Monday, May 8, 2017

JLU Scene-by-Scene: Suicide Squad Scenes 20-21

This episode of the Justice League Universe podcast focuses on Scene 20 (Enchantress and Incubus wreaking havoc in Midway City) and Scene 21 (the squad's formation at the airport evacuation site) of Suicide Squad, directed by David Ayer.

Thanks to Alessandro Maniscalco

Suicide Squadcast, Man of Steel Answers
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Rebecca Johnson -

Welcome, fans of the Justice League Universe. My name is Sam. In this podcast, Alessandro Maniscalco and I share our analysis of the Warner Brothers films that are part of the Justice League Universe. And after a few weeks off, where my wife and I welcomed the birth of our daughter, Ruth, I am ready to get back into some DC Films content. In this episode, we are going to cover scenes 20 and 21 of Suicide Squad, written and directed by David Ayer. These are the scenes where we see the Midway City crisis ratcheting up into full emergency mode and where we see the Suicide Squad come together and suit up for their mission.

In our last episode on Suicide Squad, which was awhile ago, we talked about Scene 19 when Enchantress bolts from Flag. And one thing I noticed in my most recent viewing of scene 19 is that, when Incubus saves Enchantress and Enchantress changes into her more mystical version, there is a very clear American flag in the center of the background. And the flag is singed on the bottom. This could just be set dressing, but it is placed in such a prominent position that it makes me think there was some intentionality behind bringing some American iconography into the scene where Enchantress begins constructing her weapon to wipe out humanity. Because America is the dominant superpower on the planet and because we have a military budget that dwarfs the next biggest militaries combined, maybe the flag is a slight nod toward the idea that America has built machines or weapons that could wipe out humanity. Or maybe it’s a comment more generally on our exponential rise in technology, which has changed our relationship with the planet and the environment, which may also threaten life on Earth. Now, in order to corroborate any commentary like this, we’d have to look for other connections to American exceptionalism or American world dominance, and I’m not sure if it’s there throughout the movie. But there is definitely some exploration of the American military leadership and their tendency to, quote, play with fire. So maybe there is a theme there, but we’ll have to keep an eye out for it later.

As a quick recap, here are the main themes that we’ve identified thus far for Suicide Squad.
  • Friendship is more powerful than leverage or manipulation.
  • Love can be the basis of human connection -- one doesn't necessarily have to love the other, but if one recognizes that the other has love, that can be enough.
  • Those who can love are still redeemable.
  • It's hard to see someone as evil once you know their backstory.

And there’s also a sort of overarching idea that was stated by director David Ayer about Suicide Squad. He said the movie is about the idea that “even villains have souls.”

Alright, so with those themes in mind, let’s go into Scene 20, which is the Midway City crisis. The main purpose of this scene is to basically do some establishing work for the audience to let us know what’s going on in Midway City, so we know what Task Force X is getting into even though they don’t know it yet. We see Enchantress’s big machine get up and running, we see the setting of the Midway City Terminal, which will be ground zero for the final showdown with Incubus and Enchantress. We see some wide overhead shots of the city, which gives us a good sense of place, and we also see Incubus making very easy work of the conventional military forces, which leads us into some shots of the military reactions.

We get several shots of Enchantress’s machine, with its swirling and rotating gears and then the beam of light that shoots up out of the terminal. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure how this machine works or what the purpose of the debris is that floats around it like a ring of garbage. This machine is not explained as well as, say, the World Engine in Man of Steel. And there were some people online who criticized this villainous beam of light as being a bit cliche now. Here’s a quick rundown of other movies that people listed as having a similar sort of vertical beam:
  • Ghostbusters (2016)
  • Fantastic Four (2015)
  • Warcraft
  • Independence Day: Resurgence
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
  • The Avengers
  • Thor: The Dark World
  • Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
  • And I’m sure there are more.

