Wednesday, August 2, 2017

JLU Scene-by-Scene: Suicide Squad Scenes 42-43

This episode of the Justice League Universe podcast focuses on Scene 42 (battling Incubus) and Scene 43 (battling Enchantress) of Suicide Squad, written and directed by David Ayer.

  • Diablo meeting Enchantress
  • Diablo's people, his new family
  • Incubus, the unsurprising surprise
  • Killer Croc below and Katana saving Boomerang
  • Diablo shows who he really is
  • Minor editing critiques
  • Diablo and GQ sacrifices
  • Enchantress reverts to her smokey form
  • Final fight in the fog
  • Harley Quinn's con
  • Hate turns to love
Contributors: @ottensam @raveryn @NBego

Available on YouTube: 

Welcome, fans of the Justice League Universe. My name is Sam. In this podcast, we give scene-by-scene analysis of the Warner Brothers films that are part of the DCEU. In this episode, we cover Scenes 42 and 43 of Suicide Squad. These scenes are the final fights with Incubus and then Enchantress. This analysis was written by myself with Alessandro Maniscalco and Nick Begovich.

So Diablo just broke free from the visions and walked down the stairs to confront her. She asks him how long he’s been able to see. And he says, “My whole life.” So this confirms that it’s actually a part of Diablo’s powers that he was able to see the falsity of Enchantress’s visions and break out of them. It might be a sort of godly sight that is related to his ability to tap into a godly or demonic energy. And the combination of sight and power is similar to The Gate in the anime Full Metal Alchemist, in that whoever sees the gate is able to perform magical alchemy. But for Suicide Squad, we said last episode that it made sense to have Diablo be the one to break free because, thematically, he had to own his past, but it also makes sense because it’s part of his power set to be somewhat immune to her forced visions. This shows that he’s is best equipped to stand up to Enchantress and Incubus, which will of course be important in a few minutes.

Diablo also tells Enchantress that she can’t have the squad because, “these are my people.” So Diablo’s arc has now progressed to its conclusion. He was a person who had lost his family because of his abilities, and so he had retreated and withdrawn. Now he is a person who was the first to step out and come forward to face Enchantress, and now he has gained a new family and will use his abilities to defend them. He had accidentally killed his wife and children but survived himself, now he will purposefully sacrifice himself so that his new family may live.

Some people criticized Diablo’s moment here at the end because they didn’t feel it had been earned for Diablo to call the squad his people or his new family. But having gone through the movie in detail now doing this podcast, I actually do think it was earned. It’s true he was often kind of withdrawn and not fully part of the team, but the important thing is that the squad never turned their back on him. They still included him and eventually they all fought together, and especially near the end with the bar scene, they learned about his personal tragedy and didn’t judge him for it -- they still stood with him. So even though it wasn’t a long-standing new relationship, it was a meaningful one -- and for a guy who was probably looking for an avenue toward redemption, I don’t begrudge him at all trying to find that redemption by declaring the squad his new friends and family.

Back to Enchantress, she says, “It is our time. The sun is setting and the magic rises.” This use of the word “our” refers to her and Incubus but also Diablo, so she’s including him as one of them, the old gods of magic. And if the magic is rising, that might allude to some more magic characters in the DCEU, such as Constantine and Zatanna and possibly Doctor Fate -- we’re guessing some of these magic characters are going to show up in the Justice League Dark movie that is a part of the announced slate from Warner Brothers. And Enchantress also says that the meta-humans are a sign of change, so this suggests that Enchantress might be aware of something larger at play in the universe, and it also confirms why Man of Steel and then Batman v Superman, with the meta-human thesis, were the beginnings of this universe, because those were the moments when the realistic universe began to change and see the rise of meta-humans and now the return of magic.

Deadshot points at Enchantress and says, “You are evil.” This is pretty on-the-nose but it connects to David Ayer’s original premise that he wanted this movie to be about bad versus evil, instead of the typical good versus bad. So it’s another instance of this movie trying to be a bit more obvious than other movies like Batman v Superman, and that’s fine. The one thing I didn’t like, though, was that to set up Deadshot’s line, Enchantress wasn’t really saying or doing anything especially evil right at that moment. Yes, she’s done evil things before like killing people to create her Eyes of the Adversary, but at this moment, she’s just standing in front of her mysterious machine and she’s just saying that magic is rising. Not exactly her most evil moment.

