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Monday, April 11, 2016

Suicide Squad Trailer 3

Edited By Robert Beach

As I write this, it’s been a little over three weeks since Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice came out, and the overall response has been different than what was expected. This was intended to be the NEW start to the DC movie universe, much like Man of Steel before it and Green Lantern before that. Obviously, that doesn’t seem to be happening.  Critics spent a week or so savaging the film while general audiences reacted with a resounding “meh?” What’s more, the movie struggled to make a major box office impact and failed to open as large as it should’ve in China. 

Finally, upon being knocked out of the #1 spot by Melissa McCarthy’s new comedy The Boss, the writing is more or less on the wall for Batman v. Superman. Obviously, this doesn’t mean the end of the entire DCEU as more films are already in various stages of production now, but it does mean DC is in damage control and course correction mode as all eyes turn to Suicide Squad, just in time for a brand new trailer.

Well, that was certainly better. I’m still not totally aboard the Suicide Squad hype train like some other critics, yet I will certainly concede it’s starting to look a lot less like a dark, grimy, disaster that’s ashamed of its own source material, or even the word “comic book,” and more of a fun and off-beat conception. I like the work of David Ayer a lot so that’s certainly a point in Suicide Squad’s favor even if Suicide Squad is looking a lot more in line with S.W.A.T. than Training Day or Fury. Still, there are worse things to be than S.W.A.T. (like, for instance, Batman v. Superman). And Ayer has always been great at making asshole characters supremely likable, so if anyone can pull off this vision of the Suicide Squad, I’d trust him with that task. 

I still wish there was more Amanda Waller, Deadshot, or Katana in these trailers, especially given Amanda Waller is the closest thing to a main character/leader the Suicide Squad ever had. I at least understand the decision to refocus on Harley Quinn, even if the trailer plays a bit less like “The Suicide Squad” and more like “Harley Quinn and her amazing friends.” 

That particular team dynamic combined with the washed-out aesthetic is pretty reminiscent of the X-Men films, which is certainly a red flag. At the same time, it’s not like most of these squad members have rich histories or nuanced personalities that are getting betrayed by the shift in focus. Like I said, it’d be nice to get a wider spread of character profiles. 

In case it isn’t clear, I’m of two minds about this trailer and really this project as a whole. Part of that is just experience, you get burned enough times you start expecting it and given DC hasn’t made a good superhero movie this decade it’s kind of expected. What’s more, a lot of the lynchpins for this movie are characters that have become more than a little insufferable in modern times, specifically Harley Quinn and the Joker. 

However, things do seem to be on the mend as Margot Robbie’s Harley comes off much less insufferable in this trailer. Even though she’s pretty far removed from the mature look at unhealthy and abusive relationships the character started with, I also have to acknowledge characters can change meaning with time and context, and her premiere was over 20 years ago. Meanwhile, Leto’s Joker still looks on track to be pretty insufferable, a weird repackaging of Ledger’s interpretation with a glam-punk makeover and the intellectual maturity of an angsty 13-year-old, but he also seems more than a little divorced from the actual plot. 

As best I can put together from this trailer, Leto’s role in the film will be predominately in flashbacks to Harley’s origin story, furthering cementing her as the main character, and then showing up in the third act during the team’s actual mission. Speaking of which, I wouldn’t be surprised if Enchantress ended up as the actual villain of this piece given how much of the big 3rd act disaster seems to correspond with her mystic abilities. It would also explain why so little of the trailer actually focuses on her despite being easily the team’s most powerful and useful member. 

I mean, the opening monolog asks “if Superman went rogue, who would stop him?” If we’re being honest, the only members of the squad that might have even the ghost of a chance are Katana, El Diablo, and Enchantress.  El Diablo, the fire-powered guy, does look pretty cool in this trailer, and I like that there’s at least some visual flair to the super beings on hand instead of keeping the action emphasis on all the folks that only stab or shoot people. 

There’s also a good deal of Batman in this trailer; something I’d be more enthusiastic about if not for everything going so terribly wrong in Batman v. Superman. My suspicion is that Batman, like Joker, will be more relegated to flashbacks than the main plot, given Killer Croc, Joker, Deadshot, and Harley Quinn are all from his rogues gallery. Katana and Batman have been allies a lot in the comics, so he could be involved in the climax in some capacity. 

So, what did we learn from all this?  My big takeaway is that DC/WB seems to desperately want to course correct Suicide Squad. If I’m being honest, it might be genuinely too late. The point of comparison I keep coming back to is Rogue One, another upcoming genre film that has a much darker and more somber tone to it than Suicide Squad that I’m actually genuinely psyched to see. The difference here is Rogue One’s dark elements arise out of exploring ideas like the place of hope against the inevitable and the measures required to stand against impossible odds. 

Conversely, all of the dark elements of Suicide Squad seem to come out of a desire to produce ANOTHER Batman-branded superhero movie. At the same time, stylistically, I just can’t find entry into Suicide Squad’s brand of gritty character reimagining. Everyone looks like the production team took one look at the source material and decided it was too bright and colorful to fit the gory and empty story they wanted to tell. Maybe I’m being too harsh, but this is also the same year that gave us incredibly entertaining gory, empty, bad-taste wallows like Deadpool or Hardcore Henry and didn’t need to drape themselves in drab and grimy aesthetics to do it.  

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