There was a lot of criticism of last year’s “Suicide Squad,” from its over-the-top plot to the way director, David Ayer, geared the film as a shoot-em’ up popcorn flick clearly built on style over substance. However, fans found vindication as the movie copped the 2016 Oscar for Best Makeup and Hair Design, marking the first Academy Award for the official DC Extended Universe.
With that in mind, if you look at the source comics and the premise of the film, a lot of flak was unwarranted, as the team and its concept was always centered around outlandish, high-octane missions that were near impossible. From a comic book perspective, it fits right in with the crazy world DC Comics usually has the team entrenched in. As a result, CBR decided to look at 15 reasons why the team’s cinematic debut didn’t suck!
SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for the Suicide Squad movie
15. COSTUMES & CINEMATOGRAPHY
It didn’t need an Academy Award to highlight how good the makeup and costume design were in this movie. It did surprise a lot of us that it beat out “Star Trek Beyond,” but a lot was highlighted by the dark tone of Ayer’s cinematography, which made the colors and costumes pop a bit more. The cinematography was gorgeous and built the gritty atmosphere of the film quite well, but when you look at the simple, comic-loyal yet crazy designs of Harley Quinn and Joker, the award is a just comeuppance.
The rest of the team were also well done, from Killer Croc’s makeup to Diablo’s supernatural gangster vibe to Katana’s pseudo-Samurai look. “Suicide Squad” had a minimalist approach to things yet it brilliantly played up the superhero genre, while giving the impression that this truly was a world in which capes could exist. They paid attention to detail and were meticulous from locations to sets to how everyone looked, painting Ayer’s vision as surreal but believable.
14. THE MYSTICAL REALM
“Suicide Squad” actually put DC on the supernatural map cinematically before Marvel’s “Doctor Strange.” Ayer’s movie brought the Enchantress to life as the sorceress hatched her plan to devour the world, after an attempt to control her by Amanda Waller backfired. Her minions truly represented a demonic threat, and arguably raised the stakes higher than Kaecilius and Dormammu’s cult for Marvel Studios last November.
With “Justice League Dark” also proving to be an animated hit, this continued to fuel the rumor mill that Guillermo del Toro would finally settle into his take on DC’s dark, mystical universe. What “Suicide Squad” truly did was push this door further open for the likes of Constantine, Swamp Thing, Zatanna and Deadman to step into the light. Ayer also created breathing room if DC wanted to bring Raven and the “Titans” into the mix, adding a new dimension outside of the impending Darkseid invasion in Zack Snyder’s universe.
13. SUBTLE EASTER EGGS
“Suicide Squad” played its role as a self-contained story, acknowledging that godlike entities existed. Waller just wanted contingency plans on the chessboard in a story separate from Snyder’s can of worms. However, the Batman tie-in felt organic and was inevitable, as he’s always had such an illustrious history with this black-ops unit. Waller, Harley and Joker were elements that had to cross his path, and even when seeds of discord were sewn with Bruce Wayne, it was done subtly.
At the movie’s end, it still felt like Waller’s team and their story, and that you wanted to see where they were heading next. It wasn’t necessarily about setting up Snyder’s team and their next move, even though little threads were there. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” forced that link between Thor and his vision of Thanos’ hunt for the Infinity Stones, but Ayer and company here decided to focus on Waller’s team and didn’t really go out of their way in terms of easter eggs, cameos and overdoing the Justice League setup, as seen where Deadshot and Captain Boomerang got incarcerated.
A major plus is how you empathized with members of Waller’s Task Force X. They felt human and you actually wanted them to escape at the end because of how they were portrayed as mercenary slaves. Deadshot was a dad who fell by the wayside, Killer Croc was seen as an outcast, El Diablo was just trying to redeem himself and attain salvation over the guilt he was enduring with his family’s death, and Harley was the victim of a broken heart and abuse.
Boomerang was someone you could tell had a glimmer of hope in him, and Rick Flag simply couldn’t give up on the woman he loved in June Moone/Enchantress. They were all prisoners in Waller’s heartless power struggle and as criminal as they were, they didn’t deserve to be treated like guns for hire in such a manner. Even if you didn’t want them to go free at the end, you certainly wanted them behind bars but liberated from Waller’s clutches. These villains were turned into relatable anti-heroes, garnering sympathy at the end in a world of gods and aliens.
11. WILL SMITH
Will Smith was spot-on casting. Not only did he bring Hollywood power as an A-lister to the table, but he rallied the cast. He was intense and really proved that Deadshot could carry a feud with Batman. His chemistry with Margot Robbie as Harley was also undeniable, stemming from their 2015 flick, “Focus.” Smith was a true leader in the field but outside that, he brought a sense of sympathy to how he played Floyd Lawton, who was trying to do right by his daughter.
