The big entertainment news coming out of this week is Warner Bros. casting announcement for the upcoming DC Comics film, Suicide Squad. Rumours and hype had been building up to the announcement over the last month. Margot Robbie was reported to be in the role of Harley Quinn then there were suggestions that Jared Leto, Will Smith, Tom Hardy and Jai Courtney were all in talks with DC. So this has been coming for a while but it was good. It gave us confirmation of who we can expect to see and the roles they’ll be playing. And people are excited. Me? I’m approaching the film with a cautious optimism.
However, I will say that I am a lot more interested in seeing Suicide Squad than I am of the upcoming Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Maybe that’s just because I’ve know less about the Suicide Squad and the development of the film. That’s not to say that I’m on the inside but I’m well aware that Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was originally a Man of Steel sequel that has gotten lumped with the job of creating a shared universe, a role that Marvel gave to five separate films. And don’t let Warner Bros. fool you. The fact that they moved Dawn of Justice so that it wouldn’t clash with the opening of Captain America: Civil War shows that they don’t have faith in the movie to compete with Marvel.
Done right, Suicide Squad could be a good way of DC Comics finally planting their foot in the superhero team up scene. Sure, it should have happened in 2013 instead Man of Steel but better late than never I suppose. And unlike Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice this isn’t DC Comics forcing Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman into a situation to make it crystal clear that they all exist in the same universe and to act as a wink-nod that there is definitely a Justice League film coming. Christopher Nolan dissuaded Zack Snyder from inserting a post credit scene to Man of Steel (though he disputes the exact quote). Why would he need one? Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is pretty much one big pre-credit stinger for the two part Justice League films in 2017 and 2019.
Suicide Squad will be hard to do wrong. There is a pre existing story and plot that they can adapt for the screen. Furthermore, it has an advantage over other superhero groups in that these are bad guys forced to do good. That even separates them from Sony’s upcoming Sinister Six spin off, although we know so little about that film that there may well be some overlap. But Suicide Squad still has the trump card of having more recognizable villains. I like Spider-Man, even the new Amazing films, but I will admit that none of his rogues gallery, not even Green Goblin and Doctor Octopus, are half as iconic as The Joker.
Joker’s presence in the Suicide Squad does throw up a red flag for me though. While Jared Leto can do menacing and insane, my concern derives from the fact that The Joker was never actually a member of the Suicide Squad. If I’m wrong on that, feel free to correct me in the comments below. I do know that he was involved in some of the backstory for some members but as far as I am aware he never joined. It might be interesting if Joker’s presence was only in Harley Quinn’s flashbacks, and Leto was simply cast as a teaser because they plan to use him later. That would be a good way of building a shared universe and having your films inform one another. But it could also be that Warner Bros. doesn’t trust Suicide Squad to sell tickets and are sticking big names in the roster to entice audiences. This is compounded by rumours that Jesse Eisenberg may reprise his role as Lex Luthor, though my feeling is that will largely depend on how fans react to him in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.
The casting does worry me a bit as well. I like all of the actors individually. As mentioned, I think Leto has the talent and ability to play The Joker. Tom Hardy is also a very likeable actor and will probably help to make audiences care about a group of villains. Margot Robbie is there for sex appeal but The Wolf of Wall Street revealed that she can at least do mean and manipulative. Outside of those actors, it could go either way. Will Smith was good in action films in the late 90s, early 2000s but his recent films haven’t had the same acclaim. Cara Delevangne is known more for modelling than acting. Jai Courtney isn’t an actor I’m familiar with and while he is on the rise, Terminator: Genisys could put a stop to that.
Out of those six actors only two aren’t big name actors. And of those two lower list actors one is actually well known outside of film. On top of that, Oprah Winfrey is the first choice to play Amanda Waller, with Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis next in line. That’s a lot of star power for a film that shouldn’t really need it. And WB can’t use the excuse that casual viewers don’t know who the Suicide Squad are. Guardians of the Galaxy was not a household name before their movie and Bradley Cooper, the most well known actor in that group, was a voice actor. Even if they don’t know who the squad are, even people who don’t read comics and don’t watch movies know who The Joker is. Before Guardians of the Galaxy, no one knew who Groot was. Warner Bros. already has name value.
Why this worries me is because it looks like Warner Bros. is trying to stack the odds in their favour. They are so concerned about getting people to buy tickets and get them into the theatre. There is no thought going into the actual content. Is Leto the best actor to play the The Joker? It doesn’t matter. He’s an Oscar winner and people pay to see his films. Done well, Suicide Squad could be better than Guardians of the Galaxy. It could be the best DC film in years. But that’s not what they’re aiming for. So I’m cautiously optimistic. Optimistic because this could be great. Cautious because I can already see the signs of self-sabotage.