#REVIEW: James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad (2021)

It might be useful, before reading my review of the movie called The Suicide Squad, to read a review of another movie that came out in 2016 that was just called Suicide Squad. You are sort of expected to pretend that that movie didn’t happen, even though this movie has several of the same characters portrayed by the same actors and is more or less the exact same movie in terms of the overall story. This is, in some ways, the movie equivalent of a comic book series getting a new #1 issue; yeah, it’s the same people, mostly, and the same idea, mostly, but you can start fresh here if you want to.

Here is the tl;dr review: just like the first movie, this movie is exactly what you think it’s going to be, and if that’s the sort of thing you like, you will like it. You might like it a little more than the first one.

A slightly longer version: The main difference between this movie and the first movie is that this one is (as I remember, at least) a hell of a lot gorier, although it’s always played for laughs if that’s worth anything to you, and James Gunn’s insistence on overusing vocal music as part of the score. The actors are probably of slightly higher quality (hell, Idris Elba and Peter Capaldi are in it) and King Shark is better than any individual element of the earlier Suicide Squad, although I’d have liked them to find a way to give him more underwater scenes. The rivalry between Elba’s Bloodshot and John Cena’s Peacemaker (I think?) is fun, and somehow Polka Dot Man is not only in this movie but he and a girl who can control rats are its emotional heart. I don’t know how that happened but it’s true. This is the third or fourth movie Margot Robbie has played Harley Quinn in, and she fully inhabits the character at this point and I love it.

Fascinatingly, despite lots of actual murdering happening on screen, this movie comes off as much happier and heroic than the Murderverse movies. So that’s a plus too.

Don’t go to a movie theater and get Covid to see this or anything, but HBO Max is cheaper than a pair of movie tickets in most places.

#REVIEW: Black Widow

I think the best thing I can say about Black Widow is that I don’t have anything bad to say about it.

I’m pretty sure I’m about to be unfair to this movie. I’ve been burning out on the MCU lately, and Loki really didn’t help with that, and the notion that Black Widow was going to have to be … well, not a prequel, really, but set in the past at least, because Black Widow herself was killed in Endgame has always rubbed me all kinds of wrong. And I wasn’t in a hugely receptive mood for it when I sat down to watch. This usually isn’t a good sign for a movie! And yet. I mean, I have some gripes, but they’re just that– gripes; the movie itself is fine.

Good stuff:

  • The cast they’ve built around Natasha is great. David Harbour’s Russian accent is godawful and inconsistent but he is very clearly having an enormous amount of fun playing the character, and y’all probably know by now how far that can get you with me.
  • The story is pleasingly self-contained. You’ll kinda have a hard time if the phrase “Sokovia Accords” doesn’t ring any bells, but just knowing that she’s on the run from somebody because of something is probably good enough to get you through the movie. You don’t really need the details and the movie doesn’t get into the weeds with them either.
  • The main villain might be the biggest bastard we’ve seen in the MCU so far. Seriously: he’s Killgrave from Jessica Jones level, if that’s even still canon.
  • The good guys’ Big Plan at the end is also pretty good, especially since it seems to have been thrown together in something around three minutes of in-movie time.
  • The action sequences are solid, but see the next section.

Like, okay, that doesn’t sound like much? But to a certain degree it’s all you really need, right? Good actors in roles they’re well-suited for in a well-written action film that looks good and shows you some shit you’ve not seen before. That’s already a B or B+ movie, and remember I was in a bad mood watching it.

Less good:

  • I’m not sure how I feel about how the movie treated Natasha? She spends the entire film getting her ass beat and you’d think that since it’s her movie they’d give her an action sequence at least as badass as either her first appearance in Iron Man 2 or her introduction in Avengers. Sadly, that’s not the case. Again, the action sequences are pretty cool– the whole final falling-through-the-sky bit and the rescue at the prison are standouts– but she doesn’t get a moment anywhere that lets you know what a badass the character is.(*)
  • There’s a lot of unnecessary ass shots. I mean, I enjoy Scarlett Johansson’s ass as much as any other straight guy, but it was actually distracting. And the movie was directed by a woman!
  • I want more Taskmaster. I wanted more Taskmaster in this movie, and I want to see the character again. Not as much of a gripe as it could be, though.
  • There were some points where I was wondering about where she gets her money from. Like, she’s got a Guy, and this Guy seems to be able to produce whatever she wants on short notice in any country on Earth, and I feel like maybe we should have learned a little more about that guy.
  • The stinger at the end suggests that Yelena’s career went in a different direction after the events of the film than her character development during the film would imply. I’m being deliberately opaque to avoid spoilers, of course, but, c’mon, you ended the movie as this, and a few years later you’re doing that? Really?

So, yeah: I went in with a bad attitude and kinda down on the entire MCU thing and came out of it having watched a solid action movie. Call it a B, or a B+ if you are as entertained by David Harbour as I am. And the movie adds some texture to Infinity War and Endgame that wasn’t there before, which is cool. I don’t know for sure that you need to drop $30 for this on Disney+ right away, but you probably already have if you were going to, and I’m glad I didn’t go to a theater to see it, but it’s an enjoyable, competent piece of filmmaking and I enjoyed it.

(*) There’s a moment late in the film where Natasha does … uh, something to herself … that shows how impossibly tough she is, and she keeps getting up after each of the fights. She’s absolutely not portrayed as weak. But showing her toughness and a standout badass moment are not quite the same thing.

A brief statement on Warren Ellis

TW: Sexual misconduct, not directly described.

