Rewriting Suicide Squad

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So there’s going to be a Harley Quinn Movie (Gotham Sirens or Birds of Prey), another Suicide Squad movie, and likely a Deadshot spinoff.

SUICIDE SQUAD (2016) topped most people’s Worst of the Year movie lists, while I thought it was just mediocre. Maybe offensively mediocre, given the racial stereotyping of Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and El Diablo (Jay Hernandez). It had a protracted, repetitious first act; the villain was worthless; it was riddled with plotholes; and the Joker was the worst ever put to film, but hey, I still thought BATMAN V SUPERMAN and X-MEN APOCALYPSE were worse.

The point is, SUICIDE SQUAD didn’t live up to the hype. It wasn’t as good as the animated movie in which they starred (BATMAN: ASSAULT ON ARKHAM). It wasn’t as good as any of the comics. And frankly, it oversimplified characters in a big way.

So in my usual way, I’d like to prove that I could’ve at least written a better version of the movie.

Now let’s be fair: SUICIDE SQUAD was reshot to high heaven, went through a gamut of 7-9 competing edits before being outsourced to a trailer company, and many of David Ayer’s ideas didn’t make it to the screen. That’ll make any movie suck. Who knows, maybe there was a fantastic version of the movie we never saw.

I don’t have those constraints, so maybe the unadulterated awesomeness I’m about to pull isn’t all that fair. ::shrugs:: Too bad.

  1. Understanding the Suicide Squad

Taskforce X –jokingly named “Suicide Squad” for its high mortality rate and deadly missions– was always designed as a way to play with the minutia of DC comics. It explored the smaller, more clandestine events that normal heroes were too busy to notice. It dealt with current social politics (Terror abroad, White Supremacy at home, etc.); government interagency skull and dagger tactics; and harrowing events too morally gray for most heroes. As an 80s comic, it was EXTREMELY anti-Reagan.

More, the team wasn’t a list of everybody’s favorite villains, but  dopey villains nobody would care to see killed. EVERYBODY was on the chopping block. Here’s the rub: the writer was FANTASTIC, and he brought an X-Men-level of characterization to everybody. You CARED about the people who died, and suddenly, it wasn’t as fun to kill characters off anymore.

Here’s the point: Suicide Squad doesn’t fight the same glowy hole-in-the-sky thing that other movie superheroes fight. Instead, its job is to explore the depths of the DC universe. It also does a GREAT job at raising the stakes with death.

It’s kind of hilarious that SUICIDE SQUAD failed in all of those regards. Our version won’t.

  1. Who’s on our team?

The movie had…

Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Boomerang, El Diablo, Slipknot, Katana, Rick Flag, Killer Croc,

We’ll have…

Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Boomerang, El Diablo, Slipknot, Katana, Rick Flag, King Shark, and Enchantress

Reasons:

-King Shark is a Hammerhead shark monster. That’s fucking awesome.

-Enchantress is a key member of the comic team and is a mystical version of the Hulk. Seriously, she’s June Moon, a pacifist normally, and a magical live grenade as Enchantress. She deserves better than she got in the movie.

  1. But How Is Our Story Better?

We open on the fight between Superman and Doomsday from BATMAN V. SUPERMAN. It’s destructive as fuck, just like you’ve seen, but this time, we see the fight from the perspective of the military, who’s trying to intervene. Found footage style. Helicopters get lanced out of the sky by eye-lasers, others by falling debris, it’s hell.

We pull back to a secret government meeting reviewing the footage. The gist: “Superman died fighting Doomsday. How the hell can we prepare for the next metahuman attack?” In addition to the usual spooks, there’s a new intelligence agency:  ARGUS, a firm designed to monitor metahuman actions. Its head, AMANDA WALLER, pledges to get right on it.

One Month Later

RICK FLAG JR., a soldier with an insecurity complex, leads a strike team -who might as well be his family- to a secret paramilitary lab. There, they’re surprised by overwhelming technological resistance, and Flag loses his whole team, barely escaping with his life. His C.O., Waller, preps a retrieval chopper and sends an order to “assemble Taskforce X.”

Quick cuts of the team being violent:
DEADSHOT shoots people.
KATANA stabs people.
KING SHARK eats people.
HARLEY joyrides with the Joker.
BOOMERANG robs a bank.
His partner, SLIPKNOT, robs the same bank.
EL DIABLO turns himself in.
ENCHANTRESS atomizes exorcists.

Now, all the team is behind bars in Belle Reve prison, which Waller has specially designed to hold them.

Short story, Rick Flag has to lead them and he doesn’t want to. He’s mourning his team, and he doesn’t think criminals have the honor or dedication of marines, and he thinks they’ll go rogue at the first sign of trouble. He’s probably right. Waller twists his insecurity into making him accept the mission.

Anyway, mission is simple: Taskforce X is to investigate this secret lab, Cadmus, and retrieve the package therein. Expect heavy resistance. The team makes light of it, and Waller punishes them to demonstrate that they’re on a collar. They misbehave, they get an electroshock. They go rogue, bombs implanted in their necks detonate.

Meanwhile, Joker’s in Gotham City, torturing and/or murdering people to find out what happened to Harley. She’s his. She has to come back to him.

Taskforce X (eventually to be called “The Suicide Squad”) makes it to the secret lab. Before the action, Boomerang talks his partner, Slipknot, into believing the neck-bombs are bogus. Slipknot tests this and dies.

RIP, Slipknot.

Meanwhile, Joker’s getting closer, discovering that Harley’s been conscripted into Taskforce X. He tortures/kills his way to finding out why. She’s HIS to play with, not anybody else’s.

Taskforce X makes headway into the base, their personalities rubbing each other the wrong way, each getting a shot of demonstrating their personalities. Flag and Deadshot rub each other the wrong way, a thin philosophical difference being all that separates them. Anyway, the team finds the package, a huge metal cylinder that only King Shark can carry.

Meanwhile, Joker makes it to Belle Reve Prison and opens all the cells. With Waller hiding herself in a panic room, Joker discovers a little green trinket of hers…

On the helicopter ride back to Belle Reve, Taskforce X accidentally opens the metal cylinder. What’s inside?

HENRY CAVILL.

That’s right. SUPERMAN.

The crazy bastards at Cadmus cloned Superman from blood lost during the fight with Doomsday. Flag explains that Cadmus figured the best way to contain Superman was to have one of their own, and to use it to hold the world ransom.

“But now it’s yours,” Harley says.

“That’s right,” Flag says. “Now it’s ours.”

Taskforce X returns to Belle Reve and find it’s a madhouse. Metahuman prisoners are rioting, guards are laughing to death on Joker’s Laughing Gas. Waller’s in a panic room, and orders the team to contain the riot and stop the Joker. They try –fighting dudes like Captain Cold, Clayface, and Parasite– but they’re overwhelmed. Flag makes a split decision and activates the Superman Clone, who saves them all, imprisoning most of the supervillains without a casualty (LOL MAN OF STEEL). Y’see, Cadmus programmed the Superman Clone to be a boy scout… but their boy scout.

That’s when the Joker walks in with Harley around his arm. He gives a Jokery speech and mocks the Superman Clone. When the Clone grabs him, Joker sprays him with Laughing Gas.

Damn, does that ever have a bad effect on Superman Clone chemistry.

Joker, wielding Kryptonite from Waller’s office, commands “Jokerized Superman” -who he christens “Bizarro” to start killing. Flag tries to stop him– Bizarro decapitates him in a blink of an eye.

RIP, Rick Flag.

Joker escapes with Harley and Bizarro.

Waller tries to detonate Harley’s neck bomb…

But Joker has Bizarro use his heat breath to deactivate it during the flight.

Taskforce X is done. No fucking way can they handle Superman, let alone a homicidal clone of him. Waller threatens to detonate their bombs, but they don’t care. Better a fast death than whatever the Joker has planned. It’s clear that none of Belle Reve’s other inmates are going to volunteer. Still, seeing tapes of the Superman/Doomsday destruction, Deadshot steps forward. He’s got a little girl that he doesn’t want to see hurt. He’s not the best guy in the world, but he’s got to be the daddy she’d want him to be. But Amanda Waller is personally going to pay for his daughter’s schooling. The other teammates come around, each with their own demands. The straggler, Boomerang, says that the mission is suicide. Deadshot grins. “Then we’re the Suicide Squad.”

Waller flies the team for where the Joker went: Gotham City.

Damn, it’s bad. Gotham’s wrecked to shit, Arkham Asylum is split open, and the crazies are pouring out. Joker laughs his ass off as Batman, hopelessly outmatched, fights Bizarro. The clone’s just letting Batman wail on him with everything he’s got… and he’s not taking a scratch. Bizarro casually backhands Batman, sending him flying into a parked car, breaking several of his ribs and knocking him unconscious.

For a moment, Bizarro’s stares at what he’s done. His eyes change from madness… to shock. Just as he starts to question his actions, Joker gives him another snort of Laughing Gas, reigniting the carnage. Joker laughs over his new kingdom, but when Harley tries to join in, he yells her into place. This is for HIM to enjoy. She’s just lucky to belong to him.

