Opening night this last Friday, Holly and I went to go see Suicide Squad. The timing was partially just the only chance we would have to see it before an upcoming vacation, but it was also fun to be there opening night. It was a bigger crowd than the other movie we saw recently on opening night – Ghostbusters. Both have had some controversy boiling around them, so it was interesting to see that comparison.
We went into Ghostbusters low on expectations about it, as in we were open to experiencing whatever they decided to present us. However, when it came to Suicide Squad, I had a lot of expectations and concerns going into the movie. Maybe that had to do with the hype machine behind it, the huge number of trailers, Batman vs. Superman, the talk of a troubled production, and of course most recently the critical response.
I had some specific things that I was concerned about, though, and here’s the thing: I feel like I got an answer to all of my concerns. And I think that was a big contributing factor to me enjoying the film. It was satisfying to have answers to all my questions about the film within the film. So let’s go through what I was thinking about after I saw it! I’ll try to keep this spoiler-light, if you’re wanting to read and consider going to see this.
The Big One – First Appearances of Everybody
So the big first one is obvious, and is a structural problem with creating this movie in the first place – and especially creating it at this point in the franchise. The Suicide Squad is a team of villains, late in their careers. They’ve already been caught by their opponent heroes. They’re locked up by the government. Hidden away. But this is also only the third movie in the DC movie universe, and these characters have not appeared on screen before, not in their current iteration, not with these actors.
This was always a problem in making this movie, like this, now. So sure, the basic premise and idea of making this movie was a concern for me…
And I think they did pretty well with it, for all that. You have to accept the fact that this concern is a thing – and as such, they open the movie with just a whole bunch of backstories and character introductions. And the problem is, yep, those introductions needed to happen sometime. They gave them each their own flavor, introduced the characters, and moved on from there.
Sure, there are other ways to do this. Indeed, the best comparison to this movie shows another way – Guardians of the Galaxy. There’s another movie where you have a team of folks never seen on screen before come together and do some heroing. I would say that the way that the Guardians of the Galaxy came together is very familiar in a geek setting – it’s like a Dungeons and Dragons party. They were each on their own quest, with a backstory, and one by one get caught up in the larger plot. Drawn together, they form a common cause, grow together as a team, and in the end use their unity to defeat the big bad. I’ve seen comparisons of Guardians to a D&D campaign and I think that’s pretty accurate.
I don’t think the D&D campaign approach works with the Suicide Squad, however. They’re not a group that’s choosing to do what they’re doing: they’re forced to by Amanda Waller. People die. I would think that they would have trust issues, conflict, and just generally be hard to work with. So a new approach was needed, and they accomplished some of that in the movie.
We’ve seen the Suicide Squad recently on TV, however, and that’s a place where I think they make a lot more sense. We knew the characters already from having been captured by the show’s heroes, and then the uniting good guy to lead them was an important hero character in John Diggle, the conscience character for the show. So the Suicide Squad episodes of Arrow are great.
And that obviously wouldn’t work at this point either. But it leads into another concern:
What Was Up With Batman?
In the trailers, we saw images of Batman and the Batmobile and I was wondering why. What role would Batman play in the movie? Does the Suicide Squad face off against him?
Nope. It’s part of the backstories, but it’s exactly what it should have been. It was Batman capturing villains. So in a few moments with Batman we get a bit of the effect of watching Arrow, we get that backstory of these people being the sort of dangerous that requires Batman to capture. So that helped ease my concerns about having seen these characters before.
But speaking of Batman…
What Was Up With The Joker?
In all the trailers, I could not nail down who or what was the villain, but it seemed like it was maybe the Joker? But then why was Harley Quinn working against him? Or was she? Or was he on the team? It was all very confusing, seemingly on purpose but that doesn’t help.
However, the Joker was largely relegated to the place where he made the most sense: to the backstory. He’s Harley Quinn’s origin story, and he is there as that.
Of course, it also sounds like a whole lot of Joker material was cut, and maybe he would have been a better villain… who knows. They probably met a good middle ground of including him, but not having too much of him. Maybe not at all or way more would be better, but if they were going for happy medium they might have met it.
I will say, I would be curious to see what the deleted scenes for this end up like. Or director’s cut. I imagine a whole lot more Joker…
What Was Up With Katana?
We’ve fallen in love with Katana from her characterization on Arrow, so I was really curious every time I saw her in a trailer. She’s not a villain, at least not that I knew, so why was she there?
They answered this one for me: she’s a metahuman that they have on their side. So she’s allied with the government, rather than coerced by the government. Okay. That works. She was awesome.
