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.

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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!

Just Another Comics Post

I’ve been binging a bit on comics lately, and I’ve come to the conclusion that, whenever I can help it, I’ll go for the single-issues over trade paperbacks.

On one hand, it’s an economic issue. Oddly enough, buying a full run of individual issues is generally cheaper than trades—you can get a six issue run of something for about $6, while unless you can score a really good deal on it, a trade of the same run will go for around $10-$20.

The real reason, though, is I love seeing the ads and reading the letters columns, getting a glimpse back at pop-culture and fandom from yesteryear (probably something I’ve picked up on from going through my stack of pulps).

>Really bad advertisements for Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest

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>Some really creepy fanboying for Tim Drake Robin in the letters sections

>Really bad, ham-fisted AIDS PSA

>Some people really excited to buy almost half a dozen variants of the same issue

>Some people really mad about obvious and cynical short term cashing in via half a dozen variants of the same issue

>Editor of DC admitting as early as 92 that with the millions of copies being printed, the collectors’ market was a house of cards, nothing would be worth anything.

Chuck Dixon’s Robin stories are good enough to make me real fan of the character, seeing Gotham through the eyes of some characters close to, but not, Batman. Not enough to make me a squeeing Robin Fanboi, but enough to keep an eye out for any of the Robin mini-series.

Still loving the Legends of the Dark Knight stuff. Destiny makes me hope that there are more stories about Old Norse “Bat Man” (who is basically a deeply introspective version of Dark Wolf from Fire & Ice). There probably aren’t, though.

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As recent as 2015, with the Convergence event, there was a Batman & the Outsiders 2-parter, with Katana in her old costume and Halo with long hair. This makes me optimistic for DC.

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Unfortunately, Suicide Squad looks like the Harley Quinn show and Katana still has her garbage New 52 redesign. I’d like to see her on another team away from the Harley Quinn trashfire.

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Seriously, I’ll be convinced that Suicide Squad is a trash title so long as Harley’s a part of the team.

I know I’d sworn off DC with the New 52, but I may get back in if I find the right title. Until then, though, so long as this #comicsgate mess is going on, I’ll be supporting my local comic shop by buying back issues of 20 and 30 year old stories I’ve missed out on.

A Throw-Away Post About Comics and Mary Lou Retton

Paperwork Ninja noticed that Sparkler (despite being a Hispanic dude) looks like he may have been modeled after Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton.

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Given that the Force of July a) debuted around the same time that MLR was at her Olympic peak and b) was created as a strawman to beat up on Reagan-patriotism, it’s actually plausible!

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Ronald Reagan photographed endorsing Sparkler just following the announcement that he’d be joining the Force of July.

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All members of the Force of July were killed off in the godawful hodgepodge Checkmate/Suicide Squad crossover event, The Janus Directive. Here’s Sparkler getting killed by Dr. Light.

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Mayflower was my favorite member of the Force. Her deal was that she had control over plants and talked with a cheesy Dickensian urchin accent, all “‘ello, guv’nor!” like.

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She got garroted by some shmuck :/Ravan_0009

Now for something to be happy about.

Halo is so chipper that Raven has a hard time being a wet blanket around her.

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This panel is hella ironic, tho, given Halo’s origin story and what a train-wreck Violet Harper was before an alien consciousness inhabited her dead body.

Does This Mean We Can Have a Batman and the Outsiders Now?

With the success of Suicide Squad and a DC Cinematic Universe debut for Katana, here is my pitch for a Batman and the Outsiders Movies to follow the new Justice League movie that can make Mike Barr’s asinine origin story for the team actually work and be relevant:

After whatever strains between heroes the Justice League incidents create, tensions remain high between DC heroes.  Batman wants the Justice League to intervene in a Civil War in Markovia, because he knows that the leader of the country is a good man with western values and the revolutionaries are terrorists; other members of the Justice League say “no way”, so Batman says “Screw You Guys, I’m starting a new team”. Batman’s team of misfits join up with Brion Markov, AKA Geo-Force, to fight the terrorists who are trying to destabilize Markovia. It turns out that Terra (who in this version can be an anti-western radical unlike her brother who wants his country to be an anchor of civilization in an anarchic region) is behind the rebels, and Amanda Waller and the US government are behind Terra – the whole Markovia op is a US backed move to subvert and destabilize the country as part of a proxy war with Russia. While Bruce Wayne is forced into the political sphere to unravel corruption in the US government, he turns the reins of the Outsiders over to Katana.

How awesome would that be?

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Almost as awesome as the fact that Halo is obsessed with Wrath of Khan.

Okay, so, my actual thoughts on Suicide Squad.  Was it worth watching? Yes. Was it the best DC movie I’ve seen since Nolan wrapped his Batman trilogy? Yes. Was it a great, amazing memorable movie? Eh.

If it were up to me, I would’ve tightened a lot up in editing, axing all of the intros and flashbacks. Waller comes in, gives a brief description, we get to the action.  While I accept that this Harley is not the Harley I grew up with, I can’t help feel like she’s out of place. Harley was never much of a fighter back in her early incarnations, though she’d always talk a big game (which was part of the joke); she could get in some cheap shots while someone wasn’t looking, but seeing her as some kind of waif-fu action girl who could hold her own alongside Killer Croc was odd.  I get why she’s there – she’s a popular and attractive female character that they could stick on a team where even slightly more than casual DC fans have not heard of half the characters. Still, she’s ‘notmyharley’, just not for the reasons most folks are bandying about. Ironically, as the one character that everyone knew the backstory for, she had the most attention paid to hers in flashbacks despite only one actual plot point revolving around her and Joker. Again, something I would’ve tightened up.

It was fun to see Will Smith being Will Smith again, even if it was as a two-bit Batman villain and even if he did dial it back a lot.  Cuz last time we got to see Will Smith be Will Smith was MIB 3. The Harley stuff kept SS from being more of a Deadshot movie, which it felt like it wanted to be at times and may have been better had it been. The biggest travesty of Suicide Squad was the missed opportunity for Will Smith to refer to Captain Boomerang as Captain Kangaroo.

Much as I woulda liked to see CCH Pounder as Waller, I gotta admit, Viola Davis was solid.

Killer Croc had the best laugh lines.

The movie coulda used a better villain/story/plot – as it was it was kinda “Rollerskating carrying a plate of spaghetti is a bad idea: the movie.” Oh, crap, now the spaghetti is everywhere and they’ve gotta clean it up, but they haven’t taken the rollerskates off!  What are they gonna do?!  Really, though, the plot and villain felt like the sort of thing you’d see in a second movie in a series.  At least they didn’t spend the ENTIRE movie setting up the characters’ backstories and trying to painstakingly show the team origins. Assault on Arkham was a better Suicide Squad movie, but this one was still worth watching, even though it seems like I’m doggin’ on it.

So, what are the odds on Chris Nolan’s Dunkirk secretly being a Wonder Woman tie-in?