The Suicide Squad movie is coming out this August and there’s a lot riding on it. After Batman v Superman, we’re only two movies into a proposed 11 for the DC movie universe, and the two we’ve gotten so far have been… commercially successful, but critically disappointing. Many fans criticized BvS for being too dark and serious in tone, which seems to be a recurring trend with movies helmed by Zack Snyder. There have been rumors going around that Suicide Squad went into reshoots to make the movie funnier as a response to this criticism. These rumors have been denied… but they started an interesting conversation. What’s the place of humor in a movie with a name like Suicide Squad? The most recent trailer emphasizes the movie’s sense of humor.
Of course, if you know the comics, you know that humor has always been a big part of the Suicide Squad. The original run by John Ostrander is famous for its heavy use of slapstick.
A recurring subplot in the original run is the mystery of the “Mad Pieman” who plagues the team. The unknown prankster would use their skills to pie unsuspecting people in the face, usually at the most serious or inopportune moments.
The original run was also famous for the “gallows humor” the characters used to deal with their depressing reality. The cast of the comic would frequently crack jokes at each other, in contrast to more serious superhero books at the time, because humor was the only thing they had to take their minds off their impending doom.
Most importantly, the book wasn’t afraid to get downright silly when it wanted to. The larger themes might have been serious; Suicide Squad dealt with death, clinical depression, and PTSD, but it was also aware that human beings need things like jokes to balance out the darkness in their lives. Fun and frivolity don’t disappear when things get dark, they only become that much more important.
The movie cast seems well-equipped for humor in a way that gives me high hopes. We know that comedic characters Joker and Harley Quinn will be taking center stage, and Harley has a lot of great one-liners in the trailer. Captain Boomerang (who I REFUSE to call “Boomerang”) seems to be up to his usual antics as the team’s resident hilarious scumbag. It’s easy to forget that Will Smith has a great comedy background, but he seems very well cast in Deadshot‘s role as the wisecracking straight-man. It’s only been teased, but I’m really excited to see what kind of role comedian Ike Barinholtz is going to have.
Personally, I’m someone who actually likes dark and gritty superhero movies. I definitely wouldn’t want them all the time. Scott McCloud has an analogy where he compares superhero stories in general to chocolate cake: “It’s great, but you wouldn’t want to eat it for every meal.” That’s how I feel. I wouldn’t want everything to be a melodramatic opera, but BvS felt like a refreshing change of pace to me. It was nice watching a superhero movie that didn’t feel the need to apologize for itself by winking at the camera every 30 seconds. For a movie like Suicide Squad though, the humor is absolutely essential. It’s not just a fun bonus, it’s the thing that holds these characters together as people and allows them to function.