However, and this kind of goes back to all of these… just because my question was answered, does that mean it was a good answer? Maybe not. She could just as easily have not been in the movie, or could have had a much bigger/better role. Since she wasn’t one of the bad guys, there was no reason to give her backstory early on. So it basically happened real quickly during a slow moment later on in the film.
What Was Up With Slipknot?
Speaking of people we got no backstory for early in the film, what about Slipknot? They went light on several of the characters’ backstories, but at least they got one. This one didn’t concern me until I was actually watching the film, and he showed up. And I was like, what about him? Why cram him in?
The answer is… they dealt with that pretty quickly. And honestly, I’m glad they didn’t waste time giving us his backstory. Could they have instead spent a good portion of time on it, so we cared? Maybe.
But someone has to prove that the government’s coercion – in the form of an implanted bomb – is a real threat…
I’m sure I had other concerns and expectations going into the movie, but these are some of them that stuck with me. And like I said, I felt satisfied at the time with getting answers to these things, even if the answers were weak. At least they were addressed, which is definitely not always the case!
I mentioned that the best comparison for this movie is Guardians of the Galaxy, and the more I think of this movie, the more I’m pretty sure that was the magic they were hoping to capture. That was the film they hoped they could make. Or at least, it’s the one that at some point someone decided to try to make – and nothing shows that better than the use of music. They fit a ton of pop songs into the film, some of them just excellent choices.
They also have a soundtrack full of songs commissioned for the movie, something I feel like I haven’t run into at least since probably the Twilight series (say what you will, those were great soundtracks). They used those really well in their trailers, maybe best of all in this final one:
But did they capture the fun of Guardians, did they do as good of a job pulling together this large team and having them succeed on screen? Maybe not, but again that goes back to the fundamental question: was this a good idea for a movie in the first place?
They’ve made a bunch of money already. Far be it for me to say what the right choice was on making the movie!
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Hm. I’d have pegged it more as an attempt to be Deadpool than GotG, but now that you mention it, it’s kind of both. Not as good as either, but I don’t think it tries so hard that it’s a problem. I’m still kind of mystified why they chose to make this movie so early — unless specifically to ride on Deadpool — and I go back and forth on whether that was the best idea, BUT the fact that it’s kind of weird and random and rough around the edges is one of the main reasons I like it. DC needed that desperately.
I think the movie was green-lit in response to the success of Guardians of the Galaxy, and it’s probably the closest DC comparison to that Marvel group. I think in terms of the reshoots and late production edits to the movie – and the tone they ended up going with in the trailers, for instance – Deadpool is the movie they were hoping to emulate. As you say, it feels a bit like an odd mix between the two of them that isn’t as good as either.
But you’re right – rough around the edges actually did something to enhance this movie rather than detract. We certainly enjoyed it more than Batman vs. Superman!
I have realized another similarity to GotG and it’s bugging me. Might have to be its own post. It’s Deadshot being such a good people person. He interacts well with El Diablo, Harley Quinn, everyone. He’s respectful, he changes how he interacts with each and helps organize them, keep them in line, unify them…
But isn’t he supposed to be a loner? Aren’t they all kind of anti-social? He reminds me far more of Star Lord than that. But for Star Lord it makes sense to do – charisma is his defining attribute. He literally uses charisma in the final boss fight – dance off, bro!
But from Deadshot it feels more like they just tapped Will Smith and his natural charisma for that. But it’s the soldier character (Flagg here, Diggle on Arrow) who should be filling that role. But Flagg is in on the con so he can’t be that guy. So someone had to I guess…
I’ve literally been just calling him Will Smith instead of Deadshot, lol. But actually that really, really bothers me, not because of how it plays out in the movie, but because they change the character and EVERYBODY’S COMPLAINING ABOUT HARLEY BUT NOT HIM. Could it be that changing characters is sometimes useful and needed and interesting?? Or is it just that Harley’s a woman and that outweighs racebending a character this time?
Not that I’m bitter.
Yeah I’m totally cool with both Deadshot and Harley, the casting was great and they were good choices for characters to focus on in the movie. And I think Deadshot is often a central character on the team I just haven’t read any comics so I don’t know. It just feels lazy – or like you say, he was cast to play himself. But yeah people wanting New 52 Harley… That unfortunately doesn’t make sense in an origin story setting like this.
Useful to work the characters into a movie, agreed – and there’s no definitive version of any of these characters either. So okay, you’re making me feel better about Deadshot 😊
Heh. Yeah, I think they kind of cast him as himself to get some star power. But I buy your Star-Lord analogue too.