WTF Comics at the Movies:  Suicide Squad

Just got in from Suicide Squad with the wife. It was an interesting experience. There was a lot of negative publicity going into this flick, so I was cautious in my optimism.

There was no denying that the DC Comics movies needed a shot in the arm after the Novocaine-riddled experience that was Batman vs Superman: Yawn of Justice. No, that wasn’t a typo.

So, how did Suicide Squad fare?  Read on!

THE GOOD

1.  It was fun

I don’t want to sound like one of those Marvel fanboys that tells you why Marvel movies are awesome and why DC sucks, but I also don’t find any flaws in the logic that making a comic book movie fun is crucial. Guardians of the Galaxy, Deadpool, and Ant-Man killed it because they were willing to have fun. It made those three movies a hell of a treat to watch.

Man of Steel treated itself as some sort of introspective on the challenge of being Superman, and the seriousness of the tone made for a bland experience. BvS did this as well, only much worse, and it made for a dreary, boring film. Suicide Squad flipped the script. While not as entertaining and fun as GotG, Deadpool, or Ant-Man, it did remind me quite a bit of Hellboy. That’s significant praise from me.

2. The Characters

This was a story that almost required itself to be character driven. When you take DC Comics characters like Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, Amanda Waller, and the Joker, there’s almost too much character for any plot to overcome. That said, it felt like each character was able to establish themselves in this environment. It made me hope for them in future films.

It’s funny, because you can see the possibility of them returning in future films, giving DC some very interesting foils to their superhero lineup.

3. Harley Quinn and Joker

This is more a point 2a than a point 3, but it earned its own spot.

The newest version of the Joker was the biggest talking point heading into the movie. Jared Leto’s turn as the Joker worked. It’s a new interpretation for moviegoers – Nicholson was the gangster, Ledger was the anarchist, and Leto was the disturbing psychopath. We could see he is a criminal overlord of sorts, but he’s also terrifying in his unpredictability. This might be the scariest cinematic version of the Joker. He took the creep factor up to about 11. It worked for me.

suicide-squad

Harley was the uncontested star of the show. Every scene she was in was stolen by her. While her look was maybe a bit too revealing, it was her wacko personality that made her character so memorable. She brought the unhinged and sold it.

Harley Quinn’s relationship with the Joker is a major plot point, and while it might not be the most progressive and feminist sort of thing, it felt real. Both Joker and Harley seemed obsessed with the other. Ironically, the Joker’s feelings toward Harley – though possessive and dominant – seemed to be his most human moments. Harley, meanwhile, seemed more feral when near her man.

And while I’m not sure if their relationship sends the right message to young girls – my wife ranted about how the Joker/Harley union should have pushed the film to an R-rating – it works for people that understand the obvious wrongness of it all, and how it helps define them as characters.

Harley-Quinn

4. Big, bad ARGUS

This was undersold, but we have our DC answer to SHIELD, and this group is way more willing to do things dirty. I like that this is an organization that can be revisited in future films and that it immediately established itself as the ugly side of black ops agencies.

THE BAD

1. Passive Storytelling

If you’re a writer, or if you’re thinking about becoming a writer, one of the big things you’ll need to learn about is the difference between passive voice and active voice.  It’s a “show” versus “tell” method. Passive voice tells us what happened, while active voice shows us. Being active makes for better storytelling. It is more natural. Being passive is lazier. It’s less authentic.

Suicide Squad diverts into passive voice far too often for me in terms of establishing its protagonists as “villains working for good”. The whole “Worst Heroes Ever” tag line in the trailers was meant to remind us that these guys aren’t good. They’re supposed to be bad. 

 

Except they’re not. At least not by what we can see. Once they are released and placed in “Task Force X”, they are heroic. They beat down baddies and even save some of the soldiers that are supposed to be monitoring them. We see a lot of references to Deadshot as a father. Harley Quinn is nuts but she’s also great in a scrum. El Diablo is atoning for past sins. We know their past is checkered, but this is more like a redemption story, making these villains feel a hell of a lot more like heroes.

But they tell us different with words Ina futile effort to refuse to admit what they’ve been showing us. Harley Quinn smashes a window and snatches a designer purse, then says “We’re the bad guys; it’s what we do.”  Deadshot reminds his cohorts “Don’t forget; we’re the bad guys.”  They are showing us one thing while telling us something different.

I would have been far more impressed if they had established the characters are cold and distant to what the average person wanted. Have them do terrible things. It just felt forced to call them the bad guys when clearly they were the heroes in this film. I know it might not have sold to audiences, but at least it would have been more authentic.

2. The World is Being Destroyed!  

I’m not going to spoil it for you, but there’s a global event and things are going to shit.  Before that, an entire city is falling apart at the seams. Task Force X goes in to clean up the mess…but wait, aren’t we in a world that we’ve established has characters like Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash?  Wouldn’t these major catastrophes, clearly apocalyptic in nature, have drawn their attention?  Where the hell were they?

It’s a minor thing, but it also feels odd that these characters were nowhere to be seen.  Perhaps if Suicide Squad‘s antagonists would have had a less “destroy humanity” goal in mind, it would have felt natural not having heroes come in and clean up the mess. But going this route did lead to some head-scratches.

VERDICT

I typically judge films by two questions: 1) Did I waste my money? and 2) Would I pay to see it again?

Question 1 is an emphatic no – in this case, no is a good thing. I am happy I went to see this. It was a lot of fun and made me believe that perhaps DC is headed in the right direction.

Question 2 is a maybe. I don’t know that I would want to drop more money on seeing this in the theater. It was a fun experience but not amazing. I saw Guardians of the Galaxy twice and probably would have gone four or five more times. I only saw Deadpool once but would have been more than willing to have some repeat viewings. I could be talked into going to see Suicide Squad again…but it probably wouldn’t be my idea.

That last part isn’t intended to be a damning viewpoint. It’s just that tickets are expensive. I’ll likely buy this film when it comes out on Blu-Ray, so there’s that to consider.

All in all, it was fun.

(Suicide Squad is rated PG-13.)


All opinions are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Deck Ape...or anyone else. Arrr!

Jonathan Praise

Jonathan Praise is a writer, in the sense that he occasionally sits down in front of a keyboard and punches buttons, turning the blank page into a collection of letters and words. He rarely finishes anything, so the reader should feel somewhat special for actually witnessing the completion of this article. He is currently working on CLEAVE and THE ADVENTURES OF SKULLBOY when he isn't being a husband and father of dubious quality.

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