11:10am PT by Graeme McMillan
'Suicide Squad 2': Why It Needs to Make Its Bad Guys Actually Bad
So now that we know some of the people Warner Bros. is talking to about Suicide Squad 2, perhaps it's time to start asking the next question: What, exactly, is Suicide Squad 2 going to be — and could it end up being closer to the source material?
For all that it lifted, and referenced, from the fan-favorite John Ostrander-written comic book series of the late 1980s and early 1990s, David Ayer's Suicide Squad ended up hewing closer to a traditional superhero movie than the comic that inspired it. Sure, the lead characters were villains — we were told that in files that flashed up onscreen so fast that you could almost read them! — and they were on a mission that certainly looked as if no one would survive, but the movie's overarching narrative was essentially a "save the world from the monster" one, even if the monster was somewhat self-created. There was even a moment at the climax where, given the choice between being selfish or being heroic, the team all chose heroism; they might have broken the law, the movie seemed to be arguing, but deep down, they're all good guys.
While this arguably works for a movie, it's not in keeping with the comic book version of the Squad. In Ostrander's take on the team — and also in the current comic book series, written by Rob Williams — not only are the members of the Squad far more selfish and flawed than their onscreen counterparts, their missions tend to serve an entirely different, altogether more political purpose.
At the concept's best, the comic book Squad was a tool used by a government that was, if not actually corrupt, then certainly self-serving, with little thought given by anyone other than Amanda Waller and the Squad members themselves about the safety or security of those involved. Missions rarely expanded beyond serving political interests — whether it be rescuing political prisoners from totalitarian nations, dealing with terrorist cells with superpowers attacking foreign interests or simply trying to destabilize regimes not favored by the U.S. — and almost never involved scenes where the members of the Squad decided to sacrifice themselves for a greater good.
(That's not to say that members of the Squad didn't sacrifice themselves at times, of course, just that it wasn't really voluntary.)
A second Squad movie doesn't just have the space to evolve in this direction, it also has a need to. Separated from the three things that defined the original — no origin of the team story, as that's been dealt with; no Enchantress threat because she, too, has been dealt with; no Joker/Harley romance, as that presumably will be dealt with in the Gotham City Sirens movie Ayer is working on — Squad 2 is currently a void in need of filling; it has characters, but no direction or plot.
Going in a direction akin to the original comic book not only fills that void, it gives the movie something to differentiate itself from the other superhero movies out there — this isn't the series that's about saving the world, but the one that takes the cynicism visible on the surface of Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier and supercharges it, coming up with a political drama where everyone is either morally compromised to some degree or outright evil. Perhaps that wouldn't be palatable to those already despairing for the lack of optimism and hope in DC's movies to date, but if you can't be grim and mean in a movie that's expressly about the villains of the piece, where can you be?
Perhaps the best thing Warners could do for Suicide Squad 2 would be to go for a director who isn't familiar with the superhero genre, or even the characters themselves, and leaning into that, producing something that isn't really a superhero movie at all. After all, if Suicide Squad 2 ended up being an ill-tempered political thriller with the occasional kickass action scene or two, that might end up being closer to what the comic book deserved all along.