The Dirty Half-Dozen

SuicideSquadCan we talk about the Suicide Squad movie for a moment? Critical reception was pretty harsh back in August when it debuted in theaters. But was it really so terrible?

Didn’t we all enjoy seeing Harley Quinn on the big screen? You have to admit that actress Margot Robbie was fully committed to her character. Will Smith and Viola Davis also turned in good performances as Deadshot and Amanda Waller. And the Joker and El Diablo? They were cool too. Even beyond the main cast, short drop-ins by the Flash and Common made us smile. Despite all the haters (you know who you are), there was a lot of good stuff in Suicide Squad.

Certainly there were problems with the movie. But most of these problems existed because of a muddled narrative and poor editing decisions. That’s too bad. In the end, a fine cast was undermined by poor technical execution.

People who were disappointed by the movie might want to check out the novelization written by Marv Wolfman. The veteran scribe knows a thing or two about telling a story and he does his best to fix the film’s underlying problems. Mainly he pushes the action forward and keeps flashbacks to a minimum. After reading this book you’ll wonder why the moviemakers decided to go with a non-linear storytelling format.

Wolfman also provides helpful context and badly needed transitions, two things fumbled by the film’s editing crew. As a result, readers are blessed with more Rick Flag and June Moone, more Navy Seals, and more Joker and Harley Quinn.

There’s a substantial amount of added information in the novel, so it’s curious to note the details Wolfman decided to leave out. Katana’s backstory, for example, is only mentioned in passing. In fact, her inclusion in this novel is even more gratuitous than her role in the movie. We’ve always liked Katana and her journey from Outsiders to Birds of Prey to Justice League of America. We think she has the potential to be an A-list character if handled properly.

One omission that stuck out like a sore thumb happens early in the book. Floyd Lawton (Deadshot) agrees to take part in Amanda Waller’s suicide mission. But there’s one catch, he wants a kickback for his daughter.

“I want you to cover my daughter’s education,” he says. “Full ride. The best private schools, and get her in a good college. Like Harvard or Yale. And if she gets bad grades, you’re gonna ‘down low that crap’ and make sure she graduates.”

If you’ve seen the movie, you know that Lawton doesn’t say “you’re gonna down low that crap.” He actually says, “I want you to white people that shit.” There are many reasons why Wolfman might not have used the original movie dialogue. Perhaps he was only privy to an early draft of the script. Or perhaps the actor simply improvised the dialogue on set. We’ll never know.

But that line is important. Deadshot is a white guy in the comic books and it would have been disingenuous to cast a black man in the role without acknowledging it in some small way. In fact, one of the best things about Suicide Squad (the movie) is its unbothered mix of gender, ethnicity, nationality, and genus. Black, Latino, Asian, Oceania, and crocodile, the filmmakers tossed them all together in one big jumble. When Deadshot says, “I want you to white people that shit,” he’s commenting, as bluntly as possible, on race and social inequality. That’s something good ol’ Floyd Lawton would never have said in the comics.

[Suicide Squad: The Official Movie Novelization / By Marv Wolfman / First Printing: August 2016 / ISBN: 9781785651670]

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