The next entry in the DC Animated movies and the next entry in the DC Animated Universe, which it feels like we have been quite a while since we last went back, the last one was the previously reviewed Teen Titans the Judas Contract. Now if you recall, I actually felt that film was really good and we were going back on track on how these DC Animated films went. Something I like about DC’s films and comics, but at least they kind of know when they have made a bad call, something that I am starting to notice that Marvel is doing less and less with their comics but succeeding with in their films. Now true DC is kind of playing catch-up at this point in time and let’s face it they are in a bit of trouble now since the fate of the DC Cinematic Universe is completely up in the air at this point and we have no idea where it is going from here.
So, DC fans are really going to be relying on this series. Suicide Squad Hell to Pay is a very interesting on in my opinion because it’s just weird that it is coming out now. I would have thought they would try to capitalise on the Suicide Squad live action film that came out in 2016, which if you recall from my earlier review, I did not think too favourably on and thought it was just ok at best. Hell to Pay might be trying to capitalise on the fact that supposedly Suicide Squad 2 is out next year, but again the DC Cinematic Universe is so up in the air at this point, god knows if that film is even going to happen.
With Sam Liu returning to direct and with Alan Burnett of Batman the Animated series fame writing, how did this Suicide Squad film turn out.
People going into this film expecting it to be like the live action film might be bit surprised. The film in a lot of ways is a lot more different and surprisingly more violent since it has a 15 rating and uses that to its success, yes, the animated film is more grim and dark than the live action film!! Go figure!!
Unlike the live action film, this film is not the first appearance of the Suicide Squad in terms of chononically . This film starts out that they have been active for quite some time. We get an opening segment to show them in action and then we are brought into the plot. The plot this time being that Amanda Waller, played by Vanessa Williams has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. She commissions a Suicide Squad off the books to get her, “I joke you not” a “get out of hell free” card that supposedly belongs to Dr Fate and his masters. The DC Universe, where every religion is correct and they can occasionally go to war with one another. I am not even joking, the gods go to war with each other in a DC Universe. The team consists of Deadshot played by Christian Slater, Bronze Tiger, played by Billy Brown, Killer Frost, played by Kristin Bauer van Straten, Copperhead, played by Gideon Emery, Captain Boomergang played by Liam McIntyre and Harley Quinn, played by Tara Strong. The thing is though, the get out of hell free card is in the hands of Vandal Savage, played by Jim Pirri, not to mention that Flash villain Zoom, played by C. Thomas Howell has also organised a team of villains to get the card back himself.
You can probably tell one of the issues that Suicide Squad Hell To Pay has from the start just from that introduction alone, there is a lot of characters and many of them feel like they are on the side lines. There are a few surprising ones in this one and a few aren’t surprise. Savage’s daughter and her girlfriend who is a recent escapee from Apocalypse seem like they are going to be playing a big role in the film, but they disappear after one action scene and a few of the villains feel like they are on the side lines. Surprisingly, Harley Quinn is rather on the side, granted, she narratively doesn’t have much reason to be here, but she just feels like she is here to crack one liners, because for some reason, DC feels the need to turn Harley Quinn into their version of Deadpool! I’m not surpised in saying that I think Batman Assault on Arkham, which largely focused on the Suicide Squad did a much better job of balancing its characters and the team is a lot more similar to that group than the live action movie. In fact, many of the characters from the live action movie are not in the team, the only recurring ones from the live action film being Captain Boomerang, Harley Quinn and Deadshot. Copperhead, is purely brought in, for example, to be a replacement for Killer Croc, and Bronze Tiger is definitely a stand in for El Diablo. Though, with Bronze Tiger, he feels like he stands out the most, he is not necessarily much of a villain per say, I haven’t actually read that many comics that Bronze Tiger appears in but I don’t remember him being this much of a saint as he is in this series. I think he has been toned down quite a bit so that the audience has a proxy to root for since it’s quite hard to root for most of these characters, since again, “they’re the bad guys”.
One thing I will say about this film is that this film understood that the Suicide Squad was enough of an attraction to base a story around and they didn’t feel the need to insert Batman or anyone else to add a recognisable character, I am looking at you Justice League Dark.
Where Hell to Pay succeeds well is in the level of violence. The film understood that it is better not to tone down a story like this and as a result we get one of the more brutal DC animated movies in quite some time, we also get one of the better ones.
