Even with its potential for mindless fun, Suicide Squad loses its momentum in almost every prospect that Guardians of the Galaxy patiently built itself upon.
[This article contains spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy and Suicide Squad.]
Just put Suicide Squad and Guardians of the Galaxy side by side for comparison, and you’d eventually see a juxtaposition. Despite being considered similar in particular aspects (they even came out in the same time slot – early August), these two presumably subversive movies from Marvel Studios and DC Films contrast each other on every level.
They only have one thing in common: a band of misfits saving the world (or the galaxy).
And also a bunch of plot holes, but why is Guardians of the Galaxy technically superior and far more enjoyable than Suicide Squad?
FIRST IMPRESSIONS AND DEVELOPMENTS
Squad opens with a flamboyant 15-minute montage, which is packed with expository footage; the second and third acts lazily pitch over-glamorized yet insubstantial characterization, boring action sequences on a lifeless backdrop, and sloppy editing of an underdeveloped script from David Ayer. For instance, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn appears as a raunchy re-imagination of this iconic character, blowing bubble-gum and swinging her baseball bat through a field of monsters that’d take more than firearms to put down. She smashes a window and steals a purse, which is the most unlawful action accomplished by any members. The main characters, especially Deadshot, are shamelessly enforced with plot-induced stupidity only to show off. There is nothing at stake, only a fatiguing void of banality. That explains why the movie is still polarizing, even amongst the DCEU fanbase, and for the most part, why Squad couldn’t reach the enthralling prestige of Guardians.
Even when being regarded at the same level of superficiality as Squad, Guardians still managed to make audiences feel invested. Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket, and Groot are briefly introduced in a playful clash of violence and trickery in Xandar, and later (together with Drax) get their own screen-time to clarify basic characteristics. Here, the notable achievement is that Gunn immediately grabbed our attention with swashbuckling entertainment and gradually peeled away the surface. Layers of their broken spirits, even a bit thin, are given out willingly to viewers’ perception. It’s a process laid out over the course of plot development through engrossing interactions between all five characters. The Guardians are their own person, and also speaking rodent, and humanoid tree. Distinctive traits are actualized through their convictions because they don’t just stand there or stroll around with cool and tough demeanors. They deceive, destroy, mourn, weep, and love, looking jazzy all the time.
ABOUT THE IDEA OF VILLAINY
If you tell a story about a group of criminals doing good deeds, please make them look like real criminals (especially if you aim at grittiness). Only with that, the story could come to a well-earned satisfaction in the end.
Squad hands over its central characters – some amongst them are household names – to a bland, incompetent quasi-authoritative figure: Rigg Flag, who is portrayed to absolute monotony by Joel Kinnaman. The movie might have aimed at painting Smith’s Deadshot as a charismatic crook, so it’d be reasonable for Kinnaman to not step on Smith’s feet in this territory. However, Kinnaman barely added any gravitas to a supposedly stolid, responsible, already by-the-book militant working under Amanda Waller. This is the salient foundation for mediocrity, with which most of the Task Force X members display through their behaviors. Two or three throw punches at prison guards; that’s about all for the confrontational attitude. There are at least three times throughout the movie when they have the chance to take control over the situation, and still, none of these villains feel the need to walk the walk, highly likely due to Ayer’s flimsy writing.
In another cinematic universe, the Guardians relentlessly travel (on their own) from one facility to the next, leaving a trail of damage for public and private properties in the wake of their half-formed group. They wreak havoc with their selfishness and genuine enthusiasm for resisting Nova Empire’s forces. Once again, it’s worth to mention that Gunn and co. executed the movie not without plot holes and kiddy conventions; no doubt, because it is still an MCU movie. However, the engaging fun we feel from these characters carries on so smoothly that it offers us, on a technical level, more than enough reasons to gloss over the plot’s mild irritation. The sequence in Kyln marked the first milestone, as their personalities are compressed and then explode into a surprising spectacle of amusement and PG-13 brutality. But the fiery spirit seen in our A-holes doesn’t just stay there. They show outright opposition to the Nova Corps; yet when the time comes, the Guardians manage to win over their trust and even form a collaborative scheme to deal with Ronan’s adversity. They are a mixture of illegal infuriation and loveable high jinks, so aren’t they more deserved to be adored and called “outlaws”?
A SHRED OF HUMANITY?
