When I saw the first picture of Rila Fukushima as Katana in an upcoming episode of Arrow I thought, “Eh, this is the CW we’re talking about here. It’s not like they have a ton of money. Maybe a female vigilante whose mask is a replica of the Japanese flag is never going to translate well to live action.”
When I first saw the picture of Karen Fukuhara as Katana in David Ayer’s upcoming Suicide Squad film I thought, “That’s not really a major improvement over Arrow!” Actually, that’s not true. My real first thought was, “Is that Katana? WTF? I had no idea she was even going to be in this movie. “ We’d been told Fukuhara was playing Plastique. For all we know, she still could be since we can’t really see a face behind that Katana mask. Whoever it is, they’re not really doing an amazing job of massively besting a silly CW show. In fact, when I look at the entire cast photo David Ayer just released I inevitably keep comparing it to Arrow since that show already has its own version of the Suicide Squad and characters like Deadshot and Captain Boomerang. You forgive Arrow’s obvious budgetary limitations because, as I said, it’s the CW.
Here’s the cast photo:
There’s no such built-in excuse for the Suicide Squad, a big budget, bad guy team-up movie which will be 2016’s second installment in Warner Bros.’ new DC Cinematic Universe (after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice). Jared Leto’s completely unexpected and thoroughly weird Joker, who will serve as an antagonist and thus not an actual member of the Squad, looks like a mash-up of Macaulay Culkin from Home Alone, a white supremacist from HBO’s Oz, and the traditional Joker. They’ve kept the weird going with the rest of the cast, Enchantress looking like a grown-up version of the little girl from The Ring, El Diablo like a zombified member of the high school football team, Killer Croc like a hoodie-loving bouncer with a skin condition, Harley Quinn like a stripper from a Rob Zombie movie, and Katana making her love for Japan clear by bearing its flag on her head AND shoulder. Everyone else comes off as heavily fortified soldiers.
Maybe I’m simply distracted by how much this looks like some high school class photo. In fact, beyond Arrow I am reminded of the aborted animated series Gotham High, DC’s brief flirtation with doing a Clone High for the Batman universe by placing teenage versions of the following characters in high school together: Clayface, Two-Face, The Penguin, Killer Croc, The Riddler, Batgirl, Batman, Scarecrow, Catwoman, Joker, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Bane and Mr. Freeze.
I am also getting a weird video game movie vibe from this Suicide Squad photo, like how this:
Of course, it’s easy to pick on 1994’s Streetfighter, and Suicide Squad doesn’t look nearly as bad or cheap. It’s more that sometimes the second you see a picture you think, “Yeah, that looks like a video game movie” or “that looks like a non-Marvel Studios comic book movie.” That’s Suicide Squad right now.
As I (and many others) have argued, Suicide Squad’s ace in the hole is Harley Quinn. She is forever etched in an entire generation’s memory due to her recurring presence in Batman: The Animated Series, the show for which she was actually created. She has featured prominently in all of the Rocksteady-produced Batman: Arkham video games. And she is quite possibly the best-selling female character in all of comics right now, certainly the best-selling for DC (better than Wonder Woman, Catwoman, etc.). She has gone from this:
The obvious trajectory is her increased sexualization, and I do wish that the Margot Robbie version didn’t look so much like a stripper, although I feel like I’ve seen Harley Quinn dress somewhat similarly on occasion in the New 52 (and others have argued she looks more roller derby than stripper). However, I’ve learned from X-Men: Days of Future Past that questionable cast photos should be graded on a curve and more fairly judged once seen in the actual context of the film at which point any number of lighting techniques might distract you from noticing what the cold, hard light of day makes completely apparent.
For the Suicide Squad to work it needs to be the antithesis of the rather dour-looking Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. True to the comic, it needs to be anarchic and funny and insane. Their models should be Fast & Furious and Guardians of the Galaxy with some nods to prior villain team-up movies like The Dirty Dozen. Yet, with a cast that seems to be growing by the day they are really stacking the deck against themselves, throwing so many villains at us post-origin story. We’re walking into a world with a guy named Killer Croc for rather literal reasons, an ex-athlete who calls himself El Diablo, a sword-wielding assassin who talks to her sword because she believes it to contain the soul of her beloved, a literally magical Enchantress, a baseball bat-sporting lovesick psycho who was once a promising young prison psychologist, a hardened criminal whose nickname is a non-ironic “Captain Boomerang,” and a couple of soldiers. Plus, Batman and the Joker will apparently be around on the periphery, having already been fighting each other for years. What I get from the cast photo is that David Ayer and company are definitely going for fun and weird, putting together a bunch of characters that don’t otherwise make sense together, in classic Suicide Squad fashion. It’s the right impulse, but I’m not so sure about their execution right now.
What about you? Are you still too distracted by how hard you’re laughing at the cast photo? Or do you kind of dig it?
The Suicide Squad is due out August 5, 2016.