5 Lessons That Suicide Squad Needs To Learn For Its Sequel
When Suicide Squad was released last year, critics treated it like they'd found a severed foot at the bottom of their popcorn buckets. And I won't act like I was any different. I once choked on a Jimmy Dean sausage biscuit for what felt like half an hour, and that experience was more pleasurable than the first time I sat through Suicide Squad. Since then, though, I've rewatched the movie, and my opinion of it has softened. Is it good? No. It is quite not-good. Is it asphyxiating-to-death-on-a-cheap-microwavable-breakfast-sandwich bad? No, it is not.
Recently, the director of Suicide Squad 2 was announced, and while the popular plan for improving this sequel seems to be "Just don't make it at all," I'd like to dig deeper. I think Suicide Squad 2 can be an enjoyable experience that in no way makes you recall drowning in processed pork. But to get there, it has to do a few specific things ...
It Has To Actually Be An Alternative To The Other DC Films
A lot of people took offense at the fact that Suicide Squad was apparently constructed out of smaller Suicide Squad-themed music videos. It was as if the director was handed the Suicide Squad: Inspired By The Motion Picture soundtrack instead of, ya' know, a screenplay. I don't have an issue with putting pop songs in a movie as long as they strengthen the movie instead of distracting from it. They blared "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" at the end of Manhunter, the first Hannibal Lecter movie, and it was awesome. The goddamn Texas Chain Saw Massacre sequel opened with a song by Oingo Boingo, and again, awesome. Why? Mostly they feel special, and they add to the mood, and they in no way feel like someone was trying to build a $175 million superhero flick around whatever popped up on their Pandora account.
Much has also been said about the tonal difference between Suicide Squad and something like Batman v. Superman. The former has the tone of a grown man shoving hot sauce packets into his sphincter, hoping that you'll like him. The latter has the tone of a stray dog out in the rain. The former was meant to fix the latter, and it did not, because you can't just say "That movie was too serious. For the next one, we need to put on a blindfold and shoot jokes at the dialogue."
Both of these things were desperate attempts at being "different," all in the place of doing something truly different. If they want to create an alternative to the goody-two-shoes antics that you see in stuff like Wonder Woman, they have to start from the ground up. It has to look different. It has to be shot differently. There have to be different morals in place, and different stakes. If I'm watching a movie about ultimately irredeemable bad guys, it has to be about some bad guys instead of temporarily awful bros just waiting for their chance to punch the clock and head into Redemption Land. And if it's a smaller story about characters who don't have the fame of Batman and Superman, you can't end it with a giant laser / unstoppable monster that threatens the whole world.
Make it gritty, and make it actually feel seedy. And if you want your movie about serial killers to be effective, it has to make audiences feel a little gross. We're rooting for the clown girl who has disemboweled a whole borough of Gotham at this point? Is this right? Why? Batman v. Superman actually got the tone of a perfect Suicide Squad movie better than the real Suicide Squad movie did, because the whole time you're wondering if you can really justify what Batman and Superman are doing. I'm not asking for a movie that tries too hard and gives us some hardcore Zack Snyder fanfiction. I just want a movie that is different because, at its core, it's about the villains, and not a bunch of relapsed antiheroes.
The Villain Needs To Be A Real Villain
I know that I just wrote that Suicide Squad 2 needs to be full of actual villains, and that the title of this entry is "The Villain Needs To Be A Real Villain." That would imply that the antagonist of the movie is just the person who shot more people than the rest of the cast. And that's probably what will end up being true. But it also means that the big bad, the boss they meet at the very end of the Suicide Squad 2 dungeon, has to be someone you undoubtedly want to see get their ass kicked.
A big issue with Suicide Squad is that it doesn't really seem like there's an actual villain in it. Sure, the team has to stop Enchantress from destroying a vague amount of the world, but isn't that the goal of, like, every member? They could easily swap that out with "Oh, no! Harley Quinn has a bomb. We have to stop her!" or "Oh, no! Diablo has a big flame gun. We have to stop him!" or "Oh, no. Killer Croc has, like, five crocodiles and one American alligator, which is the larger of the two species of alligator. We have to stop him!" A lot of that is due to a lack of proper character motivation, but at no point during Suicide Squad do you think "Oh, yeah. That one right there is the one who, if I had the choice, I'd definitely take out. Because they suck the most-est."
Apparently, the Joker was supposed to have a larger role in Suicide Squad, and I really hope they give him a massive role in Suicide Squad 2, because that guy sucks the most-est. We've seen two iconic live-action movies in which Batman fights the Joker. Rather than turn into the skid and once again have Batman face down the worst clown in the history of facepaint, put him in a scenario that is fresh. Put him in a scenario where he is by far the worst in the bunch. I would put up with a thousand more scenes of Jared Leto doing that weird bird mating call laugh of his as long as I got ten good minutes of the squad beating him from one wing of Arkham Asylum to the other.
He manipulated Harley Quinn, tortured her, killed countless people senselessly, constantly plays mind games with everyone, and has more resources than any other villain in town. That's way more despicable than the usual Suicide Squad MO of "I did bad things, etc." Or shove Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luther in as the villain in Suicide Squad 2. That dude is almost equally slimy, and he presents a threat that the team would have to struggle to match. Or have them team up, and watch them set fire to the film as they try to out-weird each other.
Ensure That The Action Scenes Are Memorable
In pro wrestling, there is the term "jobber." Jobbers used to be way more common back in the '80s and early '90s. It wasn't so rare to see event cards filled with things like "'Macho Man' Randy Savage vs. 'Wild' Doug Persnick" and "King Kong Bundy vs. Chip Morris, from Cleveland." These guys would get taken down in a few minutes or even less time, and they were around to showcase what the big stars could do. Suicide Squad is full of jobbers. Throughout that movie, we learn what everyone's powers are because they get to try them out on hundreds of forgettable zombie fellows.
Matches with jobbers can be fun for a while, but eventually you want to see them fight Hulk Hogan, because that's where the real money and excitement is. And aside from the climax of Suicide Squad, no one gets to fight their Hulk Hogan. It's just wave after wave of monsters, and it gets tiring after a while. It's like the team is grinding to build levels for bosses that never come.
Suicide Squad 2 absolutely needs to fix this -- not only because a good, well-choreographed fight scene can make a movie, but because it will be weird if the second Suicide Squad plot in a row is "They fight faceless goons in various alleys and buildings for a straight hour." There are plenty of superhero abilities that lend themselves to sweet one-on-one duels to the death. Katana vs. Lady Shiva, Deadshot vs. Deathstroke, Harley Quinn vs. Joker. Look at that face.
"Roundhouse-kick me, please." That's what that face is saying.
Let It Barely Rely On Other DC Films
I've written a lot of articles for Cracked about how much I like Batman. It is becoming an issue of sorts. And really, there's not a portrayal of the dude that I totally dislike. Even George Clooney. That guy is charming, and if they had decided to go whole hog and make Batman And Robin the total tribute to the '60s series that it was always meant to be, he would have been a great fit for it. I'm always open to seeing more Batman in more movies ... if it fits.
It does not fit in Suicide Squad.
Sure, he's only around for a few short cameos, but as I said in a prior column, everything that Batman is in tends to become The Batman Show, starring Batman and a delightful supporting cast of Who Gives A Shit. So I don't need to see Ben Affleck and his beef temple of a chest lumbering around trying to make me appreciate the movie more. They want to tell varied stories about B-list criminals, but having Batman show up forces audiences to ask the question "Well, where's Batman now? Why isn't he coming back? He sure was neat earlier."
And I don't mean remove all references to him. There's nothing more grating than when a top superhero is established, and every street-level person has to pretend that they're still coming to odd grips with it. They do that all the time in the Netflix Marvel shows. "The world's changed now. There are green monsters, and men of iron." Shut up. Call him Iron Man. I know that you know that's his name. Why? Because he said it on TV a lot, and his building is the biggest goddamn thing in New York City.
It does a shared universe movie no benefits when characters are forced to hint about the larger world in the most awkward way possible. That's one of the reasons Wonder Woman works so well; it keeps that to a minimum. Never mind that it's in a different time period from most of the DCEU. If you have a tight, focused script, you shouldn't have to worry about using name-drops and winking cameos to keep audiences engaged. Solid stories are surprisingly underrated.
Use It As A Launching Point For Female Characters
Wonder Woman made a lot of money and got good reviews, so thankfully we're going to be seeing a lot more of her in future DC movies. Suicide Squad made a lot of money, and got reviews. But people seemed to dig Harley Quinn, so we'll be seeing a lot more of her too, in stuff like Suicide Squad 2, a Joker And Harley movie, and Gotham City Sirens, which will probably star Catwoman, who has also been a historically successful film character. Well, except for that one time. But we don't speak about that one time. Children ask "But what about Halle Berry's Catwom-" and we quickly shush them, because it might hear us.
We should keep this trend going. Sadly, Hollywood doesn't exactly have the best track record when it comes to producing consistent films about badass women. They usually do one and say "Look, we made it! Are you happy now? Now go watch these 20 movies about dudes who want, and I hope you're sitting down for this, revenge." That's a shitty system. They're also pretty bad about sticking female characters in group movies. "Got 14 bros? A lady standing somewhere to the right should even THAT ratio."
There are too many good female villains in the DC Universe, and so few actually make it onscreen. So Suicide Squad, as a team film, is a great way to get audiences acquainted with them. Want to reinvent Poison Ivy's Hollywood image? Put her in Suicide Squad 2. Remember Livewire from Superman: The Animated Series? I'd be down to see a cool lady blasting lightning bolts at what I assume will probably be little clown-shaped robots in Suicide Squad 2. Giganta, Jinx, Magpie, Silver Banshee, Fatality, Duela Dent, Plastique, Shimmer, Queen Bee, Cheetah. That's just the tip of Killer Frost's iceberg. Oh, and bring back Katana from the first movie too, because she's cool and swords are cool, and the math just adds up.
I would watch a solo Queen Bee or Giganta movie right now. Unfortunately, we'll probably have to sit through about ten more attempts at making a solo Superman film happen before we get those. But if Suicide Squad films are going to continue to function as these weird "audition" movies to see if someone is going to be popular enough to spin off into their own thing, layer the team with female villains. And if you happen to give them personalities, not only will it make for a better flick, but Suicide Squad 2 will also be able to print its own currency, which will be accepted at your local Hot Topic.
And now that that's done, here's a rap video featuring Jared Leto's Joker and Rick Ross' Rick Ross. Sorry!
Daniel has a lot of dumb thoughts about Jared Leto's Joker, and eventually, they will all be revealed on his Twitter.
Hey did you know this isn't even the first Suicide Squad?
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