HBO Max: The Suicide Squad

The squad of suicidal squads.

I have a lot of mixed feelings for the current state of DC media and I don’t generally like reviewing Marvel/DC stuff because I’ll start rambling off on why they exist and what they are meant to push, at least in the case of Marvel. For instance the recent shows have all been vehicles for Marvel to cowardly bring dead characters back to life and set the stage for the movies where their real money is made.

DC is different, because the DCEU so far has been a mad scramble to play catchup with what Marvel started a decade prior. But the good news is that DC has seemingly learned from a lot of its early mistakes, like not differentiating itself by making the movies grimdark. Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman were awful, as was Suicide Squad and Justice League. Wonder Woman was a great film but 1984 kinda crapped out that legacy. But ever since Aquaman, which was a very Chinese film, DC has been on the rebound. Not getting everything right, but the average level of quality is on its way up.

The Suicide Squad is part of the DCEU in the way I like; you’d never know it was a DCEU film unless someone told you. It pulls together a massive cast of characters and at times it feels less like a real movie and more like a Saturday Night Live sketch from ten years ago playing a DC Rejects style film.

The Suicide Squad comes to us from the mind of James Gunn, making it one of the rare times you’ll see a combination sole director/writer on a comic book movie of this size. Task Force X director Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is in charge of recruiting another squad of villains for a dangerous, suicidal mission. This time the team needs to infiltrate the country of Corto Maltese and destroy all remnants of something called Project Starfish. And no, it’s not a reference to buttholes.

This leads to two task forces landing on the island, and when the mission goes awry for we’ll call them Task Force A, Task Force B needs to pick up the slack and complete the primary objectives as well as rescue the survivors from the other team. Every member of the Suicide Squad is a b-to-d-list villain from somewhere in the line of DC properties.

The obvious stars of the movie of course are Bloodsport (Idris Elba) and Peacemaker (John Cena) with Elba being in the film because Will Smith wasn’t able to take part, but also being made a new character to not shut the actor out completely. Being the competing egos, Elba and Cena play off each other extremely well over the course of the film. Idris Elba is an incredible actor and a very charming man, and John Cena fills a role that you might call reminiscent of Leslie Nielson, where the straight-faced delivery of comedic lines comes around to having its own charm.

Margot Robbie is back as Harley Quinn, probably the only character in the DC Extended Universe to experience character development. If you had to build a ranking of side-characters, the top spot would definitely go to David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man. Incidentally, Dastmalchian (unknown to Gunn as the story goes) was born with vitiligo and was bullied as a child with the nickname polka-dots, so the character role was really special to him.

Joel Kinnaman is back from Suicide Squad as Rick Flag, Sylvester Stallone got to have fun in a sound booth voicing King Shark, and Daniela Melchior brings in the heart of the story as Ratcatcher 2, daughter of Ratcatcher. While I like to keep my reviews as spoiler free as possible, I have to say it was really enjoyable watching Pete Davidson get his face shot off as Blackguard. I have nothing against Pete Davidson as an actor or a person, he plays the role of smarmy douchebag really well.

What you get out of The Suicide Squad is a film that can be both heartful and funny, rather than overtly grimdark and stupid. The characters feel like three dimensional individuals with their own motivations, and it brings more depth to villains that were created for the comics as little more than jokes several decades ago. With a cast of expendables, Gunn also had the authority to kill pretty much anyone he wanted, so you know the film’s not going to be too cowardly on that approach.

Except for Margot Robbie, you pretty much know from the start they won’t allow Gunn to kill her off. It was also nice to see some cameo appearances by Taika Waititi and Lloyd Kaufman, the latter of which has appeared in several of Gunn’s films because he was responsible for getting Gunn his first director job on Tromeo and Juliet back in the 90s.

At 132 minutes, The Suicide Squad is a long film. But it’s enjoyable. As far as DCEU films go, it’s one of the top. Great cast, fantastic plot.

Verdict: A

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