- Amanda Waller and the Death of Superman
- The great world building thus far in the Justice League Universe
- Deadshot and his daughter
- Harley as the Joker's Queen
- Captain Boomerang and The Flash
- El Diablo and his surrender
- Killer Croc, the monster
- Enchantress, the witch
- Rick Flag and Waller's leverage
- Thematic Analysis versus Comic Book Analysis
Man of Steel Answers, Suicide Squadcast, DCU_Club subreddit
<Transcript of the episode>
Welcome, fans of the Justice League Universe. My name is Sam and in this podcast, Alessandro Maniscalco and I share our analysis of the DC Films that are part of the Justice League Universe.
My apologies for the delay between episodes. I had a long Labor Day weekend in Michigan, which was great, but it’s taken me a few days to get back in the routine. Now I’m excited to dig a little further into Suicide Squad -- a film that has had very impressive legs at the box office, which I didn’t expect after I saw the fairly negative critical reviews. Right now it is well past $300 Million domestic, making Warner Brothers the first studio ever to post two superhero movies above $300 Million in the same year. And I think Warner Brothers has a good shot at duplicating that feat next year, as well. Worldwide, Suicide Squad just passed $700 Million, which is a huge number -- 4 times its production budget. I’m not sure exactly where it will end up, but I did want to take this opportunity to refer back to my box office predictions from February, before any of the superhero movies were released this year -- at that time, I listed Suicide Squad as a $700 Million performer worldwide. (http://comicandscreen.blogspot.com/2016/01/predicted-box-office-for-2016-comic.html)
We still have to wait and see how Doctor Strange does, and then I’ll post an article looking back at my box office predictions overall.
As for Suicide Squad, thus far we’ve had two episodes focused on it -- a first episode that dealt with the characters and major themes, and then an episode of our scene-by-scene analysis that looked at scenes 1 and 2.
In this episode, we’re going to cover Amanda Waller’s introductions of the core Squad members -- so we’ll touch on Waller herself, then Deadshot, Harley, Boomerang, El Diablo, Killer Croc, Enchantress, and also Rick Flag. We’re not going to be doing full character analyses, we’re just going to give our thoughts and reactions to the initial information that is presented in this opening dinner portfolio sequence.
Before we go through those characters as introduced by Waller, we wanted to say two things about the opening of the movie: first, the opening that we saw was not the only one conceived for the movie. And second, the opening clearly establishes this movie as first and foremost a character study, and that’s the most appropriate lens for judging the rest of the movie -- not through plot, imagery, or literary themes, but characters.
So to expand a bit on each of those points, the filmmakers did have a few different options they considered for kicking things off. The version that ended up in the film is what David Ayer called the dossier version. But the novelization, by Marv Wolfman, starts instead with June Moon and some South American guides looking for the Enchantress cave because of nightmares June is having. Then it goes to Joker’s torture scene with Harley before we see Deadshot’s mafia informant assassination. All of that happens before we meet Waller or any other squad members. So it’s a differently structured beginning than the final film. Although I appreciated the novel’s extra development of June Moon and the foreshadowing of the danger of Enchantress, I also like getting to Waller earlier and learning about the Squad through her, and I like that the movie avoided the cliche of opening the movie with the first hints of the eventual villain. It seems like a lot of movies, and a lot of superhero movies, have opened up like the novel did. “Here’s something spooky, and we’re going to push it aside for awhile but it’s going to come back as a big threat later in the movie.” Instead of this, the actual movie was a bit more unique and it was a memorable way to kick off a true team film.
If you’re curious about these different openings, you can check out the Empire interview with Ayer (http://www.empireonline.com/movies/suicide-squad/suicide-squad-spoilers/ ), where he talks about what led them to the dossier version. Another reason I really like the dossier version with Waller as narrator because it connects with the original Ostrander comics (Volume 1) and I like how we have the squad locked up first rather than getting caught first. By having them locked up, it shows their life before via flashback, and the flashbacks are appropriate thematically because the convicts can only live vicariously through their memories of being outside. And Enchantress will prey on this at the end.
The other point we wanted to make was that the opening scenes establish Suicide Squad as a character-driven movie. For any movie, the opening scenes are extremely important. And this movie chose to use those openings to give us some personality introductions for Deadshot and Harley and then to give us these snippets of background on all of the main squad members. They show us right away that these characters have backstories and emotions and desires, and even though they may have done bad things in the past, we shouldn’t immediately assume they’re bad people to their core. Some of them had reasons for what they’ve done, and that may not excuse them but it at least allows us to begin to understand them.
