This week, DC’s cinematic universe took one more step towards becoming a reality with the release of a new trailer for Suicide Squad. Set for release in August and based on the comic of the same name, the film centers on a group of supervillains recruited to a secret government task force, starring Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Will Smith as Deadshot, and Viola Davis as Amanda Waller.

With its neon lights, quippy jokes, and Queen providing the soundtrack, it’s not the trailer we expected, but it’s definitely an interesting one. That’s why we’re breaking it down to see how successful it was at getting us excited about going to the theater, with CA’s Andrew Wheeler and Chris Sims taking a look at this week’s most divisive piece of advertising.


Chris: Okay, so before we really get into it, I feel the need to point out that I don’t have the best track record when it comes to judging movies by their early promotional material. I’m a guy who saw those first images of Heath Ledger as the Joker and thought he looked absolutely terrible and that The Dark Knight was going to be hot garbage, and while that’s not the most wrong I’ve ever been, it’s definitely up there.

Andrew: To be fair, I think everyone expected Heath Ledger’s Joker to be terrible, just as everyone expects Jared Leto’s Joker to be terrible. And having watched the new Suicide Squad trailer several times now, I still expect Jared Leto’s Joker to be terrible, but I suddenly feel unexpectedly positive and enthused about the rest of the movie. Is this just the redeeming power of Freddie Mercury?

Chris: One thing I think we can definitely agree on is that it’s a great trailer. The editing is top notch, the music works with the material, we see enough to get excited without really giving away any parts of the plot. If Suicide Squad was two minutes and thirty-one seconds long, it’d be my favorite DC movie in years.

Andrew: The faintest of praise; DC’s track record is not encouraging right now. I don’t think I’ve actually enjoyed a DC movie since The Dark Knight, and Suicide Squad was not the property I’d have picked to reinvigorate my enthusiasm. Yet here we are; I want to see this movie now, and I was entirely lukewarm on it before. Not Deadpool lukewarm, but lukewarm.

Chris: Do you have any connection to the source material? I’m pretty firmly on record as a big fan of the Ostrander/Yale/McDonnell run, to the point of calling it the best DC book of the ‘80s.


Suicide Squad #1


Andrew: Virtually none, which maybe works to my benefit. I’ve read some Suicide Squad, but I’d struggle to tell you which issues. I think Amanda Waller is one of the best characters in comics, and I like Harley Quinn. But for a long time, I couldn’t have told you the difference between Suicide Squad and Strikeforce: Morituri.

Chris: Yeah, that’s definitely something that’s holding me back. I’ll freely admit that with me, the people making a Suicide Squad movie are fighting an uphill battle. It’s never going to be the Suicide Squad movie that I want it to be, because literally no one else in the world would like the Suicide Squad movie that I would want, with Nemesis and Punch and Jewelee, and someone throwing pies around Belle Reeve. Maybe me and Michel Fiffe, but that’s it.

Andrew: Do you feel like David Ayers and the screenwriters lack the proper affection for Suicide Squad, and is that important? The comic is a very different beast today, right? Your favorite version didn’t have Harley at all, and yet she seems integral to the concept now.

Chris: I joke about wanting the pies, but i don’t actually think that a “proper affection” is necessary. The last thing I want out of a superhero movie is a direct adaptation of a particular story, because I’ve already seen those.

The thing that gets me about the difference in translating it to film is that with the exception of the Joker and Harley, who’s a genuine cross-media success --- probably because she was created for Batman: The Animated Series --- there’s no history to any of these villains. If you’re not coming at it from the comics, you don’t really have a connection to, say, Deadshot or the Enchantress. I think that makes it hard to root for the bad guys, since we don’t actually know who these bad guys are. The only villains we’ve ever seen in this universe are Zod and Faora. Unless you count Superman, I mean.

Andrew: I would watch a Faora movie. OK, let’s talk about Harley, since she’s both a big deal going into this movie and most likely an even bigger deal coming out of it. When the current comics version of Harley was unveiled, a lot of fans were upset to see her ditch the harlequin onesie for a more Hot Topic bad girl look that they felt demeaned her, but it feels like she’s actually found a new strength as a character, and Margot Robbie’s performance is tapping into that. Half-dressed Harley may be the most popular Harley, even among women.


Suicide Squad trailer


Chris: Margot Robbie is clearly the standout of the trailer, and considering that she’s up against a new version of the Joker and Will Smith, one of the biggest movie stars ever, that’s saying something.

But, since I’m the grumpy skeptic, I do wonder how much of that is Robbie making the best of the material. Donna Dickens had an article at Hitfix about the trailer that pointed out that they’re clearly going with the New 52 origin for Harley, and how damaging that is to what makes her work as a character. Since a lot of the New 52 seemed to be built around packaging heroes for mass media, I think that was probably inevitable, but it’s still something that’s worth pointing out.

