Quick question – What movie is this?
A ragtag team of outcasts and misfits with their own special abilities and egos, who are bought together by a Government official. Some of the characters include a Captain, an assassin with really good aim and a green monster. They must set aside their differences and finally come together to save the world from a blue light in the sky set up by a villain who wants to enslave humanity.
If you answered –The Avengers, you are right.
If you answered- Suicide Squad, you are…interesting.
Suicide Squad as a movie is just that…not right in any way… but certainly interesting.
If you look at the first comic con trailer of Suicide Squad, it’s apparent that the movie had a much sombre tone than the one we saw in theatres. After the critical reception of Batman V Superman and the mixed general audience response, the studio was scared and wanted to make the movie “lighter”. They spent 22 million dollars on reshoots which is unusually high, edited the movie to make it more action and humour oriented, added the best music artists on the soundtrack and went out of their way to promote a movie which technically wasn’t based on a well-known comic property.
The result was…a hit? Yes unlike what happened with Justice League a year later, Suicide Squad was in purely commercial terms a global hit. It earned almost 750 million dollars worldwide (that’s excluding China. If it did release there it would have easily reached a billion), had a platinum-selling soundtrack and won a freaking Oscar for hair and make-up. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn became a very popular character for cosplayers and generally, most people enjoyed it for what it was – a funny but choppy forgettable action caper.
How do I feel about it? Maybe it’s the OG DCEU fan in me, but if you asked me the question on the top, I would be the one answering Suicide Squad. Because I love it and not in the ironic “so bad that it’s good” kinda way. Suicide Squad had many things which set it apart from any other comic book movies. I recently re-watched the extended edition (which is the only one anyone should watch) and noticed these few unique things about it.
EXPANDING THE UNIVERSE
The time was 2016 and if you were a DC fan, it was one of the best times to be alive. WB/DC had finally announced a director-driven comic book universe which would rival MCU in its originality and variety. You were just excited to see each and everything that would come out of this DC Extended Universe. Suicide Squad was the first step by DC/WB in establishing the “E” of the DCEU. Think of it this way, Batman V Superman although expanding the universe was still a direct sequel to Man of Steel. As Jay Oliva put it, ‘a chapter in an ongoing story’. SS is the first movie to really use elements of that main story to tell its own. As pointed out in my earlier article, while BvS was humanity’s reaction to the arrival of Superman. Suicide Squad is the government’s reaction to it. Despite its goofy tone, this is something I love about the movie.
“We got lucky that Superman shared our values, the next superman might not”
“Believe it or not the next war is going to be fought with metahumans, we are not the only ones kicking up rocks looking for them.”
This is exactly how governments around the world would react if metahumans actually existed. Moreover, just like the movies in the Snyder-verse, the movie after a brief intro of Harley and Deadshot in Belle Reve prison, begins with showing Superman’s funeral from BvS. Superman’s death is what sets in motion the events of this movie, thus setting it firmly in the DCEU. SS is like the perfect ‘side-mission’ movie. And then there is Batfleck.
While we may never get to see Ben Affleck as Batman again, the distortion of his intense portrayal of Batman in Justice League left a bad taste in many a fans mouth. BvS is the only movie we get to see his true performance (until unless the Snyder-cut releases) but SS is the movie to watch satisfy your Batfleck thirst. Batman’s shadow hangs around a lot of the movie, tackling Will Smith’s Deadshot and also including the only time we get to briefly see DCEU Batman with DCEU Joker in a chase scene. There is a deleted scene available online where Batman after saving Harley from drowning says:
“He (the Joker) took something away from me, now I’ll take something away from him”.
This coupled with Robin suit in the Batcave in BvS and Harley’s on-screen intro card, points out definitely to a dead Robin (a ‘Death in the family’ storyline). Affleck as Bruce Wayne also makes a badass cameo appearance in the mid-credits scene when just like comics or the animated movies he and Amanda Waller, who are both aware of each other’s secret activities exchange some barbs and vital info on other meta-humans – Aquaman and the Flash, thus setting up Justice League.
Although we did briefly see the Flash in BvS, right after the Knightmare sequence and during the infamous quick time videos compiled by Lex Luthor in his Metahuman files. But that was a blur and a non-speaking part respectively. SS is the first time we properly see him in his entire suit and see the speed-force properly for the first time. The cherry on this cake is that the flash cameo scene was shot by Zack Snyder himself and this kind of camaraderie between directors of a cinematic universe is great to see. The idea of introducing a character like this would have predictably been a post/mid-credits scene in the MCU but in keeping with Flash’s time-line jumping behaviour, both of his cameos in BvS and SS occur in the middle and the beginning. Not sure if that was planned but it is another one of DCEU’s unique traits.
While the MCU may be credited with doing a lot of firsts with comic book movies, in spite of having released around 12 movies before 2016, they were yet to introduce the realm of magic in their universe. While Dr. Strange would release roughly 2 months after Suicide Squad, the magic elements in it were more of a cosmic energy/science-based. SS had the first ‘flying, spell-casting, making shit disappear’ kinda mystical magic. It is rumoured the movie originally opened with Dr. June Moon entering the cave where she is then possessed by Enchantress before being cut up by the studio. Maybe the original cut has more of the magic elements. While Enchantress was cliche compared to other great DCEU villains, but the lore surrounding her was intriguing. Moreover, the reveal that Diablo had gotten his powers from probably the same source as her was again another good mystical touch.