The main point is that we are getting to know these characters and the opening of the movie invites us to want to learn more about them, and see how they might interact with one another or respond to stressful situations or crucial decisions. In the Behind-the-Scenes art book for Suicide Squad, Geoff Johns wrote in the foreword about how one of the most important elements of the squad was that it took villains that had been around for a long time and made them more three-dimensional and complex. In that same book, the producers of the film said that Ayer told them right from the start that he wanted to make a character-driven film and that he started by assembling the characters he wanted, with the plot coming later. All of this, plus many of Ayer’s own comments during interviews this summer, confirm that the movie is about characters first and foremost, just as these opening scenes indicate.
And this type of character-focused opening is different than other movies. Batman v Superman, for example, also has some character emotion with Bruce but the main thing it does in its opening scenes is establish some literary themes and motifs. In other words, BvS uses its opening scenes to let us know that it’s going to be a philosophical exploration. Other movies, like the James Bond series, open with a straight-up action sequence rather than character development or literary themes. None of these approaches is better than any other -- different people may prefer different styles. For me, I favor the literary films unless I’m in the mood for a comedy or a character film. The important thing is that the audience absorb the opening scenes and allow themselves to take the clues and then go forward into the movie knowing what the filmmakers are trying to do. For Suicide Squad, that means the action, the plot, or the literary themes may not be as important as the exploration of these particular characters.
Now, going through the dossier opening, which we’re calling scenes 3 through 9, it begins with Amanda Waller arriving at the restaurant, which has been cleared out for her meeting with Dexter Tolliver, the national security advisor, and Vice Admiral Olsen from Special Operations Command. (I got those names from IMDB and from the movie novelization, even though I thought that the admiral had the name Mackenzie on his chest.) In true Warner Brothers fashion, they have brought back an actor from past DC media -- in this case, it’s Ted Whittall, playing Olsen and he previously played Rick Flag on Smallville. So that’s a nice Rick Flag connection, and thanks to @GothamDuder on Twitter for alerting us to it.
But before Waller joins the men for their confidential dinner, we get an establishing shot of the Washington DC steakhouse and a voiceover from Waller about Superman’s death. “The world changed when Superman flew across the sky, and then it changed again when he didn’t.” The footage from Superman’s funeral gives us a nice, early connection to Batman v Superman and it also establishes the timeline with respect to the Justice League Universe overall.
By the way, I haven’t seen the movie recently to confirm, but Alessandro was wondering if an undamaged Capitol building was shown, when it maybe should’ve shown scars from the events of BvS.
In terms of other implications of Superman’s existence, it will come up again in our next episode when we cover the security council scene, but here we see a man on the street is selling Superman t-shirts with “Remember” on the back. Superman’s reputation as a hero is cemented now as the general consensus in the film universe. But interestingly, Waller gives a self-satisfied smirk, almost a smile as she is reminded of Superman’s death. Is she pleased Superman died because this opens the door for her power play? The answer seems to be yes, based on what we see later, and it’s alluded to here when she says, “That is why I’m here.” As we find out by the end of the movie, she views the Suicide Squad as her own personal version of the Justice League that goes in a different direction than Bruce and Diana’s team which was inspired by Superman. If you’re interested in these dynamics between the Suicide Squad and the Justice League, then you will be excited to learn that DC Comics will be having a Squad versus League comic book event later this year.
Also setting up the scene we also get another song cue, this time “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones. In the movie, Waller is sometimes referred to as the devil, and sometimes as god. This song also fits nicely because it starts with “Please allow me to introduce myself” -- setting up the introductions for Waller and the rest of the Squad. There’s also a lyric about stealing “many a man’s soul and faith” -- a perfect reference to Waller, who is going to take people who have done some bad things and, despite saying that she’s going to make them do some good, she is actually going to force some of them to continue doing bad things even when they don’t want to, like Deadshot and Diablo.
On the topic of Waller, the main thing I took from this scene was her strength in making the pitch to Tolliver and Olsen, and the fact that she was cutting into some rare steak while she was doing it. For more analysis on Waller, check out the latest episode from Man of Steel Answers: http://www.manofsteelanswers.com/48-amanda-waller/
The main ideas covered in that episode were -- (1) Waller’s belief in leverage, and (2) how it makes sense for her to send in the Squad with some of the military’s special forces as a first field test of a new resource.