Now, once again, the film is very short, but it actually runs a lot longer, without the credits it runs about one hour and fifteen minutes. I actually found by one point the film was really running low on time and as a result, the final act feels like it sped up. Zoom’s portion of the film is an especially surprising factor, since he is mostly again in the background until the final portion of the film, when his role is rather explained. Zoom’s origins in the film tie back to a previous film, which I didn’t genuinely see coming, however, the twist will not make sense unless you saw that particular film or at least read the comic that it is based off of. I won’t say which one it is because I don’t want to give it away for the people who have seen that film and read the comic, but needless to say, I actually felt the twist worked quite well, even if it does a little bit out of left field.
Another thing I would like to point out, Vandal Savage is wasted in this film. You take one of the best bad guys in the DC Universe and he barely gets anything to do. Savage’s biggest problem is that he is rather under-whelming, he doesn’t do much!! Granted, Jim Pirri is an excellent choice to play the character and he gives it his all, but it doesn’t change the fact that the character does not have that much screen time.
I also have the same problem I have with a lot of DC projects now, which is the needless insertion of Batman characters to ride out the recognisability for people that are more aware of Batman than any other characters since his films have been the most successful. This ranges from a pointless two faced cameo and Professor Pyg is even in it, although once again, he is one of the weaker aspects of the film since he, again, is not given much to do. Again, I think Assault on Arkham did a much better job of creating a large cast of characters and giving everyone something to do and as a result the group felt more like a gelled unit. That’s not to say I don’t think this one works as well. This one works pretty dam good and they got dam close at times. I do like the chemistry between the various members of the squad. However, I don’t think it’s quite as good as Assault on Arkham and I would definitely recommend that movie first.
I also think fans might be surprised, if they are not aware too much of the character, that Deadshot doesn’t look like Will Smith anymore. But let me tell you, Christian Slater is much more suited to playing Deadshot than Will Smith is, since Will Smith’s problem is that he plays the role too nice. I know Will Smith tries to pay absolute arse’s but too much of his nice nature comes through, that’s why he is not so believable in a film like Seven Pounds or Suicide Squad. Christian Slater, however, does bring something interesting to the role. While I am not a fan of the actor, I think he suits the character very well and clearly his casting is considered a big deal by the staff since his name is plastered on the advertising for the film. Tara Strong is an excellent Harley Quinn as we have seen in the past, but again, she is wasted in this film. Vanessa Williams is alright as Amanda Waller, though I don’t appreciate the fact they went with her new 52 design, which I don’t think is as good. Billy Brown does a pretty decent job playing Bronze Tiger and I really think Kristin Bauer van Straten gets down the role of Killer Frost well. Gideon Emery does a pretty dam good job as Copperhead and rather weirdly, we get Liam McIntyre playing Captain Boomerang, which means, yes there is an Australian actor playing Captain Boomerang, but people might recognise him playing Weather Wizard in the Flash TV series, which means this actor has now played two Flash Villains. C. Thomas Howell, who has been in previous DC productions reprises his role as Professor Zoom, which is a role he has played in the past and does a dam good job once again, I still think this actor is one of the best people to play the role.
I also really still like the animation. I have already talked in the past about how much I am a bit half and half when it comes to the replication of Jim Lee’s art style, but I am glad to say it’s been put to use well here and I am glad that there is no restraint on the violence which is what a film like this needs. Plus, the animation as a whole does a dam good job. The action scenes are brilliantly shot and take advantage of the various characters various abilities.
Suicide Squad Hell to Pay is an example of how you do a Suicide Squad right. While I’m not sure it reaches the heights that Batman Assault on Arkham did, I do think Hell to Pay is superior to the live action film and is a worthwhile purchase for DC fan boys. It, however, will not appeal to you if you are already put off by the Suicide Squad and it is certainly not going to convince anyone who more preferred Gail Simone’s Secret Six, which was a similar comic series but tends to be more well regarded by DC fans. The film is available on Blueray and I would highly recommend you check it out if you get a chance.
With that, it’s time to move on. The DC animated films will be back with the first in the two part movie around the death of Superman storyline, which the Blueray contains a sneak peak of. Next week, it’s the most ambitious cross over yet because next week I will be giving my thoughts on the movie that all the Marvel movies have been building up to, it’s Avengers Infinity War.
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