His costume was also on point and he carried himself with his usual poise and never-say-die attitude, which really shone in the movie’s climactic battle against Enchantress. We’ve seen him like this in so many roles before, from “Independence Day” to “Hancock” to “I Am Legend,” and fans will surely be eager to see how he and Ayer link back up for Netflix’s fantasy cop-flick “Bright” later this year. DC fans specifically will be waiting to see if he gets a solo flick as Deadshot, or if we have to wait until Matt Reeves rolls out his take on Batman.
10. HARLEY & JOKER
When Paul Dini and Bruce Timm created Harley in 1992 for “Batman: The Animated Series,” little did they know the chaos they’d be unleashing. Such was her popularity that she made the jump to comics in 1993 and now, there’s talk of Margot resuming the role in a spinoff with the “Gotham City Sirens” alongside Poison Ivy and Catwoman. In Ayer’s movie, we got her origins done so well as the psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum who fell for Joker, starting their psychopathic and abusive relationship.
The chemistry and overall dynamic she had with Jared Leto as Joker was very strong and they felt like a couple caught in a criminal whirlwind. It was believable when he scorned her, yet you felt his infatuation when he came back for her. You could also relate to her wanting Joker, despite him being toxic to her redemption. It was a rollercoaster of emotions with these two, but all in all, the movie captured their dysfunctional courtship and togetherness to a tee.
9. NOT AFRAID OF DEATH
El Diablo was a character we were rooting for. He showed us the flaws of humanity and the struggle to redeem oneself. Most of all, he harbored an affinity for family, which translated to the finale, where he sacrificed himself in a literal blaze of glory for the team, fighting Enchantress. They tussled in true godlike forms, which impacted Deadshot and Harley a lot as they valued him as a warrior and a friend. It was a bold move to kill off a main member like that, even if he wasn’t an A-lister.
It showed, though, that Ayer was willing to invest and develop his characters, so that if they died, you’d feel that emotional connection. This was something Joss Whedon failed to do with Quicksilver in “Age of Ultron,” whose death was neither here nor there. It left no impression, but in DC’s filmverse, as seen with Superman, the hints of Jason Todd, and Jimmy Olsen as well, the grim reaper is something the studio and filmmakers are willing to explore on a visceral level.
8. SUICIDE SQUAD VS. JUSTICE LEAGUE
In the mid-credits scene, we got a very cynical meeting between Amanda Waller and Bruce Wayne. It was all about business, with Wayne promising she’d be protected from enemies and the government after the debacle with her team and Enchantress, while she fed Wayne information on the likes of Flash and Aquaman for his Justice League recruitment. The tension spilled over when he warned her to decommission the Suicide Squad, and she rebutted by letting him know she knew he was Batman.
It was a typical exchange that fans of the comics and cartoons couldn’t help but adore. It felt loyal to both characters and set up an intriguing prospect of both teams tussling in the future, as per the recent DC Comics event that saw Waller’s team wipe the floor with the League. With a couple new additions (maybe Killer Frost) and someone as powerful as Enchantress, Task Force X could give Batman’s team a run for their money. Still, this exchange was testament to how both Wayne and Waller wanted to engineer their vision of world safety.
7. BATMAN & JOKER
If it’s one thing DC fans — and fans of comics on the whole — love, it is the perpetual war that Batman and Joker are embedded in. “Suicide Squad” brought this to life as we saw a crazy car chase with Batman going after him and Harley. This flashback was made all the sweeter in that extended director’s cut. Batman was clearly enraged while Joker continued to show he was all about mixing murder and games when it came to the Caped Crusader.
Seeing Batman save an ungrateful Harley was another gem that showed how Joker didn’t care for anything except victory over the Dark Knight. Ayer teased the obsession both men had with each other, nodding to when we see Batman looking at the Joker-defaced costume of Robin in “BvS.” We didn’t get enough of them interacting but we can’t wait to see Matt Reeves unfurl more of their rivalry when he reveals his vision for Gotham’s protector. Ayer’s movie did nothing but whet our appetite for the destruction to come.
6. THE WALL
We got the manipulative, cold and calculating Amanda Waller that the cartoons and comics always depicted, and all through the Oscar-winning talents of Viola Davis. It’s no wonder she won the 2016 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for “Fences” because throughout her career, she’s shown so much range. As Waller, she took it up a notch from Angela Bassett in 2011’s “Green Lantern” movie, layering the role with intimidation and authority.
The way she blackmailed the team, showed she was ready to kill them at the drop of a hat (as with Slipknot on his attempted escape), how she handled Bruce Wayne, and her overall disposition in cleaning up her mess with bullets proved that she was all about one thing: the mission. We may not like her methods, but she does have Earth’s best interests at heart. Davis gave a commanding performance that induced fear in all who would oppose her. She was unwavering, relentless and unafraid, which is everything we need Waller to be.