With his telescopic eyepiece, Deadshot sees it all from the helicopter. As the Suicide Squad parachutes in, he calls the shots: Get the Kryptonite from Joker and stop Bizarro, or die trying.

They land in a war zone. They try to ignore screaming people, but El Diablo just can’t do it. He puts out flames by absorbing them, saving people. King Shark saves drowning people, despite them looking tasty. Deadshot & Boomerang save people too. By slaughtering the Arkham inmates chasing them. ::shrugs:: It’s what they do.

Meanwhile, Enchantress takes on Bizarro, her magic the first thing that’s managed to slow him down. He wades through it as she lays on the power. He weakens, falling to his knees. Katana leaps from behind, preparing to decapitate him– his eyes shoot a freeze ray, encasing her in ice in mid-air. She hits the ground, shattering.

RIP, Katana.

Enchantress  is so shocked that she reverts to June Moon, and sobs. Bizarro just laughs and flies away.

The others are fighting through Joker’s booby traps. Boomerang uses a boomerang to snag the Kryptonite from Joker’s hands… but as Boomerang cheers, Bizarro shatters the Kryptonite with a heat breath burst.

Without Kryptonite, the team is well and truly fucked. But Joker does them one better: He’s sitting on a nuclear bomb fitted with Laughing Gas. Gotham will be wiped off the face of the earth and the fallout’s going to give Metropolis a permanent case of the giggles. So, naturally, Joker laughs and orders Bizarro to kill the Suicide Squad.

Enchantress flares back out of June Moon, using her magic to try to contain Bizarro, but it ONLY slows him down. It’s just enough for the team to take turns distracting him.

Harley, meanwhile, is shocked that Joker could blow up Gotham. All her friends are there. Poison Ivy, Catwoman, Scarecrow, their hyena pets (yes, I am indeed stealing this moment from the classic BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES episode “Harlequinade.” That episode RULES SO HARD). Joker slaps her aside, telling her that he never needed any of them or her. She was just there for laughs. Harley, enraged enough to find her self respect, punches him back. Joker grimaces, liking where this is going. He draws a knife.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Suicide Squad is just BARELY keeping out of Bizarro’s grasp. El Diablo distracts him with fire. When he gets to close, Deadshot distracts him with a bullet. When he gets to close, King Shark punches him and runs, etc. It’s a losing war of attrition, and they all know it.

But Bizarro’s laughs seem to be quieting. He’s less manic by the second as the Laughing Gas wears off.

Boomerang, meanwhile, is nowhere to be found. He’s running along the outskirts, collecting fragments of Kryptonite in one hand, clutching a blowtorch in the other. He’s an idiot, but an idiot with a plan.

Harley fights the Joker: her gymnastics vs. his lethal gag gifts. Harley’s barely holding on, and he mocks her spinelessness every step of the way–

Bizarro finally catches King Shark by the throat. None of El Diablo’s flames, Deadshot’s bullets, or Enchantress’ magic can stop what comes next. Bizarro strangles King Shark to death.

RIP King Shark.

It hits the team hard. Sure he was a big shark-man, but he was THEIR big shark-man. And not that bad of a guy, once you got past the cannibalism.

Boomerang, meanwhile, finishes welding a KRYPTONITE BOOMERANG. It all comes down to the character from down under. *Sponsored by Fosters.

Joker’s got the upper hand on Harley, but just as he’s about to kill her, she grabs her mallet and swings it into his gut, knocking him down a hill of rubble and probably breaking a few ribs too. Harley stands tall over him, gripping her hammer. “I’m breaking up with you. Puddin’.” Then it hits her: “OMIGAWD, TH’ BOMB!” She runs off to diffuse it.

Joker just lays there, bleeding. His eyes roll to the side and he spots… an ice cream truck.

Meanwhile, Bizarro’s figuring out that he can ignore people’s attacks. He chuckles, tears streaming from his eyes. The Laughing Gas is wearing off, but it’s still affecting him. He wades through El Diablo’s waning flames.

Harley, meanwhile, struggles to diffuse the nuclear bomb’s countdown, Boomerang yelling unhelpful advice. “I’m a therapist, not a nuclear physicist!” Harley screams.

Just as El Diablo braces for Bizarro to grab him, someone calls out: “Hey, moron!”

Bizarro turns.

It’s Deadshot, standing in front of the people of Gotham, their terrified, bleeding faces covered in dust. Deadshot asks if this is something Superman would let happen. If Superman would ever knowingly let people suffer.

Boomerang’s poised with the Kryptonite boomerang, just in case.

Yeah, Harley adds, standing sincerely. People make mistakes all the time, but it’s how they recover from them that counts.

“THE BOMB, YOU BLOOMIN’ IDIOT!” Boomerang screams at her. “THE BOMB!”

“Oh yeah!” she says, and dives back into the wires, the countdown timer entering the single digits–

Bizarro steps past her, grabbing the bomb. “You know,” he says to them. “You’re not all that bad.”

Deadshot, El Diablo, Enchantress, Boomerang, and Harley exchange glances. They’re all pretty bad. Hell, they look it.

A tear slips from Bizarro’s eye as he hefts the bomb. “Up, up, and away,” he says.

He’s off like a shot. The Suicide Squad watches as he flies into space and explodes.

RIP, Bizarro.

A reverent moment of silence. Boomerang chuckles: “Chump.”

Harley laughs nervously, “So, umm… all’s forgiven right?”

Enchantress reverts to June Moon and punches Harley in the face. “Yep. All’s forgiven.”

Waller tells the group that the mission isn’t over. They still haven’t dealt with the Joker.

Deadshot notices the ice cream truck driving away. He casually aims and shoots at it. After a second, the truck crashes.

Waller tells him that’s not good enough.

El Diablo nods to where Batman had been laid out. Batman’s gone. “Somebody’s already on it.”

On the helicopter flight back, the team muses that now they’ve saved the city, they must get benefits. A parade, women, booze, whatever superheroes get. Waller agrees to make their cells more comfortable. But she does leave a case of beer in the helicopter for them.

“You guys,” Harley laughs. “We took out Superman!” They drink to that.

Meanwhile, Joker, battered and bloody, struggles to get himself out of the overturned ice cream truck. He mutters under his breath, swearing revenge. He’s got another nuke he’s been just itching to use. “Tell me where it is.” Joker looks up. Batman’s standing on top of the truck. He reaches for Joker–

Cut to black.

Mid-credits (fuck it, Marvel doesn’t own fanservice): Waller meets with Bruce Wayne, both threatening each other. Wayne threatens to expose the Suicide Squad -half of Gotham is conspiracy-theorizing anyway. Waller threatens to expose Wayne for being Batman and for setting up his childishly named “Justice League.”

Post-credits: Waller watches a press conference as Lex Luthor is released for prison and announces his bid for the U.S. presidency. Waller. “Looks like the Suicide Squad has a new mission.”

5. Fun, huh?

The idea here is that we make the most of the DC universe, establish lots of villains for future movies, do more with the current DCEU narrative: figuring out what to do in a post-Superman world.

It plays against tropes, the Suicide Squad lives up to its name, it makes better use of the cameos, it’s a little more streamlined, and it hypothetically better earns its emotional beats.

The post-credits also hint that Suicide Squad will be involved in political skullduggery, as they were in the classic comics. Again, this was an anti-Reagan comic, so wouldn’t it make sense for the movie franchise to be anti-Trump?

6. Lasting issues

All that said, there are a few lingering issues:

-Two prison breaks, although they’d have different feels, it may feel slightly repetitive

-ALL of the Nolan Batman movies had prison breaks, as this does.

-some will be bothered by Harley being chained to Joker for the latter half, but that’s kind of character: the abused girlfriend slowly breaking out from the abuser’s shackles.

-Waller’s sidelined at the end, but hey, she could be their eye in the sky or something.

6. David Ayer

David Ayer’s a solid director with an incredibly specific style -a style that might not be suited for broad appeal (RE: Ayer’s sexist and racist undertones). It also didn’t help that he only had 6 weeks to write a script that would be retroactively wedged into the DCEU.

That larger problem, though, is that Ayer is new to mega-budget superhero movies, and he flat didn’t have a language for it. As such, he reverted to trope. He made a movie almost wholly reliant on flashbacks and exposition when its predecessor, BATMAN: ASSAULT ON ARKHAM (a superlative Suicide Squad movie), demonstrated all that was necessary was to demonstrate character through action.

More, because these are supervillains, their adventures would probably be better-tailored to heists, assassinations, and sabotage over generic stop-villainous-plot stories. Their adventures can be small and they can get big, as I demonstrated. This could’ve been the size of a MISSION IMPOSSIBLE movie, or even a FAST AND FURIOUS movie.

Despite Ayer being a fan of Suicide Squad comics, it just seems like he didn’t have the correct imagination for the job.

