Whether you loved it, hated it, or loved to hate it, Batman v Superman wasn’t exactly a roaring success. The notion of seeing the world’s greatest heroes throw down was thrilling for fans everywhere, but a quick succession of questionable casting, dour demeanor, and muddled storytelling made for the worst Friday to Friday drop (81.2%) in box office history. Select fanbases scrambled to defend its merit, while most viewers and critics were more than happy describing the film as “153 minutes of a grown man whacking two dolls together.” Granted, the BvS Ultimate Cut received a warmer reception on home release, but the damage to the DC Extended Universe has already been set in Kryptonian steel.
Now, Warner Bros. and DC Studios are given the daunting task of keeping their franchise afloat after two mixed showcases (2013’s Man of Steel being the first). If a third strike makes it into the catcher’s mitt, the possibility of making it to the Justice League seems a task too great for even Superman and company to pull off. Luckily, Suicide Squad instead looks to make this third time a charm. Heavily anticipated and highly touted, Squad is in the rare position of revitalizing an entire movie universe.
Here are Screen Rant’s 15 Ways Suicide Squad Will Improve the DCEU.
15. Taking a break from Zack Snyder
Having brilliantly adapted the graphic novels 300 (2007) and Watchmen (2009), Zack Snyder was still a divisive choice to assume the milk-and-cookies mantle of Man of Steel, and his stoic approach left many moviegoers feeling mixed. Batman v Superman only furthered this dreary tone, and the director’s emphasis on style over substance has now come under fire from, well, just about everyone. Despite this backlash, DC has tapped Snyder to direct the two part Justice League film, and recent news has even confirmed his involvement in next year’s Wonder Woman.
Unlike Marvel, who’ve upheld the practice of putting eggs in different directorial baskets, this lone compass is dangerously close to running it’s course. That’s precisely why Suicide Squad will be such a welcome departure. With Snyder-esque influence absent for the first time, the studio can prove their ability to pedal different flavors to the audience. This is especially important given the pipeline of series newcomers (Patty Jenkins, James Wan, Rick Famuyiwa) that are slated to appear in the next few years. Who knows, perhaps the break will even allow Snyder to revise his blueprint before heading back into battle.
14. Welcoming in David Ayer
With Snyder cozily tucked away, creative duties have been shifted to comic book newcomer and crime specialist David Ayer. Another unconventional choice for DC, Ayer’s resume has been built on gritty action flicks like Street Kings (2008), End of Watch (2012), and Fury (2014). Though typically centered around men of authority (he wrote Training Day), Ayer’s primary skills as a storyteller tend to lean towards moral compromise, and the repercussions of evil in a harsh world. Taking these traits into account, his role as Suicide Squad director seemed both inspired and impressively matched up.
The other exciting aspect of Ayer’s involvement is his noted lack of superhero experience. Whereas Snyder’s signatures were already in place for Man of Steel, the Illinois filmmaker hasn’t had to the chance to develop bad habits or cliched comic tendencies. In fact, given the universal acclaim awarded to his recent work (End of Watch, Fury), it looks like the former screenwriter is still in the midst of improving his craft.
13. A sense of humor
Suicide Squad’s other big coup heading into release is the fun factor. Instead of trudging further and further into superhuman angst, Ayer and company allow the insanity of the entire set-up to guide the mood. It’s apparent from the previews that this ragtag bunch of killers and psychopaths would be a ball to hang out with (from a safe distance), and each come complete with their own ingrained quirks. Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, Captain Boomerang and the rest of the crew get to shine with some truly funny lines, ensuring there won’t be an overstock of depression at any point.
Perhaps most importantly, and a trait that Ayer has exercised in the past (End of Watch), is that characters come off as funny even when they aren’t trying to be, i.e. Diablo’s barroom bit about drinking water. Organic humor is key to a well-balanced film, and Suicide Squad looks to have it in spades (or jokers). Besides, when the competition is Batman and his painful “I thought she was with you” gag, all Squad has to do is keep our collective eyes from rolling to claim victory.
