The Suicide Squad Review: The Prodigal Gunn Returns?

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Jackson Piercy
CONTRIBUTOR

Polka Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), Peacemaker (John Cena), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), Bloodsport (Idris Elba), and Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) in the jungles of Corto Maltese. Photo courtesy of imdb.com

I think it’s impossible to talk about this movie at length without at least acknowledging its predecessor, 2016’s Suicide Squad directed by David Ayer. In many ways, this movie wouldn’t be possible without the stumbles of the first attempt to bring the squad to the big screen. In the aftermath of the first film, there were a lot of fingers being pointed a lot of different ways. Whether the setbacks were due to studio interference or a change of writers midway through production, I think Warner Bros. made the right call in letting James Gunn basically have a creative blank check in making this picture. The result? I wouldn’t call it too ambitious for Gunn’s usual fare, but I will say that this is about as good a Suicide Squad movie as anybody could ask for.

The Suicide Squad follows a bevy of D-List DC Comics villains, including Bloodsport (Idris Elba,) Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior,) Peacekeeper (John Cena,) Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman,) Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie,) Polka Dot Man (David Dastmalchian,) and King Shark (Sylvester Stallone. Under the watchful eye of Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and her office cronies, this squad is tasked with eliminating any evidence of a “Project: Starfish” on the South American island of Corto Maltese. Upon making it to the island, the team finds just a bit more than they bargained for. All the while, the members of our primary squad learn much more about the American government and each other than one would expect in a film that has both a giant anthropomorphic shark and a schizophrenic guy who throws polka dots in the leading roles.

What I can respect the most about this film is the complete lack of respect that it holds for our main characters. While technically correct, most of the “heroes” in this movie are just about the worst that the DC Comics Universe has to offer in terms of morality. They are also the worst in terms of name power. Now, I will admit that most of us can give a baseline description of Harley Quinn, but if you were to tell me what T.D.K. stood for before you saw this movie, I’d suspect you were either a massive nerd or a liar (though I can’t judge you for being a massive nerd since I’m writing this spiel about a silly comic book movie.) All that being said, there’s a certain kind of relatability that I find with a lot of these characters—so much so that by the end of this movie, I basically forgot about the whole “these are bad guys” schtick because I was just so in love with not just the adorable shark and the dork that throws polka dots, but even the jagoff that slaughters civilians in the name of “peace.”

So, in the wake of 2016, was keeping hands-off a good idea? I’d say the answer is a resounding yes. Not just because they kept their hands off, but because the guy behind the camera is incredibly talented. James Gunn is one of the best mainstream directors working today, and when you give him the reins, good things tend to happen. Just look at his work in his two Guardians of the Galaxy films and one-offs like Super and Slither (trust me, he doesn’t just make movies with one-word titles beginning with “S”.) It’s a shame that this entry into the now-promising DC-verse seems to be the beginning of the most major effects of superhero fatigue—as it’s been underperforming at the box office—because I believe this is the best of any sort of comic book movie effort in the last four to five years.