Sure, I may be talking out my ass, as I don’t have 6 weeks, to write a script out of this, but by the same token, had I pitched a script to Warner Bros., I would’ve read the tea leaves for what WB would probably want long term. I would’ve known that creating a “different” comic book movie had to extend beyond visuals. I would’ve known that audiences are clamoring for an honest-to-God great villain. I would’ve pitched this to follow BvS or, failing that, MAN OF STEEL, because audiences are all about continuity these days. I would’ve pitched with a sequel in mind, because studios like relative financial certainty. I would’ve pitched this exact plot, because it’s the best way to utilize the characters on screen and on the page.

But then, I just read a ton of comics and watch a ton of blockbusters.

I’m just talking out my ass.

RIP, Sadcyborg.

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THE BEST BATMAN AND SUPERMAN MOVIES

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Everybody’s got a list these days. Heroic Hollywood has one on the best Batman movie, but I respectfully disagree with their list and methodology. So, not only am I going to count down to the best Batman movie, I’m ALSO going to count down to the best Superman movie!

What IS my methodology? Simply put, what is, formally, the best movie, and what has the richest, most nuanced ideology. Is it coherent? Is it good? Does it have any humanity? What does it have to say? MAYBE bonus points if it’s true to the character.

Now, because there have been so many of these, we’re only going to count feature-length theatrical releases. That means none of the live-action or animated movie serials, and none of the animated movies apart from one. So, without further ado…

Let’s count down to the best of the Bat!

BATMAN MOVIES:

9. BATMAN AND ROBIN (1997)

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How could this not be here? Criticized upon release for its cartoonish camp, BATMAN AND ROBIN featured the garishly miscast Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze, the atrocious Alicia Silverstone, the bastardization of the then-popular Bane, and the homoerotic imagery. The real crimes of BATMAN AND ROBIN were subtler. It was structurally identical to its predecessor, BATMAN FOREVER, had no internal logic, had uneven pacing, had nothing to say about Batman or his world, and –worst of all- was an unfunny comedy. It was the wrong movie for the wrong time –an irreverently campy take on Silver Age/Adam West Batman when the world was going nuts for Frank Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and when kids had the far superior Batman fare: BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. BATMAN AND ROBIN’s critical failure was profound enough to kill the superhero movie for nearly a decade.

8. BATMAN FOREVER (1995)

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Schumacher’s first outing of Batman is every bit as ridiculous as BATMAN AND ROBIN, but had loads more to about the man under the mask. Nicole Kidman’s Dr. Chase Meridian investigates Batman’s psychosexual elements, continually asking him if he’s got a rubber fetish; Batman and the newly introduced Robin hint at the pedastery that’s followed them since the Adam West days; the Batmobile is a straight-up phallus; and Batman woodenly says during the climax that he doesn’t have to be Batman; he chooses to be. On the nose as hell, but both are deconstructions of Burton-era Bat-films inasmuch as Schumacher’s neon aesthetics are. Don’t get me wrong, Tommy Lee Jones is miscast as Two-Face, and Val Kilmer always looks lost as Bruce Wayne, but BATMAN FOREVER’s bombast had a more coherent emotional arc guiding it.

7. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012)

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If THE DARK KNIGHT was an examination of the Patriot Act and the War on Terror, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES was Christopher Nolan’s attempt to address the 99% movement, and the results are mixed. Bane’s mid-air terrorist attack is insane, and holy shit, Anne Hathaway rules as Catwoman. Thematically however, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES argues that if the 99% got their way, they’d destroy their city in a matter of days, and are only ever truly happy when they have a fascist (Batman) ruling over them. Seriously. That’s what it says thematically. If Bane wasn’t muffled, he could tell you. More concretely, the movie was overlong with two first acts, a second act that nearly wrote Batman out of the action, and had ill-advised fan service throughout the material, most infamously Joseph Gordon Levitt as John “Robin” Blake. It’s clear that Christopher Nolan’s heart wasn’t in this one, and it marked the beginning of the bad habits of his brother and screenwriter, Jonathan Nolan.

6. BATMAN (1989)

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Up until BATMAN BEGINS and IRON MAN, BATMAN set the gold standard for superhero movies. Tim Burton’s gothic aesthetic lent itself perfectly to Gotham City, as did his sensibilities of a hero with talents that set him apart from the rest of humanity: Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne is all but a damaged savant, reclusive, enigmatic, and tentative, only seeming natural in the bat costume. Despite this, the movie suffers from a lack of momentum and excitement, only really getting there when Jack Nicholson becomes the Joker. His maniacal performance cannot be understated, bringing a fractured vision of nascent 90s prismatic style into black and white Gotham. Without BATMAN, no superhero fad; without BATMAN, no Batman: The Animated Series, and by extension, no DC Animated Universe; without BATMAN, no Joker craze. So why so low on the list? Again, it’s poorly paced and stretched thin until the Joker –as the Joker- shows up, and after that, the movie is entirely motivated by and beholden to him.

5. BATMAN: THE MOVIE (1966)

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“Better than BATMAN?! REALLY?!” Yes. Really. Adam West’s Batman is a polarizing figure, I realize, for his campy Silver Age antics, especially when grimdark Batman is all the rage with kids today, but find for me a movie better at being what it wants to be. Batman: the Movie is an imaginative, comedy adventure with his most dangerous adversaries from the 1966 TV series. More than a screwball slugfest, it offered minor satire on the nature of politics and bureaucracies. Don’t forget, for decades, this WAS Batman, through and through. Still, your mileage on its antics may vary.

4. BATMAN RETURNS (1992)

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Tim Burton took everything that was BATMAN, for good or ill, and turned it up to 11. Three show-stealing villains: Michelle Phiffer’s crazed dominatrix Catwoman-as-rape-metaphor; Danny Devito’s horny circus freak Penguin; and Christopher Walken as vaguely scarier Christopher Walken! Crazy macabre set design! Better action with Batman, the Batmobile, and the Batboat! A better romance! BATMAN RETURNS is a hallucinogenic nightmare of Gotham City, but its chief crime is overexerting itself. Penguin, though unforgettable, feels shoehorned into an otherwise brilliant revenge story between Catwoman and Walken’s Max Shrek. BATMAN RETURNS didn’t offer a character arc for Bruce Wayne, but it was unapologetically nuts and self aware. Gotta love it.

3. BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM (1993)

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The only animated Batman movie to hit theaters, BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM was essentially a long episode of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, and was more competent than most live-action adaptations. In it, Kevin Conroy’s Bruce Wayne was torn between his survivor’s guilt and calling to be Batman vs. love with a woman from his past, all while a mysterious new villain is slaughtering the gangsters of Gotham City. Atmospheric, creepy, and heartfelt, MASK OF THE PHANTASM only falters in that, as a mystery, it only offers one suspect.

2. BATMAN BEGINS (2005)

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I never forgave IRON MAN for copying this movie’s structure. BATMAN BEGINS is a slick, class-conscious update of Batman’s origin story, featuring top-notch acting by Liam Neeson as Henri Ducard; Cillian Murphy as Jonathan Crane; Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon; Michael Caine as Alfred; and Christian Bale as Batman. This is a movie that understands who Batman is: determined, compassionate, principled, and broken. Its training sequences have yet to be surpassed, and its pulse-pounding climax has yet to be topped in the franchise. I’d say its emotional journey and structure has yet to be matched, but IRON MAN copied it. Because it was that good.

1. THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)

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Largely considered the greatest comic book movie of all time, THE DARK KNIGHT is essentially THE WATCHMEN of comic book movies in its thoughtful and pointed deconstruction of superheroes as agents of fascism, using heavy War on Terror imagery and themes such as extradition, the Patriot Act, mass trials for Mobsters (terrorists); and the looming threat of the “head insurgent,” THE DARK KNIGHT forced Batman to compromise personal freedoms to capture a villain and to lie to an entire city to protect the ruling hegemony (about Harvey Dent/Two-Face). Seriously, Zack Snyder didn’t need to make the WATCHMEN with how well this played out. What can be said about Heath Ledger’s nihilistic, anarchistic Joker that hasn’t already been said? The man gave the performance of a lifetime, energizing an already multi-layered and exciting movie.

The sun sets in Gotham only for it to rise in Metropolis! Which Superman movies fall to Kryptonite, and which triumph over evil?

SUPERMAN MOVIES:

6. SUPERMAN III (1983)

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What is SUPERMAN III? Screwball comedy with Richard Pryor? An adult life high school melodrama? Superman coming to grips with alcoholism? Whatever it is, it’s barely a Superman movie. Robert Vaughn’s Not-Lex-Luthor contracts Pryor’s Gus Gorman into hacking weather satellites to destroy Columbia for not joining his coffee bean trust, then uses faulty kryptonite to turn Superman evil. Describing this slow-paced, unfunny comedy makes it sound far more interesting than it really is. Its only saving graces are Clark Kent’s fight with Drunk Superman, a strangely Whovian fight with a supercomputer that turns people into robots, and Drunk Superman hijinks like blowing out the Olympic torch and straightening the leaning tower of Pisa. Rumor has it that the executives thought that people couldn’t take Mr. Myxoptlk, Bizarro, and Brainiac seriously, so we got a “screwball drama” with Richard Pryor, Drunk Superman, and a random computer instead. Pass.

