Since the first official trailer was released back in January, Suicide Squad has been one of my most anticipated films of 2016. At this point, Rogue One and SQ hold the top spots.
Another highly anticipated film, BatmanvSuperman, was a disappointment, mainly due to the third act and the presence of Jesse Eisenberg as Luthor Jr. who was in desperate need of some Ritalin.
I gave the film a 6.5/10, and was surprised to learn that Rotten Tomatoes gave it less than 30%. I knew the reviews weren’t good going into the film, but I didn’t realize the reviews were that bad. I can agree with some of the criticisms levied at the film. I understand that the dream sequences were jarring and nonsensical for some, although they did have some comic references that delighted me. I understand that the conflict between batman and superman could have been better developed. I understand the Martha scene could have been executed better, even if the intention was laudable, Doomsday was terribly developed etc.
Obviously, I can’t say the film was amazing. Ben Affleck was great, Gal Gadot gave a memorable silver screen debut for Wonder Woman etc., the film built off the much aligned destruction in Man of Steel…but the positives are weighed down. I am not a fanboy who rejects reason when defending a film. I understand that the film has its faults, but the hate levied against it seems vastly disproportionate to them. Mainly because a lot of criticism revolves around the film’s tone. This is of course not the only criticism, but it is one that pops up in numerous reviews.
I have previously discussed the ongoing belief that comic book films should be light-hearted and “fun”. I find this funny since the source material doesn’t always fit this criteria. The comic book version of Civil War was not full of witty banter and “fun”, but we get that in the film. I did love the movie and I do like many of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) films, but the insistence on a “fun” tone is making the movies become stale to me. It is good to have tonal variety. DC will have more humour with films like Shazam and Aquaman, which will help to balance out the darker films. The Justice League Comic Con footage also shows us a lighter tone, but I hope that more jokes aren’t shoehorned in only to appeal to the horde that thought BvS was too “dark” “brooding” “depressing” etc.
No other genre of films will get panned solely for its tone. No one will say a biopic is bad because it’s depressing, but comic book films seem to be bound by a duty to make their audience laugh. People are used to this and expect this now due to the MCU. Some might be quick to say that the MCU’s films are light because they fit the characters. However, that is not always the case. Thor: Ragnarok, the third film in the Thor series, will revolve around Asgardian Doomsday. It would make sense for this film to be dark, at least relative to the previous films. However, a comedy writer was brought in to change the film specifically because they thought the original script was too dark. Again, he was brought in ONLY due to concerns about darkness, not character development, plot etc.
The humour started with Robert Downey Jr. ad-libbing dialogue in Iron Man (2008), which became a template for the rest of the MCU, and it is now a recognized staple of the Marvel films. Now that Disney owns Marvel, you can bet that there is even more corporate pressure to keep everything light and family friendly. Of course, the Netflix shows are much darker and ones like Jessica Jones aren’t meant for children at all. However, these shows are much cheaper than a $150 million film, so there is less pressure to appeal to a wider audience. It seems like the execs are more willing to experiment with darker themes and tones when crafting a Netflix series. For the moment, any darker Marvel characters will either be watered down on film or available on Netflix. The funny thing is that these shows rarely get criticized for the tone the same way the films do. People don’t say they would be improved if they were more “fun”.
Point being, Marvel has created a brand that is lighter and I believe people have a much harder time accepting anything else. Even Stephen Colbert has criticized DC for being too dark, referring to Suicide Squad as the “mopey avengers“. This is despite a marketing campaign that has continuously portrayed SQ as a lighter, more “fun” film than BvS. Colbert is not a film buff, or a huge comic fan. When it comes to his interest in these topics, he can be considered a member of the general public. He is a perfect example of how the mindset that DC is too dark has filtered through society. Kevin Fiege has explicitly stated that the MCU will never be dark, arguing that humour is in the “DNA of the movies”. There you have it, a commitment to sticking to the same tone for every single MCU film, despite the character or story arc being explored. It’s a restrictive policy but one that many people commend. They have adapted to expect this tone from their comic book films and they retroactively ascribe the “fun” to the source material.
Aside from the issue of expecting light-heartedness, it seems like people are much more forgiving of a film’s faults if it is light-hearted. I saw a tweet from someone today that was criticizing SQ directory, David Ayer, for his “snarky” response to the negative reviews. @4starfilms didn’t appreciate the response since he has plenty of things to criticize the film for. The funny part, @4starfilms hasn’t seen the film yet. I am not assuming that because it’s not out yet for general audiences yet. I asked him, and he told me he hasn’t seen it. All the criticisms he has for SQ? Solely based on reviews he has read. BvS taught me not to judge a film just by reviews, which was something I did for Fantastic Four (2015). While @4Starfilsm bashes SQ based only off reviews, a recent review of the new Jason Bourne film also says that the film deserves a higher score on Rotten Tomatoes. Obviously he doesn’t truly believe that critics are always right. Seems like he was just eager to hate the film. It can be easy to jump on the bandwagon. @4Starfilms is also another person who thinks the tone was one of the main issues for BvS. Seeing a pattern here?
I’m seeing SQ this Saturday and I will reserve judgment until then. Who knows, it might suck, but I won’t bash it prematurely and I won’t say it sucks because of the tone.