People have a lot of complaints about Suicide Squad, the cast is not one of them. Will Smith as Deadshot is his usual charismatic self and brings a lot of emotion during the scenes with his daughter. Margot Robbie’s performance as Harley Quinn is just perfect. Her scenes in the extended edition where she is being “vexing” towards the rest of the squad are amazing. She really embodies the character well and no wonder WB greenlit other movies starring her as Harley. Viola Davis portrays the Amanda Waller character with the layers that it deserves. Coming to the most controversial part- yes Jared Leto as Joker was great in my opinion. The movie just didn’t give him enough to do. Following in the footsteps of Heath Ledger was never going to be easy, but having the studio cut-out 80% of your scenes didn’t definitely help. Moreover, a large section of the general audience led by critics were just more than willing to rip into the DCEU for some reason. Leto’s Joker was just a different and interesting take, it’s sad we didn’t get to see a lot of him. His chemistry with Harley had the perfect mix of toxicity and obsession that it needed. One can only hope that the “Ayer Cut” of Suicide Squad is someday released and we get to see more of him. David Ayer did a great job with all the actors, I mean come on he made Jai Courtney and Jay Hernandez work. Hollywood has never been able to achieve that. The Squad and their chemistry is the main reason the movie worked and also that most of the cast is returning for the sequel.
DIVERSITY AND REPRESENTATION-
Yes some may point out to the X-men movies or even to GotG (except Zoe Saldana…she plays a Green alien…I dunno if that counts as multi-racial), but before SOME movies (yes obviously talking about Captain Marvel) started shoving the whole female empowerment down your throat, Suicide Squad did it without a lot of fuss. Think of it- Suicide Squad consists of 2 women- one learning to be by herself after being in a toxic relationship and the other a fearless Asian assassin just having taken revenge for her husband’s death. The remainder of the squad consists of a black single dad, a Hispanic man and a white man all being commanded/manipulated by a strong and powerful African-American woman who as devious as they come. That’s the kind of diversity that would have to be shoved into any other movie but it comes naturally in this movie.
GOOD AND BAD
The core theme of the movie is something that we all struggle with- are people worth redeeming? Are bad people capable of being good? It might sound like I am giving the movie more credit than it deserves but seriously that’s the core theme of the movie. One look at Ayer’s movies –End of Watch and Fury- will let you know why he was chosen for the job. He can do a great job with grey characters and for some reason, I believe that his original story perhaps had more of those character moments than funky action. There are some great visual parallels too which show Amanda Waller having a steak in a classy Washington Restaurant while Killer Croc is fed a raw goat. In Waller’s own words “They treated him like a monster, so he became a monster.” It makes you wonder who is the monster here…the one who was treated like a freak all his life or the one trying to use him for nefarious purposes.
All of the characters particularly Deadshot and Diablo’s arc exhibit this theme. The bar scene from the extended edition is probably that scene of the movie for me…you know that scene… every DC movie since Batman Begins just has that. The ‘Introduce a little anarchy’ scene from TDK, the prison escape from TDKR, ‘Must there be a Superman?’ from BvS, ‘It’s not about deserve’ from WW… the scene that turns your thinking around and stays with you till after the movie is over…THAT scene. Maybe it’s just me but I’m always on the lookout for THAT scene (blame it on Nolan and Snyder). The bar scene is exactly that scene- these talented criminals, assassins and psychopaths just bouncing off of each other and talking about how fucked up the world is and realizing how fucked up it made them. Then realizing owning your horrible past actions is the only way an individual can hope to survive without getting crushed by guilt.
While the movie, even in its extended edition, has some downright shitty aspects like horrible exposition, poor editing, under-used Joker, boring villain and just absolutely wasting the concept which could’ve made Suicide Squad a really interesting… you know the ‘Suicide’ aspect of it. They all have bombs in their necks which Amanda Waller uses to make them do her bidding. It should’ve been a literal hanging sword over all the characters…but in just the unceremonious way Slipknot is introduced, you just know he is gonna become the one example of it. While the movie could’ve used to spring up a surprise moment or two, it just chose not to.
However, the movie gets many things like the cast, the performances, the soundtrack, the cameos and yes even some of the jokes right. The movie faced unfair criticism at times with some people complaining when the movie won an Oscar for makeup and hairstyling as though that had anything to do with the script and editing. I distinctly remember a famous geek site criticizing Harley Quinn as being a bad role model for girls and how DC is creating a bad influence (When in fact Wonder Woman was the next movie to release and Harley’s entire arc is about redemption and freedom). The movie was dealt an unfair hand and had too much pressure on it to deliver. The fact that it still did even with the corporate meddling is a miracle. It’s not a great movie by any reach but just like its titular characters, it’s not entirely beyond redemption either.