Whenever a movie aimed at nerds comes out and takes a critical beating, there’s a script that gets followed. It’s not “for critics,” it’s “for the fans.” Most of the time this is a bit insincere; shouldn’t a movie attempt to make more fans, after all? But in the case of Suicide Squad, it’s a genuinely accurate statement. In some ways it’s the most expensive fan film ever made, and that might be the whole problem.
The comics that inspired Suicide Squad are, and remain, unique. It’s difficult to blend real-world political concerns and superheroes effectively, because you inevitably run into questions like “Why doesn’t Superman just capture ISIS?” Inspired by a long-forgotten adventure comic DC had published in the ’60s, John Ostrander answered that question starting in 1987 with a comic book criticizing American foreign policy at the time. Suicide Squad lingered on the truth that in geopolitics, there is no greater good for a Superman to serve, just messy, complex problems that are often impossible to truly solve. It was as much about the ugly realities of defending a nation’s interests and how that can be abused as it was about superhero fights.
And for fans of the comics, a lot of that gritty, ugly stuff is brought to the screen, reworked for the era of Snowden and WikiLeaks. Viola Davis nails Waller from the comics, who really will kill anyone if it means completing the mission, or saving her own neck. Jai Courtney’s Boomerang offers the spineless cowardice Boomerang is notable for in the comics, and his getting Slipknot killed in the first act could be straight from one of Ostrander’s own scripts. Deadshot is a hitman who really does only love one person in the entire world. In many ways, watching the Suicide Squad is like reading an issue of the comic.