The Suicide Squad has made occasional appearances in film and tv. They have appeared in episodes of both Smallville (2001-11) and Arrow (2012 ), as well as the animated Justice League/Justice League Unlimited (2001-5), although there it had to be renamed Task Force X because the word suicide could be not be mentioned on childrens television. The most prominent of their film appearances have been in the animated film Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014).
Suicide Squad emerges as the third of the DC Cinematic Universe films following Man of Steel (2013) and Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) and followed by Wonder Woman (2017) as part of DCs long-overdue attempt to challenge Marvel Comics dominance of box-office superheroics. Suicide Squad is executive produced by Zack Snyder and has a number of continuity tie-ins to the rest of the DC Cinematic Universe. This is most notable in several scenes featuring Ben Afflecks Batman who apprehends Deadshot and rescues Harley Quinn from a crashed car, as well as a post-credits scene where Affleck obtains a dossier on the prospective Justice League members from Amanda Waller. There is also a scene where Captain Boomerang is caught by the Ezra Miller version of The Flash. The film also takes place in Midway City, which is supposed to be the fictional hometown of Hawkman, while the death of Superman is referred to by Amanda Waller.
As such, Suicide Squad feels like an oddity. While DC is only just getting itself going on cinema screens and the film versions of A-listers like Wonder Woman, The Flash and Aquaman are still only in the pre-production stages, they have leap-frogged over all of these to make a film about a team-up of C-list villains. And were talking the nobodies here I mean, as villains go it is hard to get more lame than Captain Kangaroo (a villain who throws boomerangs which we rarely see him do in the film. And of the one that he does, it behaves in a most un-boomerang-like way ie. it appears not twirl at all by dint of the fact that it is stable enough to have a camera mounted on it), and Slipknot whose superpower is ... tying ropes.
David Ayer plays around with the Suicide Squad line-up. There is Rick Flag and Amanda Waller, of course. We have Deadshot, originally a minor Batman villain who gained his fame as one of the mainstays of Suicide Squad. Deadshot had previously made live-action appearances in episodes of Smallville and Arrow, played by Bradley Striker and Michael Rowe respectively, as well as the animated film Batman: Gotham Knight (2008). Captain Boomerang is one of the few members of the Squad who is not Batman villain but originally appeared as a nemesis of The Flash. There are also two comic-book versions of Captain Boomerang Digger Harkness, the one the film goes with who in comic-book continuity was later killed and the role inherited by his son Owen. Boomerang had previously appeared in an episode of Arrow played by Nick Tarabay. Diablo (or more commonly El Diablo) started out in 1970 in All-Star Western where he was a Caucasian named Lazarus Lane who was resurrected with a Native American spirit to become a vigilante. A new version was created in 1988 as Rafael Sandoval who becomes possessed by an Aztec spirit. Created in 1966, Enchantress started out as a Supergirl nemesis an artist who became possessed after going to a costume party in a castle. She fought various heroes before becoming a mainstay of Suicide Squad. Katana was a Batman nemesis/ally first appearing in 1983 and becoming a member of the superhero team The Outsiders (although has never actually joined the comic-book Suicide Squad). Slipknot started as a Firestorm villain in 1984 but gained his greater fame as a Suicide Squad member. Killer Croc has been a regular Batman villain since 1983 where he is always characterised as a human with a condition that makes him seem reptilian (to more or lesser degrees depending on the artist). He has made numerous animated appearances in Batman (1992-4), The Batman (2004-8) and Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2008-11), as well as Batman: Gotham Knight. He has not appeared in live-action before and is not a member of the comic-book Suicide Squad. The one oddity among these is Harley Quinn who is a character that has also not appeared in the comic-book Suicide Squad and in fact did not even have her origins in comics. She was originally created as a character on the 1992-4 animated Batman series to act as a foil and girlfriend to The Joker. The response to her was such that she was quickly incorporated as a regular in Batman comic-book canon and even gained her own title from 2001. She did previously appear in live-action in Birds of Prey (2002) played by Mia Sara.
