Suicide Squad: Maybe The Bad Guys Can Save the DC Franchise (Spoiler Alert: They Don’t)

Finally got a chance to make a Batman slapping Robin meme. Feels good.

I have to start by saying I’m the biggest Batman fan I personally know. I also have to set the record straight and say I don’t work for Disney, Marvel, Rotten Tomatoes, or the like. So, don’t accuse me of being a part of whatever delusional fanboy conspiracy you’re subscribing to with this new DC film.

Also, spoilers ahead. Duh. So, stop reading if you still plan on seeing the movie.

Suicide Squad is bad. Not disappointing or okay. Bad. Terribly bad. I had every hope after the first trailer that it’d be great. I think we all did. It seemed like a great opportunity to take some lesser known characters and run with a great story. Most comic book movies hype the bad guys, so why not fill a movie with them and make them anti-heros? It seemed like a great plan, and an original one at that. So what went wrong?

This all started because they hired Zach Snyder, known basically for the gritty, violent, and bleek Watchmen and 300 (and I’m not saying that negatively…those are great qualities for those movies) to reboot Superman. You know, the boy scout. The eternal optimist. The believer in humanity being good and worth saving. When it didn’t do great at the box office, WB’s answer was to pair him with Batman (because he’s basically box office gold) to try to set up a Justice League movie. While Snyder’s style could’ve fit Batman’s character better, he went too far and made him a murdering psychopath. That may have been an ok juxtaposition to the always friendly Superman if they hadn’t written him as a mopey murdering asshole as well. In come the bad reviews for a crowded movie with an incoherent plot and an already rushed and possibly flawed Suicide Squad became WB’s potential savior. It wasn’t supposed to be this way when the movie was announced, of course. So they turned to the company that cut together the well-received trailer to make a cut of the entire film. No doubt some rewrites and reshoots later, and you get a movie where clearly there isn’t one vision. It feels like a shouting match between a writer/director, a controlling studio, and a bad executive producer (Snyder has no experince helming a ship the size of DCs universe on film). They’ve rushed the whole thing to try and play catch up to Marvel, and it shows.

Let me count the ways its painfully apparent.

Plot

I dare you, if you’ve seen it and are angry with me for saying the movie is bad, to summarize the plot of the movie. You can’t, because it makes no sense. Yes, a black ops squad is put together, but for what? The villain was an accident. Also, we see superheros in this movie, so where are they? Superman is gone, obviously, but we know at least Batman, Wonder Woman, and Flash exist. But set that aside, and still, what happens in the movie? An undefeatable witch and her brother are defeated by a well placed small detonation, but the large military weapons didn’t work (don’t forget, the ops had the charge in the first place, making the entire team of bad guys really completely unecessary). And then Harley, who has no special powers cuts her heart out? Couldn’t anyone have done that? The whole thing just had no pacing to it. Beyond that, I’ve got “the world is going to end” fatigue. Every movie is doing it, and the sense of peril has completely worn off. Especially when it’s another swirling cloud of lightning above a building.

Enchantress’ swirling cloud of evil over a building downtown in Suicide Squad. Just kidding! This is from Ghostbusters.

I think this team of bad guys would’ve been better used in a black ops overseas way instead. It would make way more sense because that’s the kind of situation you need to be able to wipe them out and have deniability if things go bad. Plus, the idea of needing a bad guy to catch a bad guy is interesting. Way more so than needing a bad guy with a small explosive device to take down an all powerful witch. Maybe that’s just me, though.

Pacing

How many times did we get introduced to the characters in the first hour of the movie? It was as if it kept getting written, shot, then re-written, shot some more, but they kept everything. The initial graphics-heavy introductions that kick the movie off just felt bizarre, and come to find out, it’s because that wasn’t how David Ayer planned it at all.

