Why Suicide Squad made me lose hope for the DCEU
I’ll be the first to say it, I’m a DC fan boy. If Marvel and DC came out with equally good movies I would prefer the DC one simply because I have a history with those characters and the world is more meaningful to me.
I looked forward to Man of Steel. It was disappointing. I retained hope for the DCEU.
I looked forward to Batman v Superman. It was disappointing. I retained hope for the DCEU.
I looked forward to Suicide Squad. It was disappointing. I lost faith in the DCEU.
Was it simply because 3 times was enough? No. I could have put up with 10+ disappointing films and still held hope for the universe. It wasn’t THAT it was disappointing, it was the WAY it was disappointing. To explain why, I’m going to have to start from the beginning.
The History of the DCEU
The year is 2008. ‘The Dark Knight’ is released to great success and even up to today is considered by many to be the best superhero movie of all time. The tone is different than we’ve seen before. Much darker and grittier than it’s predecessors, many feel that this will re-define the genre. A pocket of fans complain about how dark and moody it is, but the superhero genre opens up to a new fanbase because of how realistic and relateable the characters are.
Personally, I am among those who consider it the best superhero movie of all time. Christopher Nolan took bold risks is re-defining the iconic Joker character, he took the focus away from Batman, and made a complete film instead of just trying to adapt what worked in comics and graphic novels.
Fast forward to 2012. Christopher Nolan completes his Dark Knight trilogy and signs on to be the Producer for a Superman reboot titled ‘Man of Steel’. The genre has not progressed as some thought. Instead of the dark, gritty turn for the genre it was overwhelmed by the charismatic and light-hearted Avengers. This opened up the fan base even more, bringing in both the realism and the humour. The first trailers for Man of Steel are released and the general vibe is not as positive as it was for the Dark Knight trilogy. People didn’t mind the dark mood for Batman but thought that Superman should be much more light-hearted and positive.
DC — did not give a shit.
Maybe they should have, but they didn’t. They knew what their vision was and they stuck to it, and helming it was one of the modern eras greatest filmmakers (Nolan not Snyder) who had great success doing the very same thing.
The Failures of the First Two DCEU Movies
Man of Steel came out and it was not a good movie. Audiences generally blamed the fact that it was dark and moody when that didn’t fit the tone of Superman, and that has generally been the narrative ever since.
Man of Steel didn’t suck because it was dark, it sucked because it was a bad movie. The writing was awful, the plot had a lot of holes, and character decisions were downright baffling at times. And yet, people still generally blame the darkness, all the destruction at the end, and point the superman killing someone as the main reasons.
Superman was still devastated that he “had” to kill someone. The violence and destruction was shown as just that, as being awful. It was true to the Superman character, but it was a dark chapter. In comparison the heroes of the MCU kill people all the time and cause wide-spread destruction with little consequence. Civil War promised to be consequence but whiffed at that pretty hard.
It was bold and it made a lot of us talk about the ending and debate what a character like Superman would really be like. To me, that’s a good approach to filmmaking. People questioned Heath Ledger a lot prior to seeing him become the best super villain of all time. People make fun of a lot of Dark Knight quotes and plotlines, but it’s still a good movie.
Why? Because one film was executed on really well and the other was not.
Batman v Superman came out 3 years later and it had the same successes and failures. The tone was dark, they took big risks on changing iconic characters, and it was a bad movie due to the writing and general execution of film-making. Audiences blame the dark tone and say it takes itself too seriously, but for me that wasn’t the case at all.
Why I Used To Look Forward to DCEU Movies
Yes, I’m a DC fanboy and yes I prefer dark, gritty movies but those aren’t the only two reasons why I anticipated DCEU releases.
Earlier this year Captain America Civil War was released and in terms of execution was one of the best films Marvel has ever released. A few months later and I barely think about it. Marvel has done the same thing over and over again and has gotten slightly better at it each time. Civil War was very much the same format as the disappointing Age of Ultron, just executed better. Despite promising big consequences and much different tone, we were given pretty much the same characters doing the same things and not really progressing much. The main theme of the film was never confronted and instead we got a very basic revenge story, and any consequences are hard to care about because we know they’re going to be right back where they started for the next Avengers film.
Meanwhile with DC, I’m spending much more time thinking about and caring about the future of the DCEU and its characters because they’re trying something different. They’re having Batman kill people, they’re having Superman not be confident in himself, Lex Luthor has completely changed. More important than any of these small things, they are trying to confront big ideas with their story. They’re adding in elements of how society might actually react to this situation. They’re actually asking and answering whether these things would work or have an overall positive benefit. They’re making religious comparisons. They’re making you ask yourself how you would feel if you were a superhero, for the good and the bad.
Yes they were poorly executed, but I would keep lining up for them and keep anticipating them because of the potential they had. Marvel is executing at the highest level that they can and I barely care, while DC is executing at a very low level and I still care.
The DCEU represented a group of filmmakers with a vision. A singular vision that was bold and presented something new to the genre and film world as a whole. They would eventually get this right, and when they did it would be better than anything Marvel ever produced. That’s why I would be willing to put up with 10+ disappointments, for the potential of seeing something better than The Dark Knight.