At the same time --- and this is something else I’ve seen pointed out --- this is a movie that has three named female characters as part of the team, which is something we haven’t seen in any superhero movie outside of the Fast & Furious franchise.

Andrew: Harley’s relationship with Mistah J is always going to be tough to square with any empowering representation of the character, but there is clearly something about this tough-but-feminine take on the character that resonates with women, regardless of whether they were fans of the old version of the character. And while it’s a shame that Robbie isn’t doing the Arleen Sorkin voice, I think her performance in just this trailer is great. Her delivery is spot on, and she has most of the best lines and a few of the best moments.

Chris: Here’s an honest question: Did you think the jokes were funny? The “Harley hears voices” gag, the “that’s what we do” bit at the end. Did those land for you?

Andrew: I thought the voices line was cute. Jokes about mental illness are a minefield, but I think this one found a smart way to make the punchline about other people’s expectations. The closing line felt a little try-hard, so there’s a chance the whole movie is going to be 50% hits, 50% misses if the trailer’s any indication. The trailer has such a strong tone, such great editing, that it may have fooled us; the movie could be a complete misfire still, and the dialogue and the humor will be major factors in deciding that.

Chris: After the unintentional hilarity of do you bleeeeeeeeed,” and how much of a dour, humorless affair Man of Steel was in general, I’m definitely happy to see some jokes front and center in a DC trailer. I just wish they were, you know, good. I mean, I don’t want to get all “it smacks of effort” or anything, but I think “try-hard” is definitely the word for it. It’s white-text-on-a-black-t-shirt comedy, even if Robbie is doing an amazing job of selling it.

Andrew: It’s definitely a relief to see that Warner Bros can do more than one shade of movie, because that’s been a concern for a long time, given their ambitions, and even the clips the studio put out of the Wonder Woman movie looked shockingly drab.


Suicide Squad trailer


But even if the writing does fall short, the performances look promising, and not just Robbie’s. Viola Davis was clearly born to play Amanda Waller, and Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang seems to have taken a lot of people by surprise. On the other hand, the cast includes a lot of fellas who only seem to have one setting, and that’s "direct-to-video Die Hard wannabe," so we’ll see.

Chris: Davis’s Amanda Waller does in fact look really great. It does bum me out a little that DC/Warner Bros. seem to be of the mind that villains can be fun and tell jokes and have goofy moments, but heroes can’t --- but again, that’s not a problem with Suicide Squad itself. It’s really just leftover grumpiness about their last few attempts at a Superman movie, but it does make me feel like they’ve squandered my trust more than once.

Andrew: Did anyone else stand out for you? I kind of always forget that Will Smith is in this movie, and even as I was watching the trailer, he seemed to fade out of my memory. It’s such a weird role for him to take, though maybe the DC Cinematic Universe wasn’t going to offer many other opportunities for a black man in his late 40s.

Chris: Oh, I was the exact opposite. Aside from Harley Quinn, Deadshot was probably the best part of the trailer for me. A lot of that comes from loving the character from the comics, but seeing Will Smith playing a sardonic assassin with a death wish is a really great idea. It’s exactly the kind of role that can work with the intensity that he brings to drama and the affable snarkiness that he brings to comedy, and I think he’s another actor who, even in the worst case scenario, looks like he’s going to elevate the material.

Andrew: Now, I don’t want to alarm anyone, but The Orb is in this trailer, and The Orb is a Marvel villain, not a DC villain. What’s going on there?

Chris: Wait, the giant eyeball who fights Ghost Rider?

Andrew: Around 01:22.


Suicide Squad trailer


Chris: Oh my God, you’re right. That is the Orb. I have no idea.

Andrew: We should probably talk about Jared Leto’s “damaged” Joker. It’s truly bizarre to me that the character is even in this movie, but clearly both he and Batman in Batman V Superman: Hi I’m Wonder Woman have been at this game for a little while, and are old foes. Is Jared Leto going to surprise us all and be the next Heath Ledger? (In a good way, hopefully.)

Chris: Again, I’m a poor judge of Jokers. If you would’ve asked me in 1991, my nine-year-old self probably would’ve told you that getting Luke Skywalker to play the Joker was the dumbest idea in the world. But again: He has the word “Damaged” tattooed on his forehead. The nicest thing you can say about the trailer is that it kind of makes you forget that for a little bit. You just think it’s like a smudge or something.

