[WARNING: This article contains potential SPOILERS for Suicide Squad]
With every casual moviegoer and their children now well-versed in the superhero movie genre, from its formulaic hero's journeys to its often forgettable villains, there's no better time to shock the system with an unconventional, paradoxical comic book mission. That's the thinking of Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment, at least, since they saw fit to not just greenlight a movie starring villains as the lead characters, but call on major Hollwood talent to do it. And in terms of buzz, Suicide Squad is already proving to be worth the investment.
Of course, the final judgement will only come once the film is released, so that its story, characters, themes and execution can be judged in their entirety, not in the brief, action-packed montages of the film's wildly popular marketing. And as the film approaches release, more and more fans are asking the same question: who are these villains gathered together to fight? Since she's the only one missing from every 'Squad' photo, it's been the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) at the top of the suspect list. But the truth is much more mysterious.
We had the opportunity to learn about the movie's villain, and the secrecy surrounding them during our visit to the movie's set. And now, we can finally share everything we learned about 'The Adversary' at the finish line of the Squad's mission (minor SPOILERS ahead).
The Eyes of The Adversary
Before we get to the villain, we must first outline his footsoldiers. Since this is an ensemble comic book movie, there's obviously a wealth of mindless goons for our heroes to dispatch without any remorse (in fairness, that's a trope that the comics relied upon even before their film adaptations). And as we looked up on the first concept art of military men who appeared to have been covered in thick, black motor oil, then bubbled countless black eyeballs out of the ooze, we were told by producers Richard Suckle and Andy Horwitz that these nightmare abominations already had a name:
RS: They're known as the Eyes of the Adversary.
AH: EA's for short.
Since then, DCEU producer Charles Roven offered up that title to fans eager to uncover the mystery of the movie's enemies, but failed to offer any more insight. Thankfully, the film's marketing, trailers, TV spots and sound bites have helped to fill in the basic plot, and how the EA's wind up in the Squad's crosshairs. For an unknown reason, an urban center in the DCEU known as Midway City has been struck by an unknown, terrible event. The streets are empty, the buildings burn, and this warzone is deemed too dangerous to send traditional troops into - leading to the formation and deployment of the Suicide Squad.
After their helicopter is shot down, the Squad encounters these EA's, still dressed in military fatigues or gear, though covered in the thick black substance. Wielding improvised weapons (including a stop sign) the monsters swarm the invaders... and instantly regret it.
The questions abound, but every time an EA has found the spotlight in a piece of marketing footage, it's hard not to cringe. And if it seems like a being who stepped out of a nightmare, it should - and the nightmare was David Ayer's:
RS: As you can tell, it's not a guy… that's probably a good way to describe it. And they play a very important role in this movie and is something that G-Squad has to contend with. I don't think it's anything you ever, for sure, have seen. That image, that idea, is something that David... I remember when he came into the office at Warner's because we were discussing, 'What are these things going to look like that the Squad has to come up against?' He was like, 'I had a dream last night. Let me draw it for you.' We were literally on a white board and he drew this head with these circular... You want to call them eyes, whatever they may be, and he drew it. It's almost verbatim, honestly... That is exactly what he came up with.
If 'villains created in a director's dream' is an actual subdivision of Hollywood's icons, then Ayer's Eyes of the Adversary are in good company, joining James Cameron's original Terminator.
But as tempting as it may be to assume these goons - referred to by costume designer Kate Hawley as "voodoo goop dolls" - are just mindless fodder to show off the Squad's combat skills, Ayer's hopes are much higher. When we asked him about the nature of the monsters, and how he came up with them, his answer was vague - but promising:
"Yeah... 'I had a dream.' Have you guys seen 'em? They’re pretty disturbing… yeah, they’re really disturbing. It’s hard to come up with bad guys, and it’s hard to come up with creatures... You want to do something fresh, yet, I also want to do something very specific to this world and unique. And I think we kind of nailed it."