Some people have also expanded out to video games. I haven’t played these, but I guess Mass Effect 3, Halo, and Tron games have also used the big beam of light shooting up in the sky. Now, back to Suicide Squad, simply noticing that something is a cliche is not the same as saying it’s bad. Cliches can be good or can at least be executed well visually or in the story. As for Suicide Squad, I think the beam looks pretty good and serves a good function in terms of identifying an endpoint of the Squad’s mission in Midway City. They will be gradually moving towards the beam and we know that there will be a big showdown there. That being said, I don’t think the machine and the beam overall fit very well with the themes of the movie. We’ve said this before, but there doesn’t seem to be a strong connection between mankind’s love of machines, which inspired Enchantress’s machine, and the deeper ideas that the movie is exploring of people’s worth after they’ve made mistakes, people’s potential for redemption and love, or the ideas of friendship and family versus leverage. (I guess a lever is one of the simple machines that you learn about in middle school, but that’s a bit of a stretch.)

This lack of connection between the machine and the themes in Suicide Squad contrasts with, for example, Batman v Superman, where the threat of Lex Luthor and then Doomsday connects directly to the character arcs and the themes of the movie. Lex represents one of mankind’s responses to Superman’s existence, and Lex ends up trying to play god himself because he can’t stand for a publicly adored Superman, a meta-human who is above all. Lex also parallels Bruce in many ways, and the creation of Doomsday represents Lex playing god as a way to strike out at the actual notion of god, and Doomsday then comes in representing pure violence and malice, the very thing that some people were accusing Superman of being. Superman defeats that representation of pure violence through an act of self sacrifice and in so doing wins over the public sentiment and inspires people like Bruce and Diana and many others. There’s a profound coherence between the physical threats in BvS and the literary themes. I would also argue that Man of Steel had this kind of coherence, too, but I won’t go into a lot of detail. Basically, you have Clark learning of his origins, which is a mixed bag, and also deciding where to place his trust and loyalty, and General Zod personifies those issues really well, merging the physical and the emotional elements of Clark’s arc.

In a previous episode about Suicide Squad, we said that Enchantress as a meta-level villain could’ve still worked, but it should’ve been connected more directly to the themes of the movie. Trent Osborne from YouTube had an idea about how to achieve this: “I think a good idea would be have Enchantress's reasons be she views humanity as her children and our technology is holding us back from achieving our potential, her children are on the wrong path and need to be put back on course. Instead of forcibly mutating people Enchantress does her whole hearts desire to them in order to show she loves them and is only doing what is best, setting up the dream scene in the third act. The mutants are kidnapping flag because Enchantress wants to reunite him with June to show she does have their best interest and she wants Flag to join since it's what June wants.
Incubus can be the spirit of her most loyal follower from long ago that she considers her son. Finally you reveal Enchantress was imprisoned when she lost her temper and accidentally killed many of her "children" that's why they betrayed her and Enchantress is unwilling to admit she lost her children due to her own actions. This would be revealed in the dream scene when Diablo connects to her mind when she tries to enter his, Diablo's I can't change what I did and neither can you would be more directed at Enchantress than anyone.
By having Enchantress be a godlike being who was a parent to humanity but lost them because she lost control she becomes a perfect foil to Diablo while Waller is the foil to Deadshot and Flag.”

Another listener idea from JONALOTZRH from YouTube is the following: “they should of just got rid of the blue beam and just made it like a zombie survival film. Kept it part of a city that's infected with the black stuff not all of it, as then we can have scenes of media and military just outside the infected zone. This allows them to play on it being a terrorist attack to the public and the government/Amanda can blame it on the Squad if something went wrong. Have maybe Amanda Waller release Enchantress as she has to prove to the pentagon that Task Force X can work before she [gets] access to stronger Metahumans. This allows two little twists in the film, basically the audience are on the same level as the Squad so we don't know what's going on until they do ([that is] the scene where Deadshot finds out and throws the folder at Flag). Flag knows Enchantress escaped but doesn't know it was due to Amanda Waller. This is where the second twist comes in and the Enchantress shows Flag it was Amanda and reveals she is the true villain of the film and Enchantress is just like the Squad, a weapon or tool to gain power for Amanda. It may also play a bit more on Enchantress being an old God because she might be upset that her [ancient] worshippers betrayed her for people in control like Amanda Waller.”

So those were some thoughts from JONALOTZRH about some alternative ways to handle Enchantress.