5. MAN OF STEEL (2013)

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Zack Snyder makes a beautiful image, no doubt, and many of his scenes, out of context, are pretty great. I’d expect no less from a music video director. But MAN OF STEEL represents all of his bad habits: a rushed script with cliffnotes standing in for arcs; heavy-handed, mixed metaphors standing in for characters; absent emotion; imagery in the place of earned themes; bizarre treatment of women; wooden acting; and unintentional messages from poorly thought-out beats (like the destruction of Metropolis and Superman breaking Zod’s neck). The script has no emotional heart to hold it together, rendering all of its beats lifeless and unengaging. It’s deeply embarrassed to be what it is, and would rather paint Superman as a fascist like Marvel Man than actually, earnestly depict Superman. Only Henry Cavill seems to understand that he’s playing Superman, and gives it his best with what little the script permitted.

4. SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006)

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The right movie for the wrong era, Singer’s SUPERMAN RETURNS is an extension of SUPERMAN I & II, innocent and optimistic, when all fans wanted was something more like BATMAN BEGINS. Or at least Superman punching things. The movie has an awkward first half with Superman stalking Lois, who’s remarried in his absence, but the rest is a passionate tribute to the Donner films with Kevin Spacey giving the performance of his life as Lex Luthor, Sam Huntington’s Jimmy Olson and Kate Bosworth’s Lois Lane pitch-perfectly matching their 70s & 80s counterparts. It’s hopeful in a way many movies are not, but, even with its coherent script, it’s a little too understated for its own good.

3. SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE (1987)

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Go ahead, laugh at Mark Pillow’s 80s-tastic Nuclear Man, but don’t lose sight of what a confident, solid blockbuster this is. No movie, up until BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM can claim to be such a perfect 1:1 translation of comic to film, with Superman continuing his charming on-off relationship with Margot Kidder’s Lois while fielding advances from Mariel Hemmingway’s sex-starved Lacy Warfield; to the visually perfect 80s villain Nuclear Man, a walking allegory for nuclear armament; to Hackman giving another great Lex Luthor performance; to the playful montage of Superman saving people from the collapsing Great Wall of China and from a volcanic eruption in Pompei; to its thoughtful and hopeful message about the nuclear armament crisis during the Cold War. SUPERMAN IV only stumbles in motivating its third act, by then, it’s all gravy.

2. SUPERMAN II (1980)

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Superman’s relationship with Lois hold the Christopher Reeve Superman movies together, and at no point is it more clear than here. Superman/Clark Kent and Margot Kidder’s can we/can’t we romance is the most passionate and mature relationship in superhero movies to this day, so much so that SPIDER-MAN 2 tried to copy it. While Superman struggles with love, honesty, and responsibility, Terrance Stamp’s elegant General Zod, Jack O’Halloran’s brutish Non, and Sarah Douglas’ psychotic, trophy-hunting Ursa destroy their way across America, discovering their strengths and playfully toying with the populace, ultimately forcing Superman’s hand. The resulting fight is every bit as explosive as MAN OF STEEL’s climax, but with a Superman who cares about collateral damage. The only weak moment in this film is literally in its last two minutes, which undercuts the beauty of Clark & Lois’ relationship. So what if it’s light and playful, this, like SUPERMAN IV, is proud of what it is.

Whatever you do, don’t watch the Donner cut. It’s serious, sure, but it rips coherency and the emotional heart right out of the movie.

1. SUPERMAN (1978)

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BATMAN may have launched the 90s superhero fad, but the legacy of SUPERMAN is undeniable. SUPERMAN RETURNS, GREEN LANTERN, SPIDER-MAN, and BATMAN BEGINS lived off SUPERMAN’s script, just as MAN OF STEEL bastardized that of SUPERMAN II. And why not, for the first of its genre, it hit every note perfectly; the forward-thinking exile of Zod, Non, and Faora on Krypton; Marlon Brando’s Jor-El’s somber farwell to his son; wanderlust and loss in Smallville with the Kents; Christopher’s Reeve’s dual performance as the hapless wimp Clark Kent and the inspiring Superman; Gene Hackman’s flamboyant, mustache-twirling Lex Luthor; the stunning romance with Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane and the beautiful night-flight over Metropolis; and the sheer wonder and optimism of Superman. It’s hard to overstate just how sterling this movie is.

But who has the best overall movie? Let’s break it down!

BATMAN V. SUPERMAN (MOVIES)

SUPERMAN III (1983)
BATMAN AND ROBIN (1997)
BATMAN FOREVER (1995)
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (2012)
MAN OF STEEL (2013)
BATMAN (1989)
SUPERMAN RETURNS (2006)
BATMAN: THE MOVIE (1966)
BATMAN RETURNS (1992)
SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE (1987)
BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM (1993)
SUPERMAN II (1980)
BATMAN BEGINS (2005)
SUPERMAN (1978)
THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)

Let’s be real, though. The closer you get to the best of each character, the harder it is to pick the best! What do you think? Think I nailed it? Misrepresent one of your favorites? Sound off below!

SUICIDE SQUAD Trailer Reaction

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UPDATED!

“You’re going somewhere very bad to something that’ll get you killed.”

Man, I’m excited for this movie.

David Ayer –who evidently pitched the adaptation of DC’s Suicide Squad (2016) himself- is a great directing & writing choice. All of his movies are dramas that dream of being action movies, and the closer he gets the straight-up action, the better. He never wants for thematic resonance, but his voice just tends toward character-driven action & violence.

And the latest Suicide Squad promises that in spades, hearts, clubs, and diamonds. Let’s talk about the biggest beats.

NOTE: Technically, it’s the first trailer, but all of nerdom’s counting the leaked-then-released sizzle reel as the first trailer. However you feel like numbering it, I guess.

THE AESTHETIC

Odd note, but the sizzle reel looked as gritty and washed out as Man of Steel (2013) had. This trailer (Trailer 1) looked as vibrant and phosphorescent as the recent poster releases. It’s a bold move, considering gaudiness took the blame for Batman & Robin’s failure. That said, nothing in Trailer 1 looked eye-stabbingly bright, just eye-catching.

Going back to my comments about Ayer, I get the sense that the man’s been working up to action franchises, and he just brings his intense sensibilities to each project without diminishing what works about that genre. Case in point: Fury (2014).

Considering his purported and directorial focus on groundedness and “the real,” there had been ample speculation as to how bombastic his special effects would go. I’d personally been expecting very understated magic… just telekinesis, really, but holy hell, did the trailer ever prove me wrong. Knowing that King Shark is in the movie, I’ve gone from expecting THIS….

suicide squad trailer reaction king shark

Still awesome, by the way

…to expecting THIS.

suicide squad trailer reaction king shark comic

Which is even more awesome!

SLIPKNOT

suicide squad trailer reaction slipknot

“No, goddammit, I’m not a metal band.”

After this interview, I’m stoked to see Adam Beach’s Slipknot in action. Wondering why you never heard of the villain? Because nobody cares about him. In the comics, he’s just a guy who’s good with ropes, but based purely on the interview, Ayer’s turned a throwaway villain into a interesting character and capable assassin. It’s just a little disappointing that the trailer was light on him. Probably because the movie’s going to be a little light on him C;

EL DIABLO

Suicide Squad trailer Reaction El Diablo

My favorite character of Adam Glass’ run of the Suicide Squad comic, El Diablo is a flame-powered mob hitman seeking redemption for accidentally murdering women and children (long story). He’s got a defined Latino voice, something that Ayer traditionally handles well, and it’s not a surprise to me that Jay Hernandez’ El Diablo got plenty of time in the trailer. Hopefully he’s awesome in the movie.

CAPTAIN BOOMERANG

suicide squad trailer reaction captain boomerang

“Boomerang. It’s Australian for Asshole.”

How the hell did Jai Courtney’s Boomerang become my favorite part of the trailer? From screaming and punching dudes to stealing beer during the mission, I can’t wait to see more of him.

HARLEY QUINN

Suicide Squad Trailer Reaction Harley Quinn

Any doubts about Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn are instantly vanquished. She nails the character’s personality and seems like she’ll make a great foil to the team along with Boomerang. I’m disappointed that we’re getting her New 52 origin (hence the shot of her rising from a vat in ACE Chemicals with Joker) as opposed to her classic Batman: The Animated Series origin (slowly becoming emotionally dependant and obsessed with him), but having heard that this movie has a lot to do about moving past bad histories, it may work stirringly well in context. Also, she’s pretty funny. I’m not sure what I enjoyed more: the line about the voices in her head, or her sipping tea and reading erotica.

DEADSHOT

Suicide Squad trailer reaction deadshot

I’m disappointed that I don’t have much to say about my favorite member of the team. Will Smith sells the character’s nihilism and action poses, but as of now, I’m just hoping for more characterization in movie. Given that the sizzle reel showed a shot of his origin story, I’m sure I’ll get it.

