Reviews: Star Trek Beyond, Jason Bourne, Suicide Squad

I've got another hot set of reviews up for y'all. As always, I'll do my best not to get into plot details and whatnot, but

SPOILERS MAY FOLLOW, READ AT YOUR OWN RISK

You have been warned, so let's proceed.

Star Trek Beyond

The third installment of the "Reboot Series", this time was directed by Justin Lin, best known for directing the 3rd through 6th films in the Fast and Furious franchise. The big elements I see being drawn from his work are films that are high energy and very character driven, good elements to bring to the Star Trek franchise. The more interesting note for me was that Simon Pegg was one of the writer's of the screenplay. That's interesting for me because, while I would consider him on my list of favorite actors, I wouldn't count him among my favorite writers, given his work on this film.

This movie felt like it was written by a Star Trek fan. Is that a compliment? If I had said that the movie felt like it was written for Star Trek fans, then I feel like it would have been a compliment. It felt like Simon had taken all the best plot devices and stories that he had grown up with, spun them a bit, and crafted them into this movie. If they were trying to retell a very specific conflict, like the Wrath of Khan, it's alright then that it feels familiar, because it's supposed to. If it's a completely new expedition, as was promised, it shouldn't feel so familiar.
And that is my complaint right there...not that it didn't pack as much action as was needed, not that the acting was bad, not that the graphics or the music were sub par...it was that what was supposed to be the first genuinely new adventure for the reboot crew felt familiar.

They focused on a lot fewer characters this time around. The majority of the Enterprise crew didn't get a lot of action...hell Uhura didn't get more than a hand full of lines. I don't think she had more than 5 minutes of screen time. The focus this time was more around Kirk, Spock, Scotty, McCoy, the new white colored alien chick, the BBEG, and a few of his cronies. Sulu and Chekov got a little more play than other minor characters, but it was really downplayed. That's really unfortunate...R.I.P. Anton Yelchin. Another tragic death in a year when so many lives and careers like his have been cut so very short. I can't wait for 2016 to be over so that we can stop losing so many great entertainers.

anton-yelchin-5-1024.jpg

I can't really cut this movie too deeply. They did everything right...they just could have put a plot together that didn't pull so much from the shows, or just the other two movies. I mean, another BBEG with some kind of super weapon? Come on...get a bit more original. And, the motorcycle...what the hell was with that. That's not really much of a spoiler, but yea, there's some kind of ridiculous motorcycle scene.

Anyways, good movie...that could have been a great movie. Flashy lights, pulse pounding speed and action, characters deeply staring into the eyes of another, obligatory Rage Against the Machine song...good movie.

Star Trek Beyond
3 out of 5 stars

Jason Bourne

I don't know if Jason Bourne, the character... not Matt Damon the actor, but the character...was thrilled about "being back". He was given some immensely compelling motivation to take on this last fight, but I still felt like, at any given moment Bourne could have said, "No, I'm done, just leave me alone." The whole movie, he was on the verge of not giving a fuck. The only exception to that being the first 15-30 minutes or so of the movie, where he was exactly at zero fucks given.
I don't know exactly how much that has to say about director Paul Greengrass, but he's directed the bulk of the Bourne franchise(excluding Bourne Identity and Bourne Legacy), so he probably knows the character about as well as anyone does.

I also feel like this movie didn't have a lot of room to breathe. It's action on top of action on top of action. Every now and then we get a break to see what kind of action plan the CIA is putting together against Bourne and who he's trying to protect/ally with, but the action is pushing things forward.

I think part of the reason that Jason Bourne himself looks so ready to throw in the towel, is that he is just looking old. Don't get me wrong, he's still as buff and trim as a middle-aged black-ops agent ought to be who is still out in the field...but he's pushing greys. I'm aware that it's been 9 years since The Bourne Ultimatum was released, but does Jason Bourne ever get to settle down, or is he destined to become Jasold Brittle?

The Bourne Identity - 2002

The Bourne Identity - 2002

The Bourne Ultimatum - 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum - 2007

Jason Bourne - 2016

Jason Bourne - 2016

Given, thousand yard stare, but does that look like someone that would still be a threat in the field? Okay, yea, he'd still put my balls in my throat too. Moving on.