Now, sitting down inside the restaurant, Waller’s seeming pleasure at the death of Superman is confirmed as they say that Waller looks like the cat that ate the canary, even in the face of the national tragedy. Because this is a DC Universe, any reference to a canary makes us think about the character of Black Canary -- maybe it’s a subtle nod, or most likely it’s just a coincidence because of the common phrase.
Waller says she has her team picked out and that, yes, some of them have abilities. But to her, the problem with meta-humans is the human part. This shows that she views them as tools to use toward her ends, and it also shows that she is on the wrong side of the main themes in this movie -- in fact, we will see that it is the humanity of the meta-humans that is the important part and their humanity is their path to friendship and redemption.
Another prominent theme in the movie is how far people go for love. What Harley does for Joker, what Rick does for Dr. Moon, what Deadshot does for his daughter. Amanda Waller is the counterpoint to this. She has no love and she is ruthless, possibly because she has no love. And as we said before, she is given no backstory and so can come across less sympathetic. But overall, the movie is about “matters of the heart” and Waller is basically heartless.
Waller refers to Superman, saying that we got lucky that Superman was a good guy, but the next one may not be. This may be a foreshadowing of Justice League coming next, and it is also an echo of Bruce Wayne’s own concerns about Superman from Batman v Superman, particularly the Knightmare scene reminiscent of the Injustice game and comics.
Waller then connects to another theme -- she says she wants to fight fire with fire. But as we’ll see, the thing about fire is that it can easily get out of control, and that’s what happens with Enchantress, pretty immediately.
DomingoRiveraJr on YouTube compared Waller to Lex in BvS. He said that Waller, like Lex, : “was the one who put things in motion and pulled the strings from the sideline, while the protagonists were united by a powerful secondary villain used mostly for uniting the "heroes" and providing a final battle as a type of muscle for the primary villain to fight. ...Both Lex and Amanda eventually lost control of their super powered villain muscle. [The muscle was defeated but] Now the protagonists have the main primary villain left to continue to be a problem in the DCEU” -- that is, Lex and Waller survive to cause problems in the future. Another similarity between Waller and Luthor is that both see the full implications of meta-humans in the world and immediately move to take advantage and exert influence.
This is also an appropriate time to mention that a strength of Suicide Squad is its great world building -- rather than just mentioning the existence of another character or characters at the end of the movie, the DCEU has constructed a rich web of meaning in their first few films --
- MoS leads directly to BvS
- Superman's arc is the logical continuation from (A) Superman choosing earth to (B) earth choosing Superman; from Clark putting on the suit to Clark becoming the symbol.
- Superman inspires Batman and WW, setting them up for their standalone movies;
- Superman's death simultaneously inspires the Justice League and also creates the need for the Justice League;
- The Suicide Squad is the negative reflection of Justice League;
- and there are also these Waller and Lex parallels that we just mentioned.
The scene continues with the dossiers. As Waller prepares to go through the squad, one of the men refers to this as Waller’s pitch for Task Force X “again.” So she’s pitched this before, but now with Superman dead, Waller says “this time you’re going to listen.”
Floyd Laughton, Deadshot is first. I really liked all the splash screens for each character, although I’ll have to wait for the Blu-Ray to get all the information. In the meantime, we can use the Behind the Scenes book to get birthdates and convicted crimes. For Deadshot, it’s December 4th, 1978, and he has four murders and one case of extortion.
Deadshot gets a second song -- this time it’s “Standing in the Rain” by Action Bronson, Mark Ronson, and Dan Auerbach. A few relevant lines: “You can see me on the Riviera dressed like a Playboy.” “it's a long shot, The money eases everybody's mind, Put kids through school.”
On the Soundtracking podcast with Edith Bowman, David Ayer said that they had to be very efficient with introducing several characters at the beginning of the movie and choosing songs that fit each character was a good way of bringing in a lot of meaning and visceral connections for the audience to each character.
Waller calls Deadshot the “most wanted hit man in the world” which has two meanings -- he’s wanted in terms of being a criminal, but he’s also the most in-demand assassin on the market.
Deadshot victim is an informant, because Deadshot refers to the FBI as the guy’s new ‘best friends” and he later refers to him singing as in bearing witness against whoever hired Deadshot.