RICK FLAG JR.

suicide squad trailer reaction rick flag

Joel Kinnaman’s Flag sounds like a modern military guy which is interesting on a few levels. 1. His comic book counterpart is such, but suffers from a massive insecurity complex. Hopefully the movie has that. 2. David Ayer is a former Navy submariner, and Rick Flagg Jr. is the first modern-day soldier he’s written. In this trailer, Flag’s voice sounds authentic to that experience, which should be revealing. Given Ayer’s sensibilities, I’m expecting Flag to have an anti-war turn.

ENCHANTRESS

suicide squad trailer reaction enchantress

There are a few good shots of Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress in the trailer, mostly showing that she’s got an aura of dark magic, but there are plenty of other shots of her as the character’s alter ego, June Moon, who’s shown, of all things, brushing Flag’s hair. Seems like the movie will be true to the character’s schizophrenic origins.

KATANA

suicide squad trailer reaction katana

Karen Fukuhara’s Katana has a sword called Soul Taker which has a magical aura suggesting that it will actually take souls. This is awesome.

OTHER TEAM MEMBERS

suicide squad trailer reaction killer croc

Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Killer Croc… I’m sure they’ll get more of a chance in the next trailer. Waller is THE most important character surrounding the team -she runs it, after all- and it was a hair disappointing to see reused footage from the trailer. Killer Croc didn’t get much to do in this trailer apart from ripping his shirt and grabbing at a guy from a sewer (a shot similar to the animated shot of King Shark C; ). I look forward to seeing his personality.

JOKER

suicide squad trailer reaction joker

Honestly, I’m happy that Jared Leto’s Joker didn’t overwhelm the trailer. I’m sure he’s a huge deal as the movie’s wildcard, and he IS the most enduring comic book villain, but Trailer 1 needed to sell the character dynamic. While I’m curious to see how purportedly twisted the guy gets and whether or not he can overcome the hate for his juggalo tattoos, I worried that he’d commandeer the marketing. I’m glad that at least as of now, that hasn’t happened. Good. Save the craziness. I’m sure there’ll be a lot of it.

TATTOOED MAN

suicide squad trailer reaction incubus

Rumor has it that Common’s Tattooed Man is behind this destruction. In the comics, he was a rogue member of the Suicide Squad who had the power to turn his tattoos into deadly weapons. His action here suggest cool things about the plot… Like maybe the main team is taking down a rogue team…?

BATMAN

Where was Ben Affleck’s Batman? Who cares! Let’s hope they save his next reveal for the second or third trailer as we get closer to August. The nod to him in the Sizzle Reel was fun, but WB/DC has to learn how to sell movies without him. Trailer 1’s off to a good start.

-OTHER COOL STUFF:

suicide squad trailer reaction eastwood

This is the first time we’ve seen Scott Eastwood in the trailers. Rumored to be playing Deathstroke, DC’s deadliest assassin, I ABSOLUTELY CANNOT WAIT to see this happen.

suicide squad trailer reaction briscoe & sheba

There are plenty of shots of helicopters in Trailer 1, notably one shooting white phosphorous. Given how many character cameos are in this (Ike Barinholtz is rumored to be playing Batman villain Hugo Strange and Common will be playing Squad perennial ‘The Tattooed Man!’), it wouldn’t surprise me if this was Brisco’s character cameo. A disturbed helicopter pilot working for Amanda Waller, Brisco named his voice-controlled helicopter Sheba after his dead daughter. The helicopter is the only place he sleeps. See? Disturbed.

suicide squad trailer reaction magic nuke

Who does that glittery nuclear explosion belong to? Enchantress or Incubus? …Harley or Joker?

suicide squad trailer reaction joker & frost

Who is Joker grabbing when he says, “I can’t wait to show you my toys?” Jim Parrack’s Johnny Frost? Either way, paint a crosshairs on that guy’s back.

Who are the A.R.G.U.S. agents after? Killer Croc? The Joker? Either way, a SWAT team dealing with a supervillain prison break is a great horror set up. Any reference to Aliens is a good reference.

suicide squad trailer reaction melted truck

Damn, that melted truck looks sweet…

suicide squad trailer reaction enchantress white house

What’s Enchantress doing in the White House?

Given that everyone is alive in the trailer, I get the feeling that we’re thus far only seeing the first half of the movie. After that, I bet we have a not-so-surprise villain on our hands.

What, surprised that characters are going to die in a movie called Suicide Squad? If you’re as morbid as I am, check out my predictions!

Love the trailer? Thought it needed to die in a fire? Think my breakdown should too?

Sound off below!

WHO DIES IN SUICIDE SQUAD?

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NO SPOILERS! I PROMISE!

[insert Hot Topic joke here]

When you think of the first four Batman movies, you think of the villains first, Batman second, and with reason! Villains are unpredictable! Grandiose! Violent! And unforgettable, even when they’re played by Arnold Schwartzeneggar. Perhaps moreso.

So a movie about supervillains sent on suicide missions to commute their prison sentences? Count me in. From Ostrander’s run through BATMAN: ASSAULT ON ARKHAM (2014), I love the Suicide Squad (officially called “Taskforce X” by their superiors) and all of the big ideas surrounding the team: redemption, purpose, ethics, government control, morality, and sacrifice.

Holy cow, the sacrifice. “Suicide Squad” isn’t just a colorful name. Characters die all the time on these missions. Sometimes just a couple, sometimes only one’s left standing, and Ayer’s SUICIDE SQUAD (2016) promises to be no different.

So let’s play a game and wildly speculate on who’s going to die!

First, let’s talk about the director.

DAVID AYER

David Ayer grew up in South Central LA and spent some time in the Navy, making him no stranger to hardship. His body of work reflects this, with films almost exclusively focusing on the military, ex-military, paramilitary, and the police of central LA. His themes revolve around brotherhood, machismo, violence, deadened emotions, moral ambiguity, and sacrifice.

Most of his male characters are chollo-masculine and speak with heavy colloquialisms. None are sinners or saints, but most have an inextricable attachment to and fixation with violence and their particular brand of honor.

His female characters tend to be victimized bystanders, often at the mercy of his protagonists. If they’re not directly manipulated or injured by the protagonist, they’re unable to fully understand their situation. If a female character isn’t victimized, she’s considered a part of the family and/or brotherhood, and in many cases, behaves indistinguishably from the men. She’s “just one of the guys.”

One last thing, possibly the biggest thing: Ayer LOVES to kill characters. Nobody is safe from the plot in his movies, and the protagonists often go down in flames prior to or directly following an impassioned speech.

SUICIDE SQUAD DETAILS

Other quick things:

1. Every member of Taskforce X, the Suicide Squad, has a bomb implanted in their neck. Stray from the mission, the bomb goes off.

2. A.R.G.U.S. (Advanced Research Group for Uniting Superhumans) is the corrupt government agency that runs Taskforce X/Suicide Squad. A dirty version of Marvel’s S.H.I.E.L.D., it’s based out of Belle Reve prison in Louisiana, from where it selects its “candidates.” EVERY inmate is implanted with a bomb. Try to escape, the bomb goes off.

3. Amanda Waller runs Taskforce X and is the head of A.R.G.U.S. She’s got a zero tolerance policy for bullshit and hates criminals. Cross her, the bomb goes off.

And now, without further ado…

WHO’S GONNA DIE?

SLIPKNOT

A character whose name only sounds edgy thanks to a 90s metal band.

IN THE COMICS: Christopher Weiss AKA Slipknot is an assassin who specializes in ropes. A former member of the Suicide Squad, his arm-bomb was detonated when he fled a mission. Surprising no one, he’s never appeared in other media.

IN THE MOVIE: He’s played by Adam Beach and looks like a hardcore badass soldier. They gave him a rifle to make up for specializing in ropes being so stupid. Still, he carries more ropes than is healthy and is just asking to trip and fall down a staircase.

ARGUMENT: Slipknot’s an obscure character, even among Suicide Squad fans. He’s been on only a single mission and was dumb enough to test if he really had a bomb in him. Nobody’s talking about him and nobody’s quite sure why he’s in the movie.

PREDICTIONS: Slipknot’s going to die immediately after everyone on the team laughs at how stupid ropes are. Just wait and bleed, Slipknot. Wait. And. Bleed.

LIKELIHOOD OF DEATH: 100%

 

EL DIABLO

Don't laugh at the bowling jacket, yo.

IN THE COMICS: Chato Santana AKA El Diablo, is a Latino gangster from South Central LA who volunteered his services to the Suicide Squad after inadvertently killing innocents with his pyrokinesis.

IN THE MOVIE: He’s played by Jay Hernandez and looks like his comic book counterpart with a snazzy jacket. Everything about this guy is attitude and he’ll undoubtedly be chollo. More than likely, he’ll be playing a walking flamethrower.

ARGUMENT: Yet another obscure character, albeit a deeper one with a more visual power. Arguably, this will be the character Ayer most sympathizes with, but El Diablo just isn’t built to last.

