Catherine was less than impressed with the big screen debut of Suicide Squad.
So, let’s catch up a bit.
DC: Rebirth? I’m still working on that article I promised back in May. I think I’ve decided on doing a little pocket guide to DC’s new comics, I’m just waiting on a title that will be a good break point. (Maybe Deathstroke? I think that comes out next week. I’ll ponder it.) My hype for DC: Rebirth got eaten in the tide of Steve Rogers: Captain America (which, by the way, I’m still enjoying immensely). There’s also Civil War II that is raging over on the Marvel side of things, but I think I’m gonna wait out the end of that and the prequels about everyone’s new favorite Inhuman, Ulysses, which are due out in August, before I sit down and finally wade through that pool.
Can we talk about the Death of X variant covers, though? Gorgeous. Absolutely stunning.
Speaking of death, Suicide Squad finally hit theatres this past week and on Friday, August 5th, I settled into a seat with my 3D glasses and the group of people I go to see movies with to enjoy DC’s latest attempt to break back into the cinematic universe. I didn’t walk into this one with high expectations because I’m not really a huge Harley Quinn fan unless she’s with Poison Ivy and Catwoman, and they’re up to Gotham City Sirens-esque shenanigans. So I walked in with my X-Men movie rule, which is to say that I wasn’t going to start hating it as soon as the opening credits started to roll, but to take it in, think about it, and then form an opinion.
That being said, let’s talk about Suicide Squad!
The movie itself felt clumsy, like an Avengers movie that didn’t introduce the Avengers, so it had to play catch-up while it attempted to move what constituted as the plot forward. Backstories were blurred over; to be fair, someone like Waylon Jones doesn’t really need a huge backstory, but your main characters (Harle, Deadshot, and, I’d argue, Amanda Waller) should have had a lot more time devoted to them. I think Deadshot’s past was handled well enough that you got the important things: hitman with a daughter as a weakness. I was interested to see what they were going to do with Deadshot because audiences had been introduced to the character in the Arrow television show as part of that world’s Suicide Squad, and here he was, in his proper Suicide Squad. Will Smith pulled him off, I’d argue, better than Michael Rowe’s Deadshot in Arrow—and Smith had far less time to do so.
I thought it was interesting decision to not keep their television universe in tune with their movies. Consumers have known that this wasn’t going to be the thing already, but I wonder why they’re not going that route. It feels like a lot of extra work to me, especially when fans have already spent time investing in the television versions of their heroes. Not that I’m not totally down with Ezra Miller’s Flash, but why? Why do that when Grant Gustin already has such a loyal following? Moments like this, I wish I had Jean Grey’s telepathy.
So, let’s talk about the butt – erm, star – of the movie. No, not Deadshot, although the movie really did feel like it was Deadshot featuring these other people. I’m talking about Dr. Harleen Quinzel.
Dr. Harleen Quinzel was/is the holder of a Doctorate in Psychiatry, she’s believed to have a genius-level IQ, and if you’re a Harley fan of any kind, then you know she’s far from stupid, she simply plays up the devoted, crying damsel bit to fit better into a plan. I thought that Suicide Squad would have been the perfect time to showcase the depth that Harley is capable of, especially because the promotional stuff led me to believe that we were going to see a mostly Joker-less Harley. Such was not the case. The Joker is awkwardly inserted here and there in pursuit of Harley Quinn and the girl jumps ship as soon as it’s safe to do so. There’s a moment where Harley believes she’s without the Joker and there’s a glimmer of character under there, but it quickly fades back into her baby-talk persona. And, I understand that her persona is part of her charm, but they had a moment to break some new ground with Harley and make her into the independent character that’s made appearances in other places.
I have a list of other gripes with Suicide Squad (like: what was going on with the Joker? Seriously, what? Does anyone know?), but I want to skip away from that.
After returning home from the movies, I sat down in bed and cracked open my Suicide Squad: Rebirth #1 because I had picked up my comics the day before, and this issue had been released that Wednesday. Probably to coincide with the movie release, which was perfect because I know enough about Suicide Squad to be dangerous, but its intricacies are lost on me because I’m not a super huge Harley fan. So I devoured this first issue and I really enjoyed it. It was focused, it didn’t make apologies for what it was about, and it didn’t try to bite off more than it could chew.
Of course, the argument could be made that I’m trying to compare a comic book to a movie. But that’s the thing isn’t it? These are movies. Based on comic books.
It’s not like they’re making movies about the ancient Sumerians, and the only thing directors have to go off of are these half-crumbling and incomplete tablets. No, these directors have years and years (decades and decades, in some cases—lookin’ at you, X-Men) of source material to go over to get a grasp on these characters. There’s always going to be shadows lingering over particular roles – like, I was genuinely sad for whoever was going to follow-up Heath Ledger’s Joker because the man was born for the role and then he died. (There’s just no way to compete with that. Sorry, Jared Leto.) So, there’s really no excuse to miss the mark. Ever. Which is what, I think, Suicide Squad did, as a whole: it missed what makes these characters great.
It missed giving us characters we wanted to invest in (other than Deadshot) and attempted to coast through on the popularity of characters that felt like they were included strictly for the name drop, like the Joker. It missed out on giving itself its own identity, which is the point of the Suicide Squad, isn’t it? They’re not some junior version of the Justice League, or a Marvel Unity Squad—they’re supposed to be the worst heroes ever and I feel like they missed whatever that’s supposed to look like. So, it came out feeling like it was trying to make up ground that it didn’t even have the first place. It felt like a sloppy fifth cousin that may or may not have been related to The Guardians of the Galaxy. (“Spirit in the Sky”, anyone? I mean… really. Really?) But, unlike Guardians, we had a rag-tag team of people who didn’t really feel like they gelled outside of a moment in a bar with stories we didn’t have a chance to understand fighting against something that didn’t really… make sense? It’s hard to talk about this without spoilers all over the place, but I’m trying!
I think, if I was going to say anything, really, it’s this: we, as fans, deserve movies worth going to. Of course, you can put explosions in it, give it a decent soundtrack, and most people will clap along and say “that was great”—they might even go see it again because they like the shiny stuff—but this isn’t the only audience that you’re speaking to with these kinds of movies, you’re also speaking to comic book fans that have various levels of expectations. Comic book fans who are excited to see their favorite characters handspring out of their comic books, or out from the television shows they watched as children, and they want things to make sense. We want, so desperately, to love these movies because we, as a fanbase, are finally being acknowledged by the all-powerful movie screen and it’s cool to be a nerd. We want to hang out with our other comic friends and be like, “Yeah, that was awesome!”—and that’s hard to do when there are so many things that are glaringly wrong.
There’s this cool thing going on with all of these new people coming into comics, but you’ve got to be able to pull them into the movies and keep them there, pull them into the television shows and keep them there, pull them into the comics and keep them there. Without all of these, I think the newfound popularity and strength of our rediscovered love affair with superhero comics will burn out.
These fans deserve great movies. We all deserve great movies. And Suicide Squad was not a great movie. | Catherine Bathe