12. Amanda Waller
Amanda Waller doesn’t get to sport any spandex gear, but she may just prove to be the most devious villain in the entire film. Producer Andy Horowitz described the government agent as “one of the scariest characters in the movie,” and given Viola Davis’ searing screen presence in the trailer, it’s not a far stretch to envision her creeping us the hell out. Previously played by Angela Bassett in Green Lantern (2011), this iteration of Waller is swift to act and sneaky to plan, the kind of person Davis characterized as “ready to pick up a gun and shoot anyone at will.”
The Emmy winning actress also took a page out of her co-star’s method book and read M. E. Thomas’ autobiography Confessions of a Sociopath to prepare for the brassy role. In being the mastermind behind Suicide Squad’s formation, the character provides a distinct moral flavor, that, along with second-in-command Rick Flag (Joel Kinnamen), fulfill Ayer’s patented portrayal of corruption. Davis is signed on to reprise Waller two more times, so this dangerous ride is just getting started. Producer Richard Suckle does his peer one better by simply deeming the character “a bad motherf—-r.”
11. Less emphasis on setting up future movies
Infatuation with future installments was one of the many bones that fans had to pick with Batman v Superman. Barring the shoehorned Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg cameos, most of the foundation that was laid felt a little too on the nose. Like Iron Man 2 (2010) before it, Snyder’s saga buckled under its own responsibility, unable to breath beneath the concrete pillars that needed narrative placement. By contrast, Squad looks to be relatively void of any larger franchise duties, and can focus upon the important things–mainly, being a good movie.
Granted, Squad will introduce pieces that fit into the larger DC puzzle, but Ayer seems far less interested with shoehorning that he does narrative integration. Joker’s touchy history with Jason Todd is rumored to reach the surface, as is the introduction of magic (via Enchantress) into the extended universe. Both serve to enhance what little we know of the story, instead of taking time to literally stand and look at a costume with spray painted verbal shade. With less strings attached, the film will be far easier to digest.
10. Characters are truly at risk
For the better part of it’s existence, the DC Extended Universe has been dominated by archenemy Marvel Studios. Comparing Batman v Superman and Captain America: Civil War is unavoidable, with each pitting heroes against one another as society hangs in the balance. Released within a few months of one another, it’s a competition that goes woefully un-won by the Dawn of Justice crew. But with Suicide Squad, set to hit theaters a good two months before Marvel’s Doctor Strange, DC has the potential to gain the upper hand.
The MCU, for all its narrative strengths, promote one weak spot: the reluctance to kill off primary characters. Many had a sneaking suspicion that someone would (or should) have gone down in Civil War, but this proved to be nothing more than speculation. Suicide Squad, on the other hand, has been adding fuel to the fire regarding major deaths, with predictions ranging from Deadshot and Rick Flag to Diablo and Slipknot. The moral, ultimately, is that no one is safe, and this sense of mortality already enables Suicide Squad to stand out. No, Superman’s momentary death does not count.
There was a time when Will Smith was the biggest movie star on the planet. Everything the man touched in the 2000s turned to box office gold, bar none. Recent years, however, have proven far less kind to Big Willie, and a string of duds like After Earth (2013) and Concussion (2015) has sapped most of the actor’s financial clout. Ironically, it’s this very weariness that lends itself so well to the role of Deadshot. Smith, now the seasoned vet with a couple quips still in the gas tank, is shaping up for what many deem to be his comeback performance.
As a mercenary with inhuman aiming abilities, Deadshot presents a distinct shift in the Smith archetype: a bad guy. Granted, he looks downright saintly compared to The Joker or some of his more sadistic cohorts, but the Oscar nominee was drawn to the part precisely for this shady departure. “I had never played a character that legitimately didn’t give a f—,” Smith would explain to Entertainment Weekly, “It’s very freeing not having to carry the moral spine of the movie.” He’s finally acted long enough to see himself become the villain, and it sounds positively terrific.