The assassination scene is great because it’s memorable and builds some nice tension as Deadshot plays a game of chicken with his patron. The scene shows Deadshot’s skills but even more so his personality as a confident, don’t-take-guff type of guy who does the job but does it on his own terms. The fact that he stood up to a mob boss like that right down to the wire should intrigue us as we look forward to seeing how he’s going to react to working for Flag and Waller.
Deadshot getting paid and grappling off the roof with his trademark mask goes right to him spending his money on the thing he cares most about - his daughter. He has not only taken her shopping, but he wants to use the money to set up a more stable life for her. The shame here is that Deadshot may have already been looking for a way to get out of the murder business, but instead he is arrested and then forced right back in to killing. So the system that is supposed to be about rehabilitation is actually the thing that gets in the way of his own self improvement.
The scene with his daughter is nice because we get to see Gotham again, this time with snow, making the setting a bit more memorable. Floyd is wearing a cross necklace and, according to the Behind the Scenes art book, Floyd’s jacket was his father’s, emphasizing the family connection as the redeeming part of Deadshot’s character.
We can infer that Floyd’s ex-wife is not a great mother, but we never actually see her in the movie. The focus is on Floyd and his daughter. The daughter, Zoe, also gives us an explicit statement of one of the themes of the movie: “I know you do bad things. But I still love you.”
This movie explores that idea of whether someone should be disregarded or thrown away once they’ve done something bad -- Jay Hernandez described this exact theme in the Behind the Scenes book. And Zoe gives a clear answer to the question -- People are still worthy of love, even if they do bad things. Floyd deserves the love of his daughter, Harley deserves to be loved and not just possessed, Diablo deserves love even though he made a horrible mistake with his family, and Croc deserves love even though he has become the monster that people assumed he was.
Floyd hears what his daughter says, but he doesn’t take it to heart yet. That resolution won’t come until the end of the movie, until after the gun barrel shifts to “Love” and we see him back with his daughter. At this point, in Scene 4, Floyd Lawton is not being truthful with his daughter. She says he does bad things, but he insists, “That’s a lie.” This sets up his character arc because by the end of the movie he will be truthful and thus bond more fully with his daughter when they’re working on the triangle problem.
As for Waller, she doesn’t even see the daughter as a person, but as leverage. She tipped off Batman and Batman was the one to abduct Deadshot. It’s a short but awesome scene where Batman drops in to take in Deadshot and they have a skirmish in the alley.
Batman seems to be back to his more humane habits because he says: “I don’t want to do this in front of your daughter.” Though I’m not sure exactly when Deadshot’s abduction took place relative to the events of BvS.
With regard to Batman’s cameos, Ayer said in the Empire interview that he wanted to show Batman from the perspective of the villains, because all of the movies before now have shown things from Batman’s point of view. To the villains, Batman is someone who got in the way of their freedom or pursuit of happiness. For Deadshot, Batman came in right when he was turning a corner with his daughter. For Harley, who we’ll see next, Batman took her away from Mr. J.
That perspective is really powerful in this scene because we have Zoe stepping right in between Deadshot and Batman. And although Zoe is physically in between them, Deadshot is going to view Batman as the one who got in between him and his daughter. I think Will Smith has said he would love to work again as Deadshot and maybe throw down again with the Batman, and I think they have sowed some seeds for that here.
One of our listeners, PotterPointFilms from YouTube, also had some good thoughts on this Deadshot scene. Paraphrasing what he wrote: “The Deadshot flashback for me was successful on many levels; one is that Batman's appearance may please and excite fans ... but [it also led to] a flood of emotion when Zoe stepped in her father's way before he could shoot the Bat… First you see a parent and his child walking into an alleyway at night and then you see Batman the dark figure surprising them as Joe Chill surprised and attacked the Waynes... [Batman,] instead of killing or attacking Floyd while he's defenseless, gives him a sincere but firm warning that he'd rather not arrest or fight him in front [of] his daughter. I believe it's evident in that moment that Bruce is making good on what he realized in the "save Martha" scene .... Like Lois, little Zoe steps in and begs her daddy to stop the fighting just as he has his weapon pointed at Batman. In the end, when Floyd surrenders, Batman does take a parent away from his own beloved kid but instead of killing or beating him up, he only restrains him for the police, ultimately giving the girl some time to embrace and say bye to her father, something that the Waynes' killer didn't give young Bruce.” (end quote)
PotterPointFilms also noted that Jersey Girl starred Ben Affleck and featured Will Smith in a cameo role. In that film, Affleck played a single father trying his best to do right by his very young daughter. And it's interesting that in Suicide Squad, now Smith has the starring role as a flawed father trying to do right by his beloved daughter while Affleck is now in the small cameo appearance.