5. THE JOKER
Amid the tattoos, the mouth grill, the sports cars, the Skrillex music video and the taunts of being called a Joker who shopped at Hot Topic, there’s still some commendation to be offered at how Ayer and company took a risk on differentiating their Joker. Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson’s takes will always set that cinematic bar high, but apart from all the flashiness, Leto’s portrayal was suitably maniacal and rife with murderous intent.
He had a slithery, snake-like aura to him, and was thoroughly unapologetic. Leto’s maniacal laugh, his antics of sending grimy gifts to his cast, and the fact that a whole lot of scenes were cut, all show that he was dedicated to the role. In fact, it may have come down to the fast-paced script and not his performance as Leto clearly wanted something contemporary but equally psychotic and disturbing to convey with the character. Like Snyder’s fresh take on Lex Luthor (by Jesse Eisenberg), such risk is welcome because beneath the style of Leto’s Joker, we have the vile essence of what makes him tick in a fresh and bold — if not universally beloved — way.
4. THE ACTION
This movie was a popcorn flick that prided itself on non-stop action sequences, which painted a spectacle on-screen. From seeing Joker and his henchmen in mid-assault, to the Squad battling Enchantress in a breathless and explosive finale, to just about every scene that showcased guns and warfare, Ayer held absolutely nothing back. It was all-out war as soon as Waller set them free to conduct their mission.
These sequences were very much built on wow-factors, as seen with the Joker-helicopter sequence, but it was apparent from the onset that DC wanted action scenes steeped in grandeur to set the stage for Enchantress’ final missive. If you’re familiar with his movies such as “Street Kings,” “End of Watch” and “Fury,” you’d understand that he loves street-level action just as much as epic war scenes. This translated well to the movie because at no point did it feel like letting up. Maybe there could have been some breathing room in certain spots, but as per the comics, he nailed the tone down perfectly.
3. STAY TRUE
This movie encapsulated all of the chaos that Task Force X brings in the comics, fitting right up there with the modern fare, as well as what we saw in “Batman: Assault on Arkham.” The latter was a powerful animated movie in 2014, whose tone parallels what Ayer and company depicted on screen: a team that was unhinged, dangerous and just following orders. In the comics, the same applies because it’s always come down to Waller throwing them to the wolves over the last few years.
Since debuting in 1959’s “The Brave and the Bold,” the team’s gone through several iterations and interpretations, with John Ostrander’s version standing out the most. Ayer reflected this in his movie and dialed them back to something that could be grounded yet ethereal, which also matched the grit we saw when the Squad appeared on shows like “Justice League: Unlimited,” “Smallville” and “Arrow.” The essence and aura of the Suicide Squad was fully captured by Ayer because it was all about them going into an impossible mission, with the odds stacked, as always, against them.
Margot certainly owned the role, from her accent to her crazy outlook and gallows humor. Her behavior, ticks and idiosyncrasies felt real and believable yet fantastic, like they were plucked straight from the comics; or better yet, from the animated series. She brought the attitude, charisma, sex appeal and gun-toting violence that fans clamored for since she was first cast, because let’s face it, Harley’s a key cog to the modern mythos of Joker, Batman and indeed, the Suicide Squad itself.
What made her performance even better was the dichotomy of good and evil raging inside her, remembering how Joker transformed her from the innocent Dr. Harleen Quinzel, the abuse she faced, the subsequent abandonment, the emotional trauma, her objectification, and of course, how she was torn in between redeeming herself or falling back into Joker’s trap. Margot brought a strong emotional drive to the role that transcended being just a dysfunctional prop, and it’ll be interesting to see how she evolves from here, given that she relapsed and eliminated all the progress she made with her teammates.
1. DAT SOUNDTRACK
The soundtrack was so good that it even garnered a few Grammy nominations. This was justifiable as Ayer and his “Fury” collaborator, Steven Price, wanted the score to be another character in the film, bringing a distinct personality to a world where gods, monsters and men war. What they did, though, wasn’t anything as out of this world as the “BvS” score, as they went for something human, a la Netflix’s “Luke Cage.”
Panic! at the Disco’s take on “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Purple Lamborghini” (Skrillex and Rick Ross), “Without Me” (Eminem), and the acclaimed “Heathens” by Twenty One Pilots, all contributed to the flair. “You Don’t Own Me” (Grace featuring G-Eazy) also showed the depth of Harley’s torture at the hands of Joker, further emphasizing that these songs weren’t random, but applied to each member, their struggles, their overall arc, and the collective’s journey. Appearing in the movie, but not on the soundtrack, were the likes of Kanye West, Queen, The White Stripes and Black Sabbath, to complete a diverse, eclectic bed of sound for a movie that never wanted to hold back.
Thoughts on our picks? Let us know in the comments what you loved about Suicide Squad!
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