Warner Bros.’ adaptation of DC’s “super-villains forced to go on black-ops missions by shady government operatives” comic book Suicide Squad definitely has my attention. Its writer/director David Ayer has clearly studied the social media brilliance of James Gunn, who built Guardians of the Galaxy buzz during production by sharing stories and pictures from the set through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (so many cute pictures of his dog!). That tactic was mirrored by The Amazing Spider-Man 2 director Mark Webb, who released one photo a day through social media for every 100 days of filming. Obviously, that translated to very different results for both films. So, you know, their primary job is still to make a movie people like.
We are around 17 months away from seeing if Ayer manages to do that with Suicide Squad, but for a movie which hasn’t even started filming yet it is amazing the way Ayer has managed to give it a near-constant social media buzz over the past couple of months. Of course, part of that has nothing to do with him and everything to do with notorious film scooper ElMayimbe using his Instagram account to release such a steady stream of potential spoilers that you assume someone must have simply given him (or her?) the shooting script. The latest? Some craziness about Suicide Squad’s plot actually taking place in-between Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice even though it will come out around 4 months after Batman v Superman. Plus, someone the Joker famously killed in the comics will have been someone the Jared Leto Joker also killed many years ago, well before we meet him in Suicide Squad, thus explaining why the Joker and Harley Quinn will have broken up.
For his part, Ayer has consistently been posting pictures teasing the direction the movie will take, and the one everyone has latched onto is the on-going mystery over what Jared Leto’s Joker will actually look like. Leto’s a rock singer who non-ironically looks like Buddy Christ from Kevin Smith’s Dogma:
So, they have been chronicling his transformation with a series of pictures, everyone lamenting the eventual moment when he had to cut his long hair. So, of course, when Ayer tweeted a cast photo from the first Suicide Squad table read everyone instantly realized Leto was conspicuously absent, leading to the hashtag “WhereIsJared.”
That’s (left to right) David Ayer, Joel Kinnaman (team leader Rick Flagg), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Killer Croc), Jay Hernandez (El Diablo), Jai Courtney (Boomerang), Viola Davis (Amanda Waller), Adam Beach (Ravan?), Jim Parrack (Deathstroke) and Ike Barinholtz (Hugo Strange). In front of them is Will Smith (Deadshot), the Philly boy still sporting a Phillies hat, Karen Fukuhara (Plastique), Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn) and Cara Delevingne (Enchantress).
Cause for concern? This supporting cast is at least four people bigger than it was just a month ago, and there are yet others who’ve been cast in unidentified roles. So, yeah, they’re throwing a lot in there.
Cause for snarky outrage? How dare Margot Robbie look that good in such unflattering lighting and apparently minimal make-up! Not fare!
Reason to celebrate? As Forbes pointed out:
Of the twelve people in the above-noted photo (not including Ayer himself), four of them are female, two of them are non-white women, and three of them are non-white males. That means less than half of the cast is comprised of white men, which is an oddity for any blockbuster franchise, even if of course we don’t know how big every actor’s respective role is going to be. But the potential exists for a genuinely multicultural, racially diverse and gender-balanced franchise that would by default pale to everything but the Fast & Furious films […] The ingredients are all there, from a marketing perspective at least, for a film that plays out like a Fast & Furious style crime/anti-hero caper within the DC Universe. It’s uncommonly diverse, it stars antiheroes or out-and-out villains, and it has the potential to be a somewhat real world action thriller, with real stunts and practical fight scenes with periodic doses of superpowers.
As for Leto, we’ve been getting all of this in stages, and the next one is a picture of Leto with green hair re-enacting the iconic cover of the Alan Moore graphic novel The Killing Joke. Never read it? Spoiler Alert: it’s the one where The Joker shoots and paralyzes Barbara “Batgirl” Gordon:
It’s naïve to think that how Jared Leto looks as the Joker doesn’t really matter just as it’s naïve to be surprised that so many people care, especially since this is one of the most iconic characters in comic book history but especially because it’s only been 7 years since we saw Heath Ledger’s “scars” in The Dark Knight. However, at this very moment I do not personally care what Leto will look like as the Joker.
Why? Because they haven’t even started filming yet, and August 2016 is a long way away.
Why? Because I’m not ready to move on from Heath Ledger’s Joker.
Why? Because I don’t actually get the impression that Leto’s Joker will be getting a significant amount of screen-time even if his presence looms large over the plot.
Why? Because I’ve already experienced three cinematic Jokers at this point (Romero, Nicholson, Ledger) whereas I’ve never seen many of the Suicide Squad characters in anything live-action before and even then sometimes it was just on Arrow or The Flash where the budget is much smaller than a big movie.
Why? Because I don’t need anything other than Harley Quinn to make me excited for this movie. As far as I am concerned, the The Joker in the Suicide Squad is a mere necessity to finally give us a live action Harley Quinn. He’s a box office insurance character they’ve thrown in which I am accepting because I am a huge fan of the New 52 Suicide Squad comic book, and also because I don’t know how you do Harley Quinn without at least some kind of initial presence for The Joker.
As a reader of the New 52 Suicide Squad and huge fan of the character of Harley Quinn, I am more excited to see this movie than Batman v Superman. The Suicide Squad is a very irreverent, R-rated comic, killing off the least essential members of its team with delightful abandon. All of that was beautifully realized in the recent DC Animated film Batman: Assault on Arkham in which the Deadshot-led Squad is tasked with breaking in to Arkham Asylum to free someone. Of course, the Joker is in there as a Hannibal Lector figure who hijacks the plot in the last act, something I somewhat anticipate the Leto Joker to repeat. I want this movie to be something close to the New 52 version I know, although I understand why David Ayer is combining different eras of the comics, putting characters like Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) and Rick Flag, Jr. (Joel Kinnaman) on the team even though they haven’t been going concerns in the comics for years.
Obviously, I do care what Jared Leto will look like as the Joker or else I would have completely ignored the headlines and never bothered to look at David Ayer’s Twitter photo. However, as a Suicide Squad fan I think the Joker is pulling focus a little. Personally, I care way more about what Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn will look like. Ultimately, I just want a good Suicide Squad movie which plays out a bit like a comic book Fast & Furious.
What do you think? Do you care at all about Leto’s look? Do you dread the possibility of Suicide Squad simply being a glorified backdoor pilot for a solo Ben Affleck Batman movie? Or do you think it’s crazy for us to care about any of this yet considering how far away we are from 8/5/16? Or is the bigger concern the ever-ballooning cast? Let me know in the comments.