If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.
This seems to be the mantra Warner Brothers has been living up to, with the recent Justice League to Zack Snyder’s Justice League debacle, and now, the studio is at it again by seemingly pulling the same trick with James Gunn’s version of The Suicide Squad, to hopefully make fans forget the 2016 version.
Now, don’t get it wrong, The Suicide Squad isn’t a sequel nor is it a reboot or a revival. Rather, it’s how a Suicide Squad movie should have been presented, but from the brilliant mind of Gunn, of Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy fame. And from the get-go, Gunn’s version is ballistic, crazy and far much better than the film before it.
Now, there are links to the first film, and ties to the greater DC Extended Universe (DCEU) of movies, as there are characters and actors who return, though that foundation only serves to enhance, not jeopardize this film.
The Suicide Squad starts with Viola Davis, who returns as the slightly self-serving and manipulative Amanda Waller, who puts together another group of supervillains to go on a dangerous mission for her. Like the comic books that inspired the movie, the formation of the group sees a mix of old and new faces, including the extremely popular and beloved DCEU icon, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), and teammates Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney).
They are in turn joined by a new and rich cast of characters pulled from the deep library of Task Force X, the original government agency overseeing the Suicide Squad in the comic books, including Peacemaker (John Cena), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), Ratcatcher II (Daniela Melchoir), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), Blackguard (Pete Davidson), Weasel (Sean Gunn), Bloodsport (Idris Elba) and more.
With such a big team, there are plenty of wacky characters one can fall in love with but it’s best not to get too involved because anyone, and literally anyone, can die. Which makes it more painful, because Gunn spends time building the cast of supervillains, making us feel, if not care for everyone, including the ever peculiar, The Detachable Kid (Nathan Fillion). Task Force X is immediately sent on a mission into Latin American island Corto Maltse, which has been taken over in a military coup. Led by Rick Flag and Bloodsport, the crew of elite killers gets busy and guns blazing all within the first ten minutes – oh and blood was shed, lives were lost, though we’ll let you experience the shock firsthand.
After a gory fight, Task Force X gets separated from each other – Harley was taken by the enemy and Rick by the resistance – and it’s up to the rest, led by Bloodsport and Peacemaker, to find and save them. It is in these moments leading up to Rick’s saving where we see the best of Elba’s and Cena’s performances.
The two fight to be the “alpha male” of the group, often causing more harm than good. Elba’s Bloodsport is an absent father with a fear of rats and is used to assuming leadership, while Cena’s Peacemaker, has a flawed perception of loyalty and what it means to keep the peace. The banter between Bloodsport and Peacemaker is one of the more entertaining connections we see built throughout the movie.
Second to the two alpha-males is the relationship between King Shark and Ratcatcher II – an always hungry bloodthirsty half-man half-shark and a young girl with an affinity for rodents. These two have an innocent friendship that involves a lot of trust and patient attempts at communication.
Gunn does an incredible job at building the characters from when we first meet them at the start of the movie, to the different checkpoints in the movie where we see their perceptions and outlook on each other shift as they bond amongst the chaos. It’s the character build-up we wanted to see from the earlier reiteration of Suicide Squad – which was largely based on the sexualization of Harley Quinn.
Speaking of Harley Quinn, the version we see of her in The Suicide Squad is the fresh and revamped Harley Quinn from Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey. She’s strong, sure of herself, and no longer seeks the validation of men around her. In fact, Harley even references certain experiences she’s had that largely points to her emancipation as seen in Birds of Prey.
Whilst Harley does play a significant role in the movie’s events, it is nice to see that every character carries the movie in their own way – even Polka Dot Man who at first, seems innocent and not at all threatening. Even characters who didn’t make it past the first act come to some importance towards the end of the film, greatly exemplifying Gunn’s storytelling – everything comes full circle and nothing is pointless, unlike the 2016 version.
Gunn’s impeccable storytelling may not come as a shock to fans who have followed the director’s venture from Marvel over to DC, but his impact on the overall DC Entertainment Universe can surely be seen. No offense to past DCEU directors (we’re talking about you Zack Snyder), but it looks like Gunn is single-handedly reviving the DCEU. Gone are slow-paced, boring, full of dialogue DC, because Gunn brings a whole lot of colour, never-ending violence and action, and tons of dark humour that will make you feel guilty for laughing out loud.
Despite the fun, however, The Suicide Squad does feel like it goes on forever. The two-hour-long movie has a number of side stories that it wishes to fulfill, like what are Waller’s true intentions to sending the squad on this mission? Will Bloodsport learn to be a good father? What’s Ratcatcher II’s deal with rats? And of course, with a military coup at the center of everything, The Suicide Squad tends to get political. Maybe a little too political for some who just want to see these maniacs shoot and kill people (and themselves).
It’s not a deal-breaker though, the side-plots help with character growth and helps viewers connect with certain characters. Again, we remind you to not get too attached to any of them. We beg of you. With all the buildup, the “big reveal” of the film isn’t exactly revolutionary, or impactful. However, Gunn makes up for it with kaiju villain-monster Starro wreaking havoc in the final act.
Now, never, in the history of comic book movies based on DC Comics, have we ever seen DC characters fight kaiju monsters. Sure, there’s Darkseid and other beings from outer space – but none at this level that looks like it’s straight out of a comic or an Ultraman episode. If comic-book-like action is what you want to see from DC, then The Suicide Squad is where it’s at.
The Suicide Squad serves all the blood and the gore that we never got to satisfying see in the first one – if it even was considered violent in the first place. Gunn’s madness is brilliant and is put on full display in this film. Paired with darker, cruder humour and a great soundtrack, if Guardians of the Galaxy is your favourite James Gunn movie, The Suicide Squad may easily take that slot up.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
The Suicide Squad is a a ballistic, chaotic mess, in the best possible way. Violent, bloodier, cruder and funnier, James Gunn’s brilliance lies in his madness.
Story - 8/10
Direction - 9/10
Characterisation - 8.5/10
Geek Satisfaction - 9/10