Andrew: Literally nothing I’ve seen so far makes me optimistic about Leto’s Joker, and the rumors that have circulated about him acting like a giant method-acting tool on set make me more irritated than enthused, but; I have no doubt that Jared Leto could deliver a good Joker. I think as an actor he is equal to that task. I’m just not sure about any of the choices anyone is making with regards to this particular version of the Joker. But there’ll be another Joker along in a few years, I’m sure.


Suicide Squad trailer


Chris: Am I right in saying that it looks like the plot of this movie is that they’re sending a bunch of villains to go kill the Joker?

Andrew: I think that’s both implied in the trailer and has been rumored. I don’t know if it’s officially confirmed. There’s also been talk that Enchantress is the villain, and the trailer doesn’t seem to tell that story. So who knows? While we’re in rumor territory; have you heard the one about who Scott Eastwood might be playing?

Chris: Nope. You, more than anyone, know how I like to avoid these things.

Andrew: In that case, I probably shouldn’t share. But if what I’ve heard is true, there’ll be a lot of fanperson teeth-gnashing.

Chris: Now, you gotta.

Andrew: The rumor --- and I can find zero confirmation for this, so if this turns out to be true, oops, spoilers, I guess --- but the rumor is that he’s Dick Grayson sent undercover to the prison by Batman. I am 97% sure this cannot be true, because why would you do that? It absolutely sounds like something fans would make up. But there’s a slim chance. And Scott Eastwood is handsome enough, but he’s not handsome in the right way.

Chris: If I’m going to get even close to believing this, I’m going to need to see a butt comparison immediately.

But anyway, getting back to the Joker --- if that is the case and he’s the villain, even among the villains, then that’s probably the best way to handle it. The less you see of that guy, the better. I don’t just mean because of the doofy tattoos, either, I mean that he’s a character who’s best used as something scary that the others have to deal with. And it looks like that’s what we might be getting, too --- most of what we see of him in the trailer seems like it could be a flashback, even beyond Harley’s origin.

Andrew: Which brings us back to the question of how this movie handles the Harley/Joker relationship, and this movie may ultimately live and die by that question. It is wonderful to see more than one woman on a team like this, and a woman in charge of a team like this, and a woman as perhaps the de facto lead of this movie, but it’s not going to be a triumph for women if the movie fouls up incredibly sensitive questions about abuse and dependency that are caught up in Harley’s love for the Joker.

Chris: Those are questions that I’m not sure this particular cinematic universe is capable of tackling, considering that the only installment of it we have so far has 33-year-old Superman striking a crucifixion pose as his heavenly space-father tells him to save everyone. Subtlety is not their forte. So what’s the best alternative? Do they just gloss over the darker stuff? Rely on implying it in flashback rather than confronting it directly?

Andrew: I don’t know if it can be glossed over. If you don’t address it, you’re still saying something about it. And if this movie doesn’t have something smart to say about morality and criminality and the nature of evil, what is it for? Boy, I was feeling more enthusiastic about this when we started.

Chris: And weirdly enough, talking it out is making me a little more interested. Funny how that works, but let’s be fair: I was setting a pretty low bar. So how about we go out on a high note and talk about a few things we liked about the trailer?


Suicide Squad trailer


Andrew: Here’s something I’m really encouraged by, especially as we’re talking about a WB movie; this is a trailer for a movie with a lot of crazy super-universe stuff in it, and I don’t think the movie is embarrassed about any of it. I don’t think there’s going to be enough time to really ground and explain characters like Killer Croc and Enchantress and No Eyebrows Skull Fire Guy, so it’s just going to throw a whole lot of madness and magic in there and go for it, and as a guy who will forever be annoyed that a Christopher Nolan movie wasted time explaining to me how Batman’s batsuit ears got made, I am incredibly grateful to see a DC movie that just wallows in its weirdness.

Chris: Okay, first of all, Alfred setting up dummy corporations to buy little Batman ears was great. Second of all, you’re right. This is a trailer that really makes you (or at least me) want to forget everything that’s led up to it, from the previous movies to Jared Leto saying that they were going to have to lock him up in a mental hospital because his performance in a PG-13 movie with an action figure line was just 2 kRaAaaAzy. There’s a lot here that looks like the superhero stuff that I want --- Deadshot looks really cool, for instance, and the spooky, smoky effects on the Enchantress are really neat. We’ve got a movie where Killer Croc shows up and he’s a straight up crocodile man, finally. That counts for something, even if I’m still decidedly pessimistic about the whole enterprise.

Andrew: And Katana’s sword has little skulls wafting off it!


Suicide Squad trailer


Chris: Oh man, I forgot about Katana. Katana actually looks really cool. Maybe we can get that Batman and the Outsiders film franchise going. “IN 2018, HE’S HAD IT WITH YOUR TWO-BIT JUSTICE LEAGUE.”

Andrew: Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?


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