2016’s Suicide Squad was the movie that started my website and it was terrible. The characters were thinly written, the plot made no sense, and the potential of seeing a team of villains as opposed to heroes was utterly wasted. However, The Suicide Squad is infinitely better than its predecessor is excellently helmed in the hands of James Gunn. It’s beautifully violent, heartwarmingly hilarious, and electrically joyful to watch. While the film does struggle when it comes to building cohesive relationships between its characters, it undeniably takes advantage of its premise and delivers one of the DCEU’s best films in years.
The film wastes no time in getting right to the action as the first film did all the heavy lifting. Amanda Waller puts together a group of villains dubbed “Task Force X” and sends them on a mission to infiltrate another government. Each member has a chip in their head that can be detonated at any moment if they fail to comply with their mission. This new team of villains that ranges from the most obscure DC comics characters must band together and complete their assignment to ensure their own lives.
Most of the cast from the first film has been wiped away save for a small handful of characters such as Harley Quinn and Rick Flag. Margot Robbie is finally given the script she deserves to bring her character justice, as she imbues both the insane psychiatrist that was under the Joker’s control and the zany anti-hero she has become in the past films. Quinn is able to be her own character, and Robbie is able to bring excellent humor but also heartfelt moments in a matter of seconds. The humanity of Harley Quinn is felt and at the same time you understand that she is insane. It’s a perfect balance struck together by James Gunn’s excellent writing. Rick Flag also fares far better as he is no longer the baffling commander trying to lead a group of criminals, but rather a conviction riddled and laid back leader trying his best to complete his mission. His inclusion in this film redeems the mess he was in the first film even if we fully don’t get to spend as much time with him as I would have liked.
The new characters that we are introduced to are also excellently meta yet insightful, striking a nice balance on the team. Idris Elba’s Bloodsport and John Cena’s Peacemaker have a fun dynamic together when they constantly try to one up the other and it provides some great comedy. Ratcatcher 2 and Polka Dot Man (yes you read that right) are able to bring more of the heart and soul to the story with the trauma and humanity imbued within them. However, Sylvester Stallone’s King Shark is the one that truly steals the show with excellently timed comedy and gruesome action scenes.
Given that we are dealing with a lot of “lesser known” comic book characters, James Gunn is given more creative freedom to do whatever he wants with them including gruesomely killing them off. The film establishes early that no character is safe from death adding a new sense of tension and stakes that normally isn’t present in most movies. It felt akin to the early days of Game of Thrones where your favorite character could be killed off at any moment. Most of the deaths are played off for laughs, adding to the more meta and action comedy aspect of the film which can often take away from us feeling invested, but it does make great use of that hard R rating.
The action is some of the best in a comic book movie with extremely violent and bloody sequences that made my jaw drop. King Shark eats humans alive, Captain Boomerang slices people’s heads opens, enemies are shot point blank in the face and you witness all of the gruesome little details. This a film that deserves to be rated R and I’m glad that the studio gave more freedom to the entire team behind this production. The action just feels more visceral and engaging, which lead me to feel constantly and consistently entertained throughout the film.
The film’s “meta”ness can sometimes be a weakness, with character backstories being played more for laughs as opposed to character building moments. The insight we get into most of the characters isn’t as particularly deep and rich as it could be which lessens the impact of a few moments where characters are supposed to be connecting with one another. Ratcatcher 2 is definitely the character given the most humanity and soul on this team, making her interactions with King Shark and Bloodsport more powerful. Outside of that, the emotional impact of the film is rather weak when compared to some of Gunn’s other works.
Additionally, the film makes a choice early on in the film to establish expectations for characters and then begins to double down on that choice towards the end of the film. Without spoiling anything, I felt the film was building to a conclusion that never came making me a desire an ending in which I had seen that particular outcome. It’s hard to talk about without spoiling, but regardless the original ending of the film is strong and maybe I had my expectations a wee bit high for what James Gunn would do.
Regardless of its very few shortcomings, The Suicide Squad easily ranks among some of the best comic book movies out there. It is insanely hilarious, over the top in its action sequences, and surprisingly heartfelt when it isn’t doubling down on being meta. Giving directors creative freedom is what more studios should be doing because it results in films like this which are simply a blast to watch! I sure hope we can see what happens next for some of these characters, because I am undoubtedly along for the ride.
A- Beautifully Meta