But back to Scene 20, it’s possible that Incubus is using our own technology to fuel the “machine” in the sky by sending all sorts of vehicles into the blue vortex. And going on in the scene, after all the carnage in Midway City, Admiral Olsen confirms what we’ve just seen directly, that their conventional weapons are not working on Enchantress and Incubus. This of course will justify the use of Task Force X as they’ll have to try something, anything, and they probably don’t really care if the Task Force fails because they’re undesirables, so it’s worth a shot. Olsen also states that the worldwide military is on alert. So this is something that we don’t see directly, but from this dialogue we know that a lot of people are taking notice of the events in Midway City, although presumably those international reports are pretty vague or even inaccurate. This international aspect is also a contrast with BvS in which Doomsday’s threat seemed to be a localized one, but here we see the acknowledgement that the entire world is reacting in real time. Presumably the events in Suicide Squad could serve to rally other metahumans across the planet to come out of hiding, either as heroes or as villains. This will be something to look for in Justice League. And the international attention does confirm Amanda Waller’s earlier point about this being a new type of arms race with meta-humans. If our enemies see that there is a meta-human force in the United States that is capable of leveling a city and repelling conventional weapons, they’ll be pretty intimidated or concerned, to say the least. And if our enemies then see that the U.S. military has a squad capable of taking out that meta-human threat, that will be even more impressive.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves because the squad has not yet defeated Enchantress and Incubus, they have not yet even been deployed. So back into the turmoil of the rise of Incubus and Enchantress, we see the Chairman’s reaction. He shouts into the commotion, “I thought this was contained!” This line is actually kind of funny to me because he’s supposed to be the leader but he’s basically just whining and complaining. It is not helpful at all in a moment of crisis to just say that you thought it wasn’t going to be this bad. But this moment of helplessness for the chairman is a nice touch, because it personifies the felt helplessness of the conventional military and it shows that it was basically on Amanda Waller who saw this coming and who had a plan for how to deal with these new levels of threat. Now of course, Waller was also basically responsible for unleashing Enchantress in the first place, and this irony is not by accident -- that’s part of the whole point of the movie. That Waller wanted to leverage and control these meta-humans, but of course they immediately get out of hand and out of her control because leverage and manipulation, the movie teaches us, is not the best way to achieve your desired outcomes or relationships with people. She is playing with fire, even though she thinks she’s just fighting fire with fire. What’s basically happening is she played with fire and now she’s going to try to put it out with more fire.

This is basically the end of what we’re calling Scene 20 and we’re about to cut into Scene 21 where the Suicide Squad is formed. But before we leave Scene 20, we wanted to point out that it also establishes a fact that will become important for the ending, which is that Enchantress is the dominant sibling who decided to make the machine, but Incubus is the muscle. So it makes sense that the Squad will have to fight through Incubus first and then take out Enchantress last, with the former being a battle of might and the latter being more of a battle of wits, which does end up being the case as Enchantress tries to trick the Squad with false visions and Harley eventually has to basically outsmart her, while Flag has to have to fortitude to destroy her heart.

We should also say that the music is pretty decent for this Scene 20 destruction. I haven’t analyzed the soundtrack closely, but on the Soundtracking podcast with Edith Bowman, Ayer said that the composer, Steven Price, worked with the Enchantress song and incorporated themes from it into the musical score. I think the Enchantress song probably refers to “Wreak Havoc” by Skylar Grey, which was on the movie soundtrack. And I imagine that some of that Enchantress musical connections happened earlier when we saw her in her new form and start to build the machine, but if someone has listened more closely to the music and knows what Ayer was talking about, please let us know. And I’ll post a link to the soundtracking interview with Ayer.

Now, at the end of Scene 20, Incubus actually shoots up a tentacle toward the camera and slaps the camera right when we cut over to Scene 21 at the airport. At first, I didn’t like this moment because I wasn’t expecting to have the camera interacting with the characters in the movie. Up until now, I hadn’t gotten a shaky-cam or found footage vibe from the movie where the camera would explicitly be part of the action, interacting with the water and debris and stuff like that. But later on I became okay with this transition because I realized that the aerial shot of Incubus in Midway City is meant to feel like the actual video feed that the military would be getting from the helicopters as they monitored the situation. That’s why it also had some snap zooms a moment earlier. And then if we think of the camera as an actual character there in a helicopter, it emphasizes how out of the control the situation is when Incubus not only takes out the tanks but he even takes out the aircraft who were just trying to monitor the tanks and soldiers. Thus the leaders, who had already given Waller initial permission to use Enchantress, would now have no other options but let her continue with the rest of Task Force X.