The Suicide Squad writer/director then warned that to discuss any more specifics would mean divulging some secrets about "the bad guy stuff," which at the time of shooting was a "locked box." Having heard details about each comic book character in the cast, and these mystery monsters apparently doing the bidding of a master in shadow, there was really one other mystery to pursue...
It really is a rare thing to not just take a film from 'underdog' to one of the summer's biggest potential hits without divulging the actual villain of the movie, let alone get within weeks of release with the shroud of secrecy still intact. But instead of patting Ayer, Warner Bros. and DC on the back for keeping some secrets for the finished cut, let's break down what we know about The Adversary.
Unfortunately, neither Ayer nor the producers would outright describe the villain, or their relationship to the Squad, Midway City, or the exact link between it and its 'Eyes.' But they did offer some promises, and a tease that whatever The Adversary is, magic, religion and mythology are all going to be called upon to flesh it out. Not to mention the DC Comics storylines launched by "Suicide Squad" creator John Ostrander. Ayer explained that before he could craft the story and script for the film, he had to understand the historical context for the series, which meant "going into the original Suicide Squad," which forced more than a few of the film's villains together for the first time.
But just as the idea that he had created the movie's villain started to sink in, Ayer clarified that the 'henchmen concept' is something comics are built on, and he had put his efforts into adding some original details. But the big bad?
"The backbone of this story is right out of canon and it's one comic book. I'm not going to say which one... eventually people might figure it out."
It's a tantalizing tease - and if you haven't read our theory on the comic book issue, story, and villain, do so now - but one that throws a bit of a wrench into the theories of Enchantress 'breaking bad' and bringing the Squad after her (destroying Midway City in the process).
We say "destroy" since the film's marketing shows building, vehicles, and other landmarks... melted(?) by blasts from an unknown energy source. We had the opportunity to walk one street set during our visit, but no such fallout existed. There were some of the same markings on storefronts and apartment buildings denoting locations that had been searched, and occupants documented - just like the military really does carry out during epidemics, pandemics, or infections (even if it's mostly in fiction).
So, alright, there's the presence of the magical Enchantress, who doesn't seem to be this mysterious 'Adversary' - or if she is, that's not the whole story. Add in this biohazard-looking substance and evidence of some sort of "infection," and goo-covered 'Eyes of the Adversary' that look similar to soldiers themselves, and it's hard to know what to make of it. Producer Richard Suckle, sensing our interest in knowing what mythology or magic was driving the movie's plot, threw a bone for us (and our readers):
"There's magic in this movie. There's things that are happening that are unexplainable. Some of them may be attributed to magic. Some of them may be attributed to other things. Maybe they're scientific, but, yes, it's not just someone coming into the city and laying waste. This obviously is clearly ... Something has happened and the Squad is sent into Midway City to try and fix a problem, but that problem is something that you learn more and more about as the movie unfolds."
And in case there are some who worry this 'Adversary' is some sort of off-screen menace, or a veiled easter egg/connection to the larger DCEU that fans will need to see a sequel to truly uncover, Suckle has some good news:
"Oh, you will find out who the Adversary is. That is for sure. You will find out not only who the Adversary is but why they exist, who is part and parcel, and who is behind them. You definitely find that out in this movie, for sure."
Assuming the producers haven't gotten creative or misleading with their details, and Enchantress is The Adversary, are you as impressed as we are that the secret has been kept this long? Or do you have suspicions that the reveal of the movie's villain may not be everything fans might hope? Let us know your thoughts, and predictions, in the comments!
Suicide Squad is scheduled to arrive in theaters on August 5, 2016; Wonder Woman is slated for release on June 2, 2017; followed by Justice League on November 17, 2017; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; an untitled DC Film on October 5, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League 2 on June 14, 2019; an untitled DC film on November 1, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps on July 24, 2020. The Flash is currently without a release date.