Script Suicide

This past weekend I went to see Suicide Squad, DC Comics’ latest attempt to deliver an entertaining comic-book-based movie. After the bizarrely-inept Batman vs. Superman tome earlier in the year, I thought this movie would render my faith in DC Comics anew, but after reading the reviews going into the movie, I was worried. The critics shredded the movie to bits questioning its very existence.

The good news: the movie isn’t as bad as the critics say. It’s entertaining at the very least, but it could have been a whole lot better had the script been better written. Maybe DC Comics should invest in winning over some of the writers from the Marvel movies, which are much better and way more entertaining. Marvel has the formula right, and I think it’s due to the scripts.

Suicide Squad suffers primarily from too many characters hastily introduced in a frenetic script that allows little time for an emotional connection to be made with the audience. Sure, the Joker is in the movie and everyone is familiar with him, but he’s really part of a subplot, not the main dish. The most interesting characters – arguably Deadshot and Harley Quinn – are thrown onto the screen and pushed aside quickly for the others to make their entrance. Then, it’s off to the races to stop the evil Enchantress. I’m all for fast-paced, fun movies, but give me something to hang onto that keeps my interest, like a really good character I can root for (yes, even a movie about villains can have heroes).

All of this got me thinking about the books I’ve read this year and why certain ones held my attention, while others did not. I read Robert Dugoni’s Tracy Crosswhite series and thoroughly enjoyed it because I connected with the Crosswhite character. She is someone I can root for and someone I care about. The character really struck me emotionally, which made me enjoy the books immensely. Every Wally Lamb and Khaled Hosseini book I’ve read also connected with me emotionally. I’m eagerly awaiting Lamb’s latest release this November because I know it will be good. His ability to make me care about the characters is paramount to my enjoyment.

If this is important to me as a reader, then it has to be important to me as a writer. Do my stories connect emotionally with the reader? Why or why not? I have to ask myself these questions. Do I have an emotional center to each of my books? If I don’t, then I know I need to re-write them. Even mindlessly fun movies can teach me a thing or two about good writing.

To be fair, I enjoyed Suicide Squad in spite of its script flaws. It could have been better, but for some good summer fun, it fit the bill, but I do hope DC Comics gets its act together. I have high hopes for Justice League next year. My review won’t be so kind if they screw that up.

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