But anyway, before the fight gets underway, it does make it clear that the squad is composed of bad guys, but they aren’t necessarily evil, they’ve just made the most with the hands they were dealt. Whereas Enchantress has complete disregard for morality and Man, with a desire to destroy them.

Enchantress then, in the ancient language, calls to her brother and tells him to “make them bow to me.” This desire for worship does connect somewhat to the idea back from when she first released Incubus, that her motivation has to do with envy because people worship machines now. It’s a bit muddled though, because there are a couple times where she says she wants worship, but overall she doesn’t really give humanity many opportunities to worship her. She seems more like she’s just going to destroy humanity.

Another thing that doesn’t make complete sense to us is that the team seems surprised when Incubus comes around the corner, and Boomerang even asks, “Who’s this?” But he was literally the one who threw the drone-er-rang with the camera where they saw Incubus. And they even talked about taking out the big one first. So this is who they came to face, it shouldn’t be a surprise.

Anyway, the team realizes they are overpowered so they run and hide.  Flag calls the SEALs to let them know they are ready for the bomb to take out Incubus. But they are occupied by the Eyes. This is where Killer Croc plays an important role by taking care of the Eyes and allowing the team to carry out their mission. Croc even does what looks like a crocodile death roll. Then we come back up top and we get to see yet another of Captain Boomerangs’ boomerangs -- this time it’s a bomberang of sorts. But it doesn’t do much of anything to Incubus.

Flag says they have to get Incubus to the far corner, and this draws upon his prior knowledge as the one who was there earlier on with Enchantress. Diablo says “I’ll do it. I’ll get him there.” Interestingly, this is the same phrasing that Deadshot used with Diablo in Scene 29 and the phrasing that Deadshot used in the bar scene with Flag. So that’s at least three times where “get him there” or “get you there” was used, and they were all in crucial moments, so maybe that points to a notion of teamwork and people being able to rely on one another.

There’s a quick beat before we actually see Diablo confront Incubus, and it’s Incubus bearing down on Boomerang and then Katana coming in to save his life. She cuts off his arm, and even though it grows back, it shows that Katana’s sword is capable of doing damage to them, despite their godly nature. That will become important at the end with Harley Quinn. Katana saving Boomerang is also a nice conclusion to their flirtatious arc that goes back through several prior scenes, including just before this fight by the pillars when Boomerang invited her for a drink, and there was also the moment way back when Boomerang and Slipknot tried to escape. So Katana has gone from being Flag’s bodyguard and holding a sword up to Boomerang’s neck, to this moment now where she is protecting Boomerang and has more respect for the squad overall.

Now we cut back to Diablo to see him head out for his confrontation with Incubus. He says, “I lost one family, I’m not gonna lose another.” So this reiterates the point we were already talking about before with Diablo coming to the conclusion of his arc, but Deadshot doesn’t know Diablo’s full powers, so he’s still worried about him. But Diablo says, “Let me show you who I really am.” On the surface, this refers to the fact that he’s about to show more of his powers and he will reveal that he’s not really human. But the idea of showing “who I really am” also connects to the movie’s theme of accepting yourself. And it shows that, even though he has done bad things, those bad things are not who he really is. He still has worth and value as a person, and this moment of heroism is a way to be redeemed from his past sins.

Diablo starts with his standard fire attack, and then gets kicked back by Incubus. There’s some more poor editing here, because Diablo yells “Over here” to get Incubus’s attention, but there’s no shot of Incubus reacting or turning toward him -- it just seems like Incubus was already there looking right at him, so it didn’t flow good with the “over here” line. And also it had been clearly established that the axis for the 180-degree rule placed Incubus on the left and Diablo on the right, and that’s how it is for the fire and for the kick. But they cut across the line when Diablo crashes into the side room, so that Diablo is now flying from right to left on the screen. I know that some filmmakers will break the 180-degree rule on purpose to make the audience feel uncomfortable or uneasy, but this is a straight-up fight scene, not a sophisticated tension-building drama, and it also seemed like a poor choice to cross the line literally while Diablo was flying through the air because that just interrupts the momentum of the motion. They also go right back to Incubus on the left and the squad on the right for Deadshot’s attack, and they even have Diablo back on the right looking to the left when he gets up, so it really just seemed out of place to have the one shot that broke the rule.

