Suicide Squad drops this August and, after Dawn of Justice, DC are going to need a BIG result to keep the ball rolling. They need to offer us a big, meaty, critical-and-commercial success of a movie.
But we won’t get one.
It’ll do well financially, of course. I’m going to see it, you’re going to see it, people who haven’t stepped into a cinema since The Dark Knight are going to see it. We’re all still in awe of Heath Ledger, so we’re ready to queue up, buy our popcorn and start emptying our collective pockets directly into DC’s bank account. But overall I predict a complete critical flop, and here’s why.
The problem starts with DC itself. In 2013 it gave up its own cinematic attempts and started to copy Marvel, creating a single universe comprised of multiple different characters. However, unlike Marvel, they didn’t start with their B-list; in order to keep pace with The Avengers, they had to cash in the on two of their most recognisable franchises, Superman and Batman. But many critics (as well as Jeremy Irons, who played Alfred) criticised Dawn of Justice, complaining that it felt too slow and densely cluttered. But it was like Captain America: The First Avenger; we didn’t have to like it, it’s just necessary.
You see, DC are still stuck playing catch-up with Marvel. They’re running at a five-year market loss, so they used Dawn of Justice (only the second film in the DCU) to introduce Batman, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor and Doomsday, as well as the entire Justice League concept (and that’s before we even mention the inevitable Jason Todd/Joker setup). Audiences knw that there’s a lot going on here and we’re so on-edge looking for easter eggs that we can’t enjoy the actual movie.
And the same thing is going to happen with Suicide Squad. Rather than taking their time and fleshing characters out with individual films, DC are going to trade on the brand recognition of the Joker and Harley Quinn (probably ignoring most of the other characters) and use the opportunity to set up later movies. We can expect a handful of great scenes featuring both the Joker and Harley, but overall I can see it feeling forced, too focused on the finish line to actually run the race.
But we shouldn’t blame DC. After all, they need money FAST. Marvel are raking in billions with every film they release, then reinvesting that money in comics, films and amazing Netflix-original TV shows. At this point, Robert Downey Jr could probably take a shit on our coffee tables while we smile and ask ‘How much?’ As a result, DC are weaponising their guaranteed money-makers, so they can reuse those profits to compete with Marvel’s fanbase.
Adding to this, director David Ayer is trying to make his own Mark on the franchise by creating his own Joker, one who is ‘working class’ and… looks like a juggalo, for some reason? Either way, it’s never been done before so it’s fair to say the movie’s going to be an experiment.
An experiment that cost over 250 million dollars.
An experiment that has to work, or risks alienating DC’s (already wavering) fans.
There are very, very few actors who could survive that particular rock and/or hard place, and I don’t think Leto is one of them. He’s been in a lot of great films, for certain, but always as a supporting role. For every Angelface there’s a Tyler Durden, for every Rayon there’s a Woodruff. He had one of the leads in Requiem for a dream, but that’s not enough pedigree to rest a franchise on his shoulders.
He’s good. He may even be great. But he can’t live up to the hype.
Then again, people said the same thing about Heath Ledger, so I could be wrong. I seriously hope I am, actually. But this film represents a triangle of conflict between DC, the Director and the fans, and everyone is not going to be pleased.
In a few months or years, come back to this article and read this words:
Suicide Squad is going to be disappointing. It’s going to be like great sex with no finish; enjoyable, but ultimately frustrating.
Mark my words.