Despite clearly trying its hardest not to, Suicide Squad feels just like a Marvel movie. It’s hubris to think that anyone can make a film about superheroes (or villains) teaming up to defeat a big bad without at least being reminiscent of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yes, this movie is about bad guys and Marvel’s are about good guys, but in order to create something that stands out, a filmmaker has to avoid the familiar elements that Marvel has essentially baked into its films at this point. Even DC diehards can admit that there are plenty of ways Suicide Squad feels like a Marvel movie – from it’s giant swirling vortex to its soundtrack of solid gold oldies.
Just by looking at the number of Marvel movies, it’s clear Suicide Squad can’t avoid falling into the narrative pitfall of repeating something from at least one Marvel film. But there are so many Marvel Studios clichés in Suicide Squad that it makes you wonder whether or not writer-director David Ayer took too much inspiration from The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy.
Even though Suicide Squad is very concerned with establishing a tone that’s much darker than anything in the MCU, it still feels like Tony Stark could show up at any moment and start cracking wise.
The Giant Sky Portal
Is there anything more Marvel than a villain opening a giant sky portal to do something evil? The only way this sky portal could have been more MCU is if Spider-Man had swung out of the center wearing an Iron Man shirt and saying “Excelsior!”
The Classic Rock Soundtrack
Nowhere is the influence of Guardians of the Galaxy clearer than Suicide Squad‘s soundtrack. Who would imagine that a goofy space adventure that featured music previously relegated to oldies stations and AM radio would strike such a chord with audiences? Nothing makes it more obvious that Suicide Squad is a feature created by committee than the classic tracks that accompany all of the major story beats.
The difference between the two films is that the Guardians soundtrack provides insight into a character and feels novel against a sci-fi backdrop, while the music of Suicide Squad demands that you feel a certain way without investigating what the music is supposed to mean.
Argue all you want that Enchantress’s globby minions are actually humans that have been transformed into anthropomorphic koosh balls. Not only do they bear more than a passing resemblance to the Chitauri in The Avengers, they also serve the same essential function: giving the “heroes” something to fight/show off their individual talents in a messily filmed action sequence.
Joker’s minions in Suicide Squad are a bunch of pipe-hitting thugs wearing panda masks and it’s awesome. Somewhat grounded villains could really help set this one apart, but even with an endless amount of lowlifes at its disposal, the movie borrows digital cannon fodder from another film.
The Mid-Credits Scene
One of the easiest ways for DC to delineate themselves from Marvel is to say that when the movie is over and the credits are rolling, that’s the end of the feature. Instead of doing that very simple thing, Suicide Squad includes a mid-credit scene where Bruce Wayne shows up to remind everyone about the upcoming Justice League movie. Don’t worry Bruce, something tells us that we won’t be able to avoid that particular film when it rolls around.
Credits sequences certainly aren’t the intellectual property of Marvel, but the studio has done a lot of work to convince audience that they should stick around until the lights have gone up and the ushers are sweeping the popcorn. Including such a scene in Suicide Squad can only come across as derivative.
Shadowy Government Figures
Whether it’s DC or Marvel, nobody likes the government. You could say that Viola Davis’s wonderfully evil Amanda Waller is 60/40 combination of Martin Freeman’s Everett Ross and Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury.
It’s also worth mentioning that both Suicide Squad and Civil War imprison their heroes in government black sites. You’d think that even if there’s no way around having a movie where somebody’s stuck in a prison, you could at least make sure no one says “government black site” just like in Civil War.
The Neverending Boss Fight
If there’s one thing that can be excised from all superhero films from here on out, it’s the boss fight that takes 20 or 30 minutes. Yes, it’s important that our characters learn that the only way they can triumph over evil and make themselves into better people is the power of teamwork, but it doesn’t have to take half an hour.
Suicide Squad could have differentiated itself by approaching the final boss fight from a new direction, but instead it just sticks with the same old shtick.
Wacky Character Introductions
In giant team-up movies, Marvel usually gives each of their characters a quick introduction, and then big character moments throughout the film. This way, audiences can get to know them and avoid being inundated with needless information. Suicide Squad takes the first half of that concept and runs with it, providing full-on short films about the characters with their own soundtracks and tones.
