From Hannibal Lecter and Heath Ledger’s Joker to TV’s Tony Soprano and Walter White, audiences have often fallen for an engagingly-amoral anti-hero – a character who embodies our darker impulses and desires with reckless abandon.
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With the release of Warner Bros and DC Studios’ “Suicide Squad”, the mantle of beloved bad guys may pass to the film’s titular team of comic book villains who, like the anti-Avengers, are recruited to save the world.
Director David Ayer, best known for “Training Day” and “End of Watch”, looks the ideal choice for capturing the gritty, darkly humourous world of the most famous rogue’s gallery in comic book history.
Following the bloated and critically-panned “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” this year, DC’s plans for an extended cinematic universe to rival that of arch nemesis Marvel took a superhero-sized hit. Despite the occasional highlight, “Batman v Superman” suffered from Zack Snyder’s brooding, humourless direction and ended up significantly less than the sum of its formidable parts.
Having ceded the early ground to Marvel’s box office behemoths, DC looked to send their own cinematic universe into overdrive, shoehorning in what were effectively teaser trailers for the remaining Justice League members into the film. Yet the film’s critical thrashing and good-not-great box office numbers left the futures of Batman, Superman and colleagues on rocky ground.
In contrast, Marvel’s comparatively-cheery “Captain America: Civil War” broke the billion-dollar mark at the global box office and successfully set the stage for future Avengers films. It explored the themes of accountability, power and the role and responsibility of the Avengers in modern society.
Along comes “Suicide Squad”, a brash and brazen joyride that looks to inject a sense of personality back into the DC cinematic universe and serve as an alternative to the earnest heroism of Marvel’s superheroes. “Suicide Squad” revels in exactly the opposite – bad people brought together for the greater good.
The film will give the Avengers a run for its money with its star-studded line-up and features Australians Jai Courtney and Margot Robbie, alongside Hollywood heavyweights like Will Smith and Jared Leto.
Robbie, who plays perennial Joker acolyte Harley Quinn, has been the focus of the pre-release marketing campaign in an attempt by the studio to attract a more female-friendly audience.
Leto plays the Joker and looks to have stamped his own twisted take on the character. As with many of the cast, Leto was encouraged by his director to really inhabit the role, going so far as to send a dead pig to his cast-mates.
He has big shoes to fill following the late Heath Ledger’s lauded turn as the character. His appearance in “The Dark Knight” in 2008 won him a posthumous Oscar and was perhaps the last great comic book villain to appear on screen.
Whether he manages to live up to his predecessor remains to be seen, but if any of the Suicide Squad can be half as engaging as Ledger’s Joker then DC may have a hit on their hands.