Let’s talk about The Suicide Squad.
The first Suicide Squad movie is not well liked. I didn’t mind it personally and it certainly drew people into the cinemas, but it is now regarded as a very bad movie and many state it’s the worst movie the DC Universe has offered. That is certainly saying something. The DC Universe continues to exist in some sort of weird way and the powers that be which keep attaching paddle boards to shock life into this universe have decided that a soft reboot of Suicide Squad is the way to go. This time though they have got James Gunn on board as director which seems like a good call considering how desperate Suicide Squad was to be Guardians of the Galaxy. But is this any good?
Amanda Waller has assembled another ‘Suicide Squad’, a team of imprisoned villains who must do as she says otherwise they are killed by an explosive implant installed in their necks. This time, their job is to go to a South American island which has just undergone a coup and to destroy all files related to a mysterious Project Starfish.
While James Gunn is best known for Guardians of the Galaxy, that wasn’t his start in film making. He began by working on films for Troma Entertainment, a production studios that made exploitation films. Said films tend to be very gory and quite offensive, making Gunn’s Twitter account the least surprising thing in the world unless you are Mickey Mouse. Obviously when you are working for the same company which produces Frozen and Beauty and the Beast, you have to turn down the guts, gore and rampant fucking. But now that Gunn is working with a series that is not controlled with an iron fist, he gets to go back to those exploitation days. Because I’ll tell you now, this film certainly has enough gore to make one of those Troma films jealous. From the opening scene where a boomerang slices the top of a man’s head off so you can see the brains inside, you know this film might make you queasy from time to time. To further emphasise how gory this all is, Mortal Kombat makers Neather Realm Studios are thanked in the credits, probably as the fatality driven video game is a huge influence on the kills here. It is nice that Gunn has got to revisit his roots with some cash to splash, Troma films tend to have a budget of 5p and whatever you can find in the skip at Wickes, though the gore may be a barrier for some. There are going to be walk outs in that first scene, trust me.
What you end up getting is a midway point between those old exploitation films Gunn used to work on and Guardians of the Galaxy. You have the swearniness and bloodiness of those Troma classics combined with the group of outsiders banding together to try and complete a task. There’s the humour and banter of the latter and the heads blowing up of the former. You get this feeling that these are the films that Gunn wants to make. He wants his films to be funny and also have quite a sentimental heart revolving around the theme of family. But he also wants to see arms fly in the opposition direction to the body they were previously attached to with the sentimental family characters being given a drizzle of blood to cool them off after a fight scene. It’s a weird combination but the film does make it work.
It works because of a strong core of characters. While this is an ensemble piece, the film is essentially led by Idris Elba’s Bloodsport, the obvious replacement for Will Smith’s Deadshot when he decided not to be in this reboot. It is a typical Elba character where he is gruff and hard shelled with a gooey interior, but it works. You can’t complain at that. You have two scene stealers with John Cena’s Peacemaker who gets to be the earnest superhero you’d have seen in a 1940s comic except he will kill everything he sees in order to keep the peace. You also have King Shark, whose a massive walking shark voiced by Sylvester Stallone. This is even funnier when you imagine Stallone in the booth doing these lines by the way. Then you have Ratcatcher 2 who is some how the heart of the film, the one you end up caring about the most. How that happens I’m not sure, but you really end up caring for her and Sebastien the rat. Of course you have some returnees as well like Harley Quinn and Rick Flag, but they are the same as before. Entertaining, but perhaps a bit overshadowed by some of their newer squad mates.
There’s an interview from George RR Martin, the author of Game of Thrones in case you don’t know, where he states he doesn’t like how in a lot of films, the protagonist can be surrounded by enemies but you never feel peril because you know he’s going to get out safely. That’s why he wrote Game of Thrones the way he did so you can never feel safe about your favourites. This film follows the same motto. You never do feel quite safe with these characters. The film pulls the rug from underneath you pretty quickly in terms of what you think is going to happen and that does make you worry about the unexpected. One of the criticisms of the original Suicide Squad was that it was very obvious that the wall climbing guy was going to get killed off to show off the Suicide part of the Suicide Squad. That cannot be levelled at this film as you cannot predict what will happen next, and that does keep you on edge.
So is there anything wrong with the film? Well there’s not much. As I’ve said before, the gore will be divisive. I find it very weird that a film that conceivably could have Superman in it, heck he plays a part in the backstory of Bloodsport, also sees a shark rip a man in half in a very stylised yet bloody way. It’s cool but also a little much. I also wonder how much Harley Quinn was necessary as well. She’s a popular character and I understand they want to include her in as much as possible but I get the feeling that you could cut her from the script, reshape it slightly, and the film wouldn’t be too much worse off without her. In a film that is comfortably two hours long, you do wonder how much it could be slimmed down and that would definitely be one.
The Suicide Squad won’t be hated like the film it softly reboots, if that’s what we’re calling this weird sequel/remake sort of thing. It has too much of an identity which will appeal for that. Unlike the other one which the producers messed with due to post Batman V Superman paranoia, something confirmed by the director David Ayer recently, this is definitely something which has had a lot of creativity and love poured into it. And what has poured out is blood, so much blood. This is a very fun, gory, action film that will turn some off, but also find a big audience who will adore it.