The Suicide Squad was not one of the big comic movies I was looking forward to when I thought about the extensive upcoming slate of superhero movies over the next few years. In fact if you had asked me to list all the superhero movies coming up I would have almost certainly left it out, even after the excitement caused by the tattooed Joker pic. But the release of the team photo by David Ayers not only got me excited about the movie, but also sold me on what the various creative minds behind WB/DC’s attempt to create a cinematic universe are trying to do.
On a basic level, I just like the look of the team. Katanna’s look combines real world function with the best parts of her comic book inspiration and is my favorite of the bunch. Enchantress looks like she just stepped out of a horror movie and stands out in a good way. The Killer Croc design works better than CG would for the grimy look they are going for, but I would like to see him in motion. I just like the melding of real world and fantastic aesthetics under a heavy coat of grime.
As for Harley, I understand why they went with that look. I grew up with Batman the Animated Series and there is no question that that is the defintive and best version of the character. But that was a long time ago, and I imagine it could be argued very strongly that the version with the greatest mainstream awareness is the one from the Batman:Arkham game series. So it does not surprise me that they decided to go with a design that was closer to that version than the TAS original. The important part is getting Harley’s personality right, and it will be a while before we see if they can pull that off.
To me the photo symbolizes the DCCU. It’s dark, messy and gritty attempt to make the DC characters relevant and viable as they try to compete with the superhero movies produced Fox and of course, Marvel. It’s also confusing as hell, as many of the characters shown in the photo were not listed as part of the cast and characters that were mentioned are not present.
It’s a glorious, weird mess that symbolizes what WB/DC is doing, almost certainly not by design. There is no master plan here, just a bunch of movies with superheroes in them that are supposed to be connected. Superman is a sad, mopey, city destroying messiah. The Joker is in love with bad tattoos, or maybe he isn’t. Who knows? There’s a lot going on and nobody is sure where it will end up.
And that to me is an interesting distinction from Marvel. Not worse and definitely, absolutely not better, just different. While Disney/Marvel has for the most part stayed out of the way of the various creators working in their universe and allowed them to tell distinct and often very good stories, it is not hard to tell they are working in a set framework. Again, the results have been stellar so far, but it is nice to see DC taking a different approach even if it is not by design and more the result of WB’s bloated bureaucracy being unable to centralize the creation of these movies.
Having missed out on the great comics of the 80s, growing up I avoided comics because I felt they stuck too close to the status quo, freezing characters in worlds long gone making them ill fits for telling modern stories in the modern world. Superhero comics that challenged that drew me in, books like New X-Men, The Authority, and The Ultimates. Over time I came to appreciate the more traditional versions of the Marvel/DC superheroes, but I’ve always preferred when people took the basic concepts of the heroes and just went wild. The mix of familiarity with the unknown was always exciting and interesting. It could be really good or it could be beyond awful, but I always felt it was worth the trip. That’s the feeling I get when I see things like this Suicide Squad team photo.
Now I’m not saying any of the DC movies are going to be any good and I’m certainly not claiming some heightened artistic sense about what David Ayers and Scott Snyder are doing. I just like it and am really excited to see where it goes, even though it almost certainly ends up nowhere good. Everything DC is doing gives off a raw, chaotic energy that is in stark contrast with the orderly domination exhibited by Marvel. And try as I might, I can’t convince myself that that is a bad thing.
Even though they don’t deserve it, I’m rooting for DC and their crazy, weird, and confusing universe to succeed.