Over the last few decades, comic book movies have reached heights of storytelling and spectacle that readers could never have DREAMED of. But for every triumphant high—The Dark Knight, The Avengers—there have always been a good number of stinkers… some bad enough to become punchlines or talking points, but most mediocre and ultimately forgotten…
Until they end up here.
The Discount Spinner Rack is where you’ll find the worst, the weirdest, and the most puzzling of comic book movie misfires. We’ll take a look at the things that actually work and the parts that absolutely don’t, and decide whether it’s worth your time and your dime. In the end, movies will be marked down on a scale from $1.00 (a surprise gem) to $0.05 (better used for kindling). For the twenty-fifth spin on the Rack, we’re gonna take a look at one of the most universally-hated films of the modern superhero-movie era (and for good cause!): the 2016 disaster, Suicide Squad!
CONTENT WARNING: This review is going to include frank discussion of abusive relationships, in particular physical, emotional, and psychological abuse. Reader discretion is advised.
“… Who in their right minds would belong to something that called itself a ‘Suicide Squad’?”
This was the thought that sparked John Ostrander’s 1987 reimagining of the little-known Silver Age adventure team. Originally created by Robert Kanigher and artist Ross Andru, the classic Suicide Squad had been a non-powered military team of adventurers (code-named Task Force X) who were sent in to deal with dangerous missions that would be “suicide” for anyone else to undertake. The team never really took off, though—only appearing in six issues of The Brave and the Bold and a handful of issues of Star-Spangled War Stories in the late fifties—and so when the decision was made to revive the name in the ‘80s, DC editorial gave Ostrander carte blanche to revamp the concept however he saw fit. And his solution to the problem of the name was ultimately an elegant one that defined the team from that point forward:
The people who join the Suicide Squad are people who don’t have a CHOICE.
The original Ostrander Suicide Squad run is some of the best storytelling DC Comics has EVER produced. The revived Task Force X would be a black-ops team made up of C-list supervillains from DC’s extensive back catalogue of costumed reprobates. Recruited by the government straight from prison, they would be given the chance to win their freedom by performing clandestine spy missions that the U.S. could completely disavow (writing them off as the work of independent costumed criminals); after a single successful mission, recruits could choose to freely return to their lives (and risk future incarceration should they also return to their criminal ways)1 or stay on with the Squad—making a stable living by constantly risking their lives to further America’s dirtiest political agendas. And if they died… so what? The whole point was that, as criminals, they were seen as expendable—and Ostrander didn’t hesitate to kill off characters to make it clear that the stakes were very real.
From beginning to end, the book was extremely politically engaged. The Squad was assembled by a new character named Amanda Waller: a black woman from the Cabrini Green projects of Chicago who’d clawed her way up the political ladder until she had the ear of the president himself. While Waller was a cunning and ruthless strategist, she also sincerely believed that she had created a force for good with her amoral actions… even though she was ultimately perpetuating the white supremacist patriarchy that had created the Cabrini slums and led to the deaths of her daughter and husband. And at Waller’s right hand was Rick Flag Jr. (son of the leader of the original Task Force X): a seemingly upstanding, honorable, all-American soldier and man’s man who, over time, proves to be emotionally stunted and completely incapable of relating to- or connecting with other people. All he understands is duty and violence; he’s the end point of militant machismo as an ideology.
The villains themselves were also portrayed with a good deal of nuance. While there was a rotating roster of characters, a few stalwarts—including Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, and Enchantress, among others—made up the core of the book. None were presented as mustache-twirling monsters, but rather complex and imperfect people who were the products of the lives they’d led and the world they were born into. These weren’t “bad guys”; these were human beings, as capable of growth and change as anyone else no matter HOW stunted and broken they may have started out—and so the cavalier ways that their lives would get thrown away made the whole story even more tragic.2
At their best, the Suicide Squad books were a thoughtful exploration of the ways the government exploits soldiers, prisoners, and the marginalized to consolidate and perpetuate white supremacist patriarchal hegemony. Which isn’t to say that they read like sociology papers, mind you; they were also action-packed, often funny thrillers with solid character work and a unique perspective on the sprawling fictional world DC had created. But what they WEREN’T, were an obvious inspiration for a crowd-pleasing summer blockbuster film.