Useless characters

New rule for comic book movies: Write your script. Now, completely remove two characters because there’s a 100% chance there are too many. Even Civil War could’ve been trimmed a bit (why did we need Captain America’s creepy familial love story?), but in Suicide Squad, they could’ve eliminated six. Joker served no purpose beyond Harley’s backstory, and they should’ve left it at that. Use a little restraint. To try and give more screen time without any real plot movement or decent dialogue was a waste. He literally affected the plot zero. Killer Croc was useless as a member of the team, and unintelligible on the rare occasion he spoke. When you could understand it, he was way more of a racist caricature than the two black cars in Transformers 2. He wears a hoodie the whole time, gets tased and beaten by the cops, and his demand is literally BET in his cell! C’mon!

I spent 5 hours in the makeup chair a day for this?!

And Slipknot died 7 seconds after being introduced, which was painfully obviously going to happen just to not so subtly prove the point that Waller could kill them if they fell out of line. They should’ve ditched a few useless characters and developed the others more.

Bad action and CG

Look out! Enchantress’ soldiers are…Kingston charcoal people? We need a special team of — nope, nevermind. Just swing a baseball bat at them and they crumble. That’s not so bad. Remind me why we had to call anyone special for this mission. If a baseball bat is enough, send the Midway City version of the NY Mets in.

Charcoal blobs also die when Harley cocks and shoots her mock-shotgun. Something she does so often in the film, at some point they should’ve just given her an actual shotgun.

This was so obviously a ploy to get a PG-13 rating as you can’t have people chopping the heads off actual people (though, they never really aknowledge they were actual innocent people like 5 minutes before they were charcoal blobs). I personally never felt a sense of excitement or suspense, and our anti-heros were never in any real danger. And the aformentioned swirling cloud and lightning plus brother-witch looked like they belonged in a video game.

Acting

I will give them credit: Almost every actor did very well with what they were given. Margot Robbie and Will Smith tried their best to pull the movie out of the muck, but couldn’t quite save it. But, Cara Delevingne was way out of her league and, like albatross around the neck of the rest of the cast, sunk the whole thing. This was WB’s move to get the much younger and significantly cooler crowd to the film, obviously, because I doubt David Ayer was like “She screen tested so well!” It was painful to watch.

Will Smith, post seeing Cara’s acting, pre a trademarked “Aw, HELL nah”

So, what was good?

I will give them credit in the few places I think credit is due. There were funny parts, but unfortunately, we’d already seen most of them in the trailers. I already mentioned Will Smith and Margot Robbie doing a great job, as well as most of the other actors. There were some great tips of the hat to the comics peppered throughout, and Batman swooping down into the alley to aprehend Deadshot was a classic Batman shot. But what I feel most studios seem to not understand is the large majority of audiences won’t get them, so you need to keep those easter eggs in the background. They should be noticed by us nerds, but not make an average audience member feel like they’re missing something. I don’t want a movie made of panel by panel recreations of the comics I grew up reading if the plot is bad, or the action incoherent. In Batman Begins, Bruce on his knees in the alley with his dead parents moves people, whether they read Year One or not.

Left, Year One. Right, the thievery by some hack named Nolan.

Joker and Harley in their Alex Ross outfits, or other timeline Flash showing up in the middle of BvS just confuses people and isn’t necessary to drive the plot forward. I think most of the people defending Suicide Squad and BvS love the nostalgia part, and that’s enough for them. It doesn’t make them wrong, it just means they like movies for different reasons than I do.

How does Warner and DC pick up the pieces?

Having Geoff Johns step in as the creative head of DC on film will help, and hopefully it isn’t too late. Unfortunately, this move was made 3 bad films into a franchise. And he’s got to work with the timelines already set, which can’t be easy. He’s done a good job with the TV versions of DC characters, so hopefully he can do the same. We’ll see how much influence he gets to have on Wonder Woman and Justice League since they’re already filming, but he’s writing the solo Batman film. Speaking of, having an Oscar winning director in Ben Affleck can’t hurt. That being said, Affleck has to put his foot down like Nolan did with his trilogy and not let WB touch it. Know why there aren’t director’s cuts of the Dark Knight trilogy? Because you saw the director’s cut in the theater. That was it. Exactly as originally intended. The new Justice League trailer looks pretty good, but we’ve been burned now by amazing looking Man of Steel, Batman v Superman, and Suicide Squad trailers, so I’m not holding my breath.