‘The Suicide Squad’: Catalyst for Chaos

There was a point a long time ago that DC appeared to struggle from an identity crisis. Trying to play catch-up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, DC seemed desperate to compete with their filmography, clashing ideas and rushing projects in a bid to imitate their competitor, while also promising to offer something different. There’s the slower, more character-driven Zack Snyder films where Superman and Batman were treated as a mythos; then came 2016’s Suicide Squad directed by David Ayer, a seemingly darker and grittier comic book film that promised to put supervillains in the lead roles. When the film released, it proved to arguably become DC’s most reviled and mediocre film in their entire catalog, despite making just short of a billion in the box office. Plagued with baffling editing choices, a mind-numbing soundtrack, boring and/or annoying and/or undeveloped characters, and notorious studio meddling, it’s easy to see why both audiences and critics trashed this film. It wants to have its cake and eat it too, promising a colorful and eccentric cast of characters and pitting them against colorless locations and an overtly-serious story that ventures into downright melodrama. When you have an idea that seems promising but has this sour reputation, would it still be worth trying that idea again?

The answer is – and always will be – yes, as long as they’re a passionate team with a vision who knows what they’re doing. When a reboot/lite sequel was announced for Suicide Squad, people were justifiably torn. While, yes, you can only really go up from here, you still had to win over the good graces of people all over. Which is why it’s an honor to say that The Suicide Squad is bombastic, absurd, and absolutely vile. Endgame and Zack Snyder’s Justice League attempts to tell rich and dramatic stories, while The Suicide Squad is the freshest, most fun, and colorful superhero film in years. I can’t stop thinking about this movie if I tried, it’s just so ruinously effective.

James Gunn really only had a couple jobs to make this project work: to subvert the superhero formula while also creating a gallery of outcasts to make this movie pop out. In this humble writer’s opinion, James Gunn was the perfect man for the job, someone who understands these characters inside and out. Once a character’s blood starts to write out the opening credits, the audience perfectly begins to understand the insanity that is about to ensue. “We’re bad guys – it’s what we do” says Harley Quinn in the aforementioned, misbegotten predecessor. While the tone remains mostly consistent from Ayer’s universe to now, James Gunn actually makes good on this quote, making a more delirious and ultra-violent comic book film full of R-rated cartoon violence and mayhem. The movie’s B-grade rogues gallery – more akin to the Mystery Men than the ultra-serious badasses in the first movie- embraces the absurdism that comes from adapting different properties, seeing actors dressed up in ridiculous outfits as if you just walked into Comic-Con. Naturally, some characters are more fleshed out than others, but each and every character has managed to do or say something that brought a laugh out of me at least once, no doubt due to the enthralling performances, the insanity of the scene, and their crooked moral compass.

The plot is a bit straight-forward, and it needed to be nothing more. It once again opens up in Belle Reve Prison, where government fed Amanda Waller uses the populace of the prison to draft supervillains into black ops missions that even the U.S. military would deny, where they must unwillingly accept and carry out the mission, lest the bomb planted into their heads kills them. They don’t know where they’re going or what’s at stake, but they must complete the mission and die trying – a “suicide squad”, if you will. It’s simple, but it’s the perfect kind of fun action flick-simple that makes the pacing so strong.

Here we have John Cena’s Peacemaker, a blindly-patriotic, muscular military man who would listen to “America, Fuck Yeah” without understanding the irony. Idris Elba as Bloodsport is a no-nonsense sharpshooter who acts as the perfect contrast for Patriot, as the two butt heads over ideologies while seemingly trying to push each other towards the path of redemption. Sylvester Stallone lends his voice talent to King Shark, a lovable and well-meaning brute who gets into fits of rampage and bloodlust. David Dastmalchian’s Polka-Dot Man is the lowest-tier character the film needed to add to the explosive chemistry of all the main leads, completely goofy and insane as we understand his “conditions” more and more. Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher is unfortunately the least-interesting of the main cast, not offering much to many scenes even though her dynamic with the rest of the cast is still complete gold. As for returning characters, we of course have Margot Robbie’s vicious Harley Quinn, Jai Courtney as the boomerang-wielding assassin appropriately named Boomerang, and Joel Kinnaman as mercenary and military vessel Rick Flag, who has undergone a total transformation into a more likable and independent character.

The Suicide Squad hits that sweet spot of being a lovable, fun time while also being a legitimately subversive and twisted comic book movie. Gunn wittingly tells a smart story about military intervention and the poor treatment that goes on behind the walls of the American prison system, but that aspect is more the sprinkles of this delicious, well-done, gory sundae. The movie may not hit every stride possible in the character department, but is so irresistibly charming and engaging that any legitimate issues are mere speed bumps for this high-octane ride. It may not have turned the genre on its head, but there’s enough fun and twisted ideas here to make this comic book film one-of-a-kind.

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