And yet… somehow… THIS happened.
Now, there WAS an attempt to put together a standalone film about the Suicide Squad way back in 2009, with Justin Marks (Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li) attached to write. But the project didn’t gain any real traction until Zack Snyder took the reins of a proposed DC cinematic universe to rival Marvel’s, and writer/director David Ayer (Training Day, Bright) was brought onboard in 2014 to re-shape Suicide Squad into an extension of this planned interconnected mega-franchise. It would end up being only the third film released in said cinematic universe, following Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
… By all accounts, the development, production, AND post-production of the movie all turned out to be complete and total disasters.
To begin with, the release date was set in stone well before a creative team had been hired. So David Ayer was only given six weeks to write a finished shooting script for the project—an absurd deadline, given that he was writing an ensemble piece introducing nine major new characters3 who all had extensive histories to research and draw from4.
Making matters worse was a last-second executive mandate; originally, Suicide Squad was intended to feature Steppenwolf as its central antagonist, and showcase the beginnings of an Apokolips invasion that would culminate in Darkseid’s arrival for the Justice League movie. But with just weeks before the former film was set to begin production, Zack Snyder decided to save Darkseid himself for a later film and use Steppenwolf as the villain for his first planned Justice League film… forcing David Ayer to completely re-write and re-conceptualize EVERYTHING IN THE FILM that was directly connected to the main villain (ultimately subbing in a little-known villain from Ostrander’s run: Enchantress’s brother Incubus, a magic superbeing whose powers and personality are so radically different from the books, he’s not even really the same character anyway.)
Ayer shot his sprawling, unfocused script in April to August of 2015, with the intention of finding the movie in the edit. However, early test screenings of Ayer’s initial cut were met with largely negative reaction, so Warner Bros. turned to Trailer Park (an editing house that specializes in making… y’know, trailers) to re-cut the film as a more fun, upbeat, darkly comedic project—chasing the crowd-pleasing tone of the film’s first trailer (which used “Bohemian Rhapsody” to striking effect). That cut ended up being poorly received TOO, so Warner Bros. ponied up $22 million for reshoots in early 2016 in a desperate bid to lighten up the movie (after Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice—released just four-and-a-half months earlier—turned out to be a joyless, miserable slog that audiences turned on immediately)5.
The Suicide Squad that they ultimately released was a jumbled, patchwork mess of musical montages and bleak bursts of ugly violence. There were clear standouts in terms of characters and performance—Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn easily being the breakout star of the movie, while Will Smith’s Deadshot provided charm and an emotional anchor; however, just as prominent were the turkeys, no one moreso than Jared Leto6’s cringe-y, annoying Joker. Critics hated it, audiences were largely lukewarm, fans hated it (except for those particularly toxic Snyder-Bro fans who sent death threats to movie critics)… by most metrics of quality, it was a failure on its face7.
… So what, exactly, was this thing trying to be? What ideas are buried down deep in here, among the poppy graphics and the endless needle-drops (y’know, the desperate last-minute attempts to turn this thing into a Guardians of the Galaxy knock-off)?8 Well, your humble correspondent has taken it upon himself to excavate the blasted ruins of this miserable excuse for a movie, sifting through the debris and the dirt like a pop-culture archeologist to find the answers.
IN THIS ISSUE: A mangled, rambling, poorly thought-out parable about saving the world with the power of love. I am dead serious.
So to start, I think I should outline what I DON’T plan on talking about in this review. There are a lot of easy pot-shots to take with this movie when it comes to abysmal editing, music, stuff like that—but those’ve been talked to death already (if you want a rundown of the myriad ways that this film was mutilated in the edit, check out this delightful video by YouTuber Dan Olson). I’m not as interested in the post-facto ways Suicide Squad was hacked up in a vain attempt to salvage something.