No one has asked, and I’m certain I would be just fine were I not to say anything at all, particularly anything I’m treating seriously enough that I’m calling it a Statement, but:

I have, on many occasions in the past, recommended Warren Ellis’ comic book and novel work in this space and others. He was, for many years, my favorite comic book writer, and I have a ton of his work in my house. I consider several of his comics to be among my favorite series of all time. His newsletter was the direct inspiration for my book Skylights, and he is mentioned in the introduction to that book. I have at least two books he has autographed and may well have more, although I have never met him in person.

In June of 2020 Ellis was accused of sexual misconduct by what eventually ended up being dozens of women; far, far too many to make it remotely reasonable to question or investigate any of their stories. Eventually nearly a hundred women came forward with some sort of story involving Ellis and emotional or sexual indecency, misconduct, or assault.

Ellis responded by publishing a brief statement in which he … well, didn’t quite deny all of the allegations, but certainly denied the context in which many if not all of them took place, and issued an apology that was rapidly deemed insufficient by, as far as I can tell, everyone involved. He then closed his mailing list and his Twitter account and went away for a while. While his statement mentioned making restitution for his behavior, he has not done so in any way that anyone involved has noticed.

Image Comics has recently announced that Ellis and artist Ben Templesmith will be collaborating on a revival of Fell, a series the two worked on in the early 2000s. While I am aware that there is no one out there calling out for my opinion in this matter, and other than a vague feeling of possibly unjustifiable betrayal I am absolutely not one of the people Ellis has harmed, I will not be purchasing or reading any of his work in the future until his half-assed apology is replaced with actual definable action steps to rectify and heal some of the trauma he has caused. If you’d like to see what that might look like, I’d recommend looking at the statement from So Many Of Us that is on their front page.

Until that has happened, I am done with him and any of his future work in any medium, and I will continue to not recommend his past work either, regardless of my feelings about it at the time it was released.

I can make this work

I finally broke down and bought a new bookshelf for the office, so I’m rearranging a few things. I think it needs some LED lighting. The statues are too dark right now.

(The rulebook on the shelf that you have Questions about is a real thing that exists and I bought it for novelty value. It is exactly as ridiculous as you think it is.)

THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER: Early Impressions

After nearly a year of avoiding sickness, I called out for the second day in a row today, and not even for the same reason I called out yesterday: I woke up in the middle of the night with my eyes trying to force themselves out of my head, and that was it for sleep for the rest of the night; ibuprofen didn’t cut it at all. My son woke up as I was in the office submitting my absence and, damn near in tears, described the exact same symptoms I had, so he quickly got called out from school too and then both of us went back to bed.

I’m … fine now? Mostly? I guess? Sure, let’s go with that.

We watched the first episode of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier tonight, the super short tl;dr version is that I felt like this started off quite a bit stronger than WandaVision did, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

More details, with some minor spoilers (really, there’s nothing especially spoilable in this episode; I could describe it minute-by-minute and I think it’s still as enjoyable): the show starts off with a big set piece as the Falcon rescues an American soldier from a terrorist group that’s trying to take refuge in Libya; this sets up early that this show clearly has as much budget as they want, as it looks every bit as good as any of the movies have. Interestingly, the soldier he rescues is named Torres, which– okay, there might be a spoiler behind that link if you’ve never heard of the character, but he and Sam appear to be friends and he is Somebody in the comic books. Sam and Bucky’s stories don’t actually ever cross over in this episode; Bucky is busy being sad and dealing with PTSD and hanging out with elderly Asian men and being rude to dates, and Sam eventually ends up at his family home in Louisiana, where he attempts to help his sister get the family shrimpin’ business back on its feet and is summarily denied a business loan.

And this is kinda where things get interesting, because the banker blames the Blip as the reason he can’t give them the loan– the world’s population just suddenly increased by three or four billion people out of nowhere a couple of months ago, and none of them have anywhere to live, and it’s a whole giant fucking mess and the banks aren’t handing out loans right now. Plus, you two are, y’know … Black, and well we’re very sorry we can’t help you but oh look at this pile of plausible deniability over here! Isn’t that convenient?

So it looks like the show is headed in some interesting directions even before we get to anything explicitly superheroic; I have been open in believing that the Blip was the worst possible choice to resolve the story mess that Avengers: Infinity War left the MCU in, mostly because of the unbelievable number of unavoidable knock-on effects that it’s introduced. I’m still convinced that there’s no way they can take this seriously enough, especially when you consider that the Blip was literally across the entire universe, but at least they’re trying a little bit, and I’d like to see them dig into this. Bucky is getting some attention, too; Captain America’s man-out-of-time thing was mostly played for laughs when it was addressed at all, but the first thing we see of Bucky is his refusal to play along with his government-mandated therapist, which is very Silent Generation, and a few minutes later you find out that his only friend looks to be in his seventies or eighties.

(I still kinda want to know why he didn’t just go back to Wakanda, but maybe they’ll get to that, and his time there is mentioned during the therapy session.)

I wasn’t expecting this to turn out to be super character-driven, as these two are definitely among Marvel’s more militaristic characters, but so far I’ve really liked what I’ve seen. We’re only getting a total of six episodes, but they’re going to run longer than WandaVision’s did. I’m looking forward to them.

(Oh, one more thing, and just let this roll around in your head a bit: we get several close-ups on Captain America’s shield, the one he gave to Sam at the end of Endgame, throughout this show. That shield in the logo up there? That is not Captain America’s shield.)


I strongly suspect that this isn’t going to surprise anyone, but I have still not seen Alien of Steel, Angry Bat-Themed Ninja vs. Murder Alien or the original cut of Violence League, and I have no plans at all to subject myself to this “Snyder Cut” thing that just came out. If that’s your kind of thing, glory in yo’ spunk, as BB King used to say. I’m not going near it.