Marvel and D.C have become frequent entertainment for young audiences (that magical under 30 age group), which can give the false impression that superhero films are new. They are far from it; the first Batman film was 1943. So, it is hardly a new phenomenon yet, nevertheless, a curious one since, I dare say, the larger portion of British audiences have never read enough comics or graphic novels to appreciate a coherent fictional world. That and the sheer quantity of releases can be overbearing. The period between 2012 and 2016 all had ‘save-us-all’ movies, and now 2017 is due a tired Spiderman and a hopefully not-too-disappointing Guardians of The Galaxy sequel. Which is nicely marketed as ‘Volume 2’, as if that euphemism for sequels stops it actually being a sequel, loaded with all the precedent of failure that a follow-up movie usually entails.
So when it came to watching Suicide Squad, I could not have cared less. I thought it would be capitalist machine extruded, predictable, and lazy and was pleased to be right about that; experiencing a similar morbid pleasure associated with unhappy birthdays. Sure, the trailer looked good, but terrible films often showreel cherry-picked sweetness to lure you into two irretrievable hours of darkroom boredom. By the credits, I was thinking about how cool the multiple door allegory is in The Matrix and fantasising about the perfection that is New York cheesecake, when I should have been wishing it not to end so quickly: the mark of a good film.
However, I wouldn’t say Suicide Squad was a movie not worth seeing, because it did touchingly ‘have its moments,’ as optimists say, and it was that which persuaded me to watch it on the big-screen. It was worth Deadshot or Will Smith, and it was worth the visuals. Instances such as one character’s family being resurrected and Harley leaping into acid for the Joker and the Joker in turn leaping into acid for her. Most hauntingly beautiful was the hypothetical ‘normal’ future of Quinn and The Joker: with white lights and a background out of focus, the scene is framed by the two kissing in a fifties-esque kitchen, her holding a baby, and The ‘gorgeous’ Joker kissing a toddler goodbye. With fine details of loop earrings and hair curlers thrown in, the two villains are represented as human and that indeed is creative, if slightly fragmented.
While Marvel is sitting pretty in profit from stand-alone features (when the other Avengers are too busy to save the world, apparently), even making on-screen jokes of “not this again.” D.C. after Nolan has little going for it and Suicide Squad attempts to resolve that by making villains into near heroes. A great idea and there are glimpses of greatness (I adored some of the shots and stylish typography), but it is an attempt to remake the rules rather than extend them. It is impossible to believe the empathy of killers, especially psychopathic killers. That they, the villains, strive to save Midway City and the world while the heroes are presumably too busy is rather peculiar.
But there is hope in Suicide Squad, as failure can often be the best example: showing you what not to do. In my opinion, there is no problem but greed: there is really no need for more superhero movies and the production budgets would be better spent elsewhere, in more inventive ways. Why are the top franchises all baby-boomer or earlier, I wonder?
On leaving the cinema, my friend asked “did you enjoy Deadshot?” and I said, “yes, I did enjoy THAT.” “Yeah, that Jared Leto sent Will Smith a dead pig with its throat cut out? That’s method acting!” And that was more amusing than the whole film.