DISCLAIMER: This editorial contains spoilers for DC and Warner Bros.' latest film, SUICIDE SQUAD.
About a year and a half ago, while writing for another outlet, I made a list of reasons why the impending DC Extended Universe could potentially trounce the Marvel Cinematic Universe in terms of quality. For starters, DC, by far, has more well known characters than Marvel. There's a good reason why in 2008, the idea of an IRON MAN movie was crazy -- because Iron Man was a B-level character in the eyes of the mainstream audience. More than anyone, DC was put in an advantageous place in terms of brand and character recognition.
This is especially true on the villain front.
With the exception of Spider-Man, there aren't a lot of Marvel superheroes with memorable rogues galleries. Marvel Studios has done a great job in milking their villains for what they're wroth but make no mistake, they've gone a strictly hero-driven approach. The result is a line of films with great leads and dull villains and obstacles. The films are traditional and primal -- often to a fault. This is an area where DC could very well fill a void.
Enter the beginnings of the DC Extended Universe and the announcement of SUICIDE SQUAD. This was a brilliant move on Warner Bros.' part. They couldn't very well catch up with Marvel at this point, but they could capitalize on what they had: memorable villains. Rather than have each film set up its own villain, only to kill them off, what if these main villains were introduced in SUICIDE SQUAD and utilized in future movies as the main villain (or even a secondary villain)?
This could go a long way to remedy the now-standard idea of having boring villains in a superhero film. All of a sudden, we'd have films where the audience could potentially care just as much for the villain as they do for the hero. Imagine the tension that could be derived from that! And if almost every film has a compelling villain, it'd help in turning the DC Extended Universe into its own beast, no longer trying to mimic the more established MCU.
Well, SUICIDE SQUAD has officially been released. The consensus from critics is that the film is a muddled mess, and while that's true on a plot front, I still very much enjoyed these villainous characters from start to end. Would I be on board to see Captain Boomerang take on the Flash in his standalone film? Hell yes! Deadshot taking on Batman? Sign me up! Heck, I'd love to see a Deadshot and Harley Quinn team up to take on the Bat.
So where's the problem?
The problem, I see, lies in the ending of SUICIDE SQUAD. With the exception of Harley Quinn and the Joker, everyone else ends up either dead or back behind bars in Belle Reve prison. Any hopes of these baddies being unleashed on the DC Extended Universe were quashed by the movie's end. Rather than spin these guys off into other films, DC and Warner Bros. seemed more content to keep the status quo. That's not to say they couldn't utilize them down the line -- for all we know, the Flash could open with Boomerang escaping prison. But as it stands, Warner Bros. seems more content to set the group up for another SUICIDE SQUAD film than it does to send them into another franchise.
In essence, they seem unwilling to use the DC rogues gallery as villains.
This is a huge mistake, though I understand where they're coming from. Having only just set up these likable baddies, it seems like a waste to throw them into another Batman film, only to have them either killed off or sent back to prison. I get it. They want to capitalize on their likability. But it's a double-edged sword. If they're unwilling to use these villains as villains, that may render the upcoming DC films less impactful.
So what does this mean for future DC movies? Will WB only have the guts to utilize villains with flat personalities or boring motivations? I can by no means predict how strong they'll be writing their villains in future movies (they could be great, for all I know), but if the Enchantress is any indication, I'd say things aren't looking good. They had the opportunity to develop these bad guys in their own films ahead of time, which is something DC has ever done before, and they all but seem to be abandoning the benefits that could be reaped.
Rather than set things up for a SUICIDE SQUAD 2 or another villain-centric film, I urge DC and Warner Bros. to take a less predictable, less franchise-heavy approach: make SUICIDE SQUAD a single one-off film. Use it as a stepping stone for these villains so that they may be actually utilized as such. Don't fall into the same hole as many old, episodic TV shows did. I don't want each SUICIDE SQUAD film to begin with the timeline reset, and our anti-heroes back behind bars.
More than Marvel, DC had set itself up for dynamic storytelling. Whereas Marvel had a very strict standalone-standalone-standalone-standalone-team-up structure, DC's was less predictable. It had begun with a standalone, moved on to a dual team-up, then into a villain team-up. From there, we'll have one more standalone film before going into one giant team-up film. From a narrative standpoint, DC's is a hell of a lot more exciting and unpredictable.
But in setting things up for SUICIDE SQUAD 2, WB seems to be falling back into the pattern Marvel spearheaded. Yes, their method works for a reason, but in the long run, I think it could only lead to ruin. In falling back on standard franchise structure, I can only expect that over time, moviegoers will only get more and more burnt out by these superhero films as these narrative structures become more and more predictable. In addition, there are only so many times audiences can give horrible villains a pass, and I believe Marvel has already spent a decent amount of that goodwill.
What do you think? Apart from any narrative quibbles you may have had with SUICIDE SQUAD, do you think WB did the right thing in sending Task Force X back to prison? Do you think we'll be seeing these guys in any other superhero films, or do they seem destined to have a hand in SUICIDE SQUAD 2?
Let us know your thoughts down below!