Well, Suicide Squad has finally been released upon the world, and while you can check out Kevin’s written review or our podcast roundtable for our thoughts, I think it goes without saying that the response is, at best, mixed. However, whatever else there is to say about the movie, there’s no denying that it goes to a lot of effort to provide a diverse mix of super-powered characters for audiences to enjoy.
Thing is, a lot of these are characters that have appeared before in a variety of capacities. Most prominently, the entire Suicide Squad concept was prominently featured in the early seasons of Arrow, with several of the same members appearing in both the show and the new movie. In fact, many of these characters were specifically phased out from Arrow in preparation for the new movie version of the team. Was the sacrifice of these previous takes worth what we got this past weekend? It’s going to take a proper face-off to say for sure, so it’s the Arrowverse vs. the DC Extended Universe here on the Joy of Geek. Scroll down to see which continuity assembled the superior Task Force X!
Harley Quinn (Tara Strong/Cassidy Alexa v. Margot Robbie)
Alright, we’re starting here because, really, there’s no contest. Harley Quinn made a brief vocal cameo in the second season Arrow episode “Suicide Squad”. She was voiced by Tara Strong, who had played the role previously in Batman: Arkham City, and while actress Cassidy Alexa was cast to play the character, she was ultimately cut from the second season finale.
Whatever Alexa’s take on the role would’ve been, but it would’ve faced stiff competition from Margot Robbie’s performance. Robbie did a great job giving a unique interpretation of the fan-favorite character, with her weakest moments coming when she emulates what’s come before. And while I didn’t love her relationship with the Joker, that has far more to do with Jared Leto’s terrible performance than anything Robbie did. Like I said, it’s a blowout, but Robbie proved herself a worthy actress to play the character for years to come.
Winner: DC Extended Universe
Captain Boomerang/Digger Harkness (Nick Tarabay v. Jai Courtney)
This is our first entry with two actual performances to compare, but man, here’s a forgettable character no matter what reality we’re talking about. No disrespect to the Captain Boomerang character, but neither Jai Courtney nor Nick Tarabay did much exciting work with the role. In Courtney’s case, it was the fault of severe underwriting and several scenes of the character being left to glower in the background. For Tarabay, it was a matter of being an underwhelming, generic villain to serve as the first major foe for Green Arrow and the Flash to team up against.
Ultimately, this was a case of looking at which actor seems a better fit for the role. Taraby, try as he might, failed to bring much charisma or personality to Boomerang in his Arrow appearance; I had to rewatch the episode to even remember his performance, and I can already feel myself forgetting it. Say what you will about Courtney, there’s at least a sense of who the character is, filling the role of the selfish asshole on the team. They’re both forgettable, but Courtney takes the point.
Winner: DC Extended Universe
Katana/Tatsu Yamashiro (Rila Fukushima v. Karen Fukuhara)
I’ll be honest, this one was more of struggle than you might expect. Like Boomerang, Katana was a severely underwritten character in Suicide Squad, mainly serving as another colorful character to take part in fight scenes. However, she managed to carry a lot of presence in those fights, and though we didn’t learn enough about the character to truly connect with her, I found myself enjoying what we did get.
Still, a lot of that enjoyment came from being a fan of the character, and that comes as a result of Rila Fukushima’s strong performance as Tatsu in the third season of Arrow. While she only really became Katana in the last few episodes, she appeared heavily throughout the entire season, creating a layered, relatable character that stood out as one of the best elements of an uneven year for the show. I’m excited to hear that Fukuhara wants to explore the character further in a Suicide Squad sequel, but as is, Fukushima’s performance has given us the superior take on Katana.
Deadshot/Floyd Lawton (Michael Rowe v. Will Smith)
Alright, we’re now to the two characters that have had the biggest impact in both universes, which makes my job all that much harder. In both continuities, Deadshot is the face of the team, serving as the most prominent member, if not the de facto leader. Suicide Squad obviously has the star power of Will Smith pushing it forward, making for a charismatic, strong take on one of the DC Universe’s greatest assassins. He’s a likable presence in the film, and he’s without question one of the most engaging performances.
Michael Rowe, meanwhile, took time to grow into the role. His first season appearances were unremarkable, positioning the character as little more than another threat to Starling City for Oliver Queen to face off against. However, Rowe came into his own once the show introduced the Suicide Squad and further developed the antagonistic relationship between Deadshot and David Ramsey’s John Diggle. Rowe even got the chance to play a completely different version of the character on The Flash, where Earth-2’s Floyd Lawton was revealed to be a more cowardly, incompetent figure.
Ultimately, it’s the variety and freshness that Rowe brought to the role that wins out for me. Great though Smith is in the role, he’s still very much giving a Will Smith performance, not disappearing into a character so much as playing a slightly different version of his usual style. What Rowe lacks in star power, he makes up for in successfully capturing what makes Deadshot such an interesting character in the comics.
Amanda “The Wall” Waller (Cynthia Addai-Robinson v. Viola Davis)
It’s all tied up, and things come down to the character responsible for bringing Task Force X together in the first place: Amanda Waller. More than any other character on this list, Amanda Waller has been a real presence on Arrow, appearing prominently across three seasons of the show as both the leader of ARGUS and the founder of Task Force X. And to her credit, Addai-Robinson has done solid work in the role, serving as a frequently antagonistic force in Oliver Queen’s life.
The problem is that, try as she might, Addai-Robinson never quite captured the intense, ruthless energy that the writers seemed to be going for. Viola Davis, on the other hand? The actress is a perfect fit for the role, bringing the exact right sense of gravitas and cold calculation to the character. She’s fascinating to watch throughout the film, and the promise of seeing her again in future DC films is one of the brightest spots of this extended universe. I’ve enjoyed Addai-Robinson well enough in the past, but Davis is without question the right future for the character.
Winner: DC Extended Universe
So, the final score gives the victory to the film version of Suicide Squad and the DC Extended Universe. Admittedly, it’s a bit silly to compare these five characters as the be-all, end-all, particularly given the team members in each version that I haven’t written about. However, it does go to show that as problematic as the film was, it wasn’t entirely without merit, and there’re plenty of elements to hope get another chance to shine in a sequel. As for the Arrowverse, it’s good to look back and see what they did right with the Suicide Squad characters when they had the chance to play with those characters.
What did you think of our first face-off? Do you agree with our picks? And would you be interested to see more characters pitted against one another in this fashion in the future? Let us know in the comments!