Squad formation (41:45)

Alright, going into Scene 21, we are in the Midway City Airport, which has become the evacuation zone. And although we’ve had the squad members introduced a couple times already individually, this is the first time with the squad members together. Before the squad arrives, though, we see some shots establishing the level of human suffering from the Midway City attack and we see first responders and military personnel working diligently to help out. Then there’s a humorous shot of some girls in dresses who appear to be unharmed but claim it is the worst day of their lives. This was probably a decision from the filmmakers to walk that line between realistic threats while still having a fun tone. But overall, we see that people are being evacuated from the city, which leaves the area wide open for the Suicide Squad’s later movements.

There’s smoke billowing out from the skyline in the background and Flag arrives by helicopter. He has already been in Midway City, because we saw him with Enchantress when she bolted. But the rest of the squad is going to be coming in from Belle Reve. As Flag arrives, no one seems to know exactly what’s going on, and when one soldier asks Flag, Flag changes the subject to keep everyone in the dark, even though Flag has quite a bit more information than them. There is lack of information exchange and dishonesty sewn throughout the movie.

Flag changes the subject to Task Force X. We see them all being wheeled in in various ways. Flag also calls for Alpha and Bravo team to form up, which lets us know to keep track of three teams in the later parts of the movie -- Alpha, Bravo, and Task Force X. And we are clued in to keep an eye on how Flag is going to manage them all and deal with the fact that the ultimate threat is his lover. We can also see that the regular soldiers are going to give Flag pushback about working with the Squad, so that’s a dynamic in play as well. This feeling is indicated by Scott Eastwood’s character, GQ Edwards, who says “What the hell, Flag.” And we see Flag not too happy about it either, and that sets the stage for his attitude during the pep talk in just a moment.

The next soundtrack song kicks in right here, and it’s Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes. Interestingly, The White Stripes, from my home state of Michigan, were also featured in the Justice League trailer during Aquaman’s introduction. But here, it’s Seven Nation Army and this song has several connections to the scene and to the movie. First of all, seven is a special number because there are pretty much seven members of the Suicide Squad -- Harley, Deadshot, Diablo, Boomerang, Croc, Slipknot, and Flag. You might also say there’s Katana but in that case I would just take out Slipknot. Seven is also the traditional number of founding members of the Justice League, as indicated back in an early promotional image with Aquaman that said “Unite the Seven.” In the actual White Stripes song, the line is “a seven nation army couldn’t hold me back,” and here we have a group of villains that are roughly as formidably as some armies of the world.

A few lines later, the lyrics go, “I’m talking to myself at night,” and right at that moment we have Harley’s joke about the voices in her head. So that seems like an obvious intention from the filmmakers. And we liked this touch from Harley not only because it was an iconic sort of Harley moment but it also cut through the tension of the standoff, and Harley may have done that intentionally because of her background in psychology. There’s always the question of how much she is truly crazy and how much is sort of her playing a part for her own underlying purposes. Later on, after she thinks the Joker is dead, we seem to get a glimpse behind the facade, so maybe it is a bit of an act, but we can’t say for sure. If it is an act, it’s a pretty thorough one, and her love for the Joker seems like it must be genuine, even if a bit dangerous and deranged.

Back to the song, there are some other possible connections, too, like when the lyrics talk about “every single one’s gotta a story to tell,” which fits with the idea of the soldiers and the squad members sizing each other up, and each of them has a backstory about how they got there. This idea connects with the theme we’ve mentioned before of it being hard to see someone as evil once you know their backstory. Another line is, “And if I catch it comin’ back my way, I’m gonna serve it to you.” This captures the spirit of some of the squad members wanting to turn things around and get payback on Flag and Waller. But that line was actually edited out of the version used in the scene, I believe. A line that is used, though, right after Boomerang’s moment with Flag, is the line “the feeling coming from my bones says, ‘Find a home.’” The squad all probably feels like they don’t have a home because there’s definitely the idea at this point that they’re outcasts and seen as disposable.