Thanks for those observations.
Next up is Harley Quinn. Born July 20th, 1990. Convicted of armed robbery, grand theft auto, kidnapping, breaking and entering, and assaulting a police officer. On her splash screen, it also said she was an accomplice in the murder of Robin. Hopefully we’ll get more about that in the solo Batman film.
I’m pretty sure I saw that Harley and Deadshot both had splash screens that listed Gotham as being in New Jersey. Let me know if I’m interpreting that correctly -- do we have it confirmed that Gotham is on the East Coast of the United States, and thus Metropolis is there, too, just across the bay either in New Jersey or a neighboring state? I’m guessing Metropolis is in New York state, and then either New York City doesn’t exist or it exists near Metropolis.
Anyway, like Deadshot, Harley gets a second introductory song -- Rick James, “Superfreak” -- I think that’s pretty self explanatory. And it is cool that as Joker is talking to Harley, the song kind of bends and goes out of tune, which makes the audience subconsciously uneasy as we listen to the Joker. Right after that there are also subtle Joker laughs mixed into the ambient noise.
Harley, like the Joker and Diablo, has quite a few tattoos. In the Behind the Scenes book, it says that costume and make-up wanted to give Harley more tattoos on her right side than her left, and this lack of balance was done on purpose because the character is not well-balanced psychologically.
Overall, this scene gives more information about the backstory of Harley, and in particular her relationship with the Joker. Margot Robbie, in the Behind the Scenes book, said that she came to think of the relationship more as an addiction for Harley rather than true love. On “Tipsy Talk,” Robbie referred to some additional flashback scenes they filmed: “We filmed so much of our backstory… They probably realized the emotional through line of the story had to be the mission we were on. And kind of explaining The Enchantress's position and all of that kind of stuff. And the backstory stuff is like magic. Some of the stuff we shot is insane. They are flashbacks, meant to be snippets. But I think when we were filming maybe we got too engrossed into flashbacks. Especially when you got Jared [Leto], he's going so deep with that character and we're all like going really deep. And David [Ayer] goes really deep with the characters. Yeah, so there's a lot, but it didn't make sense to confuse the current/present storyline to incorporate all of that." (end quote) This is similar to what Leto said about filming a lot of Harley/Joker stuff, but much of it getting cut in service of streamlining the main story of the film.
As the Suicide Squadcast guys explained, it’s also that a lot of the stuff may have been filmed as full scenes but were only meant to be used as quick snippets or moments mixed in with a flashback. One important one, and I think it was around here that they included it, was the shot of Harley dancing with the Joker against a black background, which is an homage to the original Harley costume and to the classic cover by Alex Ross of the Batman: Harley Quinn comic book.
The scene has two main sections -- first, we see how the Joker used Dr. Quinzel to get out of Arkham. And second, we see the Joker’s leadership style at his nightclub when he has the run-in with Monster T.
In the first instance, we see a therapy session between the Joker and Dr. Harleen Quinzel and he manipulates her into helping him break out from Arkham. How does the Joker repay her? With torture. He played her to get out, and then he’s playing with her like a toy. But she says, “I can take it.”
Waller narrates: “They became the King and Queen of Gotham.”
We see the Joker with his servants and handlers who know that he doesn’t shake hands, and we learn from Monster T that Joker is like a mobster, running lots of illicit business.
I think the whole scene with Monster T is really well made. It’s a unique setting, we have some intriguing characters, and there is great tension as we can feel right along with Monster T that the Joker could do anything at any moment, and there really is no right answer -- he can’t appreciate Harley because the Joker is jealous, nor can he decline her because the Joker would be offended. It’s a great way to show the Joker’s power, his possessiveness, and also his total unpredictability.
It also gives us one of the many instant classic lines from Joker -- “You don’t want no beef?” I’m kind of hoping that this line will overtake “Where’s the beef?” for the number one beef-related catchphrase.
