist? Has Hollywood learned nothing from The Shaggy Dog (2006)? It really feels like a hackneyed premise that's almost a throwback to cheeky 90s family films rather than something that would actually be interesting in the current cinematic climate, child film or not. On that note, it's also dropping amidst a tremendous amount of childrens' animated films that have done really well this summer (indeed, they're just about the only ones). There's simply not a lot of room for a goofy "Kevin Spacey becomes a cat" story.

Commercially and culturally the prospects are dire. There's almost no way this movie hits big. We're not going to be discussing Nine Lives as a cult hit or sleeper. Its saving grace may be that it's technically a French film production, and director Barry Sonnenfeld has had at least as many hits as duds. So maybe it goes big over in Europe, but no one in America will care. I can't emphasize the futility of this films' existence enough. So let's move on.

It was sort of a bizarre move for Warner Bros' still fledgling DC Cinematic Universe to go with Suicide Squad as their third film. It's like as if Marvel threw up Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) after The Incredible Hulk (2008). Suicide Squad might be slightly less obscure (the presence of the Joker at least gives it a decently high profile), but it's still a strange way to cement the base for a new shared universe. Sure it gives them a chance to feature a lot of characters all at once, but out of all the DC stories, is this really appropriate?

If you begin to take the fact that Batman is really well-established (if not just in their shared universe), The Flash has proven to be a successful TV series, and we've all still got a bad taste of Green Lantern (2011) in our mouths, maybe it makes more sense. Wonder Woman is really the more natural extension, and since she's getting her own film next year, which by all rights appears to be awesome-looking, we can let that slide a bit. But for now, it's all Suicide Squad, which could be the most hotly anticipated DC film since The Dark Knight Rises (2012).
This is kid friendly, right? Like every girl will be Harley Quinn
and every boy will be Killer Croc this Halloween?

It's more interesting in the wake of SONY's now-failed Sinister Six movie (at one point that had a November 11, 2016 scheduled date - think about that a bit), that we're still getting the supervillain team-up flick we've always imagined could happen. 2016 has already proved to be a decent superhero film deconstruction year with Deadpool (2016), and Suicide Squad, if it keeps things weird and fun like it promises, ought to deliver a similarly refreshing spin on the tired genre.

With nearly no expectations just about any box office haul ought to do the trick. The bar to clear this summer is about $60 million to keep with Star Trek Beyond (2016) and Jason Bourne (2016), but considering the comparative hype level, I might actually be inclined to believe Suicide Squad banks quite a bit more than that. Seriously - who out there really needed another Star Trek or Bourne film? Exactly. Now, who out there is up for the raucous distinctive glow of Suicide Squad, whose hype machine has been in full gear for the better part of a year?

The whole thing is a pretty clear attempt to ape the marketing from Guardians. The classic rock song (even more precisely timed, though), the off-beat, energized advertising, and random anti-heroes assembled in an ad-hock team is all pretty Guardians-esque. It's all presented with a much sharper edge, though, and that aforementioned trailer was one of the best in recent memory.

Also, almost everyone involved in this is guaranteed to become a break-out star. Cara Delevingne looks...enchanting. Jai Courtney seems like he's actually having some charismatic fun (ghastly!). Will Smith could get back on top, even if it's almost bizarre that this doesn't feel like a Will Smith movie at all (it's a character that's out of his wheelhouse both in his anti-hero persona and side character nature). Jared Leto is apparently insane. Most of all though, is Margot Robbie, who is ready to explode based on the marketing alone. That's a lot better than what The Legend of Tarzan (2016) did for her career.

The one variable is the critical reaction. This seems to have plenty of cultural and commercial potential, and the general Internet conversation surrounding the picture is pretty positive. There is some fear of questionable re-shoots supposedly to make the film funnier in the wake of the Deadpool vs. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) fiasco. Then again, every film ever has re-shoots and it's never really anything to be worried about. It's also worthwhile to note that Deadpool only beat BvS by $30 million domestically, and the latter cranked out about $90 million more worldwide. The counter-counter-argument to that is of course, "Shouldn't a film that featured the two most well known superheroes of all time gross MORE than fucking Deadpool?" Again, it's more a matter of actually making a film that audiences want - which Suicide Squad seems to be in spades. Of course, hopefully there's still some genre left to deconstruct, if Squad does it at all. Still, the diverse cast, intriguing premise, and stellar attitude ought to work in its favor.

So there you go. Will you roll with the Squad this weekend or commit suicide after watching Nine Lives? Only you can decide!

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