Now that the real trailer for ‘Suicide Squad’ is out, I feel like I can make a better stab at predicting its ups and downs than when I was deeply unconvinced that I was actually watching a real thing made by real professional Hollywood types. (Which, don’t get me wrong, it was certainly a very good fan-made production, far better than I could do. But it did not look like a multi-million dollar budgeted movie, is all.) My basic prediction is that it’s going to have trouble finding an audience, and it may have trouble finding its voice. That doesn’t necessarily translate to being bad, but it is two big strikes against it right from the start.
The first problem, and perhaps the biggest, is that it’s coming too early. The thing that makes most of the best incarnations of the Suicide Squad interesting is that it’s about taking known quantities, and putting them into new situations where they reveal unexpected character facets. What made Captain Cold interesting in the Suicide Squad was that everyone thought they knew who Captain Cold was; he was that lame supervillain with the freeze gun who served as Barry Allen’s punching bag every six or seven issues. But when you saw him in the Suicide Squad, you realized there was a lot more to him than that.
The Suicide Squad movie does not have that audience familiarity. A few of them may know Killer Croc or Harley Quinn from the Batman cartoons/video games/ancillary tie-in material, and of course the Joker is guaranteed box-office. But most of the characters they picked are obscure even for DC fans. Apart from people who are going to see Will Smith be all Will Smith-y, there’s really nothing to get people into theaters. A trailer for ‘Suicide Squad’ should look like an inverted version of the 2012 Avengers movie, a collection of DC’s worst and darkest coming together to band against something that scares even the bad guys. This feels like a collection of scrubs and oh by the way the Joker.
This leads into the second problem–if the best incarnations of the Suicide Squad work when they’re about familiar villains revealing unexpected character beats, and they’re not familiar villains, then the character beats won’t be that unexpected either. The ‘Suicide Squad’ movie will have to spend its time establishing these characters to audiences who don’t know them, and will then have to provide reasonable-seeming motivations for them to do something out of keeping with those newly-established characters without making it seem like forced, unmotivated writerly fiat. I have some suspicions that this won’t work well.
I think that honestly, this should either have come much later in the development of the DC Cinematic Universe (assuming such a thing doesn’t die a quick death over the performance of ‘Batman v Superman’), or it should have been an ongoing TV series. A series would have given them more room to develop the characters initially and made their transition to wherever they’ll be going as personalities seem more natural. That said, I’m not writing off the movie even with these questions hanging over it. Even the muddy gray-and-brown color palette isn’t enough to make me give up on it just yet.
But if Amanda Waller says in the next trailer, “Actually, it’s more like…a squad,” I’m gone.