Monday, July 24, 2017

JLU Scene-by-Scene: Suicide Squad Scenes 39-41

This episode of the Justice League Universe podcast focuses on Suicide Squad, scene 39 (the squad's strut down the street), scene 40 (preparing for the final showdown), and scene 41 (visions from Enchantress).

  • The Squad's epic strutting
  • Killer Croc going with the SEALs
  • Katana and her husband's soul
  • Boomerang and Katana
  • Visions from Enchantress
  • Deadshot kills Batman, Harley and Joker domesticized, Flag and June, Diablo owns his past
  • Poor editing

Contributors: @ottensam @raveryn @NBego

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 39 through 41 of Suicide Squad. These scenes are the Squad strutting to their theme song, them talking about a plan for approaching Enchantress, and then them approaching Enchantress and seeing false visions. This analysis was written by myself with Alessandro Maniscalco and Nick Begovich.

But first, a comment on our last Suicide Squad episode. We talked about the bar scene and we should’ve mentioned yet another theme that was developed -- it’s the idea that you can’t view someone as evil once you know their backstory. This applied to Diablo and to Flag in the bar scene. The squad no longer saw Flag as such an oppressive guy, and the audience and the squad had some new compassion for Diablo, because even though he lost control and committed a horrible act, they can see how much it is tearing him up and you have to feel a bit bad for him… not just frustrated at him for being reticent with his powers. So that definitely connects to the theme we’ve mentioned months ago, about knowing people enough and understanding their backstory making them less evil in our view.

Also, I talked about Harley’s neck bomb already being deactivated, but I forgot that in the novelization it was explained that it reactivated after the Joker’s helo went down. So it actually did make sense for her to check her neck in the mirror after Flag broke the detonating device. Thanks to Gotham’s Finest on YouTube for reminding me of that.

Okay, on to Scene 39.

39 - Squad March and Boomerang Toss

The team has just solidified in the bar scene and they’re now going forward of their own volition. Struts like this, walking straight toward camera as basically always cool, and I like that they have the orchestral score here, with the main squad theme by Steven Price rather than a popular song like they’ve used in many previous scenes.

The team is marching toward the source of energy. The first frontal shot is of Harley, which makes her a focus. She’s blowing a bubble of chewing gum, which in this context and together with her appearance sort of relate to a silver screen cheerleader archetype. And in this case she was the cheerleader to rally the troops. Next, Digger Harkness comes right back after having left the squad in the bar. So, fittingly, he’s just like a boomerang, leaving and coming right back. Then the filmmakers do what they often do throughout the movie -- they give us a solid one-shot of each person in the group, so we get to see Deadshot, Flag, El Diablo, and Killer Croc, and also Katana takes up position in center frame.

This brief scene is pretty iconic for the group, and it builds anticipation because we know they’re heading into the final showdown of the movie. But a little bit of a drawback is that they’re aren’t really strutting anywhere important just yet -- they actually end up just strutting down the street a ways to the point where they will just make a plan and then wait for the swimmers -- they’re not actually strutting to the action.

But they do come up to the edge of a building, near the machine and the beam of light. Captain Boomerang gets to make use of his boomerangs. This time it’s a different type of boomerang, one with a camera that allows the team to spy on Enchantress until it gets taken out by Incubus. Flag says that they think it’s a weapon, and Deadshot says that they need to take out the “big one” first, referring to Incubus. So Flag and Deadshot, the two former rivals, are now strategizing together.

Flag remembers that he left the demo charge under the building, and a flooded tunnel leads right to it. He says the SEALs will be able to retrieve the charge, but of course we know that Killer Croc will be perfect for that job, too.

40 - Squad Preparations (1:29:45)

With Flag’s reference to the SEAL swimmers, we cut right to Scene 40 with the GQ SEALs carrying oxygen tanks. They go to the edge of the tunnel entrance, and Croc comes over telling them, not asking, to go with them. Originally I thought it was odd that GQ would even doubt for a moment that Croc should go with them, but now I realize that him and the rest of the SEALs were not part of the group all coming together in the bar scene. So even though Flag now and the rest of the squad would all be supportive of Croc, it’s still reasonable for the SEALs to prefer to handle it themselves. But Croc says that he lives underground, the rest of them are just tourists. And then Croc has a really good take-off into the water.

Everyone else is also preparing for the fight. Flag and Deadshot are getting their guns ready, Boomerang is sharpening a boomerang, and Harley is loading her pistol, still chewing her bubble gum. Meanwhile, Katana is talking to her husband’s soul in her soultaker sword. She says in Japanese, “My dear husband, if I die in battle we will finally be together.” Flag, in another bout of Katana exposition, says that the man who killed her husband used that sword, and the husband’s soul is trapped inside. I think those lines are probably okay, but then he adds on --- “she talks to it.” That part is definitely unnecessary because we just saw her talking to it, as did the rest of the squad.

