DC Comics films are having an identity crisis. The poorly received and rather maudlin Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice has cast somewhat of a shadow over DC’s planned cinematic universe. The upcoming release of Suicide Squad has a chance to right the ship, but it has its own obstacles to overcome, namely a blonde psychopath with a penchant for clown makeup and indiscriminate havoc.
Suicide Squad, for all intents and purposes, can be the Guardians Of The Galaxy-type sleeper hit that Warner Bros. desperately needs this summer. There are plenty of colorful characters and a solid cast, but its biggest asset is also its biggest problem. Harley Quinn is what I like to refer to as a ‘designer character’. What that means is, it is a character with a very vocal fanbase, which makes others think they are more popular or better than they really are, but when put on a big stage, fail tremendously. Other ‘designer characters’ would be Ghost Rider or Venom, both realized on the big screen and both fell flat.
When you look at the bigger picture and history of the Suicide Squad, it is one of DC’s most diverse, adventurous, and fun properties. Also known as Task Force X in various media, the group has interacted with almost every notable character in the DC Universe. Making their debut appearance in 1959, with the current incarnation of using supervillians introduced in 1987, the unit has taken on everyone from Russian mercenaries to Darkseid and everything in between. Rick Flag Jr., Deadshot, and Captain Boomerang have been tied to the team as its most permanent fixtures while a rotating cast of minor to major supervillians have filled the ranks. They are DC’s version of the Dirty Dozen. They are the worst, the no-good, and also very good at what they do, which is why they are useful.
Harley Quinn, while entertaining, is not useful.
Introduced in Batman: The Animated Series in 1993, Quinn is the oft-abused right hand of the Joker. Once a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum who attempted to treat the Joker, she became obsessed and has become a pawn, punching bag, and sometimes paramour of the Clown Prince Of Crime. She has garnered a very vocal and supportive fanbase, presumably because she is ‘relatable’ to a point, having no superpowers. She is portrayed as a somewhat capable fighter and expert gymnast, but what else is there besides her on again/off again slavish devotion to the Joker?
Quinn was added to the Suicide Squad roster in 2011. It was a win-win for DC Comics as Suicide Squad had been enjoying increasing sales and positive response prior to her addition and bringing Quinn in bought more eyeballs to the title. That seemed to be a decision made for the external optics and not for the good of the book. Harley Quinn is a very popular character, being portrayed by current IT actress Margot Robbie, and her being added to the film feels like an external decision, not one that makes the movie better. So what does Quinn bring that compliments the team she is a part of?
The answer is nothing. Nothing at all.
There is nothing she excels or is good at, that another member of the team isn’t already better at. She is not an expert marksman like Deadshot (Will Smith) or Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman). Not a highly skilled hand to hand or close quarters fighter like Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) or Katana (Karen Fukuhara). She has no powers or meta-human abilities like El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) or Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). She is exceptionally violent and is more often than not, portrayed as a glorified domestic violence victim of the Joker. Do not be surprised, once the movie comes out and some time has passed, that it was mandated by Warner Bros. that she be included in the film.
Is this a fair assessment? Am I way off?
Let us know in the comments or you can reach me on social media @MatPDouglas
Suicide Squad releases nationwide August 5, 2016