3 - The Suicide Squad

D. Paul Harrison, 09 August 2021


I wrote a bunch of words about The Suicide Squad.

What I’m watching

The Suicide Squad

Short review: It was good, very stylish, fun, and interesting.

As a comics fan, I’m used to creators having their own take on characters and properties, and it’s interesting to see the different approaches movies have to adapting the source material. In comics, there are a lot of stories that rhyme, but not a lot that directly remake older stories. The Life Story series from Marvel (Spider-Man: Life Story written by Chip Zdarsky, and Fantastic Four: Life Story written by Mark Russell) are an example of doing this, adapting entire decade’s worth of stories into single issues, with the caveat that it’s happening in a more realistic time scale. In addition, the Ultimate Universe loved doing this, and had its own Clone Saga, its own Galactus series, etc etc.

On the DC side, the more comprehensive reboots led to things that only rhymed, for the most part. In the New 52, Steel isn’t inspired by Superman’s death, but is more generally inspired by Superman, and Steel coming around is one of the first things that happens in the new universe. This is just the most recent example I’ve uh, read, but even in the New 52 there were not a lot of direct remakes of older stories.

At its base level, the Marvel movies never directly adapt any comic stories. Even the ones that contain origin stories (Dr. Strange, Captain Marvel, Captain America: The First Avenger, Guardians), only have a few things in common with the comic origin stories, so it’s more like a retcon or retelling in the comics. The movies, therefore, feel more like a new creative team coming on a book and doing their thing with it, tied down by previous continuity only insofar as “editorial” will let them get away with it.

This leads me to The Suicide Squad, which functions as a movie in a series, a movie in the DC universe, and a creative team getting a shot to do something special. The original conceit of the Suicide Squad in the comics really makes this easy to do; Waller is really the only common character, and in the comics this eventually led to things like Secret Six and other, similar books, of rotating casts of villains.

In the end, Suicide Squad can easily be a repository of characters that no one else is using - so fuck it, do what you want. And this movie brings this energy, intensely. The low-continuity stakes and high narrative stakes is what made the comics so good, and it being adapted into this kind of film, works perfectly.

When adapting novels, you are following a text that has an ending. When you’re creating a filmed version of a comic, you’re telling another story with those characters. It’s easy to see why it is such a good story engine for films, as it’s been a story engine for itself this entire time.

And finally, Idris Elba should be in every blockbuster franchise, and he is well on his way. We got DC, Marvel, Star Trek, Fast, and uh… Cats. Yeah, he’s got this.