There are plenty of reasons to doubt the DC Cinematic Universe, and the voices airing those doubts right now are as loud as Superman carelessly crashing through buildings in Metropolis, injuring thousands. But that doesn’t make them accurate.
There is no doubt that the future of DC-on-film lies in the fate of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, but even if it fails, at least one movie will release after that: Suicide Squad. As production ramps up, glimpses of the extended DC cinematic universe are trickling out, and it seems everybody has their own two cents on the matter. A lot of those cents aren’t optimistic, and some are misplaced. Suicide Squad has a lot going for it, and it has the potential to rock collective socks around the globe.
First, it will be the first of the DCU films not directed by Zac Snyder. Like, love, or hate his work as a helmer, Snyder has a style that pulses through his films like cholesterol through a fat man’s heart. And let’s be fair: in a world where executives too concerned with franchise building are replacing director’s voices and visions, this isn’t a bad thing. But it will be good to see a fresh voice in the DC cinematic universe. That voice will be David Ayer.
David Ayer is another director that has a distinct style, one that fits Warner and DC’s mold of darker and grittier, yet it’s very different from Zac Snyder’s. Though his resume is far from consistent, he doesn’t have a Sucker Punch to his name, and his work overall has been getting better, with recent highlights like End of Watch and Fury. Ayer’s style is patient and deliberate, yet he is one of the most visceral directors working at the moment. He sucks you into worlds with compelling characters in interesting situations.
And guess what? Suicide Squad has a long, interesting history, with its first appearance dating all the way back to 1959, with many iterations and team lineups over the past 66 years. The film looks like it’s cherry-picked characters from the past twenty five or so years of Suicide Squad comics, which is arguably the duration of the “modern” team.
What you need to know is that the Suicide Squad is essentially a group of DC universe villains forced into working as a team, performing high-risk black ops missions for the government, labeled as the Suicide Squad or Task Force X. The comics have never been medium-defining work, but they’re fun. For example, the first arc in the New 52 iteration sees the Squad assigned to a stadium where a virus has transformed humans into monstrosities, and the anti-virus is an unborn baby in a newly mutated beastie. Not exactly Citizen Kane, but fun.
So who’s in the Suicide Squad? Unless you’re an ardent DC fan, there are only 3-4 familiar faces in the Task Force X assembled for the film. The two headliners seem to be Harley Quinn and Deadshot, being played by the unbelievably beautiful Margot Robbie and Jaden Smith’s father, respectively. The next most-known member would be Killer Croc (who’s never actually been in the Squad), played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who joins the ever-growing list of actors who’ve played ball in both the Marvel and DC sandpits.
It’s hard to say how the rest of the ensemble will figure in. There are almost as many characters in the Squad as there are Ben & Jerry’s flavors. That said, the rest of the ensemble is filled out with solid talent. Viola Davis plays the figurehead Amanda Waller, model/fledgling actress Cara Delevigne plays the Enchantress, Joel Kinnaman plays Rick Flag, Jai Courtney plays Captain Boomerang, Adam Beach plays Slipknot, Karen Fukuhara plays Katana (the only other film squad member not to have been in the comics’ roster), and Jay Hernandez plays El Diablo, easily one of the best characters in the New 52 iteration.
And of course, you have Jared Leto playing the Joker. Given that this will be the character’s first real appearance in the shared DCU, expect a fair amount of screen time to be devoted to him.
Leto and The Joker are part of the elephant in the room: material released (officially and unofficially), giving the audience a glimpse into the aesthetic of this film, and the larger DC universe. For now, we’ll stick to material released officially, as to avoid spoiling anything that has been snapped on set. It’s fair to say that the reaction to The Joker has been largely negative, mostly due to his ink, especially the now-infamous “damaged” tattoo. But lest we forget, 2008 was a crazy world, where it was largely thought that Jack Nicholson was the be-all, end-all of Jokers on film, and many were skeptical of Heath Ledger’s Joker, even with the first character snapshot. It wasn’t until reports from set starting coming in that word truly started to turn on what Ledger and Nolan’s rendition would turn out to be. With that said, Christopher Nolan is a stronger filmmaker than David Ayer, and he didn’t have to contend with pleasing Warner/DC.
The aesthetic of the film points to a darker world than that of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which for some people seems to be like seafood on pizza. The darker tone of the DC Universe is inherent in the comics, which have arguably been far darker than Marvel’s on a consistent basis since the late 70’s. But this isn’t a DC vs. Marvel argument — instead, people should be enjoying that the two comic superpowers are going in different directions when it comes to the mise en scène of their respective films, if I may put my liberal arts college education to use for the first time ever.
The timing of Suicide Squad also makes it interesting. An equivalent would be releasing Thor and Captain America after Iron Man 2, then going straight to Guardians of the Galaxy. By the time Guardians was released, Marvel had already cemented itself as a hit-maker, with Guardians releasing right in the middle of “Phase 2,” and Iron Man, Cap, and Thor deep in their post-Avengers solo outings. DC won’t have that luxury of reputation, even if Dawn of Justice is amazing and box office successful. It’s one film, and one film does not a reputation make.
It releases three months after Dawn of Justice and will explore a different part of the DC Universe. How cool will it be to see Gotham City from a perspective that isn’t Batman’s? There were plenty of safer options to follow up your two biggest heroes: Wonder Woman, Green Lantern… Hell, even Aquaman may even be a safer bet. I mean, nobody’s walking into a multiplex, thinking “Finally, a movie with Enchantress, Captain Boomerang, and Killer Croc!” All the same, Warner chose to believe in Suicide Squad. In a system that plays it safe far too often, it will be refreshing to see the unlikely Task Force X assemble on screen in August 2016.
Article by contributor Ramez Kafrouni.