8. Directly addresses the flaws of Batman v Superman
Artistic liberties were at a surplus in Batman v Superman, and director Zack Snyder was repeatedly called out for failing to adhere to his source material. Sure, he named dropped Frank Miller on several occasions, but the inability to connect with comic book fans left a big demographic out in the cold. The filmmaker defended these attacks with comments like: “People are always like, ‘You changed Superman.’ If you’re a comic book fan, you know that I didn’t. I always default to the true canon.” Besides these concerns, plodding pace and dodgy storytelling didn’t do the director’s vision much help either; as evidenced by the promotion of a ‘stronger’ Ultimate Cut.
In response, Ayer has taken a far more earnest approach to his superpowered posse: “I dug deep in this and really researched the comics, pulled storylines from a lot of different sources, characters from a lot of different sources, and it all works together really well. But I think for someone that doesn’t know any of it, it works great too.” Wrapped up in what looks to be a taut, swift, blockbuster, Ayer’s revision of BvS flaws could offer content that feels more strategically placed and paced. Fingers crossed no famous characters get offed early on–R.I.P. Jimmy Olsen.
7. Less CGI, more grit
The CGI in Batman v Superman is a love-it-or-hate-it element. It’s impossible to convey Superman’s strength without it, and it’s equally impossible to envision a Zack Snyder film without it. Select moments put this tool to brilliant use (Martha Kent’s pearls, the desert sequence), while others (Doomsday) were tough to endure altogether. In response, the stripping back of Suicide Squad isn’t so much a CGI critique as it is a chance for the franchise to show visual variety. A fair share of characters like Enchantress and Killer Croc make it a necessity, but even then, the touches feel worn down and gritty by design.
Ayer’s CGI experience is limited, with the extent of his effects typically dealing with believable bullet wounds. Actor Scott Eastwood recently spoke on the film’s gritty vibe: “We’re doing a lot of our own stunts. Really physical. David is a very physical filmmaker. He wants everyone doing their own stuff. He doesn’t hire guys who aren’t willing to do that.” Plus, early car chase footage already looks way more believable than what Batman was up to in Dawn of Justice.
6. Harley Quinn
In contrast to co-star Will Smith, Margot Robbie has been on a steady ascension ever since her acclaimed turn in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). Since then, Robbie has dabbled as a thief (Focus) and a damsel in distress (The Legend of Tarzan), but neither have made use of the manic energy lurking beneath her regal exterior. Harley Quinn, on the other hand, is all about manic, and Robbie’s “vexing” performance could very well walk away with the entire film.
Funny, zany, scary… you can’t come up with enough adjectives to describe all the different things you see her do,” warned Suicide Squad producer Richard Suckle, and fans seem to be in unanimous agreeance. Quinn has already had the largest exposure (literally and figuratively) in the previews, but Robbie’s cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs portrayal has only escalated the buzz heading into next month’s release. When asked to describe her iconic character, Robbie retorted in true Harley form: “Creepy, violent, crazy — all of the things that I aspire to be!” Or perhaps that’s just what the voices said…
5. Batfleck Returns
Most everyone can agree that Ben Affleck’s Batman was a highlight in Batman v Superman. Skillfully balancing playboy with preening sociopath, his inspired take on ‘The World’s Greatest Detective’ left many excited as to where the character would go in future appearances. Turns out, the wait would only be six months, as Affleck is all set to reprise the cape and cowl for a menacing turn in Suicide Squad. Still unclear as to whether his scenes would be flashbacks or post Dawn of Justice, David Ayer has instead divulged another detail about Batfleck’s return:
“All the Batman movies have been from Batman’s point of view,” Ayer explained to Collider. “He’s the good guy. If you look at what Bruce Wayne has done in creating the Batman persona, his idea was to terrorize criminals. It’s sort of psychological warfare against criminals. This wraith that comes in the night and attacks and pulls criminals from society. For the first time, we’re seeing Batman from the point of view of the criminals and he’s freaking scary.” Scary Batman? Count us in.