During the song, we get a great Boomerang entrance into the scene. He’s brought in in basically a big mailbag, marked Australian post, which isn’t very practical, but to me I imagine the people doing it used it as sort of a practical joke. They know Boomerang and know that he’s a jerk and a jackass, so that’s the treatment he got. The bag even has a warning about the penalty for theft on it, which is fitting for Boomerang. I also like this imagined backstory to the scene because it makes it funnier when he comes out swinging. They had already been locking horns before and during his time in the bag. Then after Boomerang gets restrained, he just straight-up lies and says he was innocent and the “red streak” just came out of nowhere. He claims he was just with his mum playing Mahjong, a game from Asia that is kind of like rummy but with tiles, and then this red streak came out of nowhere. We obviously know that’s not true because we saw the scene in which Flash apprehended him. So that earlier scene was a nice setup for us to recognize Boomerang as a liar here and it was also a great bit of background for the Flash character. In BvS, Barry Allen took out a criminal while Barry was in his regular clothes. And now we see that the Flash already has a suit even before meeting Batman, so he’s been working covertly as a costumed hero.

During the White Stripes song, we also get our introduction to Slipknot. Flag has some expositional dialogue, letting us know that he can climb anything. That doesn’t make him seem so villainous, but then Slipknot goes ahead and punches a woman who had called him a scumbag. Now, I had a couple problems with this part. First, it seemed like the woman’s line was dubbed in post-production. I know automated dialogue replacement or ADR happens all the time for huge percentages of movie’s lines, but I didn’t like that I could tell it was added in post. And second, although I get that this is meant to be a striking introduction to the character, showing him as a loose cannon who also probably isn’t very bright, I think it could’ve been more effective. It was kind of redundant because an arrival and immediate punch in the face was just done a few moments earlier by Boomerang, and although that one wasn’t a woman getting punched, I think the Boomerang moment was more effective and it watered down the subsequent moment from Slipknot. I also think this Slipknot moment better is if we’d gotten a close up or at least a medium two-shot with Slipknot and his victim before he punched her. And I think it would’ve been good for a quick shot of her face so that we see her more as a person before she gets clocked. I get it that they were trying to put us in the position of being onlookers, basically standing with the other squad members and seeing Slipknot arrive, looking at him from a distance. But I think it also made it so that the moment had less impact than it could’ve had. We do, at least, get a close up of Slipknot after the punch and he delivers a good line --- “She had a mouth.” He says it very matter of factly, as if that in any way excuses his assault. He does get Harley to laugh at it, though.

I do like the design on Slipknot. He’s got braided hair with string tied tightly around the braids and he’s got like pulleys and lines coming over his shoulders. That seems fitting for a guy known to tie knots and grapple. It is odd, though, that he is already in his full character gear whereas the rest of the squad is still in their prison garb and won’t put on their costumes for a few more minutes. Maybe it has something to do with Slipknot being brought in by the FBI, rather than coming in with the other squad members.

Anyway, the scene continues with Flag explaining the nanite explosives in their necks, and the filmmakers give us a nice bit of foreshadowing by giving us a close-up on Slipknot as he touches his neck while Flag talks about it being as powerful as a hand grenade. Flag tells that they will die if they disobey him, try to escape, or irritate him. There’s another nice comedic moment from Harley, and I think Margot Robbie delivered these really well and they work because they show how out of touch she is with the carnage around them and the danger in front of them. I also think Joel Kinnaman’s “shut up” delivery punctuates Harley’s moment really well, and it’s even better because with Harley’s previous joke, she didn’t get any reactions out of the soldiers. But what Flag is actually talking about here is the threat of death that is meant to keep the Squad in line. Specifically, he’s talking about death from the nanites. But the thing is they might also die even if they obey his orders and they might die if they don’t try to escape, because where they are sending them in is to a very dangerous, out-of-control situation in Midway City. This Catch-22 situation has always been at the heart of the Suicide Squad, especially since the Ostrander relaunch onward. The squad is put in a situation that will kill them. If they refuse to be put in that situation, they’ll be killed.  Their free will has been taken from them. They no longer have the power of choice.

So they’re basically looking at the threat of death on all sides. And Flag continues, “This is the deal. You’re going somewhere very bad to do something that’ll get you killed. But until that happens, you’re my problem.” So he’s very clear that death is ahead one way or another, and that Flag is really only there to manage them until their inevitable deaths. And he isn’t briefing them at all on what to expect or what the details of what they’ll have to do. He’s just making sure the threat of death is clear and that it’s clear that Flag isn’t too happy about being teamed up with them. This attitude from Flag makes sense because as we’ve seen before, he’s not at all won over yet to the idea of the squad.

