The story of how this movie came to be is almost as interesting as the movie itself. After being rashly dismissed by Marvel and Disney in 2019, James Gunn was immediately courted with a silver platter by Warner Bros. and DC.
Offering him the chance to make his own Suicide Squad movie (especially after the first one failed so spectacularly), it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. And while Disney came to their senses and rehired him to write/direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, he still got to show the world his version of a DC movie.
Task Force X Reunited
Wasting absolutely no time, the opening minutes of The Suicide Squad jump right into the mission as Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) recruits a new team with a few familiar faces: Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Col. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney).
The new recruits are vast and include (but are not limited to): Savant (Michael Rooker), Weasel (Sean Gunn), T.D.K. (Nathan Fillion), Javelin (Flula Borg), Mongal (Mayling Ng), Blackguard (Pete Davidson), Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), and King Shark (Sylvester Stallone).
Before the opening credits are even rolling, Gunn’s extremely dark sense of humor is on full display, as well as his affinity for completely subverting expectations. Several times throughout its duration, it successfully tricks the audience (in a good way), by going in a completely different direction, even spanning multiple subgneres.
The stakes feels all the more real because this isn’t some world-ending threat with a sky beam. It’s a mission that certainly could lead to a national security threat, but the movie itself is more of a covert operation. One where any character can die at any time, without any warning, thus giving it real stakes, and giving the deaths more meaning.
“R” Rated Guardians?
Combining his usual goofy, but lovable characters with a dark sense of humor, The Suicide Squad definitely gives off some strong Gurdians of the Galaxy vibes. Particularly when dealing a certain group dynamic, it sometimes even feels like there’s a one-to-one ratio (ex. King Shark feels like the Groot of the group sometimes).
That said, this is very much not a Disney movie! It’s more visually colorful than we’re used to from other DCEU movies, but it’s also probably the most violent superhero movie since Deadpool or Logan (even surpassing both of them at times).
Limbs are chopped, throats are slashed, heads are decapitated, bodies are crushed, and bullet wounds cause full blown explosions with flesh and guts spilling out. It earns its “R” rating in every single way, using cursing and violence as part of the style, rather than feeling like out of place, over the top measures like in the Director’s Cuts of Batman v. Superman and Justice League.
Understanding the Characters
While James Gunn is certainly known for his comedic approach to horror, and his sometimes goofy sense of humor that audiences connect with. Where he really thrives is in his characters. Nobody cared who the Guardians of the Galaxy were until he made a movie about them because he made us understand, sympathize with, and care for those characters.
The same is very much true for The Suicide Squad. Rather than literally gives us stats on the screen itself, Gunn uses quick quips of dialogue to show rather than tell who these people are. Then the characters who are the main focus are allowed to organically grow and show the audience their arcs.
Honestly, there’s not a single weak link in this cast, and that’s a testament to both the actors’ performances, as well as how they were written. As this Task Force X goes on their mission, we see their desires, vices, vulnerabilities and motivations on full display.
There are times where they’re kicking major ass with tons of blood and gore (again this can’t be understated), and other times they seem like regular people just hanging out before and after a dangerous mission.
Harley Quinn is able to finalize her trilogy’s worth of character growth and development by showing us she’s not at all the same person we met back in 2016’s Suicide Squad. She’s grown into something of a hero, with real purpose and her own sense of moral code.
The same can be said for Poka-Dot Man, Bloodsport, Peacemaker, Rick Flag, and many others. While it doesn’t directly follow anything from the first film, it smartly keeps it in continuity, allowing for certain characters to already have a familiarity with each other. Even King Shark, with minimal dialogue has some genuinely touching and relatable moments.
Balancing the Perfect Tone
It’s no easy task pulling off brutal violence and wacky humor. Gunn’s previous film The Belko Experiment (which he wrote, not directed) was criticized for never finding the right balance between the intensity of the murders, and the almost slapstick sense of humor.
The Suicide Squad does a much better job blending the two. These characters are in high-stress, incredibly dangerous situation, and they seem to crack jokes not because they’re trying to be the funniest person in the room, but rather to cope with the trauma and terror that they’re actually feeling.
Granted, the movie isn’t without its flaws. The villains for the most of the movie are just generic, “bad guy” military generals who do bad guy things for bad guy reasons. Thankfully, there’s no skybeam, but there really isn’t a clear and concise villain until very late in the movie.
And while its character moments are great, the dialogue gets a bit on the nosy and clunky when it comes to trying to convey its greater themes and ideas.
The Suicide Squad is about as James Gunn as it gets, in every sense of the word. It’s brutally violent, gleefully gory, visually fun, nihilistically hilarious, but also heartwarming and inspiring. It’s everything we want from Gunn, while also delivering a top tier DCEU movie!
What did you think of The Suicide Squad? How did it compare for you to other DCEU movies? Let us know in the comments!
The Suicide Squad is currently in theaters and streaming on HBO Max until Sept. 5, 2021