There’s just something exponentially frustrating about the failure of a product that could have been great. Remember Crystal Pepsi? McDonald’s Big and Tasty? Marvel Post-Hickman’s Secret Wars? It's safe to say that the recent live-action Suicide Squad would definitely fall into that category.
How a major media powerhouse like Warner Brothers could screw up a concept that was essentially “The Dirty Dozen in a comic movie,” with decades of quality material built up providing a treasure trove of ideas…good god, what in the name of Fate happened?
Fingers can (accurately) point to casting missteps, studio interference, and directorial boo-boos for a lackluster, painful film. But what could have been done to save that damn thing? How could the basic premise be rescued and molded into something that would have been both a blockbuster cash cow AND an actually enjoyable flick?
First off, let’s play pretend and imagine that Warner Bros executives were struck by a strange feeling deep down in the recesses of their hollow souls and vacant minds: if we focus our studios’ efforts on making a GOOD film instead of FLASHY film, maybe it will be better regarded…and perhaps make more money? That flash of clarity would plague them, prohibiting them from interfering with the producers and directors, give the film a reasonable budget to force more efficient flimmaking, and a strong director that has a style that could match the incredible tone of the trailers… Remember, this is a suspension of disbelief, so play along with me.
With that alien notion worming its way into the very fiber of this project, the executives tap a director with extremely strong dialogue, with a great sense of not only comedic rhythm but also mystery and action. A guy like Shane Black, with mountains of cash banked from Iron Man 3, a career-resuscitating performance from Robert Downey Jr in his Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and a list of amazing scripts that have action and humor in near equal measure without sacrificing one for the other.
Now that the director/writer is in place (with a loving assist from DC creative juggernaut Geoff Johns and story ideas from John Ostrander, natch), let’s turn our gaze towards characters and a storyline.
The perfect SS has a good mix of loose cannons and snarky assholes, people with skills that can take out people with powers. I’m immediately eliminating the Enchantress, Diablo, and Killer Croc due to the HUGE supernatural forces of Enchantress & Diablo that could really overshadow the team, and Croc because he just doesn’t seem to fit the aesthetic. Replacing them will be Knockout, Bronze Tiger, and Count Vertigo. Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, and Katana will be staying, as will Rick Flagg and Amanda Waller. The patsy this time around (the guy who gets killed simply to prove a point) will be Sportsmaster, because fuck that guy.
The casting wasn’t entirely poor for the original film, and I may be the one person who enjoyed Jai Courtney’s bumbling Captain Boomerang. Margot Robbie, Kara Fukuhara, and Viola Davis also return, and Steven Lang joins the cast as King Faraday. Deadshot will instead be played by Aldis Hodge, who provides a MUCH needed assholiness to the role of Floyd Lawton (and it’s addition by subtraction without the awkward presence of Will Smith desperately trying to be edgy), and Rick Flagg will be Jesse Williams this time around.
Bronze Tiger will be portrayed by a world-weary Michael Jai White (who was picture-perfect casting on Arrow, and IDGAF if he was in the Arrowverse he’s too perfect not to use here), Count Vertigo will be played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau of Game of Thrones fame, and Knockout will be Vikings’ excellent Kathryn Winnick.
The story will be as such: King Faraday has planned a clandestine meeting with Amanda Waller to discuss a potential terrorist assassination plot. Also at the meeting is Maxwell Lord and General Sam Lane. Faraday has learned that representatives from Kahndaq plan on infiltrating an assembly that the US Secretary of State will be putting on for ambassadors from Russia, China, and Mexico. Faraday figures these hits will be made in a way that pins the blame on America, which could mean super-powered villains. Here he turns to Amanda Waller and asks for Task Force X.
The squad is assembled, with each prisoner being brought together in the same vein as the Ayers’ version, except this time Katana starts off in the prison with them. When their weapons are dispersed Harley gets the original version of her costume, the harlequin full-body suit, as a form of mockery. She then asks for some boots and a belt, and proceeds to cut a version of this suit out of the one she was given:
In the meantime, the SoS and the ambassadors are meeting in Seattle. They and their guards are shown to their enormous, gorgeous resort hotel – where we see what may be ninjas in the shadows. Soon, the complex is locked down by the League of Assassins, hired by the Kahndaq government and headed by Amon Tomaz.
Once word arrives that the resort is under attack, the squad is assembled and deployed, dickhead Sportsmaster (played with smarmy gusto by Sean William Scott) takes off, and in the distance, his head explodes right off. The group, sufficiently persuaded to resume their quest, makes their way into the large compound.
During the course of the film, the audience learns that Katana is secretly Flagg’s eyes and ears into the dealings of the Squad, and Vertigo is actually another operative of Kahndaq, with promises of the Kahndaq government helping him regain the throne of Vlatava. We also get to learn a bit more about Knockout, how she’s not just a super-powered villain, but actually an escaped member of the Furies from Apokalypse, foreshadowing events in the Justice League movie.
Part of the climax of the movie is learning that Joker (again played by Jared Leto, but with vastly fewer dumb tattoos - that body art really seemed to distract from the character more than enhance him. "Haha" written across his knuckles seems subtle enough) has been held at the resort as a form of witness protection for giving up half of the Gotham underworld, but has also been part of this Kahndaq cabal, lured in by promises of not just regaining Harley, but also diplomatic immunity toward any of his actions. So it’s Joker, Amon Tomaz with a degree of Black Adam’s powers, and Count Vertigo against the Suicide Squad. In the fight, Bronze Tiger seemingly sacrifices himself to save a Chinese ambassador, and it becomes a crazed fight to the finish as Joker triggers a bomb to annihilate the resort and everything in it because…well, he’s fucking crazy.
SS saves the day, some of the League gets away, and in the end Waller is back in the room with Faraday, Lord (played by Ian Somerhalder), and Lane (Liam Neeson), discussing the future of Task Force X. We also see the body of Bronze Tiger in a morgue, and an injection causes him to wake up. He gasps, and says, “Jesus, all the training in the world wouldn’t have been able to bring me back if you weren’t able to get to me in time.”
It’s Batman. Tiger had been working as his inside man, and part of their agreement sees Tiger – one of his old partners from his time in the League – free once again. Tiger says how it’s not just the Squad and its adventures that need his attention, but also this story that Knockout told him…
Aaaaaaand that’s it. With this reconfigured film we've hired a director known for snappy dialogue, great character chemistry, solid action sequences, and expert handling of damaged protagonists. We've hired people that have good physicality as well as charisma, but without feeling forced. There are villains doing what villains do best - betrayal, violence, and self-preservation - without forced Hearts of Gold. We've made a story that hints at a greater DCU (Kahndaq, Black Adam & Shazam, Vlatava, Apokalypse, League of Assassins, shadowy government operatives, etc) by utilizing properties that WB/DC already owns, and the best part is that there's no absolutely tired cliche of 'OH DANG THE WORLD IS ENDING' with a towering energy structure.
I sincerely believe that WB could have made a really fun, exciting movie that really digs deep into the world of DC Comics, and for some reason, they dropped the ball. This is just my own version of how to fix that movie, so like it, hate it, or even share your own ideas.