As an interesting piece of trivia, in the novelization, Joker actually made Monster T shoot himself. Maybe that’s how it happened off screen in the film too, but my initial impression was that the Joker or someone else shot him.
Having played with a man’s life as some evening entertainment, Harley and Joker then take their “date night” out on the road. We see Joker’s very striking purple lamborghini. If we thought the Joker was unpredictable, Waller says that Harley is even “crazier than him. More fearless.” This may be true, but it may also be part of Waller’s sales pitch, so she’s exaggerating.
We get Batman’s second cameo, or “Batsy,” as he’s called. They did a nice job filming the batmobile and we get Batman atop the lamborghini, with Harley shooting through the roof. The Joker then drives into the water, with Harley shouting that she can’t swim. There’s a very smooth dive scene from Batman and we go underwater. We don’t see where the Joker goes, but Harley is unconcious for a moment before she awakens and lashes out at Batman with a knife. Batman punches out Harley. Now, I’ve been surprised to see some complaints about Batman punching a woman here -- but she was actively attacking him, and he did go on to save her from the water. If it was a male, he would’ve been aloud to punch him, so it seems like a double standard. If females are going to be the co-leads and the main villains, like they are in Suicide Squad, or if they’re going to be the solo lead as in Wonder Woman next summer, then they have to be allowed to be attacked.
Maybe the mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was unnecessary, but I think it fit with the overall style of this sequence and the exaggerated interactions that come along with Harley.
Waller says Harley is in the same hole as Deadshot.
Captain Boomerang (14:15)
Then she moves on to Digger Harkness, George Harkness in his file. Born December 9th, 1985. Charged with robbing a diamond exchange and armed robbery.
Waller says, “the tabloids call him Captain Boomerang.” So that’s where his name came from. His song is by AC/DC, “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” -- an Australian band for the Aussie, perfect choice.
On his info splash screen, it says “Fetish: Pink Unicorns” - that’s funny. And it just confirmed to me that I really liked these splash screens and the energy they brought to the first 15 minutes of the film.
Boomerang is shown stealing some diamonds and then we get a Flash cameo, directed by Zack Snyder, as Boomerang is apprehended. Comic book fans know this is very fitting because Boomerang is traditionally a Flash villain in the comics. And a version of Boomerang has appeared on The Flash TV show, too. And by the way, everyone should just stop acting as though characters in the DC movies are banned from the DC TV shows -- we not only have Barry Allen and Boomerang in both, but also Deadshot, Superman, Deathstroke, Amanda Waller, and the Suicide Squad itself. Some people might counter and say that the Suicide Squad had to be taken off TV because the movie was coming out, but recent reports are actually saying that the Suicide Squad was specifically put into the TV show to test the waters and prepare things for the movie to come out later.
Anyway, during the robbery, Boomerang shows his true colors by taking out his own partner. This foreshadows how he’ll use Slipknot later on. And it sets up his arc, where to even stand by his team is quite a bit of character growth for him.
In response to Boomerang’s initial backstabbing, though, the Flash says: “No honor among thieves, eh?” This sentiment will get repeated later at the bar, and it’s a worthwhile idea to consider in a movie about villains -- do they have honor, and if so, in what is it rooted?
Next up is Diablo, whom Waller refers to as a “pyrokinetic homeboy.” His name is Chato Santana, born June 3rd, 1981 and convicted of murder. But we know he was also involved in drug and gang activity, where he used his meta-human abilities to further his career. He was part of the Hillside Gang, which might be a reference to Hillside Trece from Training Day (Ayer’s breakout movie).
On Diablo’s info splash screen, it says “True extent of his power unknown” -- foreshadowing the climax when he seems to have full demonic powers, not just fire powers.
Diablo is set up differently than the other squad members because he was not caught, he surrendered. At this point, we don’t know exactly what happened, and we are meant to wonder about it until the bar scene when he finally reveals his dark secret. But here we do see security video from the prison, which will be used later when Waller is forcing Diablo into the squad.
I also noticed that Waller doesn’t describe Diablo’s prison yard fire as horrendous or tragic; she says it was “incredible” with a sort of admiration in her voice. This is a pattern for her -- dangerous, deadly things that she wants to harness and wield. It not only happens with Enchantress and the squad but also also with the Eyes of the Adversary later -- when she learns about Enchantress’s army, Waller is intrigued and wants to use the technology for herself.