No… I’m interested in the root ideas. I’m interested in the themes, the subtext, the concepts on display here… and how they demonstrate a SHOCKING lack of understanding of the material being adapted. Like, to the point where the director doesn’t even seem to understand what the Suicide Squad even is.
So, remember how, in Ostrander’s run, the entire purpose of the Squad was to run covert black ops missions for the U.S. government—which is why the team is made up entirely of super-criminals that can be disavowed by the government and scapegoated as the evil masterminds behind any given mission? This is a group of people who commit crimes on the government’s behalf; that’s the POINT.
Well, in the film, the team is explicitly conceived to be some all-purpose anti-metahuman strike force. The rationale given for this is breathtakingly stupid:
“What if Superman had decided to fly down, rip off the roof of the White House, and grab the President right out of the Oval Office? Who would have STOPPED him?”
… Oh, OBVIOUSLY the only person who could handle THAT kind of a threat would be Harley Quinn with a baseball bat.
Now, even setting aside the fact that only two out of the assembled nine Squad members even HAVE superpowers (and that one of those two—Enchantress—IMMEDIATELY goes rogue and ends up being the main villain of the movie), this set-up prompts a very important question: if the Squad’s purpose is simply to execute general military counter-striking… then WHY EVEN USE CRIMINALS AT ALL??? Wouldn’t soldiers be more reliable in any kind of above-board tactical situation? Or better yet: soldiers with super powers? Shouldn’t this be a job for A.R.G.U.S. or Captain Atom or something, rather than an Australian slimeball who’s really good at throwing boomerangs?
And making things worse is the fact that the criminals in question are given no incentive whatsoever to care about the mission they’re given, save for the constant threat of death.
The film spends a LOT of its first half establishing how horrific life is for the inmates of Belle Reve Penitentiary. We see repeated instances of Harley, Deadshot, and Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje in somehow-Oscar-winning lizard-man make-up) being dehumanized, abused, and generally treated like sh*t by the prison staff. But rather than, say, having Amanda Waller (Viola Davis, who’s genuinely too good for this film) use their awful living conditions as leverage to negotiate with—offering them an “out” by working for Uncle Sam, and thus ensuring their cooperation—there is instead NO negotiation9, and the entire Squad is conscripted by FORCE: each being outfitted with a capsule-sized bomb implanted in their heads to keep them from running and to force them to complete the mission10. This turns the whole concept of the Suicide Squad into an extension of their abuse, rather than a possible escape. Hell, Waller doesn’t even bother telling them they’ll get a reward for completing the mission (ten years off their prison sentences, and some assorted requests) until they’ve ALREADY COMPLETED THE MISSION!11
So if they don’t have any kind of choice or agency in joining the Squad (even an illusory one), and they don’t know there’s a positive incentive for completing their mission, and they see the Squad leaders and infrastructure as being part of the same oppressive power structure as the prison itself—and they’re being sent off on a mission that they’re repeatedly told is going to kill them ANYway—then why WOULDN’T they try to escape? What’s keeping them from just killing everybody and making a break for it if they literally have nothing to lose?
And sure enough, the first half of the mission (in the Extended Cut) is filled with scenes of the Squad plotting to make their move, while Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman, who’s far better in the sequel) has to keep threatening to blow people’s heads off in a desperate effort to keep the rowdy bunch of sociopathic murderers he’s been saddled with in line (all while constantly snapping about how sure he is that Deadshot will “cut and run”, because he doesn’t see criminals—or anyone who isn’t a soldier—as trustworthy).
It’s a waste of energy in both directions: the Squad are more concerned with killing Flag and escaping than they are with doing what they’re told, and Flag has to keep watching his back instead of doing his job.
Now, a savvy filmmaker could use this set-up to make a pretty interesting point about military or governmental incompetence—because it certainly makes Amanda Waller seem like a moron—but sadly, this is a movie that isn’t remotely interested in criticizing the U.S. or its military.
Instead, this is a movie about the power of LOVE! (… In a manner of speaking.)
