Suicide Squad offers a case of diminishing returns while at the same time putting a unique perspective on the ongoing comic book wars.
Suicide Squad is part of the DC universe and the rights to DC projects are licensed to Warner Bros. Hold tight because DC (1934) was around before Marvel (1939), which is licensed to Disney. Marvel also has licensed rights to other studios based on said properties being under development or in active production. That list includes 20th Century Fox (X-Men, Fantastic Four) and Sony (Spiderman).
In an alternative universe, Warner Bros. could’ve been past the point where Disney/Marvel is today because they were set to make a Justice League movie years ago with no less than George Miller (Mad Max) at the helm. That was in 2023, whereas Iron Man came out in 2023, which was a Paramount release because at that time Disney had not yet bought Marvel.
Fast forward to this week. Marvel has already exhausted their second wave of related super hero movies and is about to move into the third wave, having combined many of their stand-alone movie leads (Iron Man, Captain America, et al.) into ensemble projects. Dr. Strange is the next Disney configuration. Warner Bros. is trying to do in a couple of years what Marvel took several years to do, and for the most part they are par on course. Suicide Squad mixes characters from recent films like Batman vs. Superman, as if they’re doing cameos.
For instance, we don’t just get a glimpse of Ben Affleck as Batman in a few sequences, we also catch sight of The Flash (Ezra Miller). While Wonder Woman is nowhere in sight, she was in Batman vs. Superman and has her own flick coming out next year. If Suicide Squad spawns stand-alone films or offers cast members berths in upcoming Justice League films, that’s just the logical progression of what this whole cosmology represents.
And that’s why Suicide Squad feels a little bit jinxed. Will Smith as Deadshot and Margo Robbie as Harley Quinn get all the best lines, but not necessarily the best angles. Characters like Griggs, Monster T, The Joker, Boomerang, Katana, and a few others are mind boggling in their set of skills.
Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) controls the above characters as well as June Moone (Cara Delevingne) but not her spiritual alter ego Enchantress. Viola Davis, essentially the same character played by Samuel L. Jackson in the Marvel films, is the head of a super secret agency that allows these freaks to work their magic while themselves being the conduit between the actual people in charge of the government and the black ops they think they control. All the while everybody is playing beer pong with the generals of the Pentagon.
Enough with this soapbox dissection of the state of comic book heroes turned movie stars and onto the actual state of the movies that are being made. The common denominator in any crusader creed is a third act where a major metropolis comes under siege from otherworldly villains. And that’s what stopped Suicide Squad dead in its tracks. The amazing ability to go from hey-I-haven’t-seen-this-before to the same old confrontation of good and evil on the steps of city hall concludes the third act.
The opening of Suicide Squad hits all the marks. Each character gets introduced with a classic rock song. We see how bad they are. Psychotic criminals need love and rock and roll just like everyone else. The genre mashing includes reclusive personalities recruited to go on a suicide mission, which takes in everything from The Dirty Dozen to The Blues Brothers. Throw in a steady dose of self-referential statements with a rapid flow of CGI effects to accentuate the visibility of the various powers of those involved.
Frankly I’m feeling tinges of guilt because all comic book movies eventually get to the Ghostbusters moment where they have to confront their worst fears and fight a seemingly unbeatable demon – namely the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Except in Suicide Squad, it’s an inter-dimensional being composed of light and digital effects.
After the dust settles, there’s the core of a good film, an enjoyable film in the embers of Suicide Squad. Maybe it’s Suicide Squid? But it just makes the movie maven wonder how much of the suicide is symbolically Warner Bros. trying to emulate what the Marvel universe has created, even though that vision has become hazy? Certainly the look evokes noir and the mystery such darkness allows.