REVIEW: The Suicide Squad – Being Bad Never Looked So Good

The Suicide Squad is a major improvement on its processor in every way from character development, action, and soundtrack. Its theme of making up for past mistakes blends perfectly well with the wider meta-narrative of the DCEU.

It is no mistake that the DCEU has had a bit of a rough go of it and has always, both fairly and unfairly, been compared to its biggest competitor, the MCU. The film that kickstarted the DCEU, Man of Steel, did not receive the overwhelmingly positive reaction that Iron Man did. In fact, Man of Steel was a very mixed bag that only seemed to double down on its worse tendencies in 2016 with the dual release of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad. Both movies were bad for a variety of different reasons, but after three films it appeared the writing was on the wall for the DCEU to many. However, Suicide Squad being the worst-reviewed film in the franchise was then followed by Wonder Woman, which was and to this date is still the best-reviewed film in the franchise. While the theatrical release of Justice League was a disappointment, it appeared that the DCEU found its footing with Aquaman, Shazam! and Birds of Prey to be a very different thing from the MCU and even the earliest part of its own franchise. Now The Suicide Squad comes along and gets everything right what the first entry got wrong. It goes to show that no franchise is beyond repair, and there is always a chance to make up for past mistakes.

That meta-theme of the franchise extends to director and writer James Gunn. Gunn was famously fired by Disney from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 after a fake outrage mob went after Gunn and resurfaced old offensive tweets to get him removed from the film due to Gunn being a vocal critic of the Trump administration. The tweets themselves were in bad taste and Gunn had apologized for his online behavior ahead of the first Guardians of the Galaxy film in 2014, so the outrage was always manufactured, but Disney panicked and let him go. Warner Bros., realizing they had a chance to get one of the biggest names from their rival competitor, swooped in and gave Gunn creative freedom on whatever DC project he wanted, eventually settling on The Suicide Squad. Famously, Warner Bros. fast-tracked the first Suicide Squad film shortly after the release of Guardians of the Galaxy to be their own answer to it (a group of criminals who have to be the heroes), including a soundtrack with a lot of needle drop, so there was a sort of fun twist in that the studio just hired the guy who made Guardians of the Galaxy to make their own Guardians. Gunn now wants to use The Suicide Squad as a vehicle to explore second chances, that even people who did something bad can do the right thing when called to it.

The Suicide Squad very much acts like the DCEU version of Thor: Ragnarok, which is a sequel to the previous film but also acts as an in-continuity reboot to free up the property moving forward. It is stylistically and tonally different from the previous film, trading in David Ayer’s grimy dirty aesthetic for a more bright colorful 80’s comic book throwback (compare how down to Earth the costumes in the first film look to how silly the outfits for characters like Javillen are). The film trusts the audience to remember the basic concept of the Suicide Squad from the first film, and only brings back four characters from the previous entry (Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Rick Flagg, and Amanda Waller) and basically clears the deck for future entries. Taking what did and didn’t work last time to create something entirely new. The result is probably the superhero film that feels the most like a comic book, in that it is one creative team handing over to a new creative team that maintains the original continuity but also serves as a new jumping-on point for readers/viewers.

The story involves Amanda Waller assembling two teams to partake in a mission to the fictional DC country Corto Maltese (first introduced in the comic The Dark Knight Returns), which has recently seen a regime change due to a violent military coup. They use the coup as an excuse to enter the country and undergo a black ops mission. The first team, consisting of various villains including Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), are taken captive and must be rescued, while the second team is sent to destroy top-secret base Jötunheim, houses a top-secret weapon titled only Project Starfish. Team two is lead by Bloodsport (Idris Elba) a deadly assassin who put Superman in the ICEU, Peacemaker (John Cena) a patriotic superhero who believes in peace so much he will kill for it, Ratcatcher 2 (Daniella Melchoir) who can control rats, Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) the victim of a tragic experiment performed on him by his mother, and King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone) who is a giant shark and one of the best parts of the movie. The team’s mission puts them into various conflicts with each other, Amanda Waller, the various political factors of Corto Maltese, and DC villains like The Thinker (Peter Capaldi) and the alien conqueror, Starro, who has been spotted in the trailers.

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