Lady Geek Girl: Recently Blackout (one of our former writers), Ace, and I all went to see Suicide Squad, a movie that had already received some of the worst reviews ever even before it hit theaters. This was a movie that the three of us were very much looking forward to. We loved all the characters and wanted nothing more than to see this movie reignite the DC Extended Universe. So how do we feel about this movie now that we’ve seen it?
…It didn’t exactly go as we had hoped. DC Comics seems to continually want to let us down these days. Each time we get excited and think that maybe this time we will get something good, something worthy of the characters we love—and each time thus far we have been colossally disappointed. But this movie takes the cake when it comes to bad DC movies. Not only does the movie’s plot make little to no sense, it also succeeds in being both racist and sexist.
Oh, and Jared Leto was fucking terrible!
The whole movie is just a confusing mess, but the basic premise is that after the death of Superman, Amanda Waller realizes that if Superman had been a bad guy, they would have had no defense. So she assembles a team of villains, implants bombs in them to keep them compliant, and uses them as her special squad to deal with these particular issues. This team includes Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Killer Croc, El Diablo, Slipknot, Enchantress, and Captain Boomerang, along with heroes Katana and Rick Flag, who help Amanda keep the team in line. Problems arise when Enchantress, who is basically a demigod, uses her powers to free her brother and goes rogue. The whole plot is then centered around the Suicide Squad stopping Enchantress. It could have potentially been really interesting, but sadly, it—wasn’t.
Blackout: For this movie to really hit the ground running, I felt it needed to establish a solid plot. It needed to give the audience a reason to be invested. And, honestly, I thought it started off well. Amanda Waller, played by Viola Davis, believes the next World War will be fought against metahumans and wants the U.S. Government to fund her attempt to build a battalion of metas whose only job is to fight for the U.S. in this upcoming war. But once the basics of the plot are established, the movie proceeds to ignore everything it set up and just loses control. I mean, this movie is the equivalent of the tail of a plane being on fire and the pilot telling people the history of the mountains they’re about to crash into.
Some of the characters get well-rounded introductions. Most of them all share a common theme where Batman captures them, but I digress. But most of the members of Suicide Squad get introductions akin to a dismissal. They generalize why they’re in jail. I’ll use El Diablo as an example. El Diablo may have the best front-to-back character story in the movie, but we have no clue who he actually is until we get to the final act. And while we know he turned himself in, we don’t know what makes him tick.
Lady Geek Girl: This is a problem with almost all the characters. We are always told things about the characters, never shown. Katana probably has one of the most interesting backstories, and we never really learn it. We are told that her sword traps the souls of the people she killed and at one point we see her talking to her husband’s soul in the sword. None of this is ever explained or even really explored in the movie. You never feel any connection to Katana or most of the other characters. Harley Quinn and Deadshot get the most characterization, and maybe they deserve more as they are bigger characters, but this is a team movie and at no point does this movie attempt to get you to connect with the other members of the team.
At the end of the movie, both Harley and El Diablo make great proclamations about how they are doing all of this “for their friends”. But you never feel like any of these characters actually are friends. They barely even have enough screen time together as a team. Basically, by the third act, characters act and talk like they are now friends, but none of that is ever actually built up to or earned by the movie, leaving the audience wondering why these characters seem to suddenly care so much for each other.
Ace: Not only do these characters fail to become a believable team, even getting to know them from an audience viewpoint is a challenge, because the movie is filled with racism. I’m not sure where to even begin when talking about this, because there are not just one or two incidents of racism—the entire movie is racist. All of it.
To start off, we’ve got our villain Enchantress and her brother Incubus, people possessed by native demigod spirits. I’m not sure what “native” in this sense means, probably the mythological Mayincaztec or some shit, but mostly they were designed to just look “tribal”. Then again, this shouldn’t have even surprised me, since filmmakers have never been concerned about appropriating native cultures and turning them into one monolithic group of people before, so why start now?
Lady Geek Girl already mentioned the catastrophe that is Katana’s character, but her prop-ness is so much more than that. She spends the movie speaking nothing but Japanese, because you know, she’s Japanese and that is what Japanese people do. The people who wrote her character have no idea how bilingualism works. The biggest problem here is that the other characters—shockingly—don’t speak Japanese and therefore cannot understand her. Language is hardly the only form of communication, but since Katana doesn’t interact in any other way with the other characters, it’s impossible for her to be part of the team. She’s a prop masquerading as diversity.
Blackout: And that’s just the tip of the poorly-designed racial prop-characters. Slipknot, played by Canadian First Nations actor Adam Beach, was introduced by punching a woman in the face, saying two, maybe three lines of dialogue, and then having his head blown off by a nanobomb planted in his neck when he tried to escape because Captain Boomerang, a white character, told him the nanobombs were probably a bluff. His entire existence was to show that the nanobombs in their necks were real. No character development. No history into who he is. Just a needless death.
The other character that almost made me leave the theater was the movie’s portrayal of Killer Croc. Croc was played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, but you wouldn’t know under all the CGI and make-up. But you do know he’s Black. They make sure that Croc’s lines, all one-liners and jokes, are said in your standard stereotypical accent. And, in case you weren’t sure Croc is Black, his reward for successfully completing the movie mission was getting to watch B.E.T. Let me say this again—of all the things Croc could ask for, he did not ask to be treated like a person instead of a monster. He did not ask to be called by his actual name, Waylon Jones. The writers had him ask for B.E.FUCKING.T. The writers had a chance with Croc to throw away the angry, animalistic Black man stereotype by showing that Croc isn’t an animal but a man with crocodile-like features, but instead decided to punt that and go for the B.E.T. joke.