4. Character we’ve never seen on the big screen
Harley Quinn has gone through four Batmans and two Jokers since her creation in 1992, and only now are we getting to see her on the big screen. Robbie seems just as excited as her DC fans, going on to explain how she’s “fortunate to be the first to do it because no one has set the bar remarkably high like they have with Joker. So in that sense it is easier but I’m accurately aware of the fact that there is a massive fan base and I don’t want to disappoint anyone.” Taken in relation to the rest of the Suicide Squad, the actresses’ enlightening perspective is pretty spot on.
Characters never intended to see the light of a movie camera–Killer Croc, Katana, Diablo–are being unleashed in one fell swoop, and the unknown factor that each bear with them is both exciting and alluring. Like the Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) before them, this eclectic team have the freedom of a clean slate, and plenty on that slate to destroy.
3. A spectacular cast
Snyder’s Man of Steel cast was an embarrassment of riches, with Oscar winners Russell Crowe and Kevin Costner joining nominees like Amy Adams, Diane Lane, and Laurence Fishburne. It was a world-class assembly of talent, yet the film had them all coming across stiff, uninspired, or just plain boring. BvS continued the trend, adding acclaimed actors Holly Hunter, Jeremy Irons, and Jesse Eisenberg – each of whom fell victim to underuse or just plain miscasting. To DC’s detriment, their franchise staple seemed to be squandering great performances.
Suicide Squad is on a great pace to reverse the wastefulness. For starters, the assembled cast is staggering: *deep breath* Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnamen, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Cara Delevingne, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Karen Fukuhara, Scott Eastwood and Jared freakin’ Leto. Not only are each outstanding in their own right, but Ayer has managed to find roles that maximize their acting potential. Barring a massive disappointment on all fronts, this performing posse has finally given DC some acting to hang their hat on.
2. The Joker
No one has been subject to more hype than Jared Leto’s Joker. Since being announced in November of 2014, the marriage between the iconic role and the Oscar winner have made fans frothy with anticipation, both eager and unsure of what to expect. Leto’s offscreen antics are already upping the ante on comic book commitment, going as far as to mail his co-stars hog carcasses and consulting criminal psychopaths. “I took a pretty deep dive,” the actor admits, in one of his rare non-Joker moments, “But this was a unique opportunity and I couldn’t imagine doing it another way. It was fun, playing these psychological games. But at the same time it was very painful.”
Leto never broke character onset, and reportedly pulled from Mexican drug cartels and the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky for inspiration. And while this method approach doesn’t necessarily guarantee a great performance, Leto’s acclaimed history seems to affirm such a suggestion all on it’s own. Smith even went as far as to confirm the actor’s creep-factor, quipping how he “never even met him” during the shoot. When fellow villains start getting freaked out, it’s a good sign of jokes to come.
1. An original premise
David Ayer was quick to establish what he had in mind for Suicide Squad, and verbalized it in colorful fashion:
“You know, all these movies are about defeating the evil alien robot from f—ing Planet X, before it destroys the world with its ticking clock. And who the f— cares? But you do this story about struggle and isolation, and people who have been s— on that suddenly get thrown this lifeline… that’s not so bad… I like to think of this as the Comic Book Movie 2.0.”
Blunt as it may be, this 2015 interview with Empire Magazine perfectly describes what makes Squad unique in the age of the superhero. The “Comic Book Movie 2.0” has been hinted at with Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool (2016), but never has it fully engulfed the viewer in legitimate supervillains. The notion of seeing powers, teamwork, and wittiness through the eyes of psychos and serial killers sounds like a serious breath of fresh air.