Diablo’s song is “Slippin’ into Darkness” by War, which is a California band, and Diablo comes from Los Angeles -- as does David Ayer, by the way.
Killer Croc (15:30)
Next up, Killer Croc, aka Waylon Jones. Born June 3rd, 1968, so he shares a birthday with Diablo but he’s 13 years older. Croc has assault, murder, kidnapping, destruction of property, and biting a police officer on his record. His song is “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, which is most directly an anti-war song but its sentiments can be connected to Croc because his demonization was basically a matter of birth, and if he had been born differently or to a more privileged class, his whole life would’ve turned out differently and less violently.
The most significant thing for Croc in this intro scene is that Waller says he looked like a monster, so they treated him like a monster, and he became a monster. Right when Waller is saying they treated him like a monster, it shows the guards feeding him a half carcass, and right at that same moment, it cuts to Waller eating her own bite of raw steak. We may not realize it yet, but upon second viewing it’s clear that the filmmakers are inviting us to wonder, Who’s the real monster?
In the Behind the Scenes book, David Ayer described Croc as a “gentle giant who just happens to eat people.”
He was chased out of Gotham by the Bat, not captured by him. Croc tried to find sanctuary, but “never found it.” I noticed that the security advisor was scared and repulsed by Croc right away, saying “Jesus!” when he saw the photo. This proves the point about how people have treated Croc without giving him a chance. We’ll see later that the squad is actually accepting of him and doesn’t judge him just based on looks. There might be a theme there, about people behaving according to how they are treated.
Finally, Waller gets to the best that she saved for last: “The witch.” On Enchantress’s info screen, it says “Relatives: Brother in a jar.” That obviously becomes important later.
Waller calls her a sorceress from “another dimension, another world.” So we’re not sure exactly which it is. We do know that she was found by archaeologist Dr. June Moon. Now in this case June Moon is not an alter-ego, like all of the above… June is a separate person who has been possessed by the Enchantress. The novelization gives a little bit more context to that archeological trip, but still not a full backstory on Enchantress -- at least not up to the point where I’ve read.
I like the cave setting, though, and I really like the smoky design of the witch here. Waller says she is the most powerful meta-human that they’ve encountered. Tolliver asks: “Where is this witch now?” And Waller says, “She’s in my pocket.” Classic hubris, so right away we, the audience, should be expecting something to go wrong with Waller’s control of Enchantress. She goes on to explain about finding the heart and how Enchantress is vulnerable without the heart.
Tolliver and Olsen are skeptical of the team, as is Flag later, and so it’s weird that some critics of the movie act like this is something the film overlooked. Critics have said the squad is not a very impressive or disciplined group of people. But the film explicitly addresses this, and Man of Steel Answers summarizes it nicely in the Waller episode.
There’s a nicely timed quip about the Joker’s girlfriend, and then the men explicitly ask Waller how she’s going to control the squad. She responds by citing her own skills of manipulation and then explains that she has enlisted a fine soldier, Rick Flag, to lead the team. Having a respected soldier at the helm of the squad probably alleviates some of the concerns, but it also proves Waller’s point that she can get others to do what she wants. She actually manipulated Flag, too, not just the villains. She set it up so that Flag would fall for June Moon.
Rick Flag (17:00)
“Just as I hoped, it got personal.”
There’s a great, visually striking scene where he discovers June in the bathtub in her apartment. And she begs him to help her. This appeals not only to Flag’s attractions as a male but also to his desire to help others and be her personal hero.
Waller says she has Enchantress’s heart and June Moon has Flag’s. Therefore, “He’ll follow my orders like holy writ.” This is the first reference to Waller’s commandments as basically godlike.
Waller wraps up her pitch for Task Force X with the summary, “In a world of flying men and monsters, this is the only way to protect our country.” Note that she’s not saying these particular people are the best ones over, and yes, they’re not even all meta-humans. Deadshot is near supernatural in his abilities, and Croc is extra strong and vicious, but really Enchantress and Diablo are the only true meta-humans. What she said was that this way is the only way to protect our country -- that is, the coercion of villains and detainees to serve U.S. security interests, that is what she is proposing. And it’s that ability to coerce people into doing Waller’s bidding that will be put to the test throughout the movie -- and what we find out by the end is that neither coercion nor leverage are quite as powerful as Waller thought they were.
