“The Suicide Squad” Review: One of DC’s Best!

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JD Jones, Arts & Entertainment

When you hear the name of James Gunn, the first thing you’d probably think of is his association with Marvel Studios. Gunn was the director and screenwriter behind the 2014 smash hit “Guardians of the Galaxy” and its 2017 sequel. Known for its fun and heartfelt characters and now iconic soundtrack, this series took some of the least known characters from Marvel Comics and made them into household names. However, in the summer of 2018, it looked like Gunn’s career was over when Disney fired him after Gunn’s old tweets of inappropriate jokes were brought back into light. Gunn had previously apologized for said jokes, but still stepped away. Warner Bros., the company that owns DC, managed to pick him up soon after to helm “The Suicide Squad”, a sequel to the similarly titled 2016 movie “Suicide Squad”. After backlash from fans, journalists, and co-stars, Disney decided to rehire him in March 2019, allowing Gunn to come back after bringing some new DC characters to life!

Gunn was given nearly unlimited creative control for his film, which was described as a cross between a stand-alone sequel and a reboot. Released on August 5, it debuted to raving reviews that said Gunn’s filmmaking comeback was not only great in the technical aspects of filmmaking, but also in the finer aspects of character development. While the box office numbers were disappointing due to a resurgence of COVID-19 through the Delta variant, the streaming numbers on HBO Max went through the roof, becoming the third-most-streamed movie on the service. As one who did get to experience watching “The Suicide Squad” during the summer, I can pretty much confirm that all of the above accolades are true!

In terms of creativity, “The Suicide Squad” is easily one of the best comic book movies I’ve seen. Many (myself included ) enjoy the MCU movies, and while there’s no denying the fun factor they have, there’s something refreshing about Gunn’s vision. The costume design feels like the most appropriate mix of comic book designs and real-life armor. The transitions and slightly non-linear story structure feel like they are ripped from a comic panel. Each camera shot feels decisive and focused, and the action is absolutely insane. Harley Quinn (played by Margot Robbie) has an escape sequence that is a true highlight, but even the opening action sequence and the finale set-piece that feature bigger explosions and more creative shots demonstrate a wonder that is easy to lose as the superhero genre becomes way too repetitive. To put it simply, Gunn goes for broke, but nearly every decision pays off in the end.

What’s also unique about this movie is the ensemble cast, where absolutely no one does anything wrong! Gunn assembles one of the hugest A-list casts I’ve ever seen, only to kill more than half of them. It might seem like a waste of talent at first, but when you realize that the purpose of the actual team is to be a bunch of disposable villains using their powers to do black-ops missions on which they are meant to die, it makes more sense. For what it’s worth, Gunn makes the most of his cast. There are two teams assembled for this, totaling around 15 members, and each one gets their moment to shine. Whether it is a contribution to an action sequence or in a line of humorous dialogue, you feel like you know these characters more extensively than in the 2016 film. The main team consists of characters like Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Ratcatcher II (Daniela Melchior), Polka-Dot Man (Dave Dastmalchian), and King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone), who have villainous tendencies perhaps but are still sympathetic enough to enjoy and find some part of yourself in. There are also characters like Peacemaker (played wonderfully by John Cena), who are more annoying and unsympathetic, but still have plenty of funny moments. You can tell everyone is having fun on set, and that just adds to the overall chemistry of the main team. However, even the minor characters, like returning player Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and new guy T.D.K. (Nathan Fillion) each have scenes that give them purpose.

Finally, I’d also like to call attention to the script of “The Suicide Squad”, which I feel is one of the most genuine scripts a superhero movie has had in quite some time. Whereas the first movie didn’t really have anything to latch onto character-wise (besides the performances), Gunn at least allows us to slow down and connect with the characters. We see them open up about their tragic pasts and allow their tough exteriors to erode away. And, due to the dedicated work from the actors, their fate and camaraderie become special and investable. When Bloodsport looks to help Ratcatcher II, you know he’s being sincere. When Rick Flag is willing to lay down his life for Harley when he learns she’s captured, you see the tangible relationship that’s there. In terms of emotion, Gunn takes you on a roller coaster of sincerity and laughter, and it’s worth the price of admission.

To sum up, 2021 has had a lot of fun movies, but not too many are going to touch the fun factor of “The Suicide Squad”! It’s an excellent distillation of what this genre can achieve, and nails the spectacle and core character dynamics that this property has in the comics. Gunn has also filmed a “Peacemaker” TV show for HBO Max, and is then going back to Marvel for “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3”. With James Gunn back to making these films, the future of this genre looks a little brighter!