Why I No Longer Look Forward to DCEU Movies
This all changed after seeing Suicide Squad.
Suicide Squad, in terms of execution, was a better movie than Batman v Superman in my opinion. The plot was generally simple and straightforward and made sense. It had style and the characters were interesting.
However, any concept of a unique vision or bold risk-taking completely fell of the wagon with this movie. The worst part is that it didn’t fall off with the conception of this movie, it only fell off during the editing and post-production.
The original concept of Suicide Squad was an original take on the superhero film, with undesirable protagonists doing bad things and us maybe questioning what we think a hero really is. Here’s what we ended up getting:
Music montages — because Guardians of the Galaxy did that
Witty banter — because Guardians of the Galaxy did that
The team walking in v formation before the final battle — because Guardians of the Galaxy did that
The team having an unconventional pep talk before the final battle — because Guardians of the Galaxy did that
Remember how good Guardians of the Galaxy was?
Asylum Films is a company that makes cheap rip-offs of successful hollywood films. They made ‘Transmorphers’ when Transformers was successful. They made ‘Atlantic Rim’ after Pacific Rim came out, and they even made Sinister Squad this past summer. They’re designed to trick unaware people into accidentally watching their movies, and this is kind of what Suicide Squad felt like.
It felt like DC was trying to trick us into watching a Guardians of the Galaxy sequel that wasn’t actually legit. And it worked, a lot of people paid a lot of money to see and few actually liked it.
One of my biggest complaints with Marvel is how similar each of their characters feel. Tony Stark is supposed to be an egotistic, alcoholic tech genius. Captain America is the old-fashioned soldier with a chip on his shoulder. Thor is supposed to be young, reckless glory-seeking warrior. And yet, even though they sound different they all end up acting like Generic Hero Man in all the events of the movies.
DCEU took a group of villains who all do bad things, shot scenes of them doing bad things, and then cut a movie where they only showed the scenes of them being Generic Hero Man.
It’s not just because Suicide Squad was a poorly executed film, it’s that every post-production decision screamed that they were giving up on having a unique vision or bold ideas. They have moved from being separate from Marvel to basically just wanting to copy them. Need further proof? Look no further than the Justice League trailer released at about the same time. Bruce Wayne, despite previously being paranoid of the end of the movie is now joking and making witty banter?
Why? Because Tony Stark does that, and people like Tony Stark.
DCEU had a bold vision with poor execution, and their solution to poorly received movies was to change their vision and keep the bad execution.
One more example. Let’s go all the way back to 2012 and Christopher Nolan being the Producer of Man of Steel. One of the early notable features of Marvel movies was their post-credits scenes which eventually led to mid-credits as well. The Dark Knight trilogy never had a post-credits scene. Despite it being the trend by 2014, Nolan did not allow Man of Steel to have a post-credits scene because he believed that a movie should be good on its own and not rely on it being part of a bigger story to be good. He believed that every part of a movie should actually be….in the movie.
Christopher Nolan is no longer part of the DCEU. He only stayed on for Man of Steel and to my knowledge has not contributed since then.
Suicide Squad had a mid-credits scene.
The DCEU is no longer a unique and bold contributor to the superhero genre. They are no longer pushing borders and changing how we think of existing characters. They are walking in Marvel’s footsteps and trying to keep up with industry trends. Test audiences now define their finished products instead of the filmmakers who are actually making them.
For this reason, I give up hope for the future of the DCEU.
Can The DCEU Still Make Great Movies?
The DCEU can make good movies and probably will. Justice League will probably be an enjoyable film with laughs and punching and good moments, but I do not expect it to be great.
However, if the DCEU learns their lesson from Suicide Squad’s critical failure and decides to trust their filmmakers more the franchise still has a lot of potential.
I wanted to pick away at a few specific issues here but I’m going to go with the big one: Superman
Superman is currently disliked by audiences and characters within the DC universe alike. He’s dead but we all know he’s coming back. With the announcement of the black superman suit we know he’s going to come back weak and not be fully powered. This character has the opportunity for the biggest redemption arc in any superhero franchise ever. With Marvel we already like their characters and therefore they need to keep returning to the same state for each movie because the studio wants to give us the same as what we already enjoy. With Superman we have a character that nobody likes. We all generally understand his motivations and where he’s coming from, it’s probably similar to how each of us would act if we had those powers to…but they need to change the character to something we actually like and admire. If Superman comes back, earns his status and ends up victorious as the greatest hero in the DC universe, it would be the biggest coming-of-age story and redemption arc in the superhero genre. It would take 4+ movies to do it and would have a lot of complexity. In the same way, nobody likes Lex Luthor who is immature and new to the world of villainy. If he were to grow and slowly become more hands on and more brutal, he would re-earn his place in the universe and with the fans.
Because of how low the DCEU and how many changes they need to make, they have the opportunity and potential to do more than Marvel can.
Or, you know, Ben Affleck can tell jokes and talk like Tony Stark.