What Was Missing From DCEU? Dinosaurs!

When it first came out, the Suicide Squad movie was universally critically panned. DC fans, however, lapped it up and supported it, if for no other reason than to ‘own’ the critics. The problem, however, was that Suicide Squad just wasn’t very good.

Suicide Squad, for reasons I couldn’t quite put my finger on, felt like an inferior sequel to a movie that was never made. It ran an ‘enemy within’ storyline for a cape-team with no buildup, and Task Force X was just a shaggy dog in the DCEU.

Suicide Squad was where Warner Brothers first really tried to open the DC film franchise into a universe with the breadth of the MCU. Despite fan support, it failed miserably to liven up an already stalling cinematic universe, and I think I know why. Never mind that the rest of the DC movies range from mediocre set pieces that borrow the emotional gravitas of the Nolan films via the Zimmerman scores to just plain trash. No, the real reason was there were no dinosaurs!

The first Suicide Squad move should have been about Rick Flag fighting dinosaurs and kaiju during the Cold War.

BRAVE & BOLD 38 VG SUICIDE SQUAD November 1961

The DCEU lacked a Captain America–everybody, even Superman, was super grim and super serious. Captain America: The First Avenger was a lynchpin film for the first wave of Marvel movies–it captured an idealistic soldier bravely fighting against unadulterated and unquestionable evil, and allowed Cap to be sort of a moral core of the Avengers.

In Suicide Squad, Rick Flag is tossed into a group of villains who create more problems than they solve and really is just kind of there while his girlfriend goes crazy and becomes the big bad of the movie.

Instead, imagine, if you will, a movie that starts in America’s heyday, where a War Hero, his beautiful not-girlfriend, and two pointdexters protect the earth from the kaiju menace in an age before supermen [yes, there were supermen back then, but not in the DCEU].

People were still into kaiju cuz they still liked Pacific Rim, the Jurassic Park franchise was making a comeback, and Americans are [or were] always up for some jingoism. So, before everything goes to hell after the death of Superman and gets even worse with Waller in charge, brave normal men stood between America and the deadly dino menace! It could’ve made for a real blockbuster that could have saved the DCEU and given it somewhere to go.

[Nah, it would never work.]

Anyway, I recently picked up the Silver Age Suicide Squad omnibus for a song at Ollie’s. I’d read one of the stories before in one of the 70s Brave and Bold digests that Mike Barr edited, but this is the first time I’ve read all of the original run of Suicide Squad.

I’ll admit, I don’t like the Star Spangled War Stories Suicide Squad as much as Brave and the Bold. In War Stories, Suicide Squad became a catch-all for ‘soldiers fighting dinosaurs.’ B&B SS didn’t JUST fight dinosaurs, and when they did, the stories relied more on classic sci-fi monster movie stuff than just WWII + dinosaurs.

Anyway, I think that Warner Bros. missed a huge opportunity to cash in on a Silver Age Suicide Squad flick–the time was right for it. But instead, we got uwu trashgirl Harley and Will Smith-desperately-trying-to-rebuild-his-action-hero-brand Deadshot in one of the messiest films I’ve seen in years.

Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor and Why I Defend It

So far, the DCEU has been pretty terrible.

  • Man of Steel was an overly serious and pompous trainwreck that fundamentally misunderstood the character of Superman and managed to make the two plus hours of non-stop action dreary and tiresome.
  • Batman vs. Superman had a few decent moments of pathos that were tied more to our memories of Chris Nolan’s Batman than anything the movie actually gave us, but those were largely mired in a poorly paced mess of a plot that relied on a number of assumptions and the feeling that we’d “missed something”. Plus making Gotham Metropolis’ Jersey City was a strange choice.
  • Suicide Squad was another trainwreck that felt like it should’ve been the second movie in its own franchise and was edited so haphazardly that I think they were going for a Tarantino feel but without an ounce of finesse; fans cheered it against critics because a) they’re fans, b) everyone hates critics, even when they’re right on occasion, and c) Harley Quinn fangirls & boys.
  • Wonder Woman was heralded as brilliant because it was the first entry into the franchise that was a competently done film.
  • After watching creepo Ezra Miller try to pressure an uncomfortable and embarrassed looking Gal Gadot into saying his Smash-the-Patriarchy BS during a promo interview, I figure I’ll wait until my gym picks up Justice League to watch it.
  • The fact that they’ve hired Ava DuVernay to direct New Gods suggests that WB & DC are entirely unserious about the prospect of making good movies in the immediate future.

LuthorNow for my dangerous claim: the one bright spot of the DCEU was Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. It was the one genuinely interesting thing that the films did in terms of storytelling, direction, and acting. His Luthor was not without problems, of course—the biggest being that his character was named Lex Luthor.

 

The main complaint I hear about him is “He’s not Lex Luthor; he’s not my Lex Luthor,” and no, he’s really not. Which is why it’s a damn shame they call him Luthor, because now you CANNOT do anything else with the character. Lex Luthor is usually portrayed as either a criminal mastermind, a mad scientist, or evil corporate billionaire with tons of resources at his disposal. In most cases, he’s set himself up as untouchable, and in fan favorite portrayals (StAS, L&C:NAoS) he’s often a cool, calculating and collected character—quite the opposite of Eisenberg’s portrayal. You need that aloof, powerful and untouchable nature to remain an ongoing villain to Superman. Yet the Luthor portrayed in BvS is a fantastic Batman villain and far more interesting than your typical portrayal of Luthor.

At its core, Batman vs. Superman is a story about three men who are living in the shadows cast by their absent fathers*. Their fathers have shaped who they are, what they do, what they believe, and they are constantly trying to live up to ideals that they think will make the ghosts in their memories proud. Eisenberg’s Luthor is shattered by this pressure. He’s the broken mirror that’s held up to Batman and Superman; could they turn into this broken and groveling man who is desperate to make Daddy proud? Many times in his adventures, Bruce Wayne comes close to this; he approaches the edge and often has be pulled back by his friends and loved ones. He sees himself, to a degree, in a character like Eisenberg’s Luthor, and it terrifies him. He wears the mask of the happy playboy billionaire, but every day inside he’s asking himself “Am I making my father proud?” And it makes Bats and the folks watching him wonder “How is he going to avoid ending up like that? Can he? How similar they are!” Like I said, A GREAT BATMAN VILLAIN!

Now, I understand why a lot of people don’t like him, I really do! And I agree, he’s NOT Lex Luthor, and his character should NOT have been called Lex Luthor. Calling him Lex prejudiced fans against character and ensured that this intriguing villain, great in his own right, cannot be used or explored further in future. It’s a shame, because really he was the one worthwhile thing the DCEU gave us.

*:One aspect that sets Supes & Bats apart from Luthor in the film is their love for their mother—something which Luthor is not shown to have—which brings them together against him at the movie’s climax, but that’s like an essay unto itself, right there!