Just like Harley is known to cut straight through people’s seriousness with her off-the-wall personality, Deadshot also cuts through it with his sarcasm. Deadshot calls out Flag’s pep talk and makes a reference to Phil Jackson. This is actually a solid reference and it pays off later with Diablo, but if you’re not familiar with Phil Jackson, he’s one of the great basketball coaches from the NBA. He won multiple championships with the Bulls and the Lakers and he was not only renowned for being able to motivate professional athletes to work together as a team and find their individual roles, he also was famous for pioneering the triangle offense in the NBA after its origins at the college level. The triangle offense is called that because the five players on offense form a triangle on one side of the basketball court and then the other two players can do a two-person game on the other side of the court, but also the players are well spaced so they can all pass and cut very effectively.

But for the film, the important thing here is not only that we get another notch in the relationship between Flag and Deadshot, which will play out through the rest of the movie, but we also have a connection to the theme of motivation. We have stated that Suicide Squad makes the point that friendship is more powerful than leverage or manipulation. Here, Flag is not trying to connect with them in any real way, he is just basically stating that he has deadly power over them because of the nanite explosives. He is telling them that they have to do what he says, he is not in anyway inviting them or intrinsically motivating them to want to work with him.

Because of Harley’s and Deadshot’s reactions that we’ve just mentioned, we can already see that this sort of motivation is not going to work on the squad. Flag very clearly tried to exert authority over them, but Harley repelled it with humor and Deadshot repelled it with his cockiness, actually giving Flag an order to “study.” But Flag does tell them to grab their stuff and they’re wheels up in 10, and that sets the stage for the next part of this scene where the characters all don their trademark costumes. We get yet another soundtrack song, this time Eminem, “Without Me.” A repeated line in this song is “guess who’s back, back again.”  Of course the villains are back in action with all their equipment. And there’s also a line in the song that goes, “I created a monster.” So maybe that’s a bit of a connection to Waller.

As the characters pull out their stuff, there are lots of nice comic book references here. We can’t cover all of them, but we’ll link to IGN, which catalogued quite a few of them. ( And we can say that Harley probably gets the best ones. She pulls out a red and black outfit that is very much like her original animated series appearance. She kisses her Puddin’ belt, and puddin’ is what she often calls the Joker. And later she has her famous over-sized mallet. Overall, there are some good entrances for each of the squad member’s costumes and weapons, which are pretty important things in comic book culture. We want to see the boomerangs and Deadshot’s rifle. But it is potentially off-putting that there have already been several song sequences like this and there have also been a couple introductions to the characters already, so this kind of seems like yet another introduction -- although it is different this time, because they’re getting back a bit of themselves, instead of being introduced as incarcerated felons. One thing that I think could’ve been better here, would’ve been to take away the music because we’ve already had quite a bit of that, and I would make the whole thing not about each individual getting their own individual stuff, I would make it all about interactions between the characters as they are getting their stuff. Because that’s what’s new here, it’s the first time the characters are together, so have it all be interactions, nothing solo. They do a bit of this later after the Eminem song cuts out, and I like those interactions, but that’s what I think the entire scene should’ve been, not just a 20-second touch after the song. And when they have that interaction, they’re already dressed and ready. I think they could’ve been interacting while they were going through their stuff. This would allow them to get to know each other as they shift from all being the same, wearing prison-issue orange, to each being their unique selves. And I think there would easily be things for them to talk about, besides just Deadshot’s mask.

But anyway, this scene not only has some comic book references, it also has some set-ups for later in the film, such as Boomerang’s pink unicorn, which was referenced earlier on his namecard and will show up several times later. Another set-up is Harley’s revolver that shows Hate and Love, and we get to see both of those words on the chamber so that we’re ready for it to shift at the end. It connects to the theme that Those who can love are still redeemable.

Harley has now colored her hair tips red and blue, which connects with her usual appearance in the comics where she has completely two-toned colors. She also has some pretty long heels on and the camera pans up her body as she pulls down her shirt. This is clearly a male-gaze type of camera shot, but I think it is blatantly chauvinistic on purpose. I take it that Harley Quinn is using her body and this moment in front of the men as her tool, her leverage over them, rather than the filmmakers using Margot Robbie. Earlier she had said, “Hey boys!” to the soldiers. I think she had already calculated that she would be able to manipulate them a bit and now she’s doing it a bit more.