PREDICTIONS: El Diablo’s likely to survive for a long time on Ayer’s empathy alone, but that won’t save him in late in the second act. Expect him to die in a literal blaze of glory.

LIKELIHOOD OF DEATH: 100%

KATANA

It's subtle, but she's Japanese. Look carefully.

IN THE COMICS: Tatsu Yamashiro AKA Katana wields “Soultaker,” a katana housing her husband’s soul, which guides her on the path of justice. She has aided the Suicide Squad and has been a member of the Outsiders, Birds of Prey, and a version of the Justice League.

IN THE MOVIE: Played by Karen Fukuhara, she’s one of the few team members who actually looks like their comic book counterpart, and her costume looks extremely Japanese. Girl stands out like a sore thumb.

ARGUMENT: Karen Fukuhara iss an unknown actress playing a lesser-known character who almost exclusively operates on lesser teams and/or seldomly partners with Batman. Still, she’s wearing a comic-accurate costume and could theoretically help launch other DC properties, specifically the Outsiders and Birds of Prey.

PREDICTIONS: Remember that scene from PREDATORS (2010) where a yakuza member kamikazis against a Predator? Didn’t think so. Here it is. With Deathstroke rumored among the characters, I firmly expect Karana to die in a one-on-one showdown with him to raise the stakes and sell how badass Deathstroke is.

LIKELIHOOD OF DEATH: 75%

DEATHSTROKE (UPDATED!)

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IN THE COMICS: Wilson Slade AKA Deathstroke is DC’s #1 assassin, and has tangled with-and beaten- nearly everyone. With Captain America-level powers and fighting abilities, master swordsmanship, and enough firepower to start and end World War 3, he’s just about unstoppable.

IN THE MOVIE: Rumors peg Scott Eastwood as Deathstroke, and if so, he’ll be the antagonist with body count. As a rising star, no doubt Eastwood’s going to get some considerable play.

ARGUMENT: Deathstroke’s a fan-favorite character and a major antagonist for the likes of Batman, Green Arrow, the Teen Titans, Deadshot, and the Suicide Squad, and has a personal rivalry with several of them. With WB setting up the DC Cinematic Universe, it’d be a waste to kill him early. That said, with Ayer directing a grounded, paramilitary movie, it’s unlikely that Deathstroke would be merely paralyzed in defeat. It strains credibility and Ayer’s writing habits.

PREDICTION: If Deathstroke  dies, he’ll be killed in a duel to the death with Deadshot, who will likely be mortally wounded.

LIKELIHOOD OF DEATH: 60%

DEADSHOT

The Fresh Prince of Headshots

IN THE COMICS: Floyd Lawton AKA Deadshot is a masterclass sniper and assassin. Serving a life sentence, he volunteers for for Taskforce X in the hopes of providing for his estranged daughter and ex-wife. He uses wrist-mounted machine guns, but has recently taken up a sniper rifle. He’s a regular adversary to Batman & Green Arrow, is a member of the Secret Six, and is the longest-standing member of the Suicide Squad.

IN THE MOVIE: Will Smith’s Deadshot’s mask and color scheme look like tactical adaptations of his comic book costume, and the tweaked Bible quote on his neck and three rifles “The Way – The Light” hints at deeper character, though who knows if the spirituality is sincere, mockery, or sheer machismo. A set picture featuring Lawton carrying tons of prissy shopping bags for his apparent daughter suggest a very faithful and deep adaptation.

ARGUMENT: Deadshot is a fan favorite perennial member of the team. At this point, it’s just not Suicide Squad without him. Will Smith, a bankable star, is playing him, but this is a David Ayer movie. Deadshot’s an expendable soldier in a movie ALL ABOUT expendable soldiers. All he cares about redemption and his daughter, and there’s all the reason in the world to believe he’ll die trying to provide for her. Deadshot doesn’t need to be alive for there to be a Taskforce X/Suicide Squad.

PREDICTIONS: If Deadshot doesn’t die in a mutual slaying with Deathstroke, he’ll certainly be mortally wounded by the encounter. Failing that, Deadshot will be mortally wounded and push through his agony to deliver a speech about how there are no heroes and die delivering the coup d’tat to the primary antagonist.

LIKELIHOOD OF DEATH: 90%

KILLER CROC

Voted in high school

IN THE COMICS: Waylon Jones AKA Killer Croc is a crocodile-man hybrid who started in freak shows and wound up as a cannibal in Gotham’s sewers. He  was popular character on BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES.

IN THE MOVIE: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje seems to be playing a more human/hitman version of the character, the upturned hood suggesting a level of rejection from and loathing of the world around him. At the very least, he’s the team bruiser and quite possibly the aquatic specialist.

ARGUMENT: Croc’s a popular minor supporting character in the comics and shows, often serving as a brutal obstacle for Batman or, in rare cases, appearing as a tragic, misunderstood figure who lost his chance at redemption. In the movie world, he’s disposable. There are plenty far-more interesting Batman villains and there’s not a lot of purpose in keeping him alive, save as muscle for any one of them.

PREDICTION: Either Croc dies tragically early, unable to find redemption or respect, or he’s mutually killed in a brutal underwater deathmatch with the OTHER animal/man hybrid, King Shark.

LIKELIHOOD OF DEATH: 70%

KING SHARK

IN THE COMICS: Nanaue AKA King Shark is a shark/human hybrid with a taste for human flesh, and he’s been a constant menace to Superboy, Aquaman, his Suicide Squad teammates, and anyone else stupid enough to get between him and a meal. This none-too-bright walking slaughterhouse has been depicted as a Great White, a Hammerhead, and A GUY WITH A BEARTRAP MOUTH.

IN THE MOVIE: While there haven’t been any official pics yet, I’m REALLY hoping Raymond Olubawale plays the Guy-with-a-Beartrap-Mouth version, which seems the most likely. Personality wise, I don’t expect there to be much difference. There will be blood. Buckets of it.

ARGUMENT: Despite my love of the character, he’s a stock bruiser and among DC’s lesser villains. He exists to be a bloodthirsty menace and to be overcome. Probably for the best. If he were popular, he’d be hearing an endless barrage of Street Shark jokes.

PREDICTION: No question, he goes out in a gore-drenched fight with Killer Croc, where both “men” tear each other limb from limb. I suspect this might take place in a sewer or in an A.R.G.U.S. holding tank.

LIKELIHOOD OF DEATH: 100%

ENCHANTRESS

Hermione on PCP.

IN THE COMICS: June Moon AKA The Enchantress is a regular foe of Firestorm, the Green Lantern, Superman, and the Justice League. She’s also been a member of the Suicide Squad. Docile and powerless as June Moon, when her split personality, the Enchantress, manifests, she’s an omnicidal magical onslaught.

IN THE MOVIE: Cara Delavingne’s Enchantress looks like Hermione on PCP, utterly corrupted by dark magic. She’ll probably try to kill everyone around her.

ARGUMENT: Enchantress isn’t all that popular, but if some of the plot rumors flying around are true, she’s absolutely vital to the plot. Y’see, Superman is weak to Kryptonite AND magic, and Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor WILL be in this movie. Similarly, Enchantress is suspiciously overpowered for the team, if she’s even on it…

PREDICTION: I see Enchantress doing the magic equivalent of “Hulking out” and wreaking havoc for everything in a ten-block radius, possibly killing members of the team. Her death will probably be sudden and unexpected. Likely Deadshot, who sniped her in the back of the head from half a mile away.

LIKELIHOOD OF DEATH: 80%

CAPTAIN BOOMERANG

Desperately trying to make muttonchops cool again.

IN THE COMICS: George “Digger” Harkness AKA Captain Boomerang is a regular Flash adversary and primary member of the Suicide Squad, where he’s trusted about as far as they can throw him. A deadly master of trick boomerangs, Captain Boomerang is a scummy, conceited, misogynist, hostile piece of shit. And he’s kind of endearing that way.

IN THE MOVIE: Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang certainly looks like a scummy, conceited, misogynist, hostile piece of shit. Hopefully that comes off as endearing.

ARGUMENT: Captain Boomerang is a fan favorite from John Ostrander’s run of the Suicide Squad and has a longstanding rivalry with Deadshot. He’s got little value to the bigger DC movies on the way, but if SUICIDE SQUAD takes off, he’s the kind of guy you’ll want around for a sequel.

PREDICTION: Truth be told, I have trouble seeing Captain Boomerang put down in combat. Sure he’s not that great a fighter, but bullheaded as he is, he’s more likely to test Amanda Waller and/or his field commander. Either his implanted bomb gets blown, or he carves it out with a boomerang and skips town. As I said, he’s just kind of a piece of shit.

LIKELIHOOD OF DEATH: 30%

HUGO STRANGE

DEATH BY NECKBEARD.

IN THE COMICS: Described as “Batman’s Moriarty,” Dr. Hugo Strange was once Bruce Wayne’s psychologist and nearly drove his client to insanity. Donning the Batsuit, Strange terrorized Gotham until Bruce finally snapped out of it.