Boomerang mentions the crazy ones, and Harley draws attention to herself, lightening the mood, like she has done many before. And by the way, Boomerang said, “You know what they say about the crazy ones.” In case you’re curious about the rest of that saying, I believe it’s that the crazy ones are the only ones who see the real world.

Flag says, “Let’s do this,” we get a lingering shot on Diablo, and then the squad moves out. It kind of feels like this could be another strutting moment, because now they actually have a plan for what they’re going to do, and they’re actually walking up into the final battle. But obviously that would be a double beat because they already had the strut. And I see why Ayer didn’t want to do the strut scene here, because this one would’ve excluded Killer Croc. Also, the earlier time was fitting in that they had just had their revelations and their recommitment in the bar scene. So I guess they actually did it about as well as possible.

41 - Approaching Enchantress (1:32:00)

We go into Scene 41 where they are now approaching Enchantress and the machine. We see Croc swimming through the water like a crocodile. And then there is a sequence of them walking through the wrecked and empty subway station. There are lots of empty shells and some dead bodies. And there are those jagged spires that are clear signs of Incubus.

Deadshot checks in with Diablo, who is still afraid of losing control, which is of course a setup for later in the battle. Deadshot responds by saying that maybe they will have a chance, suggesting that even with El Diablo’s power the odds are likely against them. This, together with Katana’s words earlier about dying, indicates to us that the team sees this potentially as a suicide mission. It creates a new spin on their name as they are choosing to embark on a suicide mission.  

In the extended cut, this scene is longer. I haven’t watched it for awhile, but I think there’s dialogue here between Deadshot and Flag, but we’re not going to cover that here. We talked about it a bit in our extended cut episode.

We see that they’re very close to Enchantress now and they come up behind the pillars and the walls around Enchantress and her machine. Apparently there were no physical defense or Eyes of the Adversary on that outer rim of the station. But Enchantress does have magical defenses, as we’ll see.

As they settle in to survey the situation, Harley says, “Hey, everyone can see this trippy magic stuff, right?” Deadshot and Flag look at her. Flag says, “Yeah, why?” And Harley says she’s off her meds.

Flag sees Enchantress, and instead of giving us another shot of her from the perspective of the squad, the shot actually cranes down toward her from the front. I think keeping Flag’s point-of-view would’ve been more effective here, and also I still don’t like the dancing, but as we talked about before, maybe it’s okay because it’s sort of a tradition with witches dancing around fire pits as they cast spells.

Deadshot knows now that this is what remains of a woman who Flag loved. So Deadshot tells him to handle her, but he redirects attention toward the plan. He wants to draw out Incubus so that he can be blasted from below. Yet again, this is probably too much handholding from the filmmakers, at least for our tastes. But we also recognize that for a lot of the general audience, especially many who didn’t like Batman v Superman, it can actually help to make things extra clear.

Boomerang is standing next to Katana and invites her to a drink sometime. This is very inappropriate given that she was just talking to the soul of her deceased husband and they’re about to go into battle. But this is the kind of guy Boomerang is, and it also continues a little sub-plot that we’ve seen between them, going all the way back to the scene where Boomerang tried to escape and Katana had him pinned against the wall.

Enchantress Gives Visions (1:33:30)

And this is right when Enchantress’s voice pipes right in, like it’s going straight into their minds. She has been waiting for them. And obviously she knows they’re there, even though they thought they were being stealthy.

She tells them to step out of the shadows, which has the surface-level meaning of stepping out from behind the pillars where they’re hiding, but also the deeper meaning of an invitation to come out into the light, out of the dark where the world has cast them as villains and criminals. Harley actually does start to walk forward, but Deadshot stops her.

Enchantress continues, “Why are you here? Because the soldier led you? All for Waller. Why do you serve those who cage you?” This attempt to change their mind might’ve worked earlier on, but the team is not serving Waller any more -- they’re now serving one another and trying to do the right thing, as we talked about with the bar scene.

But Enchantress is still trying to convince them that she is actually better for them than Waller. She says that she knows exactly what they want, and this starts off the sequence of visions. I really like these visions, by the way, and I thought that it was a cool way to show a psychological threat from Enchantress, to play on the damaged background of these characters, and it’s a nice emotional beat before the final action sequence.

First up is Deadshot. He sees himself back in the alleyway from Scene 4. He fires several shots and then we see that he has killed Batman. His daughter, Zoe, does not actually appear, as far as I can tell. And it’s interesting that his vision isn’t just about doing something quiet and happy with his daughter. His vision, which according to Enchantress is the thing that Deadshot really wants, is about violence, not love. Maybe this suggests that Deadshot really is an assassin in his heart, and he still blames Batman for incarcerating him. So his relationship with his daughter is not about changing himself to be with her, but it’s about her loving him, even though he does bad things. And that actually does seem to fit. I also imagine that the filmmakers wanted to mix it up a bit --- they didn’t want every single vision to be peaceful with loved ones. So they could use Deadshot to mix it up a bit.