Anyway, what’s more meaningful here is that the rest of the team all came to Diablo’s defense immediately. And Diablo then sees some photos of children and families, and that probably reminds him of his own family, so he gets even angrier and transforms into his full demon mode. This makes him Incubus’s equal and they start fighting straight up, big orange guy against big orange guy. I’m a bit surprised that Diablo didn’t do this right away when he came forward and said he was going to show them who he truly is, but maybe he just needed to get fired up a bit more, getting kicked and then seeing the photos.

As Diablo is fighting Incubus, we quickly cut back down to see how the swimmers are doing. Croc is taking on the Eyes himself and tells GQ to go on to the explosive. Once GQ is in position, Flag tells Diablo to get him to the corner. Diablo then burns his hand right into Incubus’s chest. This seems to weaken Incubus quite a bit, which might make him more susceptible to the explosion. The other reason that explosive charge might’ve worked when other military attacks failed is because it took Incubus by surprise, so it was well placed and well timed.

Diablo seems to have exerted a lot of his energy in weakening Incubus, and he returns to his human form as Incubus pushing him down on the ground. Diablo actually tells Flag to blow it, so it’s clearly a self sacrifice. Flag isn’t sure, but Deadshot says to do it. This confirms what we’ve said for several scenes now -- that Deadshot is really the leader of the squad now, and the fact that Flag is looking for input is very different than it was earlier in the movie.

The explosive blows and Enchantress and the machine are both weakened, so Incubus must have been a part of what was powering all of it, together with Enchantress. The squad walks forward, more saddened by Diablo’s death than jubilant about Incubus’s defeat. And we also want to acknowledge that GQ also made the ultimate sacrifice, even though it gets less attention than Diablo’s. GQ’s noble efforts here put him in good company along with Colonel Hardy in Man of Steel and Steve Trevor in Wonder Woman -- soldiers who were willing to give their lives in service to the mission. Thanks to King J @JAscariat for pointing out that parallel.

43 - Enchantress Fight (1:39:30)

And with Incubus out of the picture, we move into Scene 43 which is the final fight with Enchantress. Deadshot tells her that she’s next, and he’s pretty confident even though they don’t have Diablo or another explosive handy, so it’s unclear how they might actually stop her. But she says that her spell is complete --- so apparently it was a spell more than a machine, which I think is fine, given that she’s a witch, but it’s just weird that she called it a machine at the beginning, which is why we’ve been calling it her machine throughout our analysis. I really don’t know why they had that “they worship machines now, so I’ll build a machine to destroy them” angle in the movie.

But here she says that with her spell complete, she can defeat the military and then spread darkness across the Earth and rule the world. And she’s not joking about taking on the military --- she uses Waller’s classified knowledge to destroy several key military targets including a secret facility and a military satellite. We did notice that there’s a sort of lunar motif going on with Enchantress, where it goes from full moon to new moon again in this scene, but we’re not really sure what meaning to make from the lunar motif.

Anyway, the scene continues by answering that question about how they might stop Enchantress -- Flag says that they need to cut her heart out. So the observant audience member will immediately think of Katana’s sword for that purpose. Then Enchantress changes back into the smoky witch version, which I personally like quite a bit better, with the horns and the glowing eyes. But the fight scene overall still suffers a lot because it’s very foggy and dirty, so you can’t see much, and although Enchantress’s smokey teleportation is a nice connection to her character as setup in the beginning, the martial arts seems a bit out of place.

But Katana slashes through her and causes her to teleport away for a moment. This gives us time for a reminder that her spell is still wreaking havoc around the world, as we see it slicing through an aircraft carrier. These are pretty substantial displays of power and devastation, but they don’t pack a real emotional punch because we’re only shown objects from a distance -- not people and definitely not people who we’ve grown to care about throughout the movie.

