TL;DR – A film that finally made me care about these characters but one that also suffered from some narrative bloat
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid and post-credit scene
Disclosure – I was sent a screener of this film.
The Suicide Squad Review –
In life, you rarely get the chance to make a second first impression. For every Parks and Rec that gets to find its feet in its second season, many more fall by the wayside after their first attempt. Well, today, DC gives us a film that is a second chance to bring a set of characters and scenarios into the DCEU to see if they work, and the answer to that question is yes … mostly.
So to set the scene, we open in with Savant (Michael Rooker) in prison attacking birds with his bouncing ball. But before he has time to finish his time off, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) tells him that he has been conscripted into a mission. Within moments he is rushed to the island of Corto Maltese, with Weasel (Sean Gunn), Javelin (Flula Borg), Blackguard (Pete Davidson), TDK (Nathan Fillion), Mongal (Mayling Ng), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). Their mission is to infiltrate the island and get past the military patrols, as the island recently suffered a military coup. It is all going well right up until Weasel dies because he can’t swim, and Blackguard immediately sells them out.
Now before we dive into our review, we have to talk about something. Out of all of the films in the DCEU’s The First Run, there are a lot of contenders of which had the most troubled production. Tone, story, and more were tossed out as the studio tried to pull off a massive course change whilst projects were still in or had finished production. But the one film that had some of the most significant shifts was the Suicide Squad, which shifted from a sombre tone piece to a hap hazard comedy job during reshoots. Given how troubled the production was and how the director David Ayer made it clear that his vision did not make it to the final product, it is difficult to compare the two films without it feeling tacky. But also, when you have characters making the jump between the two, you cannot simply ignore the comparisons between sequels, even if you try to call it a soft reboot. Because whether you like it or not, you are already making them as you watch the film. So when I make comparisons with the first film, please note that I am doing that with the clear knowledge of its haphazard construction.
One of the benefits of this film is that it had its tone baked into the movie from the start, and that tonal consistency gives everything that follows the foundation it needs. So when you get yanked straight into the mission, and it all goes terribly wrong, you are kind of in there for the long run. There are fewer jokes in the traditional sense but more amusing situations that the film finds its humour in. Part of this is helped by actors who are clearly comfortable in their roles, and that confidence shows. Though that being said, not every joke lands, and many of the punchlines you see coming from a mile away.
It was good to see newcomer Idris Elba slip right into the film without missing a beat and take a role that was clearly first written for Will Smith and make it his own. John Cena rides that line between charisma and being a heal, and I am sure that more than a few people will like seeing him in his tighty whities. Then, of course, there is Margot Robbie in her third outing as Harley Quinn. All of that experience is on show here as you can see how they brought the growth from Birds of Prey right into this film, and it is good that she is starting to see those red flags.
While these are great, where the film shined for me is how it made me care for the characters on the screen. An excellent example of this is Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), introduced with some lazy millennial joke. But immediately, she has a presence in the film, and because of the emotional core of the film, you become captivated with her story. To add to this, she has a rat called Sebastian (Dee Bradley Baker/Jaws/Crisp Ratt), and this film made me emotionally bond with a rat. I cared if that rat lived or if it died, more so than nearly any other character in the DCEU … a rat … goodness. There is also how they have reworked characters, I didn’t care about anything Rick Flag did or said in the first film, but here they have given him an actual personality. I mean, they turn Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) from a punchline to a character with pathos.
Everything is on point from a visual perspective, with some of the best character effects I have seen this year. You will, of course, see this straight away with the King Shark (Sylvester Stallone/Steve Agee), who somehow finds the sweet spot in being an anthropomorphised creation that strives for realism but yet does not fall into the uncanny valley. This also extends to the big bad who looks ripped straight out of the comics with a pitch-perfect design and colour scheme. We also see that level of detail developed in the set design and construction, with a notable moment of Harley being surrounded by a cage full of Rainbow Lorikeets. Most of the action scenes are fine, the one big standout might be Harley’s escape, but there are also a lot that feels a bit samey. They make the most of that American R-rating, but some moments felt that they were added because they could and not because they flowed naturally from the story.
For me, the big let-down was just how much of this film felt unnecessary, like it was suffering from narrative bloat. While the first time jump was interesting, the rest of the film has these moments that just drag and feel unnecessary for both the narrative push of the film or character development. This weighs the film down with extra baggage that it didn’t need, which diluted the effects of some of those emotional moments. Thankfully the structural inconsistencies don’t completely derail the film, but they are noticeable. It is also a film that uses iconography and plot points that hit on stereotypical depictions of Latin America, which sometimes feels frustrating.
In the end, do we recommend The Suicide Squad? Well, to start, this is a hard MA15+, so you probably already know if that will be a deal-breaker for you. For me, this was a marked improvement on the last film that engaged me throughout. So, if you are looking for a good DCEU film, this might be the one for you. If you liked The Suicide Squad, I would also recommend to you The Boys.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Suicide Squad
Directed by – James Gunn
Written by – James Gunn
Based on – Suicide Squad by John Ostrander
Music by – John Murphy
Cinematography by – Henry Braham
Edited by – Fred Raskin & Christian Wagner
Production/Distribution Companies – DC Films, Atlas Entertainment, The Safran Company, Universal Pictures & Warner Brothers Pictures
Starring – Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Sylvester Stallone, David Dastmalchian, Daniela Melchior, Viola Davis, Alice Braga, Steve Agee, Joaquín Cosío, Juan Diego Botto, Storm Reid, Julio Ruiz, Tinashe Kajese, Jennifer Holland, Taika Waititi, Peter Capaldi, Jai Courtney, Michael Rooker, Pete Davidson, Nathan Fillion, Sean Gunn, Flula Borg, Mayling Ng, Lynne Ashe, Dee Bradley Baker, Jaws & Crisp Ratt
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Germany: 16; New Zealand: R; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R