After Harley is dressed, we get those interactions that we mentioned earlier. Deadshot talks about his mask and how he likes putting it on, even if it means somebody is going to die. And the way Will Smith delivered these lines, it seems as though he likes putting on the mask but he kind of doesn’t like that about himself. He doesn’t like that he likes to kill. This is similar to a line from Diablo that I don’t think was in the final film, but it was quoted in the Behind the Scenes book: “When the fire comes, bad things happen to people I care about.” Harley responds to Deadshot and is not concerned at all at the prospect of death. But Diablo doesn’t like Deadshot and Harley assuming that it’s others who will die. Diablo says that it’s them, the squad, who are being led to their death. This brings in the other side of the coin from what Flag was saying. Flag talked about them dying from the nanite explosive, but Diablo is pointing out that the mission itself is most likely a suicide mission.

This is some more foreshadowing, because Diablo is the one saying they’re going to die, and of course Diablo is the one who ends up dying. And Boomerang reinforces this foreshadowing because he says to Diablo, “Speak for yourself, mate.” And then Boomerang continues with his typical a-hole nature that is true to the comics. He asks Diablo if his tattoos will wash off. Croc laughs and Harley asks him about lighting a girl’s cigarette with his pinky. These are three nice moments for those characters, but they’re very brief. I would’ve liked a bit more time spent on these interactions, like we said earlier. But we do get to see Deadshot coming in to stick up for Diablo. He says that Diablo could torch the whole place, so he is basically rightly saying that Diablo is the most powerful out of the group, even if he seems the most passive. Diablo responds by saying that he’s “cool,” which is a nice turnaphrase for him because of his fire-based powers.

Voice of God (46:00)

Now we go into the last part of Scene 21 at the airport evacuation area. It’s Amanda Waller, the “voice of god.” In her dialogue, she also reinforces the idea of always watching and seeing everything. So this is one of several instances where Waller is compared to god or the devil. The omniscience is a trait often ascribed to god, and she has been able to exert power over the lives of the squad members, controlling whether they live or die and forcing them into this mission against their will. And this issue of free will is what really separates Waller from god, and gives us an early indication that she is probably closer to what Harley noted -- are you the devil? God in the judeo-christian tradition has given humanity free will, but here Waller has taken away that free will and instead believes in leverage, and she is forcing the squad using the threat of death. This tactic is very ungodlike.

But here Waller is called the voice of god, and Flag is the one holding Waller on the iPad, so that makes Flag a sort of disciple of Waller. This is also the third time that a tablet has been used -- before this, the Joker had a tablet with the Van Criss scientist’s wife on it, and Waller and Flag also had a tablet that they used to show the video of Diablo’s prison outburst. Perhaps these are slight nods to the idea that Enchantress brought up that people worship their machines.

Anyway, what happens with Waller is she gives some info to the squad. She calls Midway City a terrorist incident and says that their mission will be to rescue HVT1, which stands for High-value target. She is quite cryptic and even after Deadshot asks about it, she doesn’t really say at all what HVT1 is. Just that they are not allowed to kill HVT1, and that HVT1 is the only person who matters in the city, which of course will turn out to be herself. Knowing that she’s talking about herself, this definitely does show how self-centered she is. She wants to use Midway City as a field test for the squad to prove the feasibility of weaponizing meta-humans, as described in the Man of Steel Answers podcast, but she also is using the squad as her own personal rescue operatives.

And I will admit, when I first watched this scene, I definitely did not think of Waller as being in Midway City already. Based on her previous appearances, I assumed that she was in Washington DC or at the Pentagon or something like that. I did wonder what HVT-1 was going to turn out to be. And Waller also adds a bit of a carrot into the deal for Task Force X, to go with the stick that is the nanite explosives. Waller says that if they complete the mission, they can get time off of their sentence. She also specifies that they have to make sure to protect Flag. Although Boomerang picks his teeth during that part, so they aren’t exactly taking her too seriously yet.