The new talent brought in does a lot to freshen up a franchise that is starting to get some mothballs. Tommy Lee Jones plays the unsympathetic and unfeeling CIA head honcho that is the latest tasked with the question of what to do about Bourne once evidence of him resurfaces. I don't feel like this was a much different performance than what he put on as "K" in Men In Black. You know...he's "seen some shit", so nothing really seems to emotionally affect him that much.
Alicia Vikander on the other hand, they write her in as being relatively green, as far as field work is concerned. Well, unless she's had some kind of special ops training(entirely possible), I'd expect a bit more alarmed of a reaction when shit starts to hit the fan than this...

Alicia Vikander's character looking concerned.

Alicia Vikander's character looking concerned.

That is literally the most alarmed I remember her looking all movie long.
Can we stop putting pretty girls in films just for the sake of looking pretty(Yea, I know, had to check, manhood is still attached)? I mean, if a person has some acting chops, by all means...act. But if we're just bringing in eye candy for the sake of having eye candy...I think we can find someone better. Supermodels don't always make the best actors, nah mean?
Sorry to put you on blast Alicia. It's not that I didn't enjoy your acting, but I just found myself wanting more fairly often. We cool?

This is still a very faithful Bourne movie; espionage, political cover ups, black-ops badassery, vehicular mayhem, and teams of people parked in front of computers in a war room that are continually flabbergasted. It's still a Bourne movie, but the franchise is just starting to strain itself and show its' age.

Jason Bourne
3.5 out of 5 stars

Suicide Squad

I am about to offend a lot of people, I'm sure...but I must do this.

Now, I think I managed to stay away from spoilers on my first two reviews, but I don't know how well I can do on this one, so if you really don't want to have anything ruined for you, and you really want to go into this movie with any kind of optimism...I'd be very hesitant to read any further. So...at your own risk...

When I first walked out of the theater after seeing this, I was relatively alright with what I had just seen. The longer I think about it though, the more and more I pick it apart, and my opinion of it wanes. Where do I begin...let's start with the thing that has received the most criticism, the Joker.

This iteration of the Clown Prince of Crime seems to most closely mirror the Joker from the animated series. The biggest mistake that most want to call out here is Mister J's relationship with Harley Quinn. In almost any iteration of the lore you can find, Harley Quinn is head over heals in love with, and infatuated with the Joker...the man that broke her and built her back up in his own image. From the Joker's perspective however, she is respected just about as much as any of his capable henchmen, but there is no love there...no infatuation. If he lost Harley, we might receive a short sentiment of despair or the like, but the Joker would move on. He certainly wouldn't pine for her, or move mountains to get her back.

That is one of the big areas where most want to say that Suicide Squad failed on the Joker, but I'm also aware that while they were trying to respect their source material, they were trying to do something new with the Joker.
No one has tried to recreate the performance that has preceded them. Jack Nicholson's take was very original, Heath Ledger took it too a dark new place, and Mark Hamill certainly wasn't looking to Cesar Romero for inspiration. Every new Joker has been a new take, so why are we judging Jared Leto's performance so hard for branching away from other sources in such a small way?
I won't say that it didn't bothered me, but it isn't something that I can really judge this movie for...for trying to be original.

In that same vein though, something that I do want to judge, is the use of tattoos on the Joker, which from everything I have heard is mostly the influence of David Ayer. This pulled the Joker as a character out of the movie so much for me. They are so self-referential, like on a Deadpool level. It's like this version of the Joker is aware of his own lore in our, the viewer's world, and is trying to connect with that lore through his tattoos.
Besides, I feel like a psychopath like him wouldn't express himself through tattoos...through art. I'd expect scars self-harm a lot sooner than I would expect the tattoos.

The only other character gripe I have is with Slipknot.
Now, I've danced around a lot of story element with this review so far, but I am about to straight up SPOIL some shit right here, so it you really don't want to know...I'll let you know when it's safe.

***SPOILERS***

Slipknot

Slipknot

Slipknot is a glorified plot device in this movie. He never gets properly introduced until the group is gearing up to go on mission. At which point they have him punch the fuck out of a female correctional officer for "mouthing off" to him. I felt like that was kind of an obvious foreshadow...turning the audience against him so that when he promptly dies to illustrate to the rest of the crew that they do indeed have bombs in their heads...no one so much as sheds a tear for him.
I didn't know much about Slipknot, but I'm sure he deserved better.

Oh, one more tiny thing before I drop the Spoilers flag...Katana...

