WARNING: Full spoilers for Suicide Squad and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice ahead. If you feel like that may ruin your film viewing experience, please bookmark this page and come back later.
Casting and Characterization
While nobody is going to argue that Ben Affleck’s Batman was anything but the best part of BvS, several of the film’s other characters were either criminally misused, or entirely miscast. Take Lex Luthor and his assistant Mercy, for example. The latter was prematurely killed off, while Eisenberg’s Luthor was almost universally panned by fans and critics alike as being an annoying, overacted dweeb of a villain. Don’t even get me started on how they handled Doomsday.
Thankfully, Suicide Squad didn’t suffer the same fate—its talented cast offering characters with attitude and heart to spare, not to mention the DCEU’s most likable villains yet. Will Smith’s Deadshot made me actually care about the character for once. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is now engrained in my mind as the definitive version of the character. Jay Hernandez’s turn as El Diablo is an incredible standout. Even Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang is a more likable character than almost anyone in BvS, Superman himself included. While not every member of the Squad got a chance to shine—and some were certainly more likable than others—I can’t think of anyone who was egregiously miscast or misused.
One word: Martha. The titular conflict of BvS wasn’t resolved by them talking out their issues out and personalturmoil, but instead hinged entirely on the fact that Superman and Batman’s moms share a first name. At no other point in the movie is there any kind of character building, despite the core appeal of the material. Superman is the supposed paragon of hope, Batman is a skeptic, and Lex Luthor hates aliens. That is about the depth of each character, no matter how much they like to waffle on about the corruption of power.
Suicide Squad took a different approach and gave backstory to each member of the team, allowing them to act accordingly. The film actually took time to set up a character and give them personal motivations. For the most part, it works too. Deadshot is concerned with how he can be there for his daughter. El Diablo is a man of peace after a tragedy he caused. Rick Flagg is bound by duty by possibly kill the woman he loves. Every character is driven to get through the movie by what’s on the other side for them personally. Some characters are one note, to be sure. Boomerang and Killer Croc are there pretty much for the punchline. But it’s still a massive improvement over the paper-thin stereotypes of Batman v. Superman.
Despite Batman v. Superman being DC’s first real foray into shared universe storytelling, it was extremely light on connective tissue, yet still absurd sequel bait. The difference being is that one organically adds depth and prior history to a universe, while another is shoved in and called fan service. It’s the difference between a subtle glimpse of Robin’s suit in the Batcave, compared to the ham-fisted use of Lex’s Justice League files.
Suicide Squad, on the other hand, actually felt part of a bigger universe. Showing Boomerang meet The Flash for the first time, or Batman taking down Deadshot, gave viewers the feeling that the world is bigger than just the main cast, something BvS failed to convey. T-shirt vendors handing out “Remember Superman” shirts, for example, gave a layer of texture to what was happening outside of the film’s main narrative. Even the way Amanda Waller addressed characters like Harley and the Joker showed a general familiarity with who they were and what they had done. It was an excellent bit of “show, not tell”, and something DC should maintain in their universe building strategy going forward.
I can’t remember another blockbuster with such an absent sense of humor as Batman v. Superman. Not only was the film narratively boring, but there was no attitude or wit to be found anywhere—probably for fear of being too much like Marvel.
Suicide Squad rectifies this completely, offering pithy character interactions and one-liners that feel distinct. How Deadshot reacts to the ever-serious Rick Flagg is constantly amusing. Harley’s detachment from reality becomes the source of many funny moments, but never feels overplayed. Even the wild-eyed Boomerang and the stoic Katana get some quality lines amidst the fast-paced action, giving them vital characterization along the way. The cast works well off of each other, and by the end, they really do feel like a team. It’s the kind of cohesion that was severely lacking in BvS, and could go a long way in Zack Snyder’s upcoming Justice League.
Agree with our list? Disagree? Leave a comment down below and get the conversation started. And don’t forget to stay tuned to Ground Punch for all your DC and Suicide Squad needs.