The Suicide Squad is back with fresh blood in front of and behind the camera. The sequel is a massive improvement over the 2016 original.
There is a coup on the island nation of Corto Maltese, leading to an anti-American government taking control. On the island is a secret facility called Jotunheim. Because of this threat, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) sends an expendable team of imprisoned supervillains to destroy Jotunheim.
2016’s Suicide Squad was a hyped-up film with the marketing in overdrive. Warner Brothers wanted Suicide Squad to be their Guardians of the Galaxy because both properties focused on lesser-known characters. Both focused on a ragtag team of misfits who ended up becoming surprising heroes. But Suicide Squad was seen as a poor copy of the Marvel film. It was trying too hard to be cool with its over stylish direction and having a soundtrack of popular songs. For the follow-up Warner Brothers just hired James Gunn, director of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies.
The basic story of The Suicide Squad isn’t much different from the original Suicide Squad. Both films focus on supervillains having to go on a mission with the offer of getting a reduced sentence but with low chances of survival. Both films show how important writing and presentation are. Suicide Squad had some awful character introductions (i.e. Katana and Slipknot), the unnecessary subplot with the Joker, and a gloomy look.
Warner Brothers learned from their mistakes. Gunn was a better fit for this material than David Ayer. Gunn was known for making pulpy genre flicks whilst Ayer mostly made gritty crime films. Gunn didn’t have to worry about connecting his film to the wider DCEU. Suicide Squad had an infamous post-production period with Ayer not getting final cut. Because of Gunn’s success with the MCU he was properly able to ensure a lot of creative control from Warner Brothers.
Unlike its predecessor, The Suicide Squad focused on its mission. There were no distractions with subplots or flashbacks. Most of the film takes place on Corto Maltese. The Suