James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad starts right of the bat as a lot of things: a sequel/reboot to 2016’s not-so well received Suicide Squad, a directorial debut for James Gunn, who made his name recently with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy movies, and an attempt to harness the brutal, alluring madness that has made DC’s disposable team of bad guys so endearing to comic readers and everyone who wanted the first film to be a hit. But even reading that makes one realize the pressure that was on this film, so let’s tell you what it actually is: an incredibly funny, gory and engaging romp that makes this team of DC’s worst arguably more entertaining than their best superheroes.
As stated before, this Suicide Squad movie plays the dual role of both being both a sequel to the 2016 film and in many ways a reboot, keeping the elements of the last film that worked (Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller for example) and introducing new characters, enemies and dynamics that make this film’s 14-character squad not only manageable narratively, but overall entertaining in a way that makes you like and hate some of them at the same time. Idris Elba’s Bloodsport is of course the easiest star to focus on here, being put front and centre story-wise, but he’s by no means the only one to notice, or even the best new character. Daniella Melchoir’s Ratcatcher 2 , David Dastmalchian’s Polka-Dot Man and even Sylvester Stallone’s King Shark all steal the show with their variety of weird, messed up but quirky and entertaining characters. But John Cena’s Peacemaker is by far the biggest draw. Being shown to be an overly-patriotic man-child driven by both a sense of American exceptionalism and a psychotic need to kill, he is by far the scene stealer for most scenes he’s making the audience not sure as to like him or loathe him. From his rivalry with Bloodsport to a scene that shows he’s as bad as The Boy’s Homelander or Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s John Walker/US Agent, Peacemaker is easily one of the most interesting characters to grace the DCEU, and one can’t help but simply enjoy all they get from him.
Returning characters are given new life as well, with Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag being the easiest one to single out. While the first movie had him being Amanda Waller’s near-perfect guard-dog type soldier with barely a personality, The Suicide Squad shows off his more relatable side, making him the likeable centre of the team , especially as he’s become the type of person that even sees the best in the collective group of killers and psychos he always has to work with. Margot Robbie’s Harley comes back in all her scene-stealing glory as well, with a side-plot of her own that’s arguably a showcase of how flexible the character can be, essentially being thrown into a separate story-line then re-integrated when needed. It’s proof of why she’s essentially the DCEU’s MVP character now (next to Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman) and the way they give a running gag of the movie established from the start a strong payoff is also nothing but pure joy.
Right from the beginning however, this movie shows you that it’s determined to live up to the title Suicide Squad. Gunn kept hinting at how we shouldn’t get too attached to any of the characters here and arguably his first scene establishes why. The film is definitely not afraid of gore, killing off characters left and right and not being squeamish about how it does it. As aforementioned, not all these deaths will be pleasing, even if you have a somewhat dark sense of humor that some of the movie’s “icings” definitely require you to have. Some characters you like definitely will die, and while that’s divisive in almost every other movie, in a Suicide Squad movie it’s a plus, if not one of the most significant parts. Task Force X is defined by a revolving door of members with a high death turnover, which is why they aren’t the Justice League or the Avengers, and watching this movie from the start, you begin to realize every moment you see with a character truly should be enjoyed, because their next scene may be their last. Again, it’s a direction that even the title states, but it’s one that makes The Suicide Squad unique among comic book movies.
The movie’s style is a huge part of its unique charm as well. While James Gunn fans will definitely recognize his brand of humor and character dynamics similar to movies like Guardians, he goes further in cementing the significance of The Suicide Squad in his approach to action sequences as well. There specifically two that play around with the chronology of the story in a novel way as well. It’s nothing completely new, and thankfully it’s not as confusing as movies like Tenet either. But it’s welcome enough in how it’s implemented as to not become overwhelming.
Does this all make the Suicide Squad perfect? Well, no. The film is definitely in many ways trying to make up for the last movie that it could be argued it didn’t aim high enough beyond being far better than the last one. It’s approach to who lives and who doesn’t as already said could rub some people the wrong way. But it’s definitely a representation of the actual Suicide Squad as they should be, and translates them into film in a way that only Marvel’s The Avengers and X2:X-men United have managed to achieve in terms of perfectly representing a superhero/supervillain team. It’s easily one of the best DC films ever made and it’s arguably the best action film 2021 has produced so far. Simply put, go out and watch it. Whether in a cinema or at home (though the action in this film really requires a big screen), you’ll definitely have a great time watching it. Just don’t get too attached as the movie suggests.