It’s Time To Meet The Suicide Squad

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It seems as though we’ve been talking about Suicide Squad for a very long time, and for good reason. Having DC supervillains forcibly banded together to work for the government under threat of death by explosive implant is a brilliant concept. In the source material, the original Suicide Squad first appeared in The Brave And The Bold #25 in 1959, and has popped up in various media numerous times over the years.

Now, however, the third film in the burgeoning DC Extended Universe is among the most highly anticipated of the year – thanks to early images of the cast and, in particular, of actor Jared Leto as a very different kind of Joker. But, it’s not just the stellar casting and stunning production design that makes Suicide Squad such an exciting film prospect. It’s also the very fact of who these characters are.

Having the main characters of the film be exclusively villains may sound only mildly interesting, but consider the content of the comic book movie genre to date. There has never really been a big budget, high profile comic book movie that features villains as protagonists – and, specifically, mixes beloved and iconic supervillains, with lesser known nefarious characters. This fact, in and of itself, makes Suicide Squad a groundbreaking endeavour as a film.

Of all comic book publishers, DC has the best villains when it comes to adaptations into other media. We only need to look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far to see that the villains in those films – with perhaps the exception of Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger – are generally the weakest link in the narrative. They are not disturbing, or creepy, or particularly memorable. DC, on the other hand, has a stable of villains led by characters that are as famous and globally recognized as their heroic counterparts.

Indeed, in DC adaptations past, the villains have almost always stolen the show. General Zod in Superman II and Man Of Steel; The Joker in Batman and The Dark Knight; Catwoman and The Penguin in Batman Returns; Bane in The Dark Knight Rises; and Lex Luthor in Superman, Superman Returns, and Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice. But, these DC big-hitters have become familiar on our screens. It’s time for a shake up, and writer-director David Ayer seems to be just the filmmaker to deliver it.

While other cinematic universes – including Marvel and Transformers – are created around a strong spine of heroic characters, Suicide Squad is the first real indication that the DC Extended Universe is something different. By focusing entirely on villainous characters for an entire film – and already commissioning a spinoff title – DC and Warner Bros. are sending the same message with their film universe as they do with their comic books: the villains are as important as the heroes.

It is absolutely appropriate, and well overdue. The kind of heroism that superhero tales trade on can only exist in opposition with villainy – otherwise, we’re just watching muscular people in costumes rescuing cats from trees. Whether it’s a threat of galactic apocalypse, or just a threat to someone’s Mum, these criminals are the yin to the heroic yang. They are the other side of the same, weathered coin.

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With Suicide Squad, even this superhero-supervillain dynamic forms part of the groundbreaking aspects of the film. Since the story is told from the perspective of the villains, we see our heroes through their eyes for the first time. We know that Batman will appear during the course of these proceedings, and this means that we will have a fresh, brand new take on this iconic, universally beloved vigilante.

Batman is responsible for the incarceration of most of these villains – he is essentially the tool of their oppression. If the Batman of Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice was darker than we’ve ever seen before, then the Batman of Suicide Squad should prove to be truly frightening – simply because he will be seen through the gaze of the criminals he dedicates his life to terrorizing.

For all these reasons, it certainly is about time the heinous ones got their own movie. But, if lesser known characters are featuring alongside icons, then who’s who in Suicide Squad?