Who in the world thought 2021 would be the status of improvements inside the DC Extended Universe? Not me. First, it was the blessing of finally getting Zack Snyder’s Justice League to see the light of day. But it must’ve come as a major surprise the mind of writer/ director James Gunn delivering my most anticipated film of the entire summer, The Suicide Squad, in what has got to be bizarre and delightfully entertaining.
What’s the Story: The government sends the most dangerous supervillains in the world — Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and others — to the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese. Armed with high-tech weapons, they trek through the dangerous jungle on a search-and-destroy mission, with only Col. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) on the ground to make them behave.
I from two years didn’t like the idea of Gunn taking on the challenge of delivering The Suicide Squad to what we got now. Why? Because when David Ayer’s Suicide Squad was released during the summer of 2016, that was one of the most massive disappointments I’ve ever seen. For what was supposed to be a step up for the franchise at the time, not a lot was handled well, and it’s a bad thing when the ending credits, played over by twenty one pilots’ “Heathens,” was my favorite part. All of it probably shouldn’t be put to blame on Ayer’s shoulders since this wasn’t the movie he wanted to release; it’s always studio interference. However, with the stacked cast and the marketing behind it, it certainly gave me hope in knowing this standalone sequel/ reboot will have us forgot about before and now embrace how you do it right in the most badass way possible.
From what I saw, it seems the studio let Gunn do his thing without the hassle of having his film chopped up into a messy adventure. Just like how he made Guardians of the Galaxy and its sequel his own, he does the same here in the most Gunn-way imaginable with the transition from Marvel to DC. What’s not to love about this? Unlike previously, there’s this atmosphere of fun throughout where it’s a visual feast for all things insane and out of the ordinary without wasting time for its R-rated sake. As someone who’s gone down a side of depression from this past week, this definitely boosted my spirits to full effect.
But does Gunn go out his way to make your standard comic book film? I didn’t think so when he’s a ballsy filmmaker to go out on the wrath of unpredictability. This almost felt like a war film with these misfits, which I can see he was influenced greatly while putting this together. When the tagline reads, “Don’t get too attached,” he really means it, especially within the first five minutes or so. Very early on, I suspect this film is like the opposite cover song where most covers of popular songs can’t even match, this exceeds all expectations if that makes sense.
The greatest strength this time around are the characters/ super-villains we’re following around, and it’s more the fact they’re more memorable. A lot of new faces some won’t be familiar with if they haven’t read the comics, along with a few from the first movie returning, but here’s an ensemble of bad guys worth giving a crap about. Idris Elba as Bloodsport was everything I hoped for as a newcomer mercenary who’s developed in a fashion I wasn’t expecting. And we’ve already seen Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn three times, but it’s always worth noting that she still crushes it, and regardless of how crazy she is, I would still fall madly in love with her every time. Duh.
The newer characters were a blast to watch, and they’re all standouts where I honestly couldn’t choose just one. I promise you, everybody will be talking positively about Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher 2, who I believe is the heart and soul of the film. A young girl who communicates and controls rats wouldn’t sound great on paper, but it’s this emotional side of her I couldn’t get enough of. Just the chemistry she shares with every person on the team is totally believable, especially between her and Bloodsport. John Cena as Peacemaker puts on his best performance in recent years where his strengths as an actor of both action and comedy aren’t wasted here in a surprising move as he quotes, “A douchey Captain America,” which has me now excited about his upcoming series on HBO Max next year. Not only those two, but other scene-stealers from the likes of the friend-less King Shark, Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), and returning players from Rick Flag (an improved personality this time) and Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller were excellent in their own right.
What else is better? The story kills. The threat from before carried very limited stakes because those characters were too expendable to defeat against this being with a lack of build-up, making the overall picture all over the place and never feeling like the group was in real danger. Here though, it’s simple enough to get by without the needy exposition dumps, flashbacks, overdrawn introductions of every person to bore its viewer. As I said, there are interesting characters to watch, even those who are briefly in it, this doesn’t lead to a mistake in thinking any one of them could bite it. Thankfully, nobody is like the one named after an overrated band who gets killed after five minutes. Everything in this fits tightly in this universe while standing on its own without that much acknowledgment of the previous events.
As for the action provided, it’s a good thing when it’s not forgettable. Gunn knows how to craft together exhilarating sequences with a bloody, over-the-top feel to all of them, similar to what I’ve witnessed recently with my binge of The Boys (Amazing show, btw). The scope and scale of it are definitely bigger coming from someone like Gunn behind the camera. These were well put together with the editing work from Fred Raskin and Christian Wagner and gorgeous cinematography from Henry Braham. The editing annoyed me in the 2016 movie, but what made it cool is this awesome sequence featuring Harley that’s about on par with the jail/ warehouse scene from the underrated Birds of Prey. The humor might not hit everyone, but I needed to laugh hard since it offers tons of funnier moments that I and other people were laughing at, whether shocking or a silly joke from the director’s irreverent sense of humor thrown in here.
The positives are strong here. But if there was a criticism to come from watching this, maybe the start of the second act slows down a tad when there’s this side plot with Harley that I starting to wonder where it was going and it wasn’t having the same amount of energy after its incredible first act. Other than that, this is sure to be rewatched soon at home, which I had a feeling before walking in, and is never a bad thing.
Bottom-line, it would be impossible for someone not to have fun while watching The Suicide Squad. The skeptic side of me knew it would be a total mulligan, but not in the way I was expecting, honestly, where we got to see Gunn’s vision of another potential classic in the world of comic book entertainment. Boring? Nonsense. There’s a strong chance my thoughts improve once I watch it again, but it remains a ruler to being the top three best in the DCEU.
Final Thoughts: The Suicide Squad is fan-freakin’-tastic, improving immensely from its lesser predecessor. Gunn delivers a unique take on the genre that’s easily unpredictable, bloody action-filled, hilarious, and full-on entertaining. This is the film I and everyone else wanted all along. As someone who can still enjoy a fun comic book movie if well-handled, I call this a huge win.