But we suppose it’s there to raise the stakes and really build things up to a climax. Enchantress reappears, now with swords -- so she may have transported away to retrieve the swords from some other location, like she did at the beginning with the Iranian binder of intel. If this is the case, it’s interesting that she chose swords, because she could’ve gone and grabbed some more effective weapons. But anyway, the fight continues, still foggy and now with Enchantress using double swords. Deadshot gets knocked aside and Harley ducks below her sword strokes, and we see that Croc has returned from underneath. Then the filmmakers put in a little comedy bit that takes away from the tension of the fight, but it is sort of a stereotypical Harley Quinn moment --- she hits Enchantress in the back of the head with her bat, then says “uh-oh” as Enchantress turns around and kicks Harley in the crotch.

Anyway, the next beat is Deadshot sliding in to save Flag’s life, which is yet another nice continuation of their rivalry that has evolved into respect. Then Katana tries her swords, Boomerang tries his boomerang, and Deadshot comes in with automatic pistols. But nothing is working too well, then Croc arrives and grabs Enchantress and slams her into the base of the statue. So they’re all involved in this smokey fight but they’re not really getting any closer to cutting her heart out. Then the fight just abruptly ends as Enchantress goes back up to her main position and says, “Enough!” And she pulls away all their weapons. It’s a bit of an odd moment because why didn’t she just do that earlier? Why was she trying to physically fight them at all? If we try to look for a rational answer, maybe it’s just that she was upset about her brother’s death and so she wanted to let off some steam, or at least some smoke. It could also be that she never actually wanted to kill them -- she just wanted to force them to worship her, and so she first tried to gain their allegiance by giving them what they really wanted, then she tried to defeat them physically and beat them into submission, but neither of those worked, so now she will take her final tact -- which is to tell them that they’ve earned mercy and that they have one last opportunity to join her or die.

Harley start her con right away by talking to the team, not to Enchantress. She says that maybe they should join Enchantress. Deadshot is not having it, saying that she’s trying to take over the world. But Harley says, “What’s the world ever done for us, anyway? It hates us.” So this taps directly into the theme we’ve talked about from the start of humanity’s tendency, or at least America’s tendency, to devalue criminals and view them as less than human. If criminals like the Squad actually internalized this marginalization, then they would agree with Harley and would be willing to sell out the world or celebrate its destruction. And Harley is kind of right that the world hasn’t done much for them, but she’s going to save the world anyway, which shows that the world is wrong about them -- they may be bad guys, but they can still do good, and they should still have a chance at redemption.

Having started her con with the team, Harley now steps forward to continue her con directly with Enchantress. She now makes it personal, saying that she wants her Puddin’ back. And Enchantress says that she can return her Puddin’ to her. Enchantress steps forward and asks Harley to bow and “serve beneath my feet.” Harley does kneel, but she’s actually positioning herself right by Katana’s sword, which had been pulled forward onto the ground by Enchantress just a moment earlier. And to Enchantress’s surprise, Harley says that Enchantress’s mistake was messing with her friends, and she cuts out the heart. This also means that for both Incubus and Enchantress, they were defeated by the bonds formed by the Squad. Diablo was protecting his new family and Harley is protecting her friends. This is the culmination of the dominant theme of the movie, that friendship is more powerful than leverage. Waller tried to use leverage all along, but it didn’t work as well as the actual friendship and mutual connections made by the squad. And even here at the end, Enchantress tried to manipulate and force the squad into subservience, but that wasn’t as powerful as the friendship that they had together.

A couple other quick points about Harley’s moment here -- I really like how the accent Margot Robbie used worked with the lines here; it really did seem like a Harley Quinn delivery that was unique from any other character. And we also thought it was very fitting that this group of criminals used deception as their final move. This makes the squad distinct from typical superheroes like Superman and Wonder Woman who, in their film’s respective climaxes, used strength and determination or the power of love to win the day. The squad uses a less noble tactic, but they still got the job done.

