The Suicide Squad is Entertaining for its Excess and Troma-Esque approach to filmmaking. But with low stakes, intentionally stupid characters, and a rehash of the usual superhero team tropes, it’s all still mostly the same.
Let me be straight with you: this movie is fun because it acknowledges what a lot of people didn’t like about the original Suicide Squad. All with a big David Ayer’s F-You. With excess vulgarity, brief nudity, and often, over-the-top violence, The Suicide Squad tries really hard to be different than its predecessor by embracing it’s R-rating. And though it works to some degree, in that it is a fun but offensive sort of fashion like Deadpool, it also never really goes as far into the grittiness as something like The Boys. Or Watchmen. Or even Doom Patrol.
The shocks in this movie are, oddly enough, rather contained for today’s standards. With the exception of the many deaths of these mostly no-name anti-heroes (minus Harley Quinn) whose entire cameos serve mostly as butts of a joke. Yes, this is meant to be funny… though, I’m unfortunately a reviewer who honestly didn’t really care all that much for it. Mostly, because there have already been a plethora of uncensored and intentionally offensive comic book stories adapted as of late all across the digital medium, between all of the major streaming networks from Amazon to Netflix to even DC’s own HBO Max.
Sure, comparing Film to TV may be an unjust comparison, though to be frank, it’s difficult not to, given how fantastic DC has been at creating show adaptations (and video games for that matter). For instance, the CW network has had a plethora of successful DC TV series this past decade, each with its own cult following, that hits all the right target audience demographics (mostly teens) for what it is trying to do.
But even on the grittier sides of DC’s entertainment camp, there have been a ton of fantastic DC Universe shows (now HBO Max) that have done a surprisingly great job balancing darker themes and uncensored violence — all while not sacrificing character arcs or losing its self-identity by deconstructing they very thing their series is meant to do. I’m talking about Doom Patrol, Swamp Thing, Young Justice, the entire DC Animated Universe catalog, and even its flagship DCU show, Titans. After having seen all of these works DC has put out there before it, it just isn’t the same. Though I can see how as compared to every other DCEU film, why this movie stands out. Here’s why (spoilers ahead).
The Story Is Just Like The Original But Better And More In-Line With Zack Snyder’s Palate For Filmmaking
So the story for The Suicide Squad is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, in that in many ways, it’s acknowledging that the first movie most definitely happened. This isn’t a reboot of the origins as much as it is a continuation in the styles of an entirely different director. This Suicide Squad immediately sees some familiar faces return. Popular characters from the first film such as Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Amanda Waller, and Rick Flag.
However, there is no Will Smith making his return as Deadshot, as it is very apparent how Bloodsport (Idris Elba), was very much written as a de facto replacement to Deadshot’s return. Both are strong Black men with a penchant for killing things with guns. Both also are dysfunctional parents with daughters, whose life of crime and the threat of jail, threaten their respective parental relationships. They’re basically the same character but with different actors.
Likewise, nothing’s changed about how the Squad works. It’s the same story beats fit into the same type of scenario: go on an incredibly dangerous mission no one in their right mind would attempt to reduce their jail sentences, or die. As a result, the story kind of lacks any actual conflict. What’s at stake is absolutely nothing. Because characters we didn’t really care about or establish can die, often in non-consequential ways, in the face of repeatedly stupid yet hilarious failure. All for the sake of the jokes.
It’s funny but there is a problem when people die though nobody really cares (unless it was Harley), because this is the C-List team of forgettable villains. Not your Lex Luthors, Jokers, or even Captain Colds of the world. Unlike Guardians Of The Galaxy, where this is an overarching anticipatory infinity stone plotline that we know will hook the audience for later, this is a standalone movie of no consequence meant for laughs, and the sooner that pill is swallowed, the more enjoyable it can be. With the exception of one character who oddly wasn’t Harley Quinn: Rat Catcher 2. We’ll delve into her story later.
As for what this movie gets right: it’s easily the dynamic visuals. Watching The Suicide Squad is like a Zack Snyder movie in that there’s a lot of interesting music, unique use of lettering, and action sequences crafted to make the eyes pop. Visually this movie is one of the best films ever made by DC. With memorable moments including an intriguing rain sequence and a lot of just visceral cavalcade of guts and gore. Murder is often used as a joke in this film, which sees James Gunn play to his strengths without the censorship of Disney over his shoulder.
This can be hit-or-miss depending on if you enjoy this type of comedy, though, in my weird situation, I actually think James Gunn didn’t really break any barriers in this film as much as critics made it out to be…
Sure, The Suicide Squad Is Over-The-Top Compared To DC Films But It’s Still Pretty Tame Compared To James Gunn On The Whole
Because before Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn was a B-movie bad boy. Tromeo and Juliet, Hamster PSA, Slither, PG Porn, and Super — which even features one of the superhero genre’s most controversial rape scenes. Personally, I don’t find this movie as shocking as everybody else had, because it is oddly sort of played down compared to some of the things Gunn has done in his past. Though many found this aspect of the movie entertaining for its uncensored approach — I personally didn’t really find the shock value hit me as hard as most other fans.
The thing is, James Gunn is an understudy of Lloyd Kaufman. The founder of the infamously low-budget and offensively indie Troma brand. These were movies created to offend almost all censorship laws known to humankind. It’s also the same type of comedic filmmaking approach which inspired Matt Stone and Trey Parker — who is better known as the creators of South Park and Broadway’s The Book of Mormon.
So while this style may be shocking for some audiences, for me, personally, I just saw that as just another James Gunn movie. And honestly, shock value isn’t as hard-hitting as it used to be in this new decade, especially, in an age of political correctness and digital streaming where the internet can do anything offensive. And most likely, has already has. Take the shock comedy away, and I actually think The Suicide Squad is a rather weak movie. With a contrived third act featuring a starfish-laden villain, and an overly convenient deus ex machina, that really only works when taking away that all of this is meant as a joke.
That said… I have to give it to the actors in this one. Because they’re the ones who really carry this story forward.
It’s The Cast That Carries The Suicide Squad
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a DC movie where everyone unanimously held it together. And to give this movie due credit, every single actor in this film was perfect in what they were trying to accomplish. Not a single bad performance — with extraneous Kudos to Pete Davidson, Michael Rooker, Sylvester Stalone, Nathon Fillion, and Peter Capaldi.
Idris Elba can do no wrong and is perfect as BloodSport, tackling the character with gravitas and hilarity in a leading role we’ve all desperately wanted for Elba for years in the comic movie cinema world. David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man steals the show in a weirdly subtle fashion, minus the murderous mothering intentions. Rick Flag does a heck of a lot more in this movie, providing a weirdly heroic voice as a compelling leader, where Joel Kinneman really shines with his integrity for the greater good.
Though overwhelmingly, the best thing about this movie was Daniela Melchior. Because Rat Catcher Two, an anti-hero none-of-us knew of or cared about, is a happy Gen-Zer (Not Millennial. Can we catch up with the times with these jokes?) with a tremendously big heart. A lovable character whose arc stole the show in that it focused on the power of the little people (with some help from a beautiful scene between her and Taika Waititi). Reception to Daniela Melchior across the board has been overwhelmingly positive. This role is most likely her career-maker in Hollywood. So much so, that there is actually a lot of surprise that she is not getting her own tv series instead of John Cena.
This brings us to a problem: Peacemaker. Because though John Cena actually did a fantastic job in this role, he is also (big spoiler), the bad guy, and not a redeemable one. Cena works tremendously well in this movie by forcibly bouncing off the other characters as a rival and often foil. He is also rather unsympathetic and is perhaps the last person I can think of that really deserves an HBO spinoff. Though kudos to Cena, succeeding where fellow ex-wrestler Dave Bautista could not in getting his own mini-series franchise for his comic book character.
DC Has Become The Harley Quinn Show
Finally, and most importantly, this movie is the third installment of Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. Though I think Birds Of Prey was her masterpiece, Harley yet again steals the show here and has now become sort of the oddly leading face of the DCEU. Promotional-wise, Margot Robbie is also the big thing everyone has been selling about this movie outside of its well-loved director.
Yet again, Margot does no wrong. Harley Quinn’s story of her very fast love and kidnapping felt out of place from the rest of this movie — but works in good fun, in that it hits all the familiar character beats as a gifted athletic yet brilliantly deranged psychopath who is often defined by her toxic relationships to men. And sure, there’s some growth in this movie in that Quinn acknowledges this pattern, though it’s all still the same character beats most fans have come to love and accept about the character. With crazy action sequences, funny skewed lines of dialogue, and a lot of impressive physicality by Robbie herself (that’s her in the air actually unhandcuffing herself with her feet in that movie’s later scenes).
Though after three movies, there’s some growth left to be desired and I do wonder if the character goes the animated series/new 52 route (and I hope it does).
For anyone that’s been following all of the over-the-top comics adaptations on all the major platforms this past decade, we’re in a weird graphic novel adaptation phase where everything that has been done to shock audiences has already been. This is why none of the stakes, or let alone the deaths in The Suicide Squad, felt all that shocking — nor compelling — at least in my opinion. But as a superhero film, I think it’s entertaining enough in that it’s full of visually well-shot action and features characters who bounce off each other in fun ways. Just don’t go in it invested for anything beyond sensationalism and laughs.