Peter Chianca: Movie super-villains should go by the book
“Suicide Squad” is, by most accounts, not a good movie. It’s hovering around 30 percent on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer, which means basically the same thing as when you got that 30 on your high school trigonometry test: That you were up the night before drinking wine coolers and playing Yar’s Revenge rather than studying. (Not me. Other people.)
I don’t know the extent to which wine coolers are to blame for director David Ayer’s apparent misfire, but clearly something went wrong — either that or the DC Comics fanboys who haven’t seen the movie yet are right, and the world’s film critics have conspired to tank it despite its “Citizen Kane”-level excellence. (You can sign the petition here.) The people who think America’s pollsters are conspiring against Donald Trump (like Donald Trump) have nothing on
DC Comics fanboys.
Regardless, before anyone makes another DC Comics movie — I’m talking to you, “Aquaman” director James Wan — I’d recommend reading something that was sent to my newsroom recently in conjunction with the “Suicide Squad” opening: “My First Book of Super-Villains.” The title alone is intriguing — it raises the question, “Just how many books of super-villains are you planning to accumulate?” and also, “Will any of them be bound in a cover made of human skin?”
This volume, a board book meant to help toddlers “learn the difference between right and wrong” (it says so on the cover), gets back to the basics of comic book superheroes, in that the superheroes are good, and the super-villains are bad. This seems to be a concept that was somehow lost between the release of 1978’s “Superman: The Movie,” which had a scene of Superman actually saving a cat out of a tree, and 2013’s “Man of Steel,” where Superman crashes Zod’s spaceship in the middle of Metropolis, presumably crushing an untold amount of cats along with no small number of what 1960s Batman used to refer to as “citizens.”
“Man of Steel” director Zack Snyder might have been benefited from a quick look through “My First Book of Super-Villains” (it only takes 40 seconds to read; I timed it). There he might have learned that while Lex Luthor is — understatement alert — “selfish,” Superman “looks out for all the people in Metropolis,” which is sort of the opposite of dropping spaceships on them.
Another must-read for future DC directors would be “Super Heroes: My First Dictionary” by Michael Robin (no relation, presumably), which uses superheroes to introduce youngsters to more than 500 different words. For instance, “friend” is explained as, “Batman and Superman like doing things together. They are friends.”
Of course, if you saw Snyder’s “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” you know the main things they like doing together are:
1) Beating the crap out of each other.
2) That’s it.
Presumably Batman and Superman will be friendlier in future installments, but Snyder should probably keep copies of these books handy, just in case. (Although it’s worth noting that the costumes on the super-women somehow seem even more inappropriately skimpy in a book aimed at 5-year-olds — thankfully the new movie Wonder Woman seems to be wearing some sort of chain mail over her bathing suit bottoms.)
Personally, I wouldn’t object to a DC comics movie where the heroes and villains are easily delineated and all the cats get rescued — or maybe one where Aquaman bravely saves all the whales while soundly defeating his evil arch-enemy, um … well, I assume he has one. (Mercury-Man? The Hook? The Gorton’s Fisherman? I’ve got a million of ‘em.) Barring that, spending 40 seconds with “My First Book of Super-Villains” would be a good substitute.
As for the 123 minutes of “Suicide Squad,” I’ll leave that to somebody else. Take it away, fanboys.
— Follow Peter Chianca on Twitter at @pchianca.