Now, with Enchantress’s heart out, they can end the threat. And to make sure the audience is following along, Flag says, “Her heart’s out. We can end this.” This leads to the big finish, which the filmmakers designed to involve several squad members. Flag pulls out an explosive and gives it to Croc, who has the strength to throw it into the machine that is causing all the destruction. Deadshot calls to Harley who throws him her pistol. These two throws are shown in slow-motion, which some people have called a bit unnecessary but I think it was just meant to really emphasize that this was the finish. And Enchantress, even without her heart, still has one last ditch effort -- we see her eyes glow and the implication is that she’s feeding another vision to Deadshot. This time it’s not a vision of Deadshot killing Batman -- it’s something that cuts more to the core for him; it’s his daughter, Zoe. She is telling him not to do it; that the only way for them to be together is if he doesn’t pull the trigger. It’s a direct echo of the earlier moment when she really did step in between Deadshot and Batman, and she did talk him out of killing Batman. But in this case it’s not a genuine appeal, asking Deadshot to not kill a hero, it’s a false appeal asking him not to destroy a villain’s evil spell. It’s just Enchantress’s desperate last move. Deadshot yells in determination as he tries to push past the mind games, and then he fires. The pistol’s barrel rotates from Hate to Love, and the blast destroys Enchantress’s machine or spell. The beam stops and the debris falls down in a circle around the station.

Speaking of love, we also wanted to reiterate a couple points about love that we’ve made in our prior episodes. The main characters on the squad all have love, which seems to be central in their chance for redemption and in their ability to connect with one another -- Floyd loves his daughter, Harley loves the Joker, Diablo loves his family, Katana loves her husband, and Flag loves June. These loves separate them from the true villains of the movie, especially Amanda Waller, who is not shown to have any love or genuine human connections at all. She just thirsts for power and control. And then with Enchantress, one could argue that she loves her brother, but if you think about it, she mainly seems to use her brother. She frees him to gain strength because she wants to use it to conquer the world, she has her brother heal her after Waller stabs her heart, and then she uses him at the end as a sort of security guard and as a way to help power her machine or spell. So if you view Enchantress as just using Incubus toward her own ends, then that makes her more similar to Waller than to the squad, and it would make her evil rather than just bad. But if you look at Enchantress’s grief when Incubus is killed, and her care for Incubus in bringing him back to life, then you might say that she does love her brother. In this case, yes, it is love, but it is not a love that extends to humanity. It’s kind of a selfish love and it’s a love that she can have while still wanting to lay waste to the planet and take over mankind. So that’s different than the Squad love where they empathize with one another and end up actually saving the world. The way that we have phrased the love theme in the past is that love can be the basis for human connection -- but Enchantress’s form of love, if she has it at all, is not a basis for human connection because she holds it while still destroying humanity and wanting to make it subservient to her.

In closing, these two scenes kind of encapsulate the entire movie. There are some fairly pedestrian action sequences and some questionable editing decisions, but it features an interesting cast of characters who have some heart and some nice resolutions to their personal arcs. Although Enchantress’s design and motivations are a bit muddled, the filmmakers nevertheless did a good job of designing the climax so that it involved key moments from Harley Quinn and Deadshot -- the two co-leads of the movie.

End of Episode

So that is our analysis for Scenes 42 and 43 of Suicide Squad. We just have a couple more scenes, which we will cover pretty quickly in the next few days. And to close out this episode, we wanted to point out that these scenes we just covered have several visual and thematic connections to other JLU movies. There’s the U.S. soldier sacrificing himself to stop the big bad, which we mentioned as being parallel to Man of Steel and Wonder Woman; there’s also a magic sword being used to cut off a giant monster’s hand, only to have it grow back, just like we saw in Batman v Superman; there’s also a guy shoving his hand through another guy's chest, like we saw in the knightmare scene from BvS; and Nick’s personal favorite is the sacrifice of Diablo, paralleling the sacrifice of Superman. This goes to show that even a convicted felon, who in the past committed this horrible act of killing his wife and children, can still be just as heroic as the iconic and monumental hero that is Superman. It goes to show that we shouldn’t disregard the potential even of those who have done bad things in the past. And we also shouldn’t disregard the power of human connection and empathy to bring people back from dark places.

Anyway, that’s enough for right now. As we close out our Suicide Squad analysis this week, you can also check out the Suicide Squadcast and the Man of Steel Answers podcast. And as usual, thank you very much for listening.

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