I really want the DC movie universe to do well.
“Suicide Squad” is the third entry into the series, following “Man of Steel” and “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and it’s starting to feel like a connected universe. Deadshot (played well by Will Smith) has an encounter with Ben Affleck’s Batman. Superman’s death from “BvS” is shown. Heck, even Flash appears briefly during one scene. Government officials, led by Amanda Waller (played by Viola Davis), are now scrambling to assemble a team of cast-off meta-humans to basically be a unit that can fend off any other planetary threats at the same danger level as Superman; thankfully for Earth, Superman was on our side, but what if we aren’t so lucky next time? That’s when Suicide Squad steps in.
It’s all starting to feel like its own universe in a great way.
The problem with DC’s approach so far is how rushed everything is becoming.
Take “Suicide Squad,” for example. The best part of the movie was bringing together these colorful, playful, sometimes provocative, dangerous villains who have been imprisoned for truly deadly crimes. All we got were snippets in the form of a couple flashback scenes of their background, though those gave us enough to work with within the limited context of this particular story line. In a lot of ways, the first half of the movie felt very similar to “Guardians of the Galaxy.”
Young actress Margot Robbie, who is becoming a favorite of mine, was stellar as Harley Quinn, the girl with whom The Joker falls in love while at Arkham Asylum. She was fun and light-hearted at times (though not incredibly funny the way I thought she’d be), yet raunchy and tantalizing at other points. She was truly the best actor in the cast, and her character benefitted from it.
Other characters included El Diablo, who literally has firepower as he can create fire at will. At the end of the movie, we find out he’s a mystical creature, but rushing through his development made this reveal strike out badly. Deadshot was cool, but the rest of the squad — Killer Croc, Captain Boomerang and Slipknot — were rendered useless to the point where they shouldn’t have been included at all.
The problem with these underdeveloped characters, though, is they know exactly what they are. “We’re bad guys, it’s what we do,” Quinn says at one point while breaking a window to shoplift a piece of jewelry. “We’re basically a suicide squad,” Deadshot says at such a lame moment during the recruitment phase. The DC writers can have fun and be cheeky, sure, but it’s getting to the point where they know their movies are simply trying to play catch-up at the expense of creating memorable, lovable (or hatable) characters. They’re just sticking characters together to go do cool stuff for the sake of doing cool stuff.
Further complicating the problem is the fact that we don’t know if they’re supposed to be good guys or bad guys. In some ways, that can be good, but messing with their moral compass is a card the writers refused to play. The squad gets called in by Waller and the government to take on the Enchantress (more on her later), and they sort of question whether they want to help or not, but any thought of mixing in their moral standing is dashed by the cheap trick of putting devices inside the squad members that will blow them up if they don’t do what they’re told.
Deadshot, for example, is playing along so he can see his daughter, but does that really tell us anything about him, especially considering he was fine being a deadly assassin with her in the picture, anyway?
I’ve already heard that the blu-ray release of this movie will have several deleted scenes that truly add quite a bit to the stories, but to me, DC executives need to figure out what they’re doing when editing these movies. They take out such substantial material that it apparently is compromising what we’re seeing on-screen.
Marvel has been criticized quite a bit over the years for lack of interesting villains (with which I mostly disagree; I think there are some great ones), but DC villains have been shockingly, exponentially worse so far. The Enchantress is this witch who seems pretty powerful, and she unleashes her brother, another deity-type, as the two work together to build this weapon that threatens the entire world. Apparently the Enchantress doesn’t know how to use her powers, though, because the final fight scene against the Suicide Squad mostly has her standing at the top of a staircase trash talking and teleporting around a little bit to engage in melee combat. The CGI work was super cheesy, and the Enchantress was an inconsistent mess of a villain who still somehow got sexualized with her costume. Simply terrible all the way around.
One thing “Batman v. Superman” did better than “Suicide Squad” was making the world feel like a real place. In BvS, the public weighed in on how it felt about “The Superman.” We got no indication that the public was aware of pretty much anything going on in “Suicide Squad,” which is appalling, considering the magnitude of the Enchantress’s weapon. Even in “BvS,” it was weird that Lex Luthor just magically made Doomsday appear rather quickly under everyone’s noises. There’s something to be said about the way the Marvel movies have given weight to the general population within its universe. “Captain America 3” practically fed off of that, which made it that much more realistic and gave urgency to the consequences of the events as they unfolded. There’s none of that in “Suicide Squad.”
Jared Leto’s Joker was deplorable, as were some of his scenes’ “artistic” direction. He and Quinn were okay together, but I hope they give us a movie with just the two of them to better flesh out their love story.
There was a mid-credit scene that revealed more than it let on. Bruce Wayne and Waller are talking at a fancy restaurant when Wayne tells her to shut down the project (the suicide squad), or he will. Could this allude to a battle between the Justice League and the Suicide Squad? Again, though, that doesn’t serve the current movie’s purpose all that well. The writers spent a little bit of time trying to paint a human side to some of them — mainly Deadshot — yet, the squad is apparently taking the obvious route and staying bad. The other thing revealed was that Waller knows that Wayne is Batman, which certainly will come into play later on.
With more character development (a “Suicide Squad 2” has been announced), this group could be the best thing about the DCU.
“Suicide Squad” has so many opportunities to be great. While it misfired repeatedly, it is a strong step in the right direction for the DCU as it hopefully set up future story lines nicely.