See, there are three major character plotlines in this movie, and they all have to do with love, in one form or another: Rick Flag and Doctor June Moone/Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), Floyd Lawton/Deadshot and his daughter Zoe, and Harley Quinn and the Joker. (There’s also one more, but we’ll get to him in the end.)
Rick Flag and Deadshot are both violent men (soldier and mercenary, respectively) who find love as a powerful motivating force in their lives. Flag is only working with the Suicide Squad because Amanda Waller is using his love for Moone as leverage—threatening to put her in a drug-induced coma should Flag ever break ranks. And Lawton pursues his mercenary lifestyle (at least partially) as a means of providing financial support to his daughter Zoe, who’s living with her negligent mother and knows what her dad does for a living, but still loves him regardless. Both of them are essentially protecting their loved ones by doing the violent, amoral things that they do… and believe me, that’s gonna come up BIG TIME before we’re finished here.
So Enchantress is the main villain of the movie: a super-powered witch-entity who possesses June Moone and can only be controlled by threatening to destroy her HEART—a wicker-looking green thing which Amanda Waller finds and uses to conscript her into the Squad. The main plot of the movie is that Enchantress breaks free from Waller’s control by releasing her brother Incubus (who keeps her alive until her heart can be restored), and together they build a giant supernatural “machine” (read: skybeam) to destroy mankind’s defenses and force them to worship the two supernatural entities as gods (as they did in ancient times). So basically… the driving force for the villains is a desire to be loved, as one loves a deity. She even makes this explicit at the end of the film, when she promises to spare the Squad as long as they worship at her feet.
At the end, Flag has to choose between trying to save June or killing the Enchantress by… (*pulls out a megaphone, takes a deep breath*)… BREAKING HER HEART. Enchantress refuses to release June from her influence and begs for death so she can be with her brother Incubus (who died, tragically—I know you’re just as sad about it as I am). Flag crushes the heart, and Enchantress dies… but then June Moone emerges from the body, alive and well! Love has conquered all! … Right?
Just before this, though, there’s a scene where Deadshot has to fire a bullet at an explosive backpack that Croc has chucked at the big skybeam machine made of garbage. And just before he can take the shot, Enchantress makes him see a vision of his daughter Zoe, pleading with him NOT to fire so that they can be together. This is a mirror of a scene at the start of the film where we see Deadshot brought into custody by Ben Affleck’s Batman, in which she stops him from shooting Batman down by stepping in front of his gun12. But here, rather than being shamed into not firing and just giving up, Lawton girds himself (screaming into the face of his hallucinated young daughter), takes the shot…
… and the gun he’s holding—Harley’s revolver—spins its chamber from the one labeled “HATE” to the one labeled “LOVE”. And it’s “love” that saves the world!!!
But… what kind of “love” are we talking about here?
Put a pin in that. Because it’s finally time to talk about Harley and the Joker.
Harley Quinn has one of the most depressing, toxic, horrible relationships in all of comic books. Her origin story is that, as Arkham Asylum psychiatrist Dr. Harleen Quinzel, she was gaslit and manipulated by the Joker into falling “madly” in love with him—eventually breaking him out of Arkham herself and joining him as a costumed partner-slash-henchwoman. Now, if this facet of her origin wasn’t given TOO much focus, then stories could get away with treating her as a simple brainwashed tool of the Clown Prince of Crime, having some sadistic laughs at his side… but when you really explore this story, it becomes starkly inescapable that Harley is a victim of emotional, psychological, and often physical abuse: broken down into a codependent cipher whose whole purpose in life is to please her abusive partner. This is why so many of the best Harley Quinn stories are about her ESCAPING, or trying to escape, from the Joker’s influence; the more popular and beloved she became, the more audiences wanted to see her freed from the thrall of an increasingly cruel, violent, and monstrous Mr. J.
… But THIS movie? This movie paints them as Bonnie and freaking Clyde.