The next vision is Harley’s. She presses the normal setting on the dishwasher -- not a dryer like she talked about in the bar, but close enough. She has her hair in curlers and she gives a quick kiss to a normal looking Joker. She is holding a baby and there’s another kid in the highchair. This connects with the baby clothes that the Joker had laid out in his knife circle back in Scene 13. And by the way, I think I saw online that someone had a theory that the Joker and Harley wanted to have kids but that maybe one or both of them were infertile and so this was a personal tragedy for them. Their anger at that fact might also be related to them killing Robin, Batman’s surrogate son.

But that’s speculation. The one thing we know for sure here is that the music over Harley’s vision of a normal life is a beautiful sounding female opera singer -- a stark contrast to the earlier songs used in the soundtrack.

Next up is Rick Flag, who has a vision of himself waking up in bed with June Moon telling him that it’s just a bad dream, which is kind of funny because she’s saying this to him inside of a good dream.

Then we move on to Diablo who is at home with his kids asleep next to him. He looks a bit disturbed by it, like he knows something’s off. And then his wife comes up and says, “Miss me?” Which is an understatement. And she talks to him and starts to caress him, Diablo gets up abruptly and says that he can’t change what he did, and neither can Enchantress. It’s significant that Diablo is the one who recognizes the visions are false and rejects them. Because it means that he has taken Harley’s advice -- he is owning his past, his REAL past. He rejects the false one, even if it may be happier.

Diablo then pulls the rest of the team out of their trances, too. He tells them that it’s not real. And then right here at the end of Scene 41, I’m sorry, but we have to mention another example of bad editing. It’s a really jarring cut going to Diablo on the stairs. Right before the cut, Diablo is talking to Deadshot, Harley, and Flag, and then there’s a close-up on Flag when he’s digesting and responding right to what Diablo’s saying. Flag says it’s not real. Then all of a sudden there’s a cut and Diablo is already halfway down the stairs heading toward Enchantress and Incubus. And Flag somehow instantaneously went from leaning contemplatively against the pillar to being in motion at the top of the stairs. Maybe you’re thinking, well, editors use jump cuts sometimes to give a kind of frantic feel to the motion. But Diablo stepping out from the pillars that they’ve been hiding behind for this whole scene is an important moment, and it should’ve been shown -- it would’ve only taken about half a second or at most a second, but it would’ve been much smoother and would’ve taken us out there with Diablo instead of suddenly thrusting the camera out into new terrain and having a gap in continuity. To me, this doesn’t seem like an appropriate place for a jump cut, and they don’t do other jump cuts around here to get us into that rhythm so it just ends up feeling like an editing mistake.

But the visions were a nice touch to remind us of the emotional connections we have to these characters before the final fight. And those character moments and the heart are some of the strengths of the movie -- moreso, I’d say, than the action sequences like the one coming up next.

End of Episode

So that is our analysis of scenes 39 through 41. And having seen the visions that Enchantress forced into people’s minds in Scene 41, this is a good spot to point out that visions have been a storytelling device in the DCEU overall, utilized by Ayer, Snyder, and Jenkins. Man of Steel had the dream that was created or at least manipulated by Zod. Batman v Superman had the Knightmare vision that was perhaps inadvertently caused by the Flash’s movement through spacetime. And Wonder Woman had the visions from Ares when he was trying to entice Diana into joining him. And these visions are usually rejected. Superman straight up rejects Zod, as does Diana with Ares. Diablo here in Suicide Squad sees through Enchantress’s ruse and leads the rest of the team out of the visions, too. The only one that isn’t a straight-up rejection is Bruce in BvS. He doesn’t reject the Knightmare vision, because given his corrupt mindset, he views it as a possible future if he doesn’t stop Superman. But nevertheless, the vision does not come to pass because Superman sacrifices himself to stop evil -- he does not become an all-powerful despot. At least not yet. We’ll have to see if that Knightmare vision is still going to play into Justice League or maybe the Flash film that is going to be some sort of take on Flashpoint.

Anyway, that’s enough from us for now. Our next episode is going to be back over on the Wonder Woman side of things. And you can also check out DCEU content from the Suicide Squadcast and Man of Steel Answers. You still have a couple days to send in your questions for our listener Q&A episode, but we are going to close the floor for questions pretty soon so that we can do our prep on the episode. Send questions via Twitter to @JLUPodcast or to my email address, ottensam AT att DOT net. And thanks for listening.

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