The Suicide Squad (2021): The Redemption of the Squad
The 2016 release of The Suicide Squad was, in lack of a better phrase, an unmitigated disaster of a film. While financially successful, it was panned by critics and audiences for its plot, writing, editing, character development and exposition dumps that bring the film to a grinding halt. To say that studio interference was one of the main causes of the problems would be an understatement. To this day, we have a growing group of people asking for the David Ayer director's cut of the film partially due to the success of the release of the Zac Snyder's cut of the Justice League. While we will probably have to wait a few years for that release to come, there has been some hope for the Suicide Squad.
Enter James Gunn, who after being temporarily fired by Disney/Marvel, was hired to write and direct the sequel to The Suicide Squad. To say that this movie was an improvement over its predecessor would be an understatement. James Gunn brought the same energy and passion that made a previously lesser known Guardians of the Galaxy into a mainstream group and drastically changed the Suicide Squad into an exciting, fun and enjoyable film that while not perfect, does a lot to redeem the Suicide Squad. Let's talk about the film.
The Plot and Writing
The plot of The Suicide Squad is relatively straightforward and easy for people to follow, something that could not be said about the first film. The Squad, led by Bloodsport (Idris Elba), have been ordered by Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) to infiltrate the island nation of Corto Maltese in order to destroy a laboratory known as Jötunheim that holds a secret project known as 'Project Starfish'. Along the way, they have to not only capture the lead scientist The Thinker (Peter Capaldi), but also rescue Rick Flag (Joel Kinnamen) and Harley Quinn (Margo Robbie).
The writing in this film follows a more linear story where the audience is given the story from the viewpoints of at first Savant (Michael Rooker) and then Bloodsport. Exposition is handled better in this film than it was in the first film, where we are introduced to our characters in a more streamlined and organic way without bring the film to a grinding halt or have information just plastered onto the screen. James Gunn's writing also shines in the some of the humor and the character development, allowing the audience to sympathize and like the rag-tag group of villains. Prior to this film, if you told someone that you would feel sympathy for a character called Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), who had a brief cameo in the Lego Batman Movie, most people would assume you were joking. While some of the jokes in the film work, there are some jokes that fall flat. The secondary villains of the movie, Silvio Luna (Juan Diego Botto) and Mateo Suárez (Joaquin Cosio), also do not bring much to the film as antagonists. They are the militant leaders of Corto Maltese and they have very small roles surprisingly enough. It is funny
how Starro the Conqueror with a few lines of dialogue is more memorable and likeable than the human villains. While this film's writing is not the best that we have gotten from James Gunn, it is still a significant improvement over the previous film.
One of the things that I personally would have liked to have seen more of would be the 'decoy' Suicide Squad in the beginning of the movie. I would have liked to see Harley Quinn and Captain
Boomerang (Jai Courtney) interact more before the ambush, but I understand the intent of this was to show that anyone could die in this movie. Another would have been a re-working of Harley Quinn's side story. In the film, it almost feels more like a separate story that is disconnected from the main plot.
The characters of this film are not only fun to watch, they are given levity and humanity that makes the audience feel invested in them. James Gunn had access to DC's Rouge Gallery and chose characters that many people in the mainstream audience. King Shark/ Nanaue (Sylvester Stallone), Polka-Dot Man, Rat-Catcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), Peacemaker (John Cena) and more have been given distinct
personalities that work off of each other perfectly. The kill contest between Bloodsport and Peacemaker as they try to one-up each other, helps flesh out what they are capable of and how they work and operate, especially with a prior scene making a joke about how they have the exact same skills. It is easy to call Bloodsport as a knock-off Deadshot, seeing as they both have similar stories (assassin with a daughter), but Idris Elba creates a fleshed out character that stands out and provides levity to the story. Harley Quinn is also fun to watch with her dialogue and her action scenes, but this is another film where we do not see her intelligence that much. She was a psychologist before turning to crime and it would be nice to see her using her smarts in the film, either to outsmart the bad guys or psychoanalyze her teammates.
Though the characters that have the most personality and arguably the heart and soul of the movie would have to go to Rat-Catcher 2, King Shark and Polka-Dot Man, with Rat-Catcher 2 and Polka-Dot Man coming off as more tragic anti-heroes rather than super villains. This comes off especially towards the end when the team fights Starro and Polka-Dot Man, proclaims that he is a superhero. Rat-Catcher 2 tries her best to keep the team united and helps Bloodsport become a better person. As for King Shark, despite Gunn's attempts to not make him cute like Groot or Baby Yoda, he is adorable. King Shark comes off as a lonely creature who just wants a friend despite eating people throughout the film. John
Cena's Peacemaker was created with the intent of making a 'douchebag version of Captain America' and it works, making him someone the audience loves and hates at the same time. Rick Flag is also given more depth as a character and is allowed to grow more in this film, which was missed in the first film.
The Cinematography and Editing
The cinematography in this film is gorgeous with sweeping shots of Corto Maltese (real life Panama), no visible shaky cam and clear shots of the action in both the day and the night. In this film, we have a clear focus on the action where we can see everything going on without an extensive amount of cuts. The editing of the film is also a lot more smooth in this film, whereas in the previous film it was visual whiplash. Scenes transition smoothly with no jarring cuts from one place to another.
The movie is rated R and for good reason; the film takes full advantage of violence, swearing and more. It was almost refreshing to see James Gunn go back to the violence/gore filled days that he built his career on during his Troma days (which Lloyd Kaufman makes a cameo in the film). The amount of on-screen violence ranging from King Shark ripping a soldier in half to Savant's head being blown up give the gore-hounds a nice visual treat.
The Suicide Squad is a vast improvement on the first film, combining the great directing and writing of James Gunn with amazing action sequences, likeable and fun characters and a story that, while simple, is enjoyable to watch. Is the film perfect? No, the film does have its problems but it shows that DC can not only learn from their mistakes, but can create films that are fun and interesting. While the movie might not fully convince DC to make more R rated movies, it shows that there is potential to it.
The Suicide Squad is available to watch on HBO Max and in theaters.