BY LUKE WATHEN
“Suicide Squad,” the latest DC Universe film to see a theatrical release, was released on iTunes in digital HD on Nov. 15 and will see a DVD and Blu-Ray release on Dec. 13. When the film was first announced, it had several points to be excited for: early teasers of Jared Leto as the Joker were met with praise, the character Harley Quinn was set to make her live action debut and Will Smith, an actor that anyone can get excited for, was signed on for the main cast.
Like the DC Universe films before it, however, the reception to “Suicide Squad” was lukewarm at best. Fans and critics alike were disappointed by Leto’s lack of screen time, the inconsistent tone of the film and the fact that the action was simply underwhelming. Those that enjoyed the film often feel that the criticism is not warranted; after all, Marvel movies are arguably guilty of the same tropes and are met with acclaim from audiences and critics alike.
That type of thinking is exactly what is wrong with “Suicide Squad” and the films in the DC Universe altogether—they are trying too hard to be Marvel.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe began in 2008 with the release of “Iron Man.” While it was a standalone film, it set up the eventual overarching storylines of the films to come, such as “The Avengers.” Other superheroes including Captain America, Hulk, Ant-Man and others have also had their own standalone films to properly flesh out their characters before having them unite.
Flash forward to 2013, which saw the release of “Man of Steel” and the establishment of the DC Universe. With Marvel already five years ahead of the game, DC tried desperately to play catch-up with their own film series.
Unfortunately, this catch-up resulted in only Superman having the chance to be fully fleshed out before a multitude of other characters were thrown into the equation. The sequel to “Man of Steel” saw the introduction of Batman, Wonder Woman, Doomsday and other DC staples that had no chance to be developed.
This was taken a step further in “Suicide Squad.” By bombarding the audience with a constant barrage of new characters, the DC films make it harder and harder for any of them to stand out. Their strategy of giving characters their backstory through flashbacks did little to help, as it only made the audience see what could have been had the studio been more competent.
Even the humor in these films feels forced. DC has long prided itself on being much darker and grounded than its rival Marvel, but the films would say otherwise. “Suicide Squad” in particular features an onslaught of cringe-inducing one-liners that fail to be relatable.
The reason that the same jokes work in the Marvel films is because of the chemistry between the characters. Each member of the Avengers has had ample time to build up a relationship to the rest, so their jokes with one another come off as nothing more than playful banter. Even in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the characters are written well enough that you do not mind the occasional quip from each one, despite their characters having no previous development.
Compare this to the DC films where the characters seem to change their tone on a dime, going from lamenting the futility of fighting for justice and then making jokes about smartphones. The difference is not only jarring, but embarrassing.
Hopefully “Suicide Squad” and the other DC films’ failures will serve as a lesson to the executives at Warner Bros. when they inevitably make more DC films. DC is not Marvel and the subject matter is not open to humor. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but in DC’s case it is nothing short of awkward.