It goes without saying that everyone got a serious kick out of the news that Suicide Squad had a confirmed cast. The two biggest surprises to come out of it were the affirmation of Jared Leto as The Joker, and Will Smith‘s name being tossed into the mix as Deadshot. There’s no denying that a superhero team-up is a crowd-pleaser, especially since Guardians of the Galaxy proved that we don’t need to know the team members to fall in love with them. Add the fact that these are all villains, including Harley Quinn and The Joker!? How could we not get excited?
But now that we’ve had a few hours to calm down and all the glitzy dust has settled, maybe we should take a moment to think about how reliable a line-up of actors DC has put together for us.
First, we’ve got Will Smith. One of the most successful, well-known actors around. It might be argued that Smith has gone a little off the deep-end recently and might be looking to change his image with a DC picture. That might be true, except for the fact that he doesn’t need to change his image. Men in Black 3 grossed $624 million worldwide. 70% on Rotten Tomatoes. Positive responses from critics. Granted, After Earth was mostly a write-off and Focus looks just plain dull, but so what? Clearly the man can still make what he wants and be a hit. Not to mention the fact that he could potentially come back for Independence Day 2 and already has a serious drama in the works with Concussion, an exploration of head trauma in the NFL, due out in 2016. So why Suicide Squad?
The obvious answer is because he likes the part and likes the script. But Smith doesn’t just have to like something and go along with it. If something doesn’t sit right with him, he’ll try and change it. Let’s not forget that he lost out to Jamie Foxx for the lead in Django Unchained because he wanted to shoot the bad guy instead of Christoph Waltz’s character. And this has got me worried. If Smith took this role, it could very well mean that the script was just the way he wanted it, or it was changed to suit him. This is all complete conjecture of course, but could still be bad news. There’s also the question of whether or not he has a contract to appear in other DC films.
But back to the other cast members. Tom Hardy is a dependable choice, given his history with DC (Dark Knight Rises) and his uncanny ability to augment his body shape seemingly at will. As for Jai Courtney, he’ll draw a modest tween audience thanks to the Divergent series if all goes well and will potentially make waves with Terminator: Genisys and add to the already considerable hype. Margot Robbie is starring in Focus alongside Smith, but her role in Wolf of Wall Street is most likely why she’s been given Harley Quinn to make her own. As for Cara Delevingne, she’s been popping her head in the door in a lot of big films recently, including Anna Karenina and the upcoming Pan. And if Aidan Gillen lands Deathstroke, he’s got his Game of Thrones gusto to call on.
And then we have Jared Leto. Between Requiem for a Dream in 2000 and last year’s Dallas Buyers Club, Leto’s acting contributions could easily have been missed if you didn’t know where to look. Two years ago he could very well have been groomed by Marvel as the star of a property all to himself, given his respectable dramatic chops and the kind of Everyman handsome face that pretty much any major superhero can be copy and pasted onto.
And it doesn’t matter that he has an Oscar. If you look at Leto’s track record, you get the impression that his acting trajectory is very much down to the projects he likes, instead of the parts he thinks would make him more successful. Now that he has Best Supporting Actor under his belt I don’t see that changing. Don’t forget that Ledger had a nomination for Brokeback Mountain before he was cast for The Dark Knight , so that’s not the issue.
But if you look at the kind of film The Dark Knight was, and the kind of work that Leto has done in the past, you could start to think that DC are going to stick with their plan to keep things dark and serious. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. Do all superhero movies need to follow the colourful, fun-loving Marvel template? Not necessarily. It’s not so much about following the herd as it is drawing on experience and knowing what works in the long term.
Let’s just have a quick side-by-side comparison with Marvel. Now don’t get antsy, I know they aren’t the same and they can put their universes together in different ways. But we have to consider that DC is starting on the back foot and it’s already trying to catch up with Marvel in terms of output. Just take a look at the line-up of films to come out of both studios over the next few years:
From 2015 onward, we already have word of 23 Marvel properties and 15 DC properties. That seems unbalanced, but if you take away all of the Marvel films that will be released outside of the Marvel Studio system by Fox, Sony and Disney, that leaves Marvel Studios with 9 upcoming films against DC/ Warner Bros.’ 15. So it’s safe to say that DC have come to play, and they’re looking to take up as much space on the calendar as possible. That’s OK though, right? Marvel can’t “own” making good superhero movies can they? Of course not, but here’s the problem: DC simply hasn’t got the foundations for this kind of consistent turnout yet.
By the time we hit 2015, Marvel Studios will have released ten blockbuster productions, all successful, all awaiting sequels (apart from Iron man that already has two and Hulk). By the time the predicted line-up is finished, Marvel Studios’ number of productions will be more than twice as large. And that’s just in the current continuity.
DC has one: Man of Steel.
Now DC has a whole archive of successful films: the original batman series, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Christopher Reeves’ Superman, Watchmen – almost all of them produced by Warner Bros. Their ability to make good films is not in question. But they’ve never had to worry about tying them all together before. No one was telling Tim Burton to make Michael Keaton less self-reliant in case he needed to get involved with the Justice League…although that might explain what happened with Batman Forever . The truth is Marvel has been perfecting for the last six years what DC only started putting into effect a year ago.
I agree that I might be spoiling the party for everyone by saying it’s gonna suck before we even get there. Suicide Squad could be amazing – it’s got enough acting talent to do it. The only question is whether the choice of actors, the choice of tone and the Jenga tower of a movie multiverse are going to play well together when the time comes. Hopefully they will.