Movie Mechanic: Suicide Squad

Make: Warner Bros.

Model: Suicide Squad

Year: 2016

Driver: David Ayer

 

Diagnostic:

Welcome to the Movie Mechanic! It is a sad fact of our modern culture that some movies come off the line as lemons. The purpose of this series is to take those lemons and make them road ready! We’re going to take a peek under the hood of these movies, see what works, and rebuild what doesn’t. It’s going to be a wild ride! Let’s get into today’s rebuild.

Suicide Squad is a rebuild I have been looking forward to for a long time, and in fact is the inspiration for this series. While Suicide Squad is clunky and often veers off course, despite its flaws, it has a lot working for it under the hood. We’re going to take this film down to the block by trimming the cast, and rebuilding the story.

The Cast: Each character is a piston that drives the story forward. Will Smith and Margot Robbie do most of the work storywise. Smith’s Deadshot is a hitman with a heart and brings the audience in by making him a doting father. Robbie’s Harley Quinn is a sexy wildcard that spices up the screen, as long as she is not sharing that screen with Joker.  So with these two parts firmly in place, we can start to reassemble the rest of the engine.

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In the theatrical release, there were too many characters that didn’t work, slowing down the  whole story. In order to tune up the movie, we will have to make some major adjustments to the cast:

  • Slipknot – This guy did not even get a proper introduction into the team before he was unceremoniously decapitated. Without an introduction we have no connection to him, and rather than raising the stakes, Slipknot’s exit feels more like a cheap laugh. In our rebuild, Slipknot’s exit is unnecessary so he’s got to go.
  • Boomerang – He had no useful skills and was only included for laughs, but largely failed to deliver. No one could believe for one second that a thief with a terrible accent and a penchant for throwing boomerangs can stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Diablo and Enchantress, so if he must be on the team he needs other skills, like munitions or gadgetry, or give him boomerangs that do stuff, a la Hawkeye in the Avengers. And all comic relief moments are going to be his. If there is a laugh to be had, he is going to deliver them.
  • Katana – Here’s a character with at least two useful skills who ended up not being used at all. First, she was really good with a sword and easily dispatched the hordes of faceless Putties that plagued the second act. Second, and most importantly, she had a SWORD THAT CAN TRAP SOULS. That is really handy because the villain, Enchantress, happened to be a disembodied soul that needing to be trapped. This is a character worth saving, but we are going to have to upgrade her role on the team.
  • Waller – Amanda Waller is a fierce woman, but she was written all wrong. First, she has Flagg go to the prison and do her dirty work, so she should not even show up in the first act to talk to the prisoners. Second, she forces her team into a life threatening situation for her own benefit, just like the villain, but that comparison was never made explicitly. As a result, the “rock and a hard place” aspect of the Squad’s motivation is washed out. She needs a rewrite to make the parallel between Waller and Enchantress more overt.

As we rebuild the cast, we’re going to insist on the character being useful on two levels: they have to be useful to the team and useful to the story. Here’s our pimped out cast:

  • Deadshot (sniper and heart of the team)
  • Harley (indestructible melee fighter and sexy wildcard)
  • Katana (badass swordswoman and ringbearer)
  • Boomerang (munitions/gadgetry and comic relief)
  • Diablo (pyromaniac and redemption arc)
  • Rick Flagg to lead the team on the ground and make an ultimate sacrifice later on

Special Note: Joker. He disrupts to story so much that he has to be reduced significantly. His scenes are really weird and devoid of charm. He’s a fine motivation for Harley, but if he isn’t going to be the main villain, then he needs to stay in the backseat.  

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Now that we have our parts assembled, we can work on the story.

As the story moves through the lower gears, we have to introduce our characters, their abilities, and their weaknesses. For the most part, the way the first act ran in the theatrical release works.

Moving into the second act, the theatrical release hit a lot of speed bumps. The second act had almost no emotional impact. In order to keep the PG-13 rating, the hordes of monsters impeding the team’s progress were faceless, formless, and bloodless, essentially the Putties from Power Rangers. In order clear out the speed bumps, the story has to be effective and emotional, the hordes need to have faces and provide real peril. Enchantress needs to employ a turbo-charged zombie hypnosis that buffs up her soldiers and then wears off at the moment of death. It’s in this moment that we start to see that Enchantress is merely using her super powered pawns as cannon fodder in her conquest. Sound familiar?

The main drive of the second act is to rescue Amanda Waller. As long as she has been operating the team from the shadows, when she is rescued, she can make a real impact then. The Squad realizes that they are her super powered pawns being used as cannon fodder in her campaign. How is she any different than Enchantress at this point? The Squad starts to get angry, and Diablo takes it too far. She blows Diablo’s head off at this point, proving how disposable the Squad really is to her. Also, because we have a connection to Diablo and want him to be redeemed, this kill has real impact. Now the team realizes they are caught between two horrible people with a terrible choice. Either try to escape and let Waller blow them up, or go after Enchantress where they have a minuscule margin of victory. Either choice will lead to death, but, if they defeat Enchantress, then their people (Deadshot’s daughter, Mr. J, etc.) have a chance of survival. So to hell with Waller; they’ll fight Enchantress on their own terms.

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In the final act, the team storms Enchantress’s castle, kills the hypno-horde, and finally faces off against Enchantress and her brother. Diablo, in his fire demon form, reappears in time to take out Enchantress’s brother, and vanishes again, perhaps for real this time. Then, Enchantress has the team against the ropes. They all realize that if they have any chance at victory, it will come at a high price, their own lives. (Hence the name, Suicide Squad.)

First up, Boomerang’s collection of bombs and boomerangs create a distraction while Deadshot lays down cover for Katana to bury the sword in Enchantress’s back. But as the sword is about to strike, Enchantress flings Katana against a wall, knocking her out and the sword loose. Flagg moves to get the sword and Deadshot moves in on Enchantress, intensifying the gunfire. Flagg reaches the sword, tosses it toward Deadshot, who gets knocked back by Enchantress, missing the sword. Harley swings her bat into the hilt of the sword, knocking the sword back toward Deadshot, who grabs the sword and thrusts it forward. We hear the sound of stabbing, but it’s Deadshot who gets stabbed. He falls and the sword slides across the floor to Harley who picks it up and raises the sword above her head and swings it forward as she gets knocked away. The sword spins through the air where Flagg catches it and buries it into Enchantress.

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In a spectacular display, Enchantress’s spirit is sealed into the blade, leaving Dr. Moon bleeding and dying in Flagg’s arms. Boomerang scrambles down from his perch towitness the carnage. He realizes that he might be able to revive the team if he can disable the explosives in their necks and use the detonator as defibrillator. He fiddles with the detonator and zaps the team awake. Deadshot and Moon are still bleeding out though, so the team circles around them. As the camera fades on Deadshot’s face, we hear the sound of Waller’s chopper coming to pick up the team. Deadshot wakes up in the prison hospital, bandaged but alive. Waller is there to thank him for his service. He demands to see his daughter, which he does when Waller leaves and reveals his daughter waiting to hug him. Cut back to the rest of the team in their cells recuperating, as Joker blows open a wall and rescues Harley, setting up a second ride with the same machine.

The whole point of Waller is to show that she is worse for the Squad than any monster they face. With our rebuild we accentuate that point, setting up the possibility of a sequel that includes the chance of an appearance from Killer Croc or Slipknot in the future. With any luck, we can turn this clunky jalopy into a high-performance vehicle for Will Smith and the rest of the team, and a profitable one for Warner Bros.  

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