The relationship between Joker and Harley Quinn has been way too ridiculous ever since Warner Bros. released their TV Spots. The core idea about their entanglement from source materials is that Joker is abusive and cynical. There is no slight bit of love in him for Harley: he rarely cares about her feelings while she falls head over heels for his mesmerizing psyche. I’m not being a comic snob, but adaptations must at least stay true to this aspect. However, DC has wrongly compromised in altering Joker and Harley’s love to appeal to the mainstream taste. Non-fans always perceived the couple as ideally sweet, and in this effect, a majority of viewers admire their bond of insanity, which is now “accepted” as mentally stable. Joker and Harley’s incarnations in DCEU branched out too far away from their roots and slide into a reality filled with “relationship goal” memes. Obviously, Ayer was out of his depth because that’s not how you treat this iconic couple. In addition, Deadshot is the one given the most amount of treatment in humanity, and his share is little better than Harley’s. The daughter provides an emotional anchor for him to have a grip on the light side, but attaching her to the father and belittling the mother proves nothing more than forcing the girl to choose the lesser of two evils. The two scenes in the alley and in the final act really exhaust viewers with their excessive cheesiness. Dragged on too long, they add absolutely no sentimental heft to the situations.
How about Guardians? This roster of The Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t comprise Marvel household names, so that was a safe bet. They start off as five self-centered individuals (okay, Groot is adorable and gets on well with Rocket) with their own ulterior motives: easy cash grabs or pursuits of vengeance. They want the Power Stone for profit; yet, their conflicts are actually what set the ground to propel dialogues to sincerity. Whereas Star-Lord gets his personal time with Gamora and the reason for these two to be rebellious is more fleshed out, Rocket Raccoon is the most charming here. In a fit of temper, the genetically enhanced rodent spits out harsh words to Drax, and viewers can just feel a massive flow of emotions that is so earned. “I don’t care if it’s mean. Everybody’s got dead people! But it makes no excuse to letting everyone else around get killed along the way!” This resonates with us because not only the sentiments are intuitively authentic but also the scene goes in an unexpected way – as Rocket always seems to be a frantic, bitter egomaniac. Viewers learn the tragic backgrounds behind them, which made them the exact opposite of straight-and-square and also are a sufficient motivation for them to bond together as pairs and as a whole group.
VISUAL STYLE AND MUSIC
*Squad’*s flashy intro is undeniably stylistic with vibrant designs. However, everything after it just falls into a lethargic scheme of “dark and gritty”. With a downbeat overtone, you can still enrich the color palette; you knew that but didn’t choose to do it, right Ayer? Moreover, the background for Middle City turns into masses of dark matter – too hard to distinguish and follow; somewhere along the way, they just throw in a slimy mess of junk that used to be vehicles as action set pieces. For all that, Ayer still managed to jam in a typical plasmatic machine of planetary destruction, which reminds us of the one in Fant4stic – with an energy pillar at the center of a revolving trash wheel. The soundtrack is loaded with rap and dubstep numbers, mostly for the sake of atmospheric filler since they usually felt out of tone with scenes they accompanied, while Heathens and Purple Lamborghini were saved only for the opening and the end credit.
Guardians is a different story. The mise-en-scène for airships, buildings, and especially the decapitated head of a Celestial in Knowhere is impressively composed. This movie dares to travel into the depth of the universe and knows when to be bright and extravagant – as in the battle sequence on Xandar, and when to be ominously bleak – as in shots of Peter’s home on Earth and the outer space. Its soundtrack is only a collection of 70s pop, but what stole our hearts with candor here is that they were used as an effective tool to prime and communicate Peter’s feelings. The songs are from a mixtape that his mother used to cherish so much when she was alive. Peter never got over her death; he even refused to hold her hand and open the gift from her after decades, because he just couldn’t let her go. This element provides a leverage for his character arc, which comes to whole at the end of the movie when Peter welcomes the fellow Guardians into his life. Likewise, he also uses the music to pierce Gamora’s steel-hard mentality, as he tells here that the universe only consists of two kinds of people: ones who like to dance and ones who do not. Their connection is based on contradistinction, so when the relationship blooms, viewers will have unknowingly latched onto it.
In its hope of catching up to Marvel Cinematic Universe, DC Films took a poor leap of faith and rushed into a hazardous body of water (i.e, the anti-heroes). Even with its potential for mindless fun, Suicide Squad accumulatively lost its momentum in almost every prospect that Guardians of the Galaxy patiently built itself upon, hence the inferiority to its MCU “counterpart”.
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