Updated: Feb 3, 2022
James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad is the best film of the DCEU and by far the most entertaining; it’s a loose cannon of guns blazing, blood being splattered, and a bunch of low-grade villains who are incredibly fun to watch.
In 2016, David Ayer’s Suicide Squad hit the theaters and it got terrible reviews, but it wasn’t the director’s fault. Warner Brothers botched his original cut and made it into a dull “comedic” mess that had fans around the world frustrated for ruining beloved characters. Ayer has every right to be mad at them; he’s even asking that they release his cut of the movie like what they did with the infamous Snyder Cut of Justice League. To no one’s surprise, the studio didn’t care much for Snyder’s version either.
Now five years later, Warner Bros. decided to press the reset button onto the franchise by making a new version of the film with James Gunn, director of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. I & II, to helm the project. Gunn’s style fits well with the team-up style of groupings, as he has shown before in GOTG and the Scooby-Doo franchises. With free reign to do whatever he pleases, you already know that there are a lot of crazy imaginative misadventures.
Essentially, the movie can be summed up like this: if they escape the job, they die, and if they don’t do what they are told, they die. The government and Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) sends the most dangerous and unusual supervillains in the world -- Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), amongst others -- to the island of Corto Maltese, which is covered with enemies. Armed from bottom to top with high-tech weapons, guns, javelins, rats, and polka-dots, go through the dangerous jungle on a search-and-destroy hit job with Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) to lead them. Still, their journey is blighted, as something bigger is coming their way.
It is evident that James Gunn has tremendous passion for the comic-book characters while talking about the movie during his interviews; that passion is noticeable on the screen, on the contrary of most DCEU features. Most superhero flicks need their directors to have an appreciation for the source material, but being a fan is not always enough to make a film. For example, Zack Snyder’s Watchmen (2009). Gifted with the “go ahead, do your thing” permission from the studio, Gunn doesn’t hold back. He goes all out, literally.
In the new version of the Suicide Squad, there are just a few returning members from Ayer’s flick -- Harley, Captain Boomerang, Rick Flag, and Amanda Waller -- the rest being new additions. The so-called “villains” are even more stupid, in a “laughing at their powers” kind of way, one of them being Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian, which James Gunn described as "the dumbest DC character of all time”) who throws polka-dots at people. The other is an almost 6-feet weasel (Sean Gunn); then add in The Detachable Kid (Nathan Fillion), who can detach both of his arms, and a man who carries a javelin (Flula Borg). This being the “Suicide Squad”, it’s clear that a lot of them will end up dying- and they do, in a horrifically funny way.
Gunn’s brilliant character introductions ensure that you remember every person with even the slightest screen time or presence. Some of these new additions do help the film a lot, with the standouts being Daniela Melchior’s Ratcatcher 2 and Sylvester Stallone’s King Shark. What helps these two characters stick out more than the rest is their wit and natural chemistry. Idris Elba and John Cena were also kicking ass as Bloodsport and Peacemaker, the latter of which is getting his own HBO MAX series.
Finally, the villainous yet lovable foul-mouthed ex-psychiatrist, Harley Quinn. By now we know that Margot Robbie was born for this role, like Hugh Jackman as Logan or Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, even though her only take was in Burton’s Batman Returns (1992). She embodies Harley, from her mannerisms to her accent; they are one. One of the best aspects of the 2016 version is her character and for this new one, it is no different.
The Suicide Squad takes its R-rating seriously as it begins in a blood bath and consequently ends in one. Blood is always everywhere, with killings occurring at every possible moment creatively and hilariously. Gunn also makes his Kaiju wishes come true in the last act when a giant space starfish called Starro makes its way to conquer the island and destroy the city. There isn’t a single dull moment thanks to these action set-pieces being so well handled. You get a shark eating a man and, on the other side, you have Ratcatcher 2 calling all the rats to devour the enemies. How could that not entertain you? Giving Gunn the liberty to do what he wanted was the right decision that Warner Bros. could have made in making this movie.
The key problems of the film are its storytelling, pacing, and the sheer craziness of it all. It’s possible to keep up with the narrative, but Gunn doesn’t hold your hand. At times the action is so overwhelming that it becomes sensory overload, and the pacing doesn’t help either. It runs fast during its first half, while in the second it takes its time, just before the finale goes off like a bomb. Suddenly, everything is louder, more explosive, and everything goes to hell. There are also a couple of jarring time switches where the film jumps back and forth from present to past or even showing a different perspective of a scene that we have just seen.
However, even with the occasional confusion, it’s still engaging and intriguing. Props to Gunn for putting chaos onto a screen and still managing to get you to care about the characters. It is fantastic seeing a blockbuster take so many risks and then truly succeeding, especially in a summer where most “box-office” hits have been lackluster. The Suicide Squad not only delivers popcorn promises, but it astonishingly surpasses fan expectations with bloody brigades, a bombardment of curse words, and bona fide insanity.