August 5 brings us the newest (and third) entry in the quickly expanding DC Extended Universe (DCEU): Suicide Squad. The first two Zack Snyder-helmed installments, Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, dealt primarily with characters well known in popular culture: Superman, Batman, and Lex Luthor with a little Wonder Woman thrown in for good measure.
This time around, though, the characters are less familiar to the world at large and include, among others, Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), Katana (Karen Fukuhara), and Slipknot (Adam Beach). Together, they make up a team modelled on The Dirty Dozen: the worst of the worst imprisoned super antiheros who take on impossible and improbable missions for the government via A.R.G.U.S. (Advanced Research Group Uniting Super-Humans), under the direction of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), in order to reduce their sentences.
Warner Brothers has a lot riding on the success of this movie. The rival Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) consists of thirteen movies already released, all the way from Iron Man (2008) to Captain America: Civil War (2016), while Suicide Squad is only the third movie in the DCEU. In addition, while most of the MCU-related movies have been generally both well reviewed and commercial successes, Suicide Squad’s immediate predecessor Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was weak in both areas. Plus, with the soft opening and lukewarm reviews for the recently released X-Men: Apocalypse, itself the ninth installment in the X-Men series since 2000, an understandable sense of comic book fatigue could be setting in for critics and movie goers alike. Warner Brothers has an ambitious schedule for rolling out at least an additional eight DCEU movies over the next four years so it’s critical Suicide Squad, the complete movie, is a commercial success to provide forward momentum.
David Ayer was an intriguing choice to be Suicide Squad’s writer-director. While not known for big-budget CGI movies, he did write the gritty Training Day, which earned Denzel Washington an Academy Award for Best Actor, along with writing and directing the stylized Harsh Times, End of Watch, and Fury. (Or to put it another way, no matter what, he’s no Joel Schumacher directing Batman & Robin.) The cast, led by Will Smith and Oscar-winner Jared Leto as the Joker, is especially strong as well. From the footage released online, the movie appears to have a well-developed dark sensibility and perverse streak despite its PG-13 rating. (After all, if we learned anything from slogging along through Paradise Lost, it’s that being bad is more fun than being good.) Finally, with three strong female squad members—Harley Quinn, Enchantress, and Katana—Suicide Squad could give them the chance to do things the MCU hasn’t been able (or willing) to do with its near myopic focus on Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow.
Whether or not Suicide Squad can meet the Herculean task of kick starting the DCEU (again) is the kind of $250M crapshoot only Hollywood is willing to take. However, good or bad, it looks worth seeing just to watch all the moving parts and how well (or not) they fit together. Last line, I’m pumped to watch suicide squad!