End of Episode
So that’s our episode. The keen observer might have noticed that Slipknot was not included in this dossier opening to the film. I do have his info from the Behind the Scenes book, though. Slipknot, aka Christopher Weiss, was born February 23rd, 1974, and was convicted of armed robbery and murder. In the Empire interview, Ayer said that they didn’t want to play around with a misdirect for Slipknot because that would’ve wasted precious screen time and probably wouldn’t have worked anyway -- the audience knew what to expect. I, for one, thought it fit with the humorous, irreverent tone of the movie to just send him to his death as soon as the opportunity arose.
Now, two quick things I missed in Scenes 1 and 2: Harley’s swing was probably made from a torn up straightjacket, not bed sheets. And Floyd’s punching bag was made with a rolled up mattress. So it’s pretty realistic, and it also shows both were somewhat creative in trying to keep alive a portion of themselves while they’re in Belle Reve.
Also, a few episodes back, we shared some initial thoughts about themes in this movie.
We have another one to add to the list, and we thank @BrettCulp on Twitter for his insights on this theme -- namely, that people must own their past, not avoid it or escape it, so that they can choose to accept it or move beyond it.
Deadshot -- he’s denying his history to his daughter.
Harley -- has become a different person and is denying her desire for a normal life.
Diablo -- is retreating from life because of the horror of his past deeds.
Killer Croc -- accepts isolation because of his extreme differences.
Boomerang seems somewhat comfortable with who he is, but later we’ll see that he tries to deny that he was involved in those bank robberies, although no one believes him for a second.
As we continue our analysis, we’ll see some of these literary themes playing out, but I honestly think for Suicide Squad the more appropriate analysis might be to draw connections from the movie to the source material in the comics. In other words, it might be a richer playground for comic book readers than it is for literary scholars.
I dabble in both, but I can’t say I’m the most well read on the Suicide Squad lore. I’ve read the first two volumes of the classic Ostrander run that started in 1987, I read the first two volumes of the New 52 run, I peeked at the New Suicide Squad in 2014, and just recently I read Suicide Squad Rebirth. So in an effort to acknowledge the various connections that might be made to the comics, here are a few of my broad thoughts looking across the movie and those comics.
Comparison to some of the comic incarnations of the Squad:
- John Ostrander and Luke McDonnell (1987, post-Crisis)
- Created Amanda Waller and reconceived the Squad as a governmental black ops unit. Belle Reve was created, and psychiatrists and backstories were used to humanize the villains on the team.
- Early Characters: Rick Flag Jr., Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, Enchantress, Bronze Tiger, Nightshade, Nemesis, and Mindboggler.
- Flag and Deadshot have a rivalry because they recognize some similarities between themselves but don’t want to admit it. Enchantress gets out of control and messes up a major mission. Boomerang is crude and kind of horny. The final issue of Volume 1 puts it perfectly when they said that Boomerang is perfectly content with who he is, but no one else can stand him -- at least not at first.
- Adam Glass and Federico Dellochio (2011, New 52)
- Amanda Waller and black ops, again. Belle Reve. Bombs in the neck.
- Deadshot is the field leader. Harley Quinn is a key player, and her unhealthy relationship with the Joker affects the squad in some story arcs.
- Other characters: Captain Boomerang, El Diablo (Chato Santana -- created in 2008 by Jai Nitz but now included on the Squad), King Shark instead of Killer Croc, Black Spider.
- Sean Ryan and Jeremy Roberts (2014, “New Suicide Squad”)
- Black Manta, Joker’s Daughter, Reverse Flash, but also Harley Quinn, Deadshot, and Captain Boomerang.
- DC Rebirth (2016) by Rob Williams, Scott Williams, and Jim Lee
- Opens with Waller and President Obama, arguing about the ethics and the realistic needs for a black ops program like Task Force X.
- Team: Deadshot, Harley, and Boomerang, with the Rebirth issue bringing Rick Flag in as the reluctant but moral leader.
- I really like the Rebirth Suicide Squad issues thus far, so if you’re looking for something to check out, that would be my first recommendation.
- Also, John Ostrander just returned to do a Suicide Squad one-shot that came out last week, and I’m looking forward to reading that one, too.
Of course, a lot more could be said -- for example, analyzing choices in characterization between the different versions, dissecting design and visual style, and arguing whether the decisions of what to use in the movie and what to leave out were the justifiable decisions, but I don’t think I’m best situated to make those arguments. If you have thoughts, though, we’d love to see them in the comments.