Suicide Squad was an incredibly fun movie. The first fun movie I’ve seen from DC since The Dark Knight. Will Smith is so good as Deadshot that it makes me miss him as the lead in action flicks. While I had problems with Harley Quinn’s character, Margot Robbie was fantastic in the role and still somehow captured much of what’s great about the character. Most of the supporting cast is good, the action is cool, and the humor works.
I meant every last bit of that. I liked the movie, and do recommend it. However, the main thing that stuck out at me, the thing I’m going to spend most of this post on, is a place where the film struggled.
How did Suicide Squad’s influences, and its anxiety about influence, keep the film from being truly great?
DC has been in Marvel’s shadow since Man of Steel. The tone they chose for their universe was mainly to set themselves apart from their rivals. The structure of their shared universe was specifically, intentionally inverted from the way Marvel did it. And yet at the same time, Suicide Squad wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for a Marvel film.
Guardians of the Galaxy proved that an obscure, ensemble comic book movie could be successful. Suicide Squad borrows a lot of its style—underdogs in a funny action romp, iconic music playing throughout.
That’s not a problem, though. The Hulk wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Jekyll and Hyde, the Joker’s design was inspired by The Man Who Laughs. Influence isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Making decisions solely through influence IS, however.
For instance, the soundtrack is filled to the brim with awesome, classic songs. Sound familiar? It should. Guardians of the Galaxy is a pretty clear inspiration here. That’s not a problem, in and of itself. But watching the movie, it becomes entirely apparent that the decision to include the music wasn’t because it resonated emotionally, or because it informed character, tone, or time period, as Guardians uses it. Instead, it’s because it’s catchy, or because each character needs a theme, or because the soundtrack will sell. Or, sadly, because Guardians did it, and it worked.
On the other side, when the studio is too concerned about being accused of ripping something off, we get something like the new Joker. Jared Leto is a world-class actor. But I feel that he and the director spent too much time worrying about being too similar to previous incarnations, that in straining to avoid those, they completely missed the heart of the character. He’s psychopathic, yes. Zany? Unpredictable? Definitely. But I realized after I watched it that I couldn’t think of a single actual joke that the Joker told. Not a pun or a witticism or a snappy comeback. There’s some physical comedy. But the Clown Prince of Crime needs to make the audience laugh.
This struggle, to not allow other pieces to influence you too much, without stripping our own piece of its heart in the name of being different, is common among artists. We all fall too far to one side or the other at some point.
The trouble is, DC is falling into this trap consistently. Should we do this because it worked for someone else? Should we not do this so we won’t be accused of copying Marvel? Should we, should we, should we?
DC needs to find its own voice, its own identity. To stop with this bravado and find real confidence instead. Stop worrying about how others will see you, and focus on what will serve your story best. Until then, whether an imitation or aberration, you will ALWAYS be second-best.
Amanda Waller was CHILLING. I’d love to see her turn and have the Suicide Squad have to take her down in a sequel.
Killer Croc was a joke for the most part. Animal noises and weird fishy strut? I get what they were going for. But don’t cut away the character until all that’s left is a monstrosity, and THEN not show him being monstrous! He has superhuman strength and speed. Show him tearing through the enemy (like the single head-ripping-off I saw). EATING the enemy. Don’t downplay his disorder so that you can get the actor’s performance through his face. If you want to treat him like a monster, don’t quit half way. Neutered is the only word I can think of for what they did with him.
Jai Courtney was…good? Those words, arranged in that order, don’t make sense to me. But he was! He was funny, and likable in his own way. He WORKED.
The Joker/Harley Quinn romance. All I’ll say is, I didn’t like it, and I could write a post twice as long as this one on why I don’t.
The villains were cut-and-paste, both the underlings (cannon fodder, I get it) and the main villains (I’ll use thing to destroy world because reasons).
Half the cast was a bit short-changed to give Harley and Deadshot a chance to develop, but even then I feel like Deadshot is the only one whose development 100% worked.
Diablo’s transformation needed more foreshadowing, as well as his ability to see through illusions and Enchantress’s ability to CAUSE illusions.
From what I’ve heard, most of my problems with the movie come from the theatrical cut taking out essential pieces. I feel like I’ve heard that before. Maybe from now on I’ll skip the theatrical cut and watch the director’s cut of DC movies.