Get it? It’s because he’s Black.
Lady Geek Girl: Speaking of women getting punched in the face, let’s talk about the sexism in this movie. As you can guess from what we’ve said about Katana and Enchantress/Doctor June Moone, not many of the women get much development. Enchantress’s backstory is only kind of alluded to and very little about June Moone is said other than her possession by Enchantress and romance with Rick Flag. You never really get the chance to care about her or Katana beyond their roles as plot device or prop. Amanda Waller gets more character development than many of the other women in the movie. But Amanda Waller, who is a fucking badass in the comics, is damseled for half of the movie. Then there is the fact that there is actually more than one occasion where a woman is punched in the face by a character. We are dealing with a movie of villains, after all, but each time, this was played for laughs. Maybe I was just in the wrong theater, but when a woman is punched in the face and the entire audience views that as a laughable moment, then the movie has been shot wrong.
Last, we have Harley Quinn. My poor sweet Harley deserved so much better. Harley Quinn is one of my all-time favorite comic book characters and I was primarily looking forward to this movie because of her. I loved Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and I loved pretty much all of her character development. And unlike most people online I don’t have an issue with her outfit. I was worried about it originally, but it is true to the current comics and fits the character well. I would actually say I loved all of Harley’s outfits. Is it sexualized? Yes. Harley was objectified, but honestly not as often as I had expected—which is not saying much, but I was expecting much worse. But my biggest problem was how Joker and Harley’s relationship was portrayed.
Ace: Oh God, their relationship. I don’t know why the fuck Suicide Squad presented their relationship the way that it did, but what I do know is that whoever was behind that decision should never be allowed near either character ever again. The big thing with Joker and Harley is that their relationship is abusive. In all other media, Joker beats Harley, shoves her out a window at one point, attempts to murder her, and the few times he does act caring is when Harley realizes the abuse for what it is and attempts to leave him. The Joker manipulates her all the time, and most of all, he does not love her.
To Suicide Squad’s credit, it does show some of the abuse—Joker forcefully electroshocks her and then has her jump into a vat of acid—but it doesn’t present their relationship in an abusive light. Instead, it romanticizes it. Joker is hopelessly in love with Harley and spends the movie trying to save her. Not only was this a pointless waste of screen time, it romanticizes something that should not be romanticized. It’s not hard to guess that the movie wants us to walk away and not think badly of the Joker’s treatment of Harley—Hot Topic is already selling romantic Joker/Harley merchandise, and that’s not to even mention all the people on Tumblr reblogging gifs of the two under #relationshipgoals.
Part way through the movie, we’re tricked into thinking Joker dies, so during the climax when Enchantress shoves Harley into a vision of herself and Joker living in a suburban home raising two children, we’re supposed to feel bad that it can never happen. What we’re not supposed to feel is pity or empathy for an abused woman fantasizing about what she wants from someone who only uses her. We are actually supposed to feel bad for Harley that the Joker is gone and that she cannot settle down and live the rest of her days with him. The movie also refuses to even attempt to explore the psychological harm Harley’s been through, because the movie clearly doesn’t think that’s a thing.
Blackout: As long as we’re on the subject of Joker, let’s talk about Leto’s portrayal of Mr. J. When you’re looking at a villain as sadistic and disturbing as the Joker, you laugh at his antics because you are uncomfortable. The Joker tells bad jokes where the punchline is always death. He uses everyone for his endgame, no matter who it is. But that is not this Joker. Leto’s Joker is just all over the place. There isn’t an endgame for this Joker because, and I firmly believe this, Leto has no fucking clue who the Joker is.
Leto’s Joker doesn’t have the chaos factor that Ledger had. He leans towards Nicholson’s variation, but constantly falls short of achieving the act. In one scene, Leto’s Joker surrounds himself with a ton of weapons in a halo-effect on the floor, demanding his henchmen tell him where Harley is. When he finds out the henchmen are on Harley’s trail, he lays down and begins to laugh. Why? Ignore that Joker caring about Quinn’s well-being makes little sense. Why is he laughing? There was no joke there. He’s just laughing because that’s what the Joker does? That’s not the Joker. That’s someone cosplaying as the Joker and not doing a good job at it. And that’s what Leto’s Joker feels like—someone cosplaying as the Joker without any rhyme or reason as to what that actually entails. For all the creepy shit that Leto did to get “into character”, this Joker is less character and more caricature.
Also, Joker’s obsession is Batman, not Harley. Ace already said that, but I feel like it needs to be repeated ad nauseum until Warner Brothers remembers their fucking source material.
Lady Geek Girl: And that’s the biggest problem I think with all of DC’s movies as of late. The DC comics animated movies are typically fantastic and stay true to the characters. The live-action movies do not do that. They want a long term plan like Marvel has, but don’t want to put in the effort. There is no goal and no attempt to engage with new fans while still being true to the original comics. I really wanted to like this movie. I actually liked Man of Steel, though I know it had problems, and I didn’t entirely dislike Batman v Superman, though I didn’t think it was especially well done. But this is just terrible. I love DC Comics. I don’t want these movies to get continually worse. Please DC Comics, we are rooting for you; stop putting out crap!