“Worst. Heroes. Ever.” is the slogan for the new Suicide Squad movie and, for parents of younger superhero fans, that may just ring a bit too true.

Pre-teen fans of such characters as Harley Quinn, who first appeared in 1992 on Batman: The Animated Series and became a popular comic book character, will want to see her character portrayed in a new movie. But should they?

 

Once upon a time, comic book superheroes like Superman and Batman seemed appropriate for readers of all ages. These days, DC Entertainment has taken a different tack, especially when it comes to the film versions of its popular comics.

REVIEW: Suicide Squad

By Eli Glasner

Trying to make DC’s antihero tale Suicide Squad match the flavour of its bubble gum-coloured romp of a trailer has backfired, leaving a garish slog that strains mightily in pulling together its cast of bad guys.  

You might be surprised to see Will Smith (as assassin Deadshot) dimming his star power to join an ensemble, but once Big Willie’s charisma starts to spark, the marksman quickly moves to the centre of the action. You’ll welcome the return of his wisecracking. But that the character becomes a hit man with a heart of gold tells you how muddled this movie is: cramped by a PG rating, Suicide Squad is as sharp and edgy as a butter knife. 

Jared Leto’s Joker is a derivative homage, equal parts Heath Ledger and James Cagney. Margot Robbie plays Joker’s gal Harley Quinn as a psychotic sex kitten. This one’s for the fan boys — I do mean boys — and Robbie makes the most of it.

Written and directed by David AyerSuicide Squad tries to paper over weak spots with pop tunes, but hit songs can’t fix the story, cast of clichés nor its poorly paced finale, featuring a blob army and a supernatural showdown borrowed from Ghostbusters (circa 1984).

Character goes deeper than cosplay and a movie should be more than a long-running trailer. DC diehards, keep your fingers crossed: Wonder Woman is about 10 months away.

RATING: 2 out of 5 stars

Suicide Squad, for instance, follows a gang of DC Comics super villains who are freed from jail in order to fulfil missions to help the government and save the world. Filmed in Toronto, the $175-million US Hollywood movie stars Will Smith (Deadshot), Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn) and Jared Leto (Joker).

“There’s definitely a lot of sexuality surrounding Harley Quinn’s character,” said Jules Greco, who curates the children’s section at the Silver Snail comic book store in Toronto.

“So I can see why some parents would be uncomfortable with that. And maybe, to some parents, it’s not appropriate.”

Suicide Squad is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America, meaning parents are “strongly cautioned” because some of the content may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers.

It carries a PG (parental guidance) rating in most Canadian provinces. The Ontario Film Review Board warns of violence, offensive language and says the film is “not recommended for young children.”

The Suicide Squad comic books themselves are rated “Teen” by DC Comics, which means they’re intended for readers aged 12 and older.

A darker, grittier tone

Still, some young adult fans have concerns about how comic books have become darker and grittier than since when they were kids not so many years ago.

“I know too many kids who like Deadpool and I don’t think their parents realize that he’s not just Spider-Man with swords,” comic collector Joey Matthews told CBC News. 

Deadpool, based on the Marvel Comics anti-hero, was released as a film starring Ryan Reynolds earlier this year and became the highest grossing R-rated film of all time.

Deadpool featured nudity, violence and sexual content, but not in the duration, frequency, or tone that would warrant an 18A rating, according to Alberta’s movie ratings manager. (Joe Lederer/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp/Associated Press)

“A lot of kids read Walking Dead and that really amazes me,” he added.

“There are a lot of parents who don’t know some of them aren’t for kids. It would be great if more parents were aware of it.”

Vera Watson, who was sporting a Harley Quinn T-shirt, said she looks forward to seeing her favourite comic book character in Suicide Squad. She admitted, however, that she prefers the earlier version of Harley Quinn — who didn’t dress as scantily. 

Jules Greco

Jules Greco, who curates the children’s comic book section at the Silver Snail, worries that today’s superhero movies are alienating a younger audience. (CBC)

Though she’s not a parent, “I don’t know if it’s right for kids to go watch and idolize these people who aren’t wearing clothes anymore,” Watson said.

Ultimately, it’s up to parents to choose what’s right for their kids, according to Silver Snail’s Greco.

“DC has been pushing this grittier, more adult version of their super heroes and maybe they are alienating a younger audience,” she added. 

For kids or for adults?

Throughout the history of comic books, there has always been a tension between whether they’re aimed at adults or children, said Hope Nicholson, who runs the comics publishing company Bedside Press in Winnipeg.

SUICIDE SQUAD

The sexuality surrounding Harley Quinn’s character may make some parents of younger comic book fans uncomfortable, says Jules Greco of the Silver Snail. (Clay Enos/DC Comics)

What’s confusing for parents is that many characters can be found in works designed for both audiences, despite carrying a very different tone and content: the Harley Quinn from earlier depictions, for instance, is not the same as the highly sexualized and graphically violent character in the new movie.

superman-comic-cp-250-64112

Superman made his debut in comic book form in 1938, and is still a favourite today of audiences of all ages. (Metropolis Collectibles/Associated Press)

“You should not be bringing kids to watch Suicide Squad, in my honest opinion,” Nicholson said.

“I mean, it’s right there in the title: suicide. They make it as clear as possible that this comic and this movie are not for kids.”

While recent movies based on comic books seem to be skewing towards an older audience, there are still age-appropriate entertainment choices on television and online for pre-teens who like super heroes, Nicholson said.

In recognition of the need to feed the younger generation some age appropriate superhero fare, DC itself has a new feature-length animated film called DC Super Hero Girls: Hero of the Year, based on the DC Super Hero Girls franchise, coming out direct to video later this month.


REVIEW | Suicide Squad

By Eli Glasner

Trying to make DC’s antihero tale Suicide Squad match the flavour of its bubble gum-coloured romp of a trailer has backfired, leaving a garish slog that strains mightily in pulling together its cast of bad guys.  

You might be surprised to see Will Smith (as the assassin Deadshot) dimming his star power to join an ensemble, but once Big Willie’s charisma starts to spark, the marksman quickly moves to the centre of the action and you’ll welcome the return of his wisecracking. But that the character becomes a hit man with a heart of gold tells you how muddled this movie is: cramped by a PG rating, Suicide Squad is as sharp and edgy as a butter knife. 

Jared Leto’s Joker is a derivative homage, equal parts Heath Ledger and James CagneyMargot Robbie plays Joker’s gal Harley Quinn as a psychotic sex kitten. This one’s for the fan boys – I do mean boys – and Robbie makes the most of it.

Written and directed by David AyerSuicide Squad tries to paper over weak spots with pop tunes, but hit songs can’t fix the story, cast of clichés nor its poorly paced finale, featuring a blob army and a supernatural showdown borrowed from Ghostbusters (circa 1984).

Character goes deeper than cosplay and a movie should be more than long-running trailer. DC diehards, keep your fingers crossed: Wonder Woman is about 10 months away.

RATING: 2 out of 5 stars

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