Suicide Squad is the sixth directorial outing for David Ayer. Ayer started in the industry as a screenwriter, gaining a name with his scripts for U-571 (2000), The Fast and the Furious (2001), Training Day (2001) and S.W.A.T. (2003). Ayer made his directing/writing debut with Harsh Times (2005), followed by Street Kings (2008), End of Watch (2012), Sabotage (2014) and the war film Fury (2014). The majority of these are gritty crime dramas.
Suicide Squad was preceded by reports of the studio panicking and ordering reshoots after the negative critical reaction to Batman V Superman and of both they and David Ayer simultaneously editing different versions of the film. (On the positive side, Ayer maintains that the version we see is his one). Just like Batman V Superman, the film premiered to great box-office but negative audience and critical response. You suspect that, like Batman V Superman, Suicide Squad is going to find an afterlife soon after in a directors cut. That said, DC and Warners execs need to sort their product out fairly soon. Marvel has gone without these behind-the-scenes hitches Ant Man (2015) maybe excepted for the simple reason that there seems a smooth chain between studio, comic-book and film crew, and crucially there is one person overseeing the content. The DC Universe seems to lack anyone in overall charge, excepting perhaps Zack Snyder although it should be noted that he has gained a unliked reputation, including online petitions to have him removed. DC needs to have some kind of critical success soon their films need more than to exist in an afterlife of post-theatrical cuts that fans recognise as the true vision but mass audiences couldnt care less about.
As might be expected from the behind the scenes tinkering, Suicide Squad emerges as all over the place on screen. You can appreciate where David Ayer is trying to make it go, although its hard to tell what is intentional and what is the result of material that has been cut or rearranged. The lead-up to the action seems to jump about in terms of narrative. Character introductions seem to have been dumped in random places. In a plot that feels like it should have been given far more time, Enchantress is introduced and before we even get to know much about her (or her relationship with Rick Flag) she is rapidly whipped through a series of scenes where she resurrects her brother and he then turns into a monster that seems to engulf all of Midway City in a vortex that belongs in something more like Ghostbusters (2016) (or perhaps Justice League Dark). Who the brother is and what the vortex represents other than a generic world-destroying menace is sketched in frustratingly vague strokes.
As much could be said for The Joker. The pre-publicity made a great deal out of him being a major character in the film and tried to pump up lots of drama about Jared Letos deranged on-set antics to get into character only for the big anti-climax to be that The Joker is not actually a member of Suicide Squad. In fact, he has no real place in the film dramatically. He has several flashbacks scenes, which are mostly there to flesh out Harley Quinn. He has a major scene in the middle of the drama where he turns up to rescue her with guns blazing only for the helicopter to crash and he be left thought for dead and Harley to go back and join the team she just abandoned as though nothing had happened.
If the script is a mess, Suicide Squad at least does one thing well and that is it gets most of the characters right. Will Smith takes an uncommonly villainous turn and gives another solid reliable performance as Deadshot, proving to be the moral backbone of the group. The scene-stealer of the show is Margot Robbie who gets Harleys Kewpie Doll gone wrong and gleefully insane characterisation just right bar the trademark harlequin costume (which we do see her in in one flashback), she could have stepped right out of the 1992-4 animated series. The others emerge passably well, the best probably being Jay Hernandez as Diablo.
Jared Letos The Joker is another question. Coming after some great incarnations of the role Jack Nicholson in Batman (1989), Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (2008) and Mark Hamill in the 1992-4 animated Batman and Batman: The Killing Joke (2016), he has some big clown shoes to fill. The choice to eschew the classical Joker portrayal in purple zoot suit in favour of Letos pierced, tattooed, bare-chested, heroin-chic Joker seems a little off. Leto seems appropriately insane but he seems too lean to fill the stage with grandiloquent theatricality the same way that Nicholson, Ledger and Hamill did.