Possibly the ugliest aspect of Warner Bros.’ attempts to “lighten up” Ayer’s gloomy, unpleasant film was the bizarre decision to make the Joker/Harley relationship into a “true love” dynamic rather than an abusive relationship… even though they left in the early scene where Joker gives Harley electroshock treatments to fry her brain.13 Given how leering and creepy the film is w/r/t Robbie’s Harley (we’ll get to that), it’s doubly disturbing that the film, as is, refuses to acknowledge that she’s basically been psychologically broken into being the Joker’s ideal plaything. Instead, it keeps throwing in these moments to suggest that Joker actually cares about Harley (which is COMPLETELY antithetical to his character)—and when he shows up at the very end to break Harley out of Belle Reve, it’s obvious that we’re supposed to think of this as a HAPPY ending.
But this is one of those cases where we actually know what the original intention was, because a LOT of material has leaked regarding Harley’s original plot line. See, Harley and Joker’s reunion on the helicopter at the mid-point was supposed to be a fraught one (Joker bemoaning “the sh*t I have to do for you”), which would have ended with Mr. J PUSHING Harley out of the cargo hatch, rather than her falling out due to an explosion (the chopper was still supposed to go down, though). Then, the Joker was supposed to RETURN in act three with a partially burned face and demand that Harley escape the city with him. But here, Harley refuses to abandon the Squad, and so the Joker drops a grenade and bolts in the ensuing chaos. THAT was the culmination of her character arc: she explicitly chooses the Squad over her toxic relationship with the Joker. (Which makes it all the more tragic when Joker “rescues” her at the end of the movie.)
Now, there’s actually a common through-line with ALL of these plots and their culminations that’s kind of important: when the world’s at stake, the characters choose fidelity to the Squad and to the mission over their own, individual loves—because as the story is presented, staying true to love means staying true to the Squad. Saving Zoe means blowing up the Enchantress’s machine. Saving June means killing the Enchantress. And Harley finds friends in the Squad that help her escape from the Joker’s thrall (at least, for a while).
And then you have El Diablo (Jay Hernandez). El Diablo is a former cartel hitman with fire powers, who accidentally killed his wife and children in a fit of rage and has since forsworn all violence as a form of repentance. Diablo lost the person he loves, and his grief drives him to try to be peaceful man… but while his arc in the film DOES give him a form of redemption, he isn’t redeemed by peace—he’s redeemed by embracing violence again. Joining the Suicide Squad gives him a NEW “family” to protect, encouraging him to re-kindle his fire and LITERALLY transform into a flaming god of violence14… before ultimately laying down his life to protect the Squad. Violence and death are his noble redemption… which sounds just a bit off to me?
The fact is, this is a movie about SOLDIER MENTALITY. This is a movie about loving the Squad, because embracing violence is the one and only means to protect the things we love.
There’s a lot of talk in this movie about “good guys” and “bad guys”. In terms of actual moral actions, there doesn’t seem to be much difference; Amanda Waller murders a half-dozen tech support nerds to cover her own ass, and Rick Flag mentions that he’s “buried a few mistakes” himself. Katana (Karen Fukuhara), Flag’s second-in-command, is introduced in flashback murdering gangsters for revenge, and then sternly declares that she’s “not a criminal” later in the film. So why even use the terms at all? Is it to highlight the hypocrisy of labeling one set of murderers “good” and one set of murderers “bad”?
Nope: it’s to establish that the ACTUAL good guys are the people who are loyal to the troops—and by extension, to their country—while the ACTUAL bad guys are strange, foreign invaders who want to turn us into faceless drones. The Suicide Squad may be made up of criminals, but they all band together and find camaraderie as fellow soldiers, which redeems them; Enchantress, meanwhile, is a non-human entity coded with pagan and Muslim iconography (can you believe they actually put a CRESCENT MOON headdress on her? Like, one of the predominant symbols of Islam? Holy sh*t…) and described by Deadshot as being simply “EVIL”. She’s the Other, non-Western and non-Christian, and so she HAS to be destroyed.
And there are a LOT of other toxic ideas wrapped up in this worldview, aside from the super-obvious nationalism and Islamophobia.