Katana

Katana

In much the same way that they introduced Slipknot, right as the crew is leaving, Katana walks up and Rick Flagg says to the group something like, "Oh by the way, this is Katana...she has a sword that collects souls...she'll be watching my back." and everyone briefly sizes her up, shrugs, and moves on. And oh by the way, it doesn't get any better for her as the film goes on. After she is introduced as a glorifiedbodyguard for Flagg, the rest of the group is made clear after Slipknot gets the axe, that if Flagg dies, Waller will kill them all anyways. So everyone, really, is incentivized to keep Flagg alive anyways...Katana is a meaningless character in this movie...and I hate saying that, because I'm really like her as a character. This movie just uses her incredibly poorly.
So in essence, they spent time going into virtually everyone's backstory, Rick Flagg and Amanda Waller included, but Slipknot and Katana completely got the shoehorn treatment. As if they were a complete afterthought in the movie.

***/SPOILERS***

There was another scene that was just so poorly written, that it needs to be called out. I won't go into specifics, so as not to spoil anything, but it involves a notebook...with secrets in it. This notebook, after a series of small calamities is left laying out in the open, where one of our main characters finds said notebook, turn to precisely the right few pages to find some knowledge, and then proceeds to drop that heavy knowledge on the rest of the crew in a big, "Really?! This is why we're here?!" type scene.
They could not have been more obvious and deliberate about how that scene unfolded. Sloppy writing...resulting from hasty revisions that tried to balance the wants of the studio and the wants of the director.

I've got to go back to characters, because there is so much wrong with so many of them. Some of them they got right, and I will get to that, but I'm on a train of thought here, and don't want to abandon it yet, so...

Diablo

Diablo

Diablo was a character that they tried to inject a lot of drama and heartbreak into his backstory, but I failed to really connect with it, because of how sparsely they used himthroughout the film. When he finally did something impactful more than three quarters of the way through the film, it still didn't resonate with me at the end of the movie. Poor use of the character, not a bad character himself.

Killer Croc

Killer Croc

Killer Croc on the other hand was just a bad character. He had very few lines, and of the few that he had...he was just a black stereotype. Of note, he calls most girls shorty(if not all, can't remember at this point), and has a funny request involving BET. Other than that, he is brutish, scaly, and doesn't contribute all that much to the team. This was a waste of a character, especially considering how many characters they tried to jam together in this movie anyways.

Captain Boomerang

Captain Boomerang

I actually have nothing bad to say about Captain Boomerang. I thought he was hilarious, and a great addition to the team. My problem was with how little time they actually gave to him to shine. He only had like 2 or 3 really great moments, and in my mind they were probably some of the best spots of the film...but they were so short lived.

Enchantress/June Moone

Enchantress/June Moone

This character suffers from the same problem that Alicia Vikander's character did in Jason Bourne; pretty faces don't necessarily correlate to good acting chops. It looks like the majority of Cara Delevingne's career has been as an English model, and only broke into acting in the last 5 years or so...and it shows. Cara would do well to find herself a seasoned acting coach, because everything about Enchantress/June Moone fell flat. I am slamming this performance, and I hate to do it, because this character had so much potential. The arc that Enchantress/Moone follows is actually a pretty cool one, but Cara just did that arc no justice. I never saw Paper Towns, and I know that one performance is not much to really judge on, but this was just pretty weak.

Now I tell you about what I feel this film did well, and some of this honestly surprises me.

Deadshot/Floyd Lawton

Deadshot/Floyd Lawton

That's right...they did Deadshot well. I'm not going to go into how a black guy pulled off playing a dude named Floyd, but it worked. I wanted to hate this Will Smith version so much, especially because I loved the version from Arrow so much...but Will did well. I can even forgive some of his cheesy dialogue. I can't hate Will Smith's Deadshot, I like it, and that's all that needs to be said.

Harley Quinn

Harley Quinn

Despite the numerous issues I found with Leto's portrayal of the Joker, I can't really pick many faults out for Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn. Really the only thing I might fault is how hyper-sexualized the made Harley. How would they not though with Margot Robbie behind the hair dye, and how am I really going to complain?
I think she nailed all of Harley's mannerisms...the bubble gum fun-loving psychotic criminal cheerleader lived through her. Her New England accent was perfect, as well as all the "Mr. J"s and "Puddin"s she packed in there.

Sigh...this movie had so much potential, but it's faults were numerous and glaring. I initially left this movie wondering what I had just been through...trying to decide whether I was entertained by what I just saw, or not. It shouldn't be hard to be mindlessly entertained by a summer blockbuster action movie, but I sit here now still on the fence about it.

Suicide Squad
2.5 out of 5 stars

You stay classy San Diego...or, you know, wherever.

Keep your heads up, your minds sharp, and your hearts open,