Suicide Squad and the Future of DC Comics Superhero Movies | Fanboys Anonymous

Suicide Squad and the Future of DC Comics Superhero Movies

Posted by Unknown Saturday, November 29, 2014
In the aftermath of Warner Bros' announcement of its DC Comics film slate to shareholders, one film stood out and became the subject of much interest and development buzz: Suicide Squad. The film attracted top-level talent across the board and has become a curiously important movie for the fledgling DC Cinematic Universe. Let's take a look at the film that will serve as the third building-block of the DC Comics film franchise.

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First, a breakdown: Suicide Squad has been a relative mainstay in the DC Comics lineup since its introduction in 1987. The premise is simple. Groups of incarcerated supervillains are given the chance to undertake highly secretive, highly dangerous missions in exchange for a lesser sentence. As director David Ayer accurately puts it, "It's The Dirty Dozen with superheroes." Some characters are considered key to the Squad's history, like Batman foe Deadshot, a can't-miss master assassin, Flash enemy Digger Harkness a.k.a Captain Boomerang, and Harley Quinn.

It's a great concept, one that's right in Ayer's wheelhouse. The writer of Training Day and director of End of Watch and Fury will do great things with a morally grey action-drama premise like this. It should have been no surprise, then, when the project attracted talent like Will Smith, Tom Hardy, and Margot Robbie. Soon enough additional names like Jai Courtney and Jared Leto were circling the project as well. As of this writing, Kerry Washington's name has been thrown into the mix as a choice to play Squad leader Amanda Waller, a key figure in the DCU.

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There's a lot to think about here. Let's get the trivia out of the way to begin with. Will Smith is reportedly up to play Digger Harkness, Captain Boomerang in the comics (something tells me they'll avoid that name, except perhaps in jest). As the name implies, the character uses a variety of boomerangs in his escapades. Tom Hardy supposedly is set to play Rick Flag, the field leader of the Squad and an operative for the US government, one of the few "good guys" on the team. Margot Robbie and Jared Leto are said to be playing Harley Quinn and the Joker, and taking into consideration the possibility of Kerry Washington as Amanda Waller, that's where this gets really interesting.

Marvel, at present, hasn't explored much of the underbelly of their Cinematic Universe. The focus has been, naturally, on the heroes. DC has set up a different tone for themselves already, following in the somber footsteps of Christopher Nolan's example with his Dark Knight Trilogy. To have the third film in the franchise feature villains and antiheroes says a lot about the direction and tone this megaseries will take. Not only that, it serves as a kind of unique backdoor into subsequent entries in the DC slate, perhaps introducing villains who'll later antagonize their more famous and virtuous foes.

Amanda Waller, in particular, carries a lot of DC world-building weight on her shoulders, tied to numerous characters and organizations in the DCU. Not the least among them is Lex Luthor himself, and Waller was rumored to make an appearance in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Similar rumors have swirled that Luthor makes an appearance in Suicide Squad.

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"I'll just wait ominously in the shadows until then."
This kind of back-and-forth, employed properly, will I think create strong and deep connective tissue to support the DC movies going forward. At the least, it establishes a definitive "other" for the heroes to combat. Think about it: in the very next DC outing, two of their biggest heroes, and perhaps more, will clash. It's likely orchestrated or helped along by characters who benefit from seeing the heroes fail or fall. Then, we find that there is in fact an entire subculture of villains—perhaps a society, if you will—some of whom wish to mitigate their sentences by helping to carry out shadowy missions for a shadowy employer.

The predominant superhero movie paradigm has been hero versus villain, good versus evil. Though we've seen this change somewhat over time, as with Captain America combating (and unwittingly, for a time, serving) an entire evil organization instead of a single Big Bad, man vs. man has remained the standard. DC is setting their films up to be much more ambiguous in their characterizations and conflicts, offering an alternative to Marvel's thus far bright and shining heroes.

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Hold that thought.
It's worth noting that this will change for Marvel in the near future, as Avengers: Age of Ultron and the third Captain America film, Civil War, draw closer. Both of those films, and I'm certain others in the Marvel lineup, start to blur the lines between who's on whose side. Even Ant-Man, considered relatively lighter fare, stars a hero who originates as a criminal. Still, DC putting their darker side front and center in the first few installments of the franchise says a lot about how they're treating their stable of characters and could provide some clues as to the direction the overall series of films will take.

As a final note, I find it extremely interesting that DC is willing to debut the Joker so potentially early in their movies. Heath Ledger left an indelible mark on the role, and for many has proven the definitive version of the character. This isn't to argue against using the Joker—he was always going to come back. That's what he does. He's too good a character and too important to Batman, WB/DC's most important property, to keep down for long. For me, the interest lies in the apparent willingness to feature the character in a non-Batman film. It establishes that Joker has a life, and a story, outside of Gotham City and the Bat. Featuring Harley Quinn alone would hint at the Joker's presence in this new DC Cinematic Universe and still provide some wiggle room for the eventual filmmakers to introduce Joker as they liked. This approach, more than anything, sets up what might be DC's approach to their filmed villains—that they transcend boundaries and are not limited to "their" heroes.

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Keeping hope alive for madness like this.
I should say that I don't believe the Joker will serve a main role in Suicide Squad. A) He'd be in Arkham, not a standard or even high-security prison, and thus be ineligible for the program. Anyone who tried to get Joker on that team doesn't know the Joker. He's too wild for the carefully monitored and controlled missions undertaken by the Squad. B) It's just not his style, even if Harley Quinn is on the team. He'd sooner kill everyone on the team and go get a milkshake. More likely, to me, is that Harley is struggling to separate herself from the Joker, who she maybe runs into during the course of the film, perhaps even setting up a side-plot for a later Batman film. It's entirely possible, of course, that Batman himself could feature (again, likely in a small role) in Suicide Squad. Several of the team members tend to be Gotham-centric, and it would be a good way to raise the profile of the movie.

That said, Will Smith, Tom Hardy, Margot Robbie and Jared Leto/the Joker in general will certainly provide some draw of their own, and David Ayer is all but sure to deliver something terrific with a property like this. It'll be interesting to see what the Suicide Squad does for the WB/DC machine going forward.

Are you looking forward to it? Or think it'll be a misfire? Take aim and fire away in the comments.

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