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The Suicide Squad images show why Marvel will win the cinematic war

Marvel is beating DC

If you’ve been following our vodcast, DBPP, then you’ve probably heard an earful about my feelings on the DC cinematic universe.

I grew up alternating between DC and Marvel, but there were a few key DC titles I read for years – decades even – including The Flash, Green Lantern, Justice League, Batman, and a couple others. With that said I just can’t help shake the feeling that DC and Warner Bros. are going about their shared universe in exactly the wrong way, and everything coming from them seems to confirm that.

I didn’t hate Man of Steel, I just thought it was underwhelming, and like all Zack Snyder’s films, kind of sterile and soulless. I’m willing to give Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice a chance, but the trailer didn’t instill me with confidence. It looks like all of Snyder’s other films, and I don’t mean that as a compliment.

To be fair, I would pay to see it no matter how awful it looked. It’s Batman vs. Superman. Still, I expected my eyeballs to pop out of my head over how awesome it was. Instead, I may have audibly said “meh.”

I don’t question Snyder’s devotion to the medium. He truly seems to be a comic book fan, but he also seems to have stopped reading comics in the 80s, or at least he stopped being influenced by them after that point. Comics have grown, but his vision has not.

Snyder’s influence throughout the DC cinematic universe is unparalleled. Not only will he have directed the first two films in DC’s new universe, he is also set to direct both Justice League films. He is setting the tone, and either the studio likes what he is doing, or he fits with what they already had in mind. Whatever the case, the result is a DC universe that is dark and gritty.

And that’s a losing hand.

The Suicide Squad images show why Marvel is beating DCDirector David Ayer recently released the first official image of the cast in full costume, the one seen above.

Here’s a full list, courtesy of The Verge.

Slipknot (Adam Beach), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), Katana (Karen Fukuhara), Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Deadshot (Will Smith), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and El Diablo (Jay Hernandez).

The take on Harley fits with the tatted-up punk look of the Joker (which may or may not be official). Enchantress and Killer Croc have both been updated to supporting characters in B-grade horror movies. On the other hand, Deadshot, Flagg and Slipknot are just wearing variations of military outfits, while both El Diablo and Captain Boomerang look like they are extras on The Wire.

It all could, and hopefully will work, but comics have always been a visual medium. The Suicide Squad – and the other DC characters we’ve seen so far – all look drab and dull, dirty and gray. And it’s not just an issue with the color settings, it’s an issue with the tone the films are trying to set.

Part of what makes for a successful comic book film is that the heroes and villains are larger than life. Even Blade, which was technically a horror movie, had a stylish hero and a flashy bad guy. By grinding the characters down, they just seem less interesting. They aren’t the embodiment of this incredible universe, they are just people with guns and strange codenames.

Suicide Squad looks like an Expendables film, just with less plastic and less chance of one of the cast having a heart attack mid-production. Not to mention less self awareness.

The film may still be good. It may even be better than Batman v Superman, but we won’t know until it is released on August 5, 2016. (In the meantime, if you want to see a really good Suicide Squad movie, check out the animated Batman: Assault on Arkham.) The problem is the timing. DC and WB carefully thought out the release windows of its burgeoning DC shared universe, and putting Suicide Squad second (not counting Man of Steel, which came out before the plans were revealed) is telling.

The Suicide Squad images show why Marvel is beating DC

Where Marvel Studios adapted with the times, WB seems to be going back to the 80s, when comics like The Dark Knight Returns helped to attract an aging audience that was looking for more mature stories to match.

From Man of Steel and the looks we’ve been given of Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad, Warner Bros. and DC are gambling on the same migration of fans once again. So instead of giving us universally appealing stories, it is focusing on a slightly older demographic, with stories that are gritty, even mean. Many comics of that era experimented with the characters themselves, making them human, and ultimately fallible. That was something that seemed to very much be reflected in Man of Steel. 

And that is where DC will fail.

Warner Bros. has a huge property on its hands, and it will likely make a boat load of money off the films on name recognition alone – plus it will be building off the sub-industry Marvel itself created. The problem is, the deconstruction of heroes has been done. At this point, it has been done to death. Audiences don’t need or want angsty heroes, wrestling with their inner demons; they want spectacle. Not that there isn’t room for both, but Batman fighting Superman should be incredible and spectacular, not depressing.

DC and WB just seem to be taking themselves so damn seriously, and that is a fatal flaw for characters that are iconic for what they represent, not who they are. Even the title of the the next film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is just silly and austere. Putting aside the generic and even cliched subtitle, why is it “v” and not “vs?” Is it a legal battle?

Suicide Squad could be great, and it is made for the sort of darker world WB and DC seem to be building. It seems like a mistake to have it as the third film in the shared universe though.

The problem with a shared universe is that all the films build on one another. Suicide Squad would make an excellent twist later on, something to shake up the established superhero film mold, but leading with it and the ultra-broody Batman v Superman will determine the tone of all the films. If WB and DC want to do more lighthearted DC films, they will have to overcome the previous movies rather than build off them.

I really want to be wrong. I want to love Batman v Superman, and then I want to wait impatiently for Justice League, joining my brethren in unabashedly revealing in tips and hints about what the film will be about. I’m just not feeling it though. I will see all of the DC films – that’s a given, but I’ll do so more out of a sense of obligation to my own inclinations than eagerness.

After seeing the new trailer for DC’s Legends of Tomorrow yesterday, which is in many ways the exact opposite of Suicide Squad, I’m more convinced. That show just looks fun and amazing, and it builds off a solid foundation. Suicide Squad could be incredible, but it would be a much better change of pace than a pace car.

One slightly divisive Superman film isn’t enough. DC and WB need to prove themselves on the movie front before they should start experimenting. I like Ayers and I like the cast. Suicide Squad may still be amazing, but it won’t help the DC shared cinematic universe.

The burden is on WB and DC. Until then, make mine Marvel.

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Founder and DBP boss. Ryan likes the Kansas Jayhawks, long walks on the beach, and high fiving unsuspecting people.
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