You’d think that this would pay off, but we don’t get character moments later in the film that are necessary to build on what we already know.
Evil Brother-Sister Dynamics
Marvel doesn’t own the idea of a complicated and slightly sexual relationship between siblings, but they certainly beat DC to it. Avengers: Age Of Ultron has a sibling duo in which Scarlet Witch is essentially the brains of the operation, while Quicksilver is the brawn. And depending on what slash fiction you read, the Thor/Loki dynamic is a lot like this, too.
In Suicide Squad, Enchantress’s relationship to her brother (who might just be named “Brother”) is strikingly similar to the dynamic between Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Not only is she a telekinetic/psychic baddie, but her brother is almost like a combination of Ultron and Quicksilver who happens to dish out vengeance in the name of familial loyalty.
A Character Who Can’t Control Their Dark Side
This trope is apparent across the board in comic books and their cinematic offshoots. Still. it’s hard to watch Dr. June Moone grapple with her alter ego and not think of Dr. Bruce Banner’s relationship with the Hulk. While Dr. Moone’s alter ego is based purely on sex and the control that comes with it, the Hulk has more to do with the animalistic fury that dwells inside everyone.
Still, having a member of a super team be so uncontrollable that they’re a major thorn in their side seems like something the filmmakers would want to sidestep. It’s been such a popular part of the MCU, after all.
Scientists Are Useless Against Magic
Maybe it’s just a superhero thing, but in quite a few Marvel movies, a scientist is confounded or corrupted by magic (Loki’s enslaving of Dr. Selvig comes to mind). In Suicide Squad, you have Dr. June Moone who, after falling into a cave, is immediately possessed by an evil spirit and later remarks that people have stopped worshipping the gods of the 6th century and now “worship technology.”
The Reluctant Hero
This trope is almost impossible to sidestep because it’s such an important part of the hero’s journey. In the MCU, you’ve got Captain America, who isn’t sure if he wants to continue being a pawn of the government after thawing out of an ice cube. In Suicide Squad, you’ve got Deadshot, who isn’t so sure if he wants to be a pawn of the government after being taken out of a secret military prison.
At times in the film it almost feels like Will Smith is showing the folks at Marvel what they missed by not offering him the title role in The First Avenger.
The Hero Wants What He Can’t Have
In both the MCU and the DCEU there are heroes (Captain America and Deadshot respectively) working alongside a female counterpart (Black Widow and Harley Quinn) with whom they have obvious sexual chemistry. And in both cases they don’t act on their feelings because Widow/Quinn has a bae and the heroes have a sense of moral integrity that the rest of the characters around them ignore.
This kind of will they/won’t they element is a too-familiar trope that, had it simply been ignored, would have gone a long way towards making Suicide Squad feel unique.
There’s an All-Powerful Evil
Some may argue that this is a necessity in any comic book movie, but that’s hokum and everybody knows it. The best superhero movies don’t have a superpowered witch turning people into walking spider eggs. Cases in point: The Dark Knight, Spider-Man 2, Chronicle, The Winter Soldier, etc. Marvel Studios movies have had the threat of Thanos looming over everything, however.
If David Ayer (and DC as a whole) wanted to differentiate themselves from Marvel, all they had to do was have a villain that was evil, but not an angry witch god with a half robot brother that looks like Thanos.
Suicide Squad Can’t Shake Its Familiar Feeling
Even though Suicide Squad is superficially dissimilar to MCU films it still ends up feeling derivative. There are no easy answers for why one group of films feels so fresh, while something like Suicide Squad (and to a different degree the Zack Snyder-helmed Superman films) seems like a copy of a copy. It could be that no matter what characters you use, trying to make a movie about a bunch of super people getting together is going to give produce deja vu. The frequent and obvious attempts to mimic the rambunctious flavor of Guardians of the Galaxy don’t help one bit, either.
Even though the tone of Suicide Squad sometimes feels like a movie from another era of superhero films, it never strays too far from that quippy yet world-weary feeling Marvel does so well.