Suicide Squad is a movie that seems to be striving to be many different things: A DC version of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, a super-villain A-Team, a Harley Quinn origin story, a Batman v Superman tie-in, and a wacky caper to lighten the dark and gritty tone that Zack Snyder has set for the universe. There’s nothing inherently wrong with such ambition and scope — except that it can get really confusing for the people Warner Bros. is expecting will pay to see it.

In Suicide Squad’s trailer, Rick Flagg helpfully introduces each team member. Of El Diablo, he says: “This guy burns people,” and of Deadshot, he quips simply, “He shoots people.” These sorts of explainers feel like olive branches to the non-gee crowd, the kinds of people who find superhero films fun but don’t really care about the inevitable post-credits scene or whether they include easter-eggs.

However, secrecy around certain roles like Ike Barinholtz mysterious character and Scott Eastwood’s part indicate the opposite: head nods and concessions to squad aficionados, who are desperate for every detail.

There’s still nothing wrong with pandering to fans and newcomers alike — a major studio picture has to target as many demographics as possible. But it’s swerved between them, schizophrenically, with little rhyme, and no reason. One poster seeks to make it a dark and gritty supervillain A-Team:

And the next would have you believe, it’s for the mallrat Directioners crowd. Sure, the lollipop and pastels are for Harley Quinn — but anybody who doesn’t know that can be excused from thinking this is trying to appeal to a movie studio’s idea of teenage girls.

If I’m a teenage girl who’s into comics, I’m probably nonplussed by this blatant “girls like pastels and shit, right?” poster. If I’m a dude who isn’t into comics but vaguely enjoys superhero movies, I’m extra confused by the contrast. If I’m a human who doesn’t fall into either category and pays only the vaguest attention to pop culture, I have no idea what this movie is and it’s mixed-message posters are doing nothing to clarify.

As Game of Thrones and Deadpool both show, clever marketing is nothing to sneeze at. It can make or break the wave of enthusiasm going into a project. If Suicide Squad wants to hype itself the right way — and prove that its plot will not be incoherent — it might want to rethink throwing wildly varying posters out in a slapdash fashion.

But, then again, maybe it just wants to watch the world burn.


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