There is so much military and gun worship going on in this flick… like, a worrying amount. Even though the Suicide Squad is supposed to be an autonomous task force, they’re still sent into Midway City (the epicenter of Enchantress’s attack) with three squads of special-forces soldiers (led by a commanding officer played by Scott Eastwood, for some reason), whom we see doing maneuvers and clearing rooms and blah blah blah. And there’s a lot of military lingo bandied about15, lots of glory shots of dudes in camo gear carrying AR-15s… It’s gratuitous, fetishistic, and it clashes terribly with the underlying fantasy. Because if you have three squads of trained soldiers, heavily armed with machine guns and tactical gear… then why does this mission even NEED a boomerang-guy or a crocodile-man? And again: Harley is only carrying a baseball bat and a revolver!
And speaking of Harley… I couldn’t get through this whole review without mentioning the misogyny. ‘Cause, yeah… there’s a LOT.
To begin with, there’s the rampant, shameless objectification of every single female character in this film who isn’t Amanda Waller.16 Enchantress’s whole costume is a flimsy green bikini; Katana spends the whole movie wearing a workout bra with a tiny leather jacket over it; and poor Margot Robbie has to make her debut as Harley Quinn in a sheer T-shirt, a “Property of the Joker” jacket that she loses halfway through the movie, and booty shorts. The camera is constantly ogling Harley, too—from the initial suiting-up montage where the camera does a slow tilt up of Harley slipping into her clothes, to the repeated and gratuitous ass-shots that are sprinkled throughout. And Ayer makes sure to introduce Harley Quinn in a scenario wherein she’s trying to sexually manipulate scummy prison guard Griggs (Ike Barinholtz) by licking a prison bar (something that seems WILDLY out of character for Harley). It’s genuinely creepy.
And there’s this pervasive toxically-masculine mindset running throughout the script that equates femininity with weakness. On two separate occasion, Harley shames men into taking violent action by calling them a “p*ssy”, and Enchantress goads Rick Flag into finally killing her off by denigrating his manhood, muttering “you don’t have the balls”. And the thing is: these tactics work! Because the men in Suicide Squad are all deeply insecure misogynist man-babies who need to carry around giant phallic guns to feel secure in their manhood… and the movie doesn’t see anything wrong with that.
So by the end of the movie, the Squad is back in Belle Reve, and each of them is suddenly getting treated with the dignity and respect they were denied in the beginning. Deadshot gets to visit his daughter! Harley has an espresso machine! Killer Croc gets to eat human food and watch BET! And all it took for them to get treated like actual human f%$#ing beings was risking their lives doing ostensible slave labor for an oppressive government military apparatus, under the constant threat of death! (And of course, creature comforts or no, they ARE still in prison and they ARE still subject to the cruel whims of Amanda Waller and the Task Force X project!) And this is presented as a HAPPY ENDING! That’s… that’s…
Look, this movie is more than just awful, okay? It’s existentially depressing. It’s a manifesto from a hyper-conservative militant advocating for a world wherein the only escape from violence and oppression is to join the violent oppressors. And worse still… it’s a movie that considers those violent oppressors to be the GOOD guys—because at least they’re not the Other.
It’s a love letter to fascism. Or rather… it’s a letter explaining what a fascist thinks love is.
IS IT WORTH YOUR DIME?: F%$# NO. I mean, I didn’t even TALK about how ugly the cinematography is… how unpleasant and toxic all of the characters are… how thoroughly mangled the editing is… how dull and repetitive the action is… how boring the villains are… how many annoying pop songs have been crammed in here… how dreary the production design is… ANY of that. This movie is as close to radioactive as a film can get.
DISCOUNT PRICE: $0.05 (RUN!!!)
