Title card screenshot.
Film Reviews

Suicide Squad: How graphics can alienate an audience

How not to use display font. And how graphics can make a movie not-so-great.

Everyone knows about the movie Suicide Squad. When I heard it was being filmed I started to anticipate watching the movie in theatres, especially after the trailer. It looked like a really good trailer. Well, to cut to the end of this part of the story the movie was not good. When I was watching the movie I felt old. Almost like the movie was not meant for someone like me even though the production staff stated it was made for the fans. I guess no one who read any of the comics or hear of the characters outside of a quick reference from the other movies. It wasn’t made with most people in mind. This is not so much about the overwhelming elements that destroyed the story (plot holes, characterization, motivations) but the graphics they used can be distracting.

The type of font choices added on special effects or colour choices were done by a team of people who choose what they liked instead of what was best fitting for viewing. Design like this on paper would look like the audience was to appeal to only teenagers and early twenty years olds not people who can’t read black font over dark gray surfaces, display font as text font, neon everything, kitschy graphics of objects inserted when the plot shifts or graphics that don’t add anything to the story but misplaced atmosphere. Readability is very important in design. The person you attend to be reading your content must be able to see the content without trouble. The writing must be clear. Hence why make important information like the location of the next scene be in black over black shadows. This is important information because the movie spends 20 minutes of setup in the prison on top of brightly coloured graphics cards in the previous scene.

The introduction card for the prison
The introduction card for the prison

A lot of the title cards for the characters being introduced us unreadable and too small. The font seems to go a distance away from the reader or in a font that is so legible it would have been better than the writing wasn’t there. But the font choices are just terrible. All of them are display fonts and too stylized for a lot of writing. Display fonts are good when you need a small portion that needs to be emphasized. But if it is a portion meant to be read like a paragraph most display fonts turn from fun and quirky to stupid. This is a basic readability test for font selection. If it can’t be read don’t use it. The size of the fonts is also an issue especially if it is too small to read. This creates eye strain and makes people turn away from reading your text. Plus the fonts are display fonts and can be unreadable at times.

When the font looks questionable when it is still, making them move would make it worse. We work harder to see the writing. In the movie, it goes smaller emphasis on the problem of the font choices. Also, if the writing is not up on display long enough to make anyone read it what’s the point. The focus to fix with the font moving is the sense of time of how long it should be up to read. Each second is 24 frames so making the frames long enough to read is always best. If the font was meant to be decoration only then less writing should have been used. All the writing was semi-important to know about the character’s backstory (after the spoken backstory from Amanda Walker.) Which by itself is not that entertaining, since the viewer would have a few seconds to see and read character development. Therefore, it’s a lot of information to read. But the information to read is pointless when you read it. It doesn’t add anything and is just on display. If a pause button is necessary to know what was written the effect is utterly pointless.

The introduction card for Enchantress
The introduction card for Enchantress

But that’s just font choices. With the graphics in some of the scenes, it looks very bright with a movie that very dark and dull lighting. Almost like a bright, fun, kitschy attitude that turns into a dark, dull and attempt-to-be-gritty film. These colour choices in a movie like this can set a mood. In a Batman movie, this is important because in recent films Batman was seen as a dark bruting character and in most of his movies tend to focus on dark lighting. It makes sense because Batman mostly works in the shadows of night and supposed to be menacing. But this is a movie with Batman villains, without Batman in the majority of the film. And the comics are colourful too. Hence this movie has a lot of greens, purples, pinks and reds. Just like The Joker’s colour palette. If they were not going to use the Joker as the main villain at the end and not even have him in the majority of the film as the main character, then the production department should have changed the colours just a little bit on the posters, commercials, and other graphics that were used to market the film. Using the small amount of Joker scenes in the majority of the film and any likeliness to a character that’s not in the film is a misdirection that ruins the first impression of the viewing because of expectations. Some movies do this in marketing and sometimes it works but most of the time it doesn’t.

The introduction card to Harley Quinn.
The introduction card to Harley Quinn. This says “A Complice to the murder of Robin”

The motion graphics animations were okay in some scenes. But when it was the end credits that essentially are the title cards of the characters, this seems out of place. The kaleidoscope effect is cool but once again too much and it doesn’t fit in. This just emphasizes how much was done as an afterthought without looking at the film.

Without mentioning the plot, special effects, and Harley Quinn costume (yet), this movie was not edited well. If you remove all of the music, motion graphics of writing and the glitchy editing tricks, and left the original plot with nothing cut, it might have been just a bad movie instead of an irritating one. It is very predictable if all the “add-in glamour” was removed.

It’s just a basic sci-fi comic book story with some detective work but not really. Most of the task of being a part of the suicide squad was to stop the character of the Enchantress. Her goal in the film as the villain to rule the world by turning people into weird CGI ink blob people. If a character wants to rule the world why bother. There has to be a big driving force to do so beyond revenge. In this case, it was revenge for an event that happened to her thousands of years ago that was described at the beginning of the film. This is the character that had the most effects, understandably. The hand effect and Dr. June Moon switching to the Enchantress were very interesting special effects with the smoke and glowing eye. But when she is super powered it looked boring. I thought about this when I watched it for the first time and I did not have a good reason why. When the Enchantress is acting in this wormy, spooky version of the witch she looks like she is spooky and bit like a creature with the CGI merely enhancing her appearance of unworldly grungey evil. But when she is super powered, there are way too many things moving and going on that is excessively happening around her than her, the character. In those scenes, the Enchantress just stands their still not doing much. Not even the actress is saying anything because it’s dubbed over with a good voice actress but that’s besides the point. When superpowered, she is a dull person doing a sped up hula hoop dance in front of a very bright light. The character had the chance to be more interesting but her motives were very underdeveloped.

The Enchantress/ Dr. June Moon was being used as a supercomputer/nuclear weapon by Amanda Waller for defence and spying without really learning something about her magic. For instance, if you open something you should possibly know how to close it before setting it loose onto the world. But this character just spells out too much “should be fired for this” way too much.

In this movie, characters were just introduced pretty much every few minutes to quickly replace characters that are not on screen anymore. Kitana was just thrown in the movie at the last minute and she has the most interesting character with her souls of her victims being trapped in her sword. Pointless to say in the scene to introduce her like it’s the first day of school and she is a new kid to the group. But pointless in the sense that it’s crowded with more characters. Especially when there was never a real attempt (not counting those graphic cards for each character) to develop the characters by just learning about the characters.

With the plot written in a way that everything is time compressed to do one task or people would get injured, doing all of the character development first then just focusing on the action would have been more captivating. The character development or the downtime where the characters were just slacking off and chatting slowed the pace of the movie down. Then it would pick up in some stupid random place with all of them fighting “blobies.” My name for the ink things that’s in the movie; did not bother to name them minions.

Three characters were developed more than a title card or monologue that wasn’t even from the character themselves. They are El Diablo, Deadshot and Harley Quinn. We know that El Diablo is still in mourning and is super powered, Deadshot has a daughter that’s his greatest weakness already used against him by the Batman and Harley Quinn is nuts and was once the Joker’s girlfriend. Still, okay characterization but the other guys like Croc, Flag and Captain Boomerang were not. They seemed like the characters that would have been killed off but weren’t which was surprising.

This was a more disjointed film at pace that doesn’t mesh well overall. It should have been a movie about how these characters can work together than see the real frustration of the writer trying to think up stuff for these characters and the story. A “fun” and “quirky” movie looks messy with a bad narrative.

Genre: Comic Book/Comedy
Year: 2016
Duration: 137 minutes

Rating: 1 out of 5.
This film gets 1 out of 5 stars
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