The scene ends with Will Smith as Deadshot calling out the name of the movie -- “we’re some kind of Suicide Squad.” In any movie, the title showing up in the dialogue can be a bit distracting, and that’s true here as well, but I don’t mind it too much. Will Smith has a way of pulling off these kinds of lines, and this is a pretty good spot for it, because this is the first time that the full terms of the deal were laid out. They have the nanites installed, they have their personal gear back, they have the threats from Flag, and now they know that they may also be able to get time off their sentence. But through all of it there are multiple threats of death. So they are being forced into going out into what may very well be their death, one way or another. And they’ve been forced this way without any appeal to personal connections or to loyalty or morality. Maybe they would want to help, but they aren’t even asked. They weren’t approached that way because they are scum. They are presumed to be evil because of their past deeds, and they’re like animals who have to be prodded and enticed rather than reasoned with. But throughout the movie, we’ll explore and eventually reveal that they do still have humanity and the potential for connection.

Scene 21 gives us one final moment between Deadshot and Flag. Not only does Deadshot praise Waller’s pep talk over Flag’s, but after Deadshot says that they’re basically a suicide squad, Flag says coldly that he’ll notify “next of kin,” which is a reference to Floyd’s daughter, and Flag says it walking right by Deadshot, showing no empathy whatsoever. I wish there had been a reaction shot on Deadshot to see the reference really hit him, but instead we cut out to a medium shot and Deadshot actually turns away from camera. Even without seeing his reaction, I think that’s a good line because we have already seen the emotions that Floyd has with his daughter, and Waller has explicitly identified it as his pressure point, so we know that has to hurt. And we also know that reuniting with his daughter might be the big motivation for Deadshot to actually try to do his best to make the mission a success. The filmmakers, by keeping the idea of his daughter alive with the audience, it draws us in to wondering how the mission will turn out and if Deadshot will get to see his daughter again.

End of Episode:

So that’s our analysis of Scenes 20 and 21. Next up are the chinook ride to Midway City and the first few minutes of the actual mission. We will say hello to Katana and we’ll also say goodbye to the beloved Slipknot.

And before we sign off here, Alessandro and I just want to thank everyone for all your support in the Batman v Superman March 25th episode. It was a lot of fun to hear from everyone and we were really happy to be able to put out that positive episode on the anniversary of BvS. A few of you apologized for not getting your contributions into us on time, but you left your thoughts about why you loved BvS as comments on our episode video on YouTube. So that was great. We also got a late submission that we wanted to share here. This is from Auzzie Sheard and here are his thoughts on BvS: “Thanks so much for your podcast! Your thoughtful analysis has helped me fall in love with BvS again. ... It truly is a bold movie that takes risks at almost every step, like making Batman a villain.
Once you revealed Batman was a villain, I was able to grasp so much more of the movie with its quiet character developments. This includes my favorite part of BvS. More than the fact Snyder and Terrio were able to weave a superman and batman story together, or the fact that Superman got to do the most superman thing possible--sacrifice himself, I love that we have a story where Bruce comes to terms with [his] parent's death. In [The Dark Knight] Rises, Bruce moves past it by falling in love with Selena, but I do not think we have ever had a story where he gets the cathartic release we see in BvS where he gets the chance to save a mother, to save Martha.
By saving Martha, and redeeming himself after his fall, he is able to transcend his vigilante status and become a hero going forward. Before BvS, Bruce was Batman primarily out of a hatred of criminals and a desire for vengeance--hence the beautiful lie. Now he can be a hero who truly seeks to save Gotham from itself, and to be an inspiring symbol of hope out of respect for Superman, who shattered the beautiful lie, and lead him to the light. This creates another cool observation. Batman won the physical battle, and Superman won the ideological battle, giving fans of both characters a victory.”
Thanks, Auzzie. And we also want to mention some great BvS content that has come out since our last episode. Rebecca Johnson, who was one of the contributors in our anniversary episode, she has posted a few great BvS videos on YouTube. Her YouTube channel is DuckMilkProd and she has videos on the cinematography, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, and more. And if you’re tired of us always just doing everything in audio format, you will appreciate the clips that she edited together to illustrate her points. So check out DuckMilkProd on YouTube -- we’ll put a link in the show notes.

And as always, check out the Suicide Squadcast for your DC news and check out Man of Steel Answers for his back catalog on Man of Steel and BvS. And thank you for listening. We are planning to have a couple more Suicide Squad episodes before the much anticipated release of Wonder Woman at the beginning of June.

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