- Captain Boomerang: The one character who actually stands out as genuinely fun in this whole film is, appropriately enough, the scummiest, most shamelessly degenerate jackass on the team. Digger Harkness is a loudmouthed, sleazy, cowardly slob in a tracksuit and a filthy trench coat, who’d rather crack open a beer and hide in a back alley than fight an army of mud monsters. He’s introduced to the team leaping out of a burlap sack and slugging the first guy he sees. And somehow the filmmakers realized that the best guy to play this was, of all people, Jai Courtney—the bland slab of beef who was seriously miscast as Kyle Reese in Terminator: Genisys, and who is completely unrecognizable here! (He also gets the best joke in the movie: when the team is hiding out in a bar, and Rick Flag smashes the brain-bomb control pad and mutters “you’re free to go”… Boomerang IMMEDIATELY grabs an armful of beer cans and wordlessly bolts for the door.)
- The Cast… Hypothetically: This film has a stunningly great line-up of actors who are almost all ideally suited to playing the characters they’ve been cast as… in, like, a completely different movie. Margot Robbie would go on to play a pitch-perfect Harley Quinn in her next two films… but here, she’s less of a fun, trickster-y character and is more of a sadistic, manipulative harpy. Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag is a slimy, cruel, violent bag of d*cks in this movie, but in James Gunn’s sequel he became a moral anchor and a genuine heroic presence. And Viola Davis’s Amanda Waller is spot-on in terms of performance, but the script makes her into a blithering idiot in a way that doesn’t jive with the sharp way Davis plays her. These actors needed a better film to flourish in—and thank God, most of them got one!
- The Joker’s Aesthetic: Yeah, you read that right! As awful as Jared Leto is (in the role AND as a human being), and as seemingly overwrought as the design decisions were for the Joker in this movie… I actually do like the IDEAS underpinning Joker’s tattoos, his “gangsta” fashion sense, and his general look in the film. Because conceptually, the Joker has always been something of a heightened mockery of what a “criminal” should be (dressing in a zany exaggeration of a ‘40s-style gangster zoot suit, complete with fedora and trench coat), and this film simply recontextualizes that idea by applying it to a contemporary Miami drug lord vibe—overblowing everything about it until it becomes a ridiculous parody of itself. Yes, the “Damaged” tattoo is stupid, but I think that it’s deliberately stupid—a form of heckling from the Joker, poking fun at the self-seriousness of tats as a form of macho expression. Plus, at the very least, he’s colorful!
(For a great discussion of how Leto’s Joker is actually not as far off-base for the character as people make it out to be, check out this video by Jack Saint!)
- Uhhhhhhhhhhhh…: Look, sometimes it’s hard to come up with five of these. And it’s especially tough when you’re talking about a toxic, mangled, deeply unpleasant trash fire like Suicide Squad. I mean, what else is there to praise? Will Smith’s cool Deadshot mask, which he only wears for one action scene? That one shot where Harley’s in her classic jester outfit—which they then tease two more times while keeping her in the booty shorts? Or the fact that Margot Robbie’s Dr. Harleen Quinzel looks like she was vaguely modeled after Kim Basinger’s Vicki Vale? All of this is surface-level stuff—Easter eggs, style choices. And in the face of such a miserable slog of a movie, that fluff is barely even worth mentioning. Like, that two-second Flash cameo wasn’t that great of a thing even BEFORE all the deeply disturbing crap that’s gone down with Ezra Miller. So I’m taking a mulligan on one of these.
- “This is Katana! She’s got my back!”: An absolute masterpiece of terrible exposition, and the one and only place where the movie gets to be bad in a fun way. Forty-nine minutes and thirty-four seconds into the film, C-list superhero Katana shows up from out of nowhere and joins the Squad as they fly off to their mission. Rick Flag, realizing that the audien- I mean, the Squad would have no clue exactly who this strange masked woman is supposed to be, blurts out who she is, why she’s there, how tough she is, and what her powers are in five blunt, inelegant sentences. And it is HILARIOUS.
NEXT ISSUE: October is coming, kiddies, and with it will be a Halloween special that I’ve been dying to sink my teeth into… But after that, we’ll be taking a jump back to the small screen for a look at The Incredible Hulk Returns: an ‘80s TV movie featuring the live-action debut of the Mighty Thor!