On Junk Food, Suicide Squad, and Story Telling

suicide squad

I really enjoyed Suicide Squad.

I describe it as, “big, stupid fun,” like delicious, carcinogenic junk food. Critics hate it, but most people are calling Suicide Squad ‘fun’. I’ve been trying to figure out what is it about Suicide Squad that makes it fun. What are the structural things that make this movie work despite its many failings?

suicide squad harleyLet’s face it, Suicide Squad is a hot mess; it may be fun, but it is not good. The plot is just barely there, the character development is haphazard at best, and I’m surprised Ghostbusters hasn’t asked for their villain back.

Why are there approximately 15 million flashbacks of Harley and the Joker, but just the tiniest sliver of background on the Enchantress, the villain with the tragic backstory the audience should be super invested in?

There are dozens of such questions about Suicide Squad that cannot be answered by Suicide Squad. Yet people like it. I liked it. Why? Why do people enjoy this shitty movie?

Here’s a little background on what happened to the plot of Suicide Squad:

It has been thoroughly reported by now that after Batman vs Superman imploded into a black hole of hate and despair, Warner Brothers panicked. With a very short time left before the Suicide Squad release, they concluded that movie goers were going to freak out when they saw a movie that was typical DC grim-dark, rather than the poppy-cute-kawaii super villains and kittens trailer that got such a strong marketing response.

In the grip of panic, WB decided that the best course of action was to hire Trailer Park, the company that made the original trailer, to create a brand new cut of the movie. They were to inject humor into the film, edit, and reshoot where needed. This resulted in gutted subplots, the Disney-fication of hardcore super villains, and some ham fisted ‘jokes’ shoved into the first half of the movie. You can tell what scenes were added by the trailer company because they are the only parts of the movie with a pop music soundtrack; seriously.

Anything that would have given the movie depth is gone. What I consider the ‘fun’ parts of the story don’t even start until the popcorn butter fingerprints of Trailer Park vanish, about halfway into the film.

So Suicide Squad was butchered by studio interference, but something of the core must have survived. There’s something there that people are responding to. What is it?

chili cheese friesJunk food is really simple. It has three ingredients; sweet, salt, fat. Anything more complicated is going to bring to attention the fact that you are eating the worst chocolate in the world, or nearly rancid vegetable oil instead of organic butter. Or Cheetos.

Our basic junk food elements in Suicide Squad are some really basic tropes. We have your basic Super Team trope, which brings together a mix of heroes (villains in this case) with nothing in common at the beginning, who maybe don’t like each other, but are forced together by some circumstance. Our super team has a collective arc throughout the film, and by the end they have transformed into the Bad Ass Crew trope, fighting together as a unit to defeat the Big Bad and save the world.

That’s it, that’s the basic structure of Suicide Squad, and why people have so much fun watching it. This arc is told through the interactions of the characters, as they gradually shift from “each villain for themselves” to “hey, you’re gonna die if you do that thing” relationships. Watching a group of people have to work together and grow to care about each other is a very easy thing for most people to empathize with.  It’s just barely enough to propel the movie forward.

Suicide Squad is a surreal example of what makes a movie with mass appeal. It doesn’t have to be good in any sense that critics look for, but if the most essential bones of storytelling are there, viewers will have a good time, and they will tell their friends to see it.

I do think that, because the core was strong enough to survive the bizarre editing decisions, it would have been strong enough to carry that 30 minutes of footage lost to Ayer’s original cut.  Here’s hoping the blu-ray release has another cut, I would love to see if it holds up.