IN THE MOVIE: There are few details and no official picture of Ike Barinholtz’s Strange, but he’ll likely be Belle Reve prison’s chief criminal psychologist with nefarious ulterior motives…

ARGUMENT: Strange is an obscure but formidable Batman villain enjoying a surge of popularity after ARKHAM CITY. While he’s unlikely to be the star villain of a Batman movie, he’s the right kind of guy to keep around for a Suicide Squad sequel and general DC Cinematic Universe continuity.

PREDICTION: There’s a damn good chance the Suicide Squad decides not to play ball with A.R.G.U.S. and launches an attack on Belle Reve. Should that happen, Dr. Strange will probably meet his fate at the hands of Joker and Harley, who’d be his prized patients.

LIKELIHOOD OF DEATH: 30%

AMANDA WALLER

Nick Fury who gives absolutely zero fucks about collateral damage.

IN THE COMICS: Head of A.R.G.U.S., Amanda Waller lost her family to tragedy and is a decorated military vet where her iron will and inflexibility earned her the nickname ‘The Wall.’ Recruiting villains from every major city, she’s rubbed just about every DC hero the wrong way in the name of national defense.

IN THE MOVIE: All signs point to Viola Davis behaving like her comic book counterpart: cold, calculating, and uncompromising.

ARGUMENT: She IS A.R.G.U.S., more than any character, and if you want a sequel, you want her around. She’s the single most power P.O.C. in this movie and the one with the most transferability to other movies if Suicide Squad gets big. Besides, remember GREEN LANTERN (2011)? Back then, she was poised to be its Nick Fury.

PREDICTION: IF Waller dies, and it’s a big if, she’ll die in a towering explosion that takes out a wing of the prison, if not the entire thing. She could very well be the principle  antagonist, afterall. More likely, she’ll be the only one standing in the rubble, staring out at a sea of bodies that she helped create.

LIKELIHOOD OF DEATH: 20%

RICK FLAGG

The Rick Flaggiest guy you'll ever meet.

IN THE COMICS: Rick Flagg, the field leader of the Suicide Squad is an army brat who volunteered for service after his WWII vet father, the first Rick Flagg, founded the team to fight dinosaurs. He’s humorless, mopey, insecure, and thinks he’s owed leadership. Time and again, he’s proven wrong.

IN THE MOVIE: Joel Kinnaman sure looks like a soldier, all right.

ARGUMENT: There’s not a whole lot to say about Flagg other than he continually needs to get knocked down a peg. If anything, the character might learn what it means to lose an entire squad or to think of soldiers as pawns, not people. BATMAN: ASSAULT ON ARKHAM didn’t bother including Flagg, instead using Deadshot as field commander. Then again, Flagg’s one of the few “good” characters in this whole affair and the audience may need someone to latch onto.

PREDICTION: If Flagg goes down, he’s going down with a long, sentimental speech about humanity and what it means to him. He’ll have finally learned the meaning of sacrifice and blow himself up to give the surviving team members a fighting chance.

LIKELIHOOD OF DEATH: 40%

JONNY FROST (UPDATE)

IN THE COMICS: Jonny Frost appeared only in Brian Azzarello’s “JOKER” where he was an ambitious lowlife thug and Joker’s chauffeur. As you might expect, things didn’t go so great for him.

IN THE MOVIE: Jim Parrack brings Frost to life and there’s a brief glimpse of him in the trailer shooting up a store with the Joker, suggesting a fairly faithful adaptation. Likely, Frost will play Joker’s right hand thug, but will likely have absolutely no place on the Suicide Squad.

ARGUMENT: Frost’s story is a tragic one, as befitting all near the Joker. In his only comic appearance, Frost suffers immeasurably at the Joker’s hands before falling to -in all likelihood- his death. Parrack is a strong actor, no question, but not necessary for this series to continue.

PREDICTION: If Joker’s good at anything, it’s killing his subordinates on a whim. Likely as not, Joker will betray Frost to raise the stakes and highlight how unpredictable and terrifying he is.

LIKELIHOOD OF DEATH: 100%

THE TATTOOED MAN (UPDATE)

Tattooed Man

IN THE COMICS: Abel Tarrant, the Tattooed Man, is a former Green Lantern villain with the power to create physical objects from his tattoos -weaponry and monsters included. A member of the Injustice Gang and the Society of Super Villains before being recruited to the Suicide Squad, the Tattooed Man was killed by his Suicide Squad mates after he betrayed them on a critical mission.

IN THE MOVIE: Little is known about the Tattooed Man as played by Common, but given all that happens in trailer one, it’s safe to assume that he’s as deadly as his comic book counterpart. Living tattoos will have that effect.

ARGUMENT: The comics spell out the Tattooed Man’s a traitor and a deadman. While David Ayer has worked with Common before, he has zero problem killing him. Onscreen. Of course.

PREDICTION: The first trailer shows him decimating a subway train. As such a potent threat, I doubt anyone on the team would have second thoughts about dropping him where he stands.

LIKELIHOOD OF DEATH: 100%

HARLEY QUINN

Super stoked for the Good Charlotte concert.

IN THE COMICS: Harleen Quinzel AKA Harley Quinn was Joker’s psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum until he drove her insane -with love. She’s a kooky Jersey Girl who’s known for hitting things with an oversized mallet or using a lethal pop gun. Starting life as a one-off in BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, she’s taken pop culture by storm, and has become as popular as Wonder Woman -if not moreso.

IN THE MOVIE: Margot Robbie’s punk rock Harley Quinn certainly looks like she’s going to make an impression, if not for her  outfit, then with her baseball bat and bubbly personality. Rumor has it that the film begins with her on the outs with Joker. We’ll see how long that lasts.

ARGUMENT: As indicated, Harley’s a pop culture icon to be reckoned with and her legendary relationship with the Joker suggests all kind of film longevity. If ANY female character is going to survive this movie, it’s going to be her.

PREDICTION: No matter what, Harley’s going to side with the Joker. If he’s on the Suicide Squad, they’ll conspire together and make their move at the worst possible moment. If he’s not on the team, Harley will betray them in a big way. I foresee her clawing out her implanted bomb and baseball batting it into a handful of A.R.G.U.S. soldiers.

LIKELIHOOD OF DEATH: 0%

JOKER

The internet's blown through all the jokes already. He'll do the rest.

IN THE COMICS: The unknown man known as the Joker is THE most iconic villain in comics, Batman archenemies and a regular threat for the Justice League. He’s been adapted the most times to film, has appeared in nearly every Batman TV show, and generally steals the story in Batman video games.

IN THE MOVIE: Look at this guy. You can’t look at Jared Leto’s Joker and NOT have an opinion. The reveal of this guy messed up twitter for days, leading some to believe that it isn’t the real Joker. Clearly he’s the real deal and clearly WB/DC has a lot planned for him, especially after Tom Hardy’s comments.

ARGUMENT: It’s the freakin’ Joker! He’s a household name and there’s absolutely no chance of him DC squandering him to a single movie, especially one that isn’t called “Batman.”

PREDICTION: Joker WILL cause mayhem. No matter the methods, the results will be extreme and shocking. If he’s a Suicide Squad member, which I doubt, he’ll likely find a way to implant his bomb onto someone else. If he’s not on the team, he’ll get away with Harley and a trail of bodies in his wake.

LIKELIHOOD OF DEATH: 0%

‘TIL THE LAST MAN STANDING

There’s something poetic about how the Suicide Squad operates. Characters living and dying based on popularity, utility, and the roll of the dice… It’s a cruel, cynical, pragmatic system that’s in many ways a mirror for many facets of society.  Regardless of the results and who, if anyone, is left standing when the smoke clears, Ayer’s Suicide Squad is going to be a conversation-starter for years and years to come.

The Dark Knight Trilogy Revisited

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With the release of Interstellar, Christopher Nolan came crashing back into the front of the public consciousness along with all the dialogue that follows.

Considered one of, if not the contemporary blockbuster auteur, Nolan’s chromatically washed-out, borderline deafening, thinkpiece extravaganzas always create discussion, chiefly between the enormity of their themes and action vs. their characters, pacing, and plotholes. No two of these movies exemplify this more than Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

The latter, considered the worst of Nolan’s movies, especially compared to the lauded Dark Knight (TDK), is by no means a bad movie, but the second to fall prey to the aforementioned “Nolanisms” (themes and action vs. character, pacing, and plotholes). While the exposition-heavy Inception, gets a pass from many by sheer virtue of its novelty and mind-bending metaphysical narrative, The Dark Knight Rises’ (Rises) heavy handed themes failed to save its padded, expositional script. However, Rises doesn’t exist in a vacuum. While much has been said about Nolan’s challenges entering production of Rises (http://badassdigest.com/2012/07/26/film-crit-hulk-smash-hulk-vs.-the-dark-knight-rises/), the movie’s shortcomings can be traced all the way back to Nolan’s first installment in what is now referred to as “The Dark Knight Trilogy.”

Appropriate.

1. The Evidence

Here, rather than get into a tedious recount of each movie, it’s much easier and much more effective to list what of the many things the three movies had in common and circle back around.

1. All three had Nolan’s signature monochrome palette: Batman Begins: brown; TDK: Blue; Rises: Black

2. All three are about dissolution of self. In Batman Begins, it’s becoming an ideal; in TDK, it’s compromising morality; in Rises, it’s atoning for and transcending one’s weaknesses

3. All three are about villains motivated by fear and chaos: In Batman Begins, the Scarecrow literally uses a fear gas on his victims while Ra’s Al Ghul hopes to use that gas to make Gotham’ inhabitants destroy themselves; in TDK, the Joker controls the city through fear and chaos, leading Two-Face to follow a life of chaos; in Rises, Bane & Talia bring Gotham City to chaos and ruin by inciting panic and fear in the upper class, Catwoman is terrified of her past catching up with her; and in all through movies, the mafia controls Gotham through fear alone.

4. The villains of all three believe humanity will tear itself out through fear and chaos: In Batman Begins, this is the whole of Ra’s Al Ghul’s plan; in TDK, this is Joker’s modus operandi; in Rises, Bane & Talia destabilize the city to enact this, purely to torment Batman, and Catwoman is controlled by Bane, in part, by fear.

5. All three feature a prison breakout and rule of prisoners: in Batman Begins, the prisoners escape from Arkham Asylum and roam the fear-toxin-clogged streets; in TDK, Arkham Asylum inmates are chief among Joker’s crew, along with a ship full of mutinous prisoners who factor into Joker’s endgame; in Rises, Bane’s army consists of freed criminals and the working class.

6. All three feature an assault of the lower and working class on the upper class: In Batman Begins, the impoverished literally killed Bruce Wayne’s family, are complicit in many mafia crimes, and are the principle adversaries in the Narrows; in TDK, Joker’s primary goal revolves around destabilizing the ruling government and authority figures to incite a state of anarchy; in Rises, Bane’s rhetoric and recruitment methods are 99% vs. the 1%, as are Catwoman’s sensibilities.

7. All three have ‘uncompromising’ villains: In Batman Begins, Scarecrow and Ra’s Al Ghul cannot be persuaded by coercion or the promise of money; In TDK, Joker burns money to prove how useless it is to him; in Rises, Bane cannot be persuaded by coercion, the promise of money, or the threat of death, and Talia is driven by sheer zealotry to complete her father’s work.

8. All three focus heavily on mobsters types: In Batman Begins, Batman’s crusade leads him to confront Carmine Falcone directly; In TDK, the majority of the movie revolves around the mass-indictment and conviction of Gotham City’s gangsters; much of Rises, deals with the aftermath of ‘the Dent Act,’ which incarcerated Gotham’s gangsters under questionable auspices and deals with their mass release and their subsequent execution by ‘the people.’

9. All three have villains who meet pathetic ends: In Batman Begins, a log falls on pseudo-Ra’s Al Ghul, Scarecrow gets tasered by a side character, and Ra’s Al Ghul doesn’t think to jump out of a train; in TDK, Scarecrow gets arrested, Joker gets tied up, Two-Face falls off a building hours after becoming Two-Face; in Rises, Catwoman turns face, Bane gets punched in the mouthpiece, and Talia Al Ghul is a crappy driver.

10. All three are based on one or more graphic novels: Batman Begins is a loose adaptation of Batman: Year One, by Frank Miller; TDK is a loose adaptation of Batman: The Long Halloween, by Jeph Loeb; and Rises’ first act is The Dark Knight Returns, by Frank Miller, its second act is Batman: Knightfall, by various, and Batman: Cataclysm, by various, and its third & fourth acts are Batman: No Man’s Land, by various. Rumors suggest that had Heath Ledger not passed away, Rises, whatever it would’ve been called, would’ve been based on Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean.

11. All three use post 9/11 signs and symbols, preying on the fears of the age: Batman Begins featured villains inciting fear through a fear-toxin and attempted to employ it by ramming a train into the largest building in the city; TDK was the War on Terror, featuring concepts of extradition, torture, suspension of rights, mass incarceration, and the Patriot Act; Rises was the public backlash to the War on Terror, with every proponent of that time (Dent, Gordon, Dawes, Batman, etc.) considered useless relics, Gotham being, despite its peace, a more precarious place, and existing in a poverty where only the extreme rich have flourished under conservative leadership, signified through law enforcement.

12. It’s also not TOO much of a stretch to make the argument that Batman stands in for George Bush and his presidency. Batman Begins being the Fahrenheit 9/11 of the movies, with Batman having full knowledge of a terrorist cult out to destroy Gotham and doing the base minimum, which leads to the partial destruction of Gotham; TDK being Bush’s War on terror and all of the numerous tactics used by his administration and the CIA to apprehend suspected war criminals; and Rises sees Batman as a disused and much-disliked criminal for “failing” the citizens of Gotham, even 8 years (two presidential terms) after his last public/high profile-appearance.

13. Yeah, I know I’m stretching a bit, but The Dark Knight Rises is a wacky, complicated, thematically unsound movie, so screw you.

14. Finally, all three movies have Batman.

2. So What’s the Point?

Some big themes pop out of this: a legacy of exorbitant ideals warped into zealotry followed by semantic “scrubbing” (let’s not forget, we knew about “advanced interrogation techniques” in the 00s); villains who aren’t as threatening as they appear; fear as a means of controlling the populace and criminals alike; ordinary criminals standing in for terrorists; and class-based worlds that seem rife for social upheavals that happen, but no matter how extreme, are ultimately impermanent.

Sound familiar? This was the War on Terror in what could laughingly be called its “entirety.”

3. So What’s Wrong with The Dark Knight Rises?

Beyond the fact that its script was a structural mess, was unwanted fan service, failed to deliver knockout story beats, and clearly had no comprehension of Batman?

It was thematically flawed.

Let’s be real, here. The Dark Knight isn’t what most think of when thinking of Batman. He doesn’t consider himself above the law, he’s not exclusively a one-man-anti-mob policeman, and he’s not willing to compromise basic human and American values –looking at you, cell phone surveillance. He’s the world’s greatest detective, who is some mix of detective, policeman, EMT, firefighter, and globetrotting adventurer.

He looks like this guy.

But audiences accepted the TDK’s vision of Batman almost exclusively for how he dealt with an unstoppable force and unforgettable presence like Heath Ledger’s Joker, a nightmare of morality who seemingly forced Batman to compromise his own beliefs to apprehend. More than loving TDK’s crazy twists and turns, audiences connected to the nuance that Batman might be little better than the criminals he pursues –a central theme in Batman lore. All this, naturally, blossomed from seeds planted in Batman Begins, with characters questioning at every turn if Bruce might not be going too far, and if there’s not a better –saner- way.

As eluded earlier, the early rumors surrounding Rises were that it would revolve around the Joker, perhaps being a court case with a copycat criminal (the Riddler) making his merry way across Gotham. It might even have gone so far as to have similar workings as Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, where Batman’s sanity and moral fiber were called into question. Returning to Film Crit Hulk’s article, the passing of Heath Ledger weighed heavily on Nolan. In respect for Ledger, his loss must’ve narratively closed many doors for the sequel, which might explain rather than crafting a focused narrative around Batman & Joker’s relationship, Rises became Nolan’s “Idea” movie: legend, iconography, legacy, capitalism, class warfare, anarchy, fear, love, determination, individualism, collectivism, the 99% and more.

Even as an idea movie, which arguably could’ve been more coherent in a focused narrative, the script structure of Rises was inappropriate for what’d come before. The first two parts of The Dark Knight Trilogy aren’t building up to a guy who needs to come out of retirement then man up; they’re building up to a guy who’s got some serious issues to work through, especially if he’s our Strawman for the War on Terror and its fallout. Nolan probably still could’ve had half of the above themes, but they would’ve had focus, and they would’ve been channeled through a story.

To that end, a structure like Batman: the Animated Series“The Trial,” Batman: Arkham Asylum, or Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, wherein Batman is forced to face a gamut of his foes, all thematically tied to a fragment of his shattered psyche would’ve suited his chapter much better. We’d learn why Batman is Batman and why, for the love of him, he can’t stop being Batman, no matter how hard he tries.

Featured: tons of dudes waiting for their gritty reboot.

The problem with that idea, though, it’s been speculated, is that doesn’t feel like a Nolan movie, at least on the surface. To potentially campy, too small-scale (Unless he took cues from Arkham City), and too divorced (again, on the surface) from the 9/11 anti-terrorism critique he established in the first two movies. What’s more, with The Dark Knight being, for all intensive purposes, a perfect critique, why would you need any more?

Should Nolan have stepped back to a producer’s role, letting someone else bring fresh ideas and meaning to the franchise? Perhaps, but broken as Rises is, it’s certainly not without weight or merit; it just had, in large part, the rotten luck of being the wrong script for the material. Thematically ambitious to the point of exorbitance, but sort of a beautiful mess like Interstellar.

Besides, we needed a new Bane.

We really, REALLY needed a new Bane.