The Suicide Squad (2021)

The Suicide Squad 4K Steelbook

Film: Suicide Squad (2016) was said to be the movie we deserved as movie-goers, and I totally agree with it. As action movies get dumber and dumber, and superhero movies attempt, over the ridiculous premise that superheroes are real, to legitimise their stories, society has fallen into their trap, seeing the flick, buying the merch and wearing the t-shirt.

(I’ll point out here that I am a big comic book fan, and have such a large collection I’ve been interviewed both by an Australian Newspaper, and more recently, appeared on a podcast about collecting.)

The pure hatred against Suicide Squad surprised me, to the point that I was shocked to hear a sequel was being proposed, especially after the Justice League fiasco, which I won’t go into here. I think the decision to acquire James Gunn as director and writer may have been VERY deliberate. It seemed to be a slap in Disney’s face for their firing of Guardians of the Galaxy director over a comment made on Twitter years earlier, which from a social media marketing point-of-view, made sense. Taking an ex-Troma director and putting him on Batman or Superman would be a waste, but a wacky premise like Suicide Squad fits into his range perfectly.

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn

The premise of both the comic and the movies is fantastic. All the bad guys from the DC comics universe who have been captured and imprisoned have an opportunity to reduce their sentences by going on undercover missions for the U.S. government. This group, called Task Force X are basically put in unwinnable situations, that usually result in their demise, hence the nickname ‘Suicide Squad’. What makes these missions even more risky is that each villain has a bomb planted in their necks, so if they waver from the mission… KABOOM!

In this film, The Suicide Squad (note the ‘The’, that’s the difference) we see Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) organise a crack team, consisting of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman), Weasel (Sean Gunn), Savant (Michael Rooker), Javelin (Flula Borg), Mongal (Mayling Ng), Blackguard (Pete Davidson) and T.D.K. (Nathan Fillion) to infiltrate the small nation of Corto Maltese, with the intention of destroying Jötunheim, an impressive building that contains something called ‘Project Starfish’.

What this team don’t realise is that they are the B team, and the actual team consisting of Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), The Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) and King Shark (a digital character voiced by Sylvester Stallone) are on another part of the island, ready to actually perform the mission.

Peter Capaldi as the Thinker

It’s quickly revealed that Blackguard is a traitor and when the B team is all but decimated due to his duplicitous behaviour, the other team have their mission revised to find Flagg and save Quinn, before gaining entry to Jötunheim, via the Project’s manager, Thinker (Peter Capaldi).

Once they gain entry to the facility, they find that Project Starfish is much bigger, and preposterous, than they ever could have imagined…

What a wonderful thing this film is: to give the director of things like Super and Slither an opportunity to take a ridiculous concept like Suicide Squad, and then to not sanitise his work like we saw in his output of the Guardians of the Galaxy films, is brilliant. This film doesn’t just adapt the comics, it turns them into a 70s styled, gory, sexy and raucous beast that has something to watch all the time. The choice of character that he’s been allowed to use really gives fans of DC comics a lot of Easter eggs to look for, and the story is told in the wonderfully staggered, time-hoping manner which makes the unfolding story a thrill to watch as well.

The casting is pure brilliance as well. Gunn does tend to have a gang that return, like Fillion and his brother Sean, but building on the cast of the original was obviously a great deal of fun. The best thing about a film like this it works best if the cast DON’T have any real synergy, and it really makes it a fun watch, like someone else’s unpleasant family Christmas Dinner. The performance add to this as well. Elba and Cena have one of the most wonderfully antagonistic relationships I’ve ever seen, and Melchior and Stallone’s starts off bad, but develops fantastically.

As usual, Robbie’s Harley Quinn steals almost every scene she’s in, and even though a large subplot and several of the big gun battle scenes star her, she still somehow feels a little underused.

The story is totally comic booky, and it proves that Gunn, who also wrote the film, knows his stuff and appreciates both how silly some of the power sets of comic super characters are, and how that can be capitalised on for a film. He, of course, did this previously with the aforementioned Guardians of the Galaxy by making a walking tree a deadly weapon of both violence and marketing, and a raccoon wonderful comic relief, but here? Well, a polka-dot suited man becomes a flesh-melting powerhouse, and a shark with legs and a child-like mentality becomes a gory source of amusement.

Gunn obviously had a lot of fun with the scene changes too, there’s truly some magnificent design choices using text hidden in plain site telling when the time stamp of the scene is. Sure it’s been done before in films, but Gunn’s creativity really shows off with some of the choices.

I do have to give a special shout out to a particular scene of medical atrocities that reminded me so much of those performed in Dawn of the Dead by Doctor Logan that it doubled down my enjoyment of the gore of it.

So, as someone who champions the much-maligned Suicide Squad film, how do I feel about this? I think it is a suitable follow up that exceeds the original, mainly due to its construction, effects and it feels more complete.

Score: ****

The menu screen for the Australian release

Extras: No extras on the 4K disc, but the accompanying Bluray has MUCHO extras.

Deleted and Extended Scenes are, as usual, superfluous and the film is better off without them… that’s not to say there isn’t some fun gore in them though… and a scene that shows the wackiness of Harley which I possibly would have left in.

Unlike the more recent Marvel movies, here is a gag reel that’s actually occasionally funny, especially showing off the comedy stylings of Pete Davidson, John Cena and Flula Borg, and perhaps acts as a warning that props don’t always do what they are supposed to do.

Bringing King Shark to Life looks at the physical and vocal acting that make this character, and the CGI the completes the whole thing.

Gotta Love the Squad looks at the comic on which the movie is based, the characters and the actors who play them… also in and around that, the costume designer and Gunn himself talk about the character design.

The Way of the Gunn is an old school ego-stroke, but if I consider that I like every movie he had made except one (Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is such a load of crap… even worse is the first is BRILLIANT so it hurts even more) I’d probably agree that the stroking is warranted.

Scene Breakdowns looks at the design of 4 scenes, from the set design to the stunts, and is exceptionally fascinating!

Starro: It’s a Freakin’ Kaiju! talks about the brilliant decision to make the big bad thing a giant starfish that is traditionally a Justice League villain. The decision to not ‘adapt’ it but to instead make it just as dumb as comics are was a brilliant one and is discussed here.

Retro Trailers: War, Horror and Buddy-Cop are just amazing! These are trailers for the film but making them look like a 70s war film, an 80s horror and a late 80s cop film: these sit right in Gunn’s love of cinema and his sense of humour! It’s also nice that they highlight different characters too: the horror film highlights Ratcatcher 2 more than anyone else, and the buddy-cop trailer is all about Cena and Elba.

Commentary with Director/ Writer James Gunn is a lesson in filmmaking and a fascinating look at his creative process.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s very funny and very gory and occasionally sexy… ticks the ‘watch again’ boxes!

The artist formally known as Blackguard (Pete Davidson)

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