This week the film Suicide Squad premieres. On August 5, people in the United States will see if a group of villains can act as heroes. Early reviews have panned the film, leading fans of Suicide Squad to petition shutting down the Rotten Tomatoes review site.
People have debated whether or not to watch the film. When my brother showed me the trailer, I wasn’t impressed. Tumblr has offered various information about the mishaps on set and Margot Robbie’s denials about Jared Leto harassing her, as well as how important the film is to POC (people of color) actors and viewers. Obviously Suicide Squad comic fans have reason to watch the film, but newcomers ask if they should spend a movie ticket for a few hours. The question concerns the viewers’ principles, and determining the “right” course of action in this case.
Why Not to Watch
Jared Leto’s behavior off-camera has offended many people, especially given he hasn’t faced any consequences. In 2015 several women accused him of rape and sexual assault; some were as young as fifteen. As what typically happens when women make these accusations, Leto has not had to face a trial or charges. While filming Suicide Squad he has harassed crew members, justifying it as method acting staying in character. Costars Margot Robbie and Will Smith have received live or dead animals as “gifts”. For several days people believed that Smith said he didn’t like Leto, which was eventually proven false; still, the claim is plausible.
The teasers for Harley Quinn also don’t look promising. In the trailer she appeared doing gymnastics in a cage and cheerfully acted like she “heard voices” to mess with prison guards. For those familiar with her character in the DC Animated Universe and in the comics, Harley Quinn does not have schizophrenia and she would not joke about it. In fact before becoming a criminal Harleen Quinzell received an MD for clinical psychiatry. The Joker seduced her while she did therapy sessions with him at Arkham Asylum while she was starting residency. Harley in canon pokes fun at how she’s in an abusive relationship, but her mental illness lies firmly in delusions and denial.
Why to Watch
The film give us a mostly POC cast, and less screentime with the Joker than trailers claim. In Hollywood, POC actors have less opportunities to explore roles outside of typecasting, and films like this break the mold. Viola Davis will make an impact as the morally ambiguous Amanda Waller. The latter is someone who believes she takes necessary if unethical actions. Will Smith, who has acted his way through multiple roles, will nail his role since he puts one hundred percent effort into each character he portrays.
Also, Suicide Squad takes several villains and allows them to act as the heroes. Killer Croc in animated media takes villainous roles, for example, so seeing him in a new perspective changes his narrative arc. Deadshot has the conflicted role of accomplished marksman and struggling father, which means his story has potential to intrigue. Perhaps we can get more doting villain parents.
Katana remains a hero, unlike the other recruited supervillains. Despite that she joins the team. Since we don’t see many Asian heroes in the DC universe, with exceptions like Artemis from Young Justice, seeing one on the main screen demands revolution. Giving the film a huge box office will increase the likelihood of more Katana and POC heroes appearing. We could do with that, with Indian Spiderman for example or Cassandra Cain’s Batgirl.
The Bottom Line
Suicide Squad could change Hollywood for the better or condemn it. Either the producers have turned a blind eye to Leto’s crimes or have given minority actors a chance to prove themselves. Will Smith will remain a force of nature, as will Viola Davis. With luck the film’s other actors will get a big break as well.
We’ll find out on August 5th how the movie hits the mainsteam. Loyal Suicide Squad fans are excited, but the newcomers will express their opinions soon. Let’s hope that the good points of Suicide Squad exceed the “method acting” that has resulted, and lead to a Katana or Amanda Waller film.