After the critical and audience reception of 2016’s Suicide Squad, writer/director James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) was brought in to give it a new life. The Suicide Squad serves as both a sequel to and reboot of Suicide Squad, as not only does it take place in the same universe as the rest of the previous DC films that have come before it, yet it does manage to do something different, with all sorts of new characters and a mission that is pretty much the same, but on a massive level when compared to the 2016 film. Still, the premise is reminiscent of the original; Viola Davis’ ruthless Amanda Waller brings a group of criminals together to stop a worldly threat in order to get their sentences reduced lest they back away; if they do that, she activates a microchip that ends their life, though not in a PG-13 way.
Besides Waller, characters like Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang, and Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag return for another go, while being joined by new criminals; the likes of Idris Elba’s Bloodsport (a sort-of replacement for Will Smith’s Deadshot), John Cena’s ironically-named Peacemaker, Daniela Melchior’s Ratcatcher 2, David Dastmalchian’s Polka-Dot Man, a giant humanoid shark with the voice of Sylvester Stallone, known as King Shark (A.K.A. this movie’s version of Groot), Michael Rooker’s Savant, and many others. With a movie this epic, the cast is indeed stacked.
I do not want to give anything away, but its first ten minutes are a smorgasbord of gleeful violence and twists that I am sure Gunn had fun with when writing this film. It is a mix of emotions ranging from disappointing to humorous and sadistic. With Gunn, you know what tone it is going for, but not in the way you expect. With Marvel, he had to tame his urges to satisfy family audiences. Here, with DC, he is allowed to go all-out in a bloody, gory, profanity-laced fiasco that feels like pre-Guardians Gunn. Imagine if David Ayer returned to direct, or anyone else handled this material, it would not have worked. Gunn knows how to handle characters with an acerbic wit and joy in discomforting material, even if audiences find his work too dark to stomach. It is clear that he is the perfect director of a Suicide Squad movie!
As much as I liked the 2016 film, I see The Suicide Squad as an improvement. The dark grit of 2016 has been replaced with the bright, colorful splotches of paint that truly stand out, making it digestible. It even shows during Harley Quinn’s scenes, particularly in one scene where she sports a red dress and has to hold her own against a group of soldiers in typical Harley Quinn fashion. The cast is especially riotous and get their share of quips and laughs, mostly coming from natural showstealers, Quinn and King Shark. This may be the most fun DC film since Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) a year prior.
With Zack Snyder’s Justice League and The Suicide Squad, it seems that the DC Extended Universe has finally found its footing, especially when it comes to letting a director reach their full potential. I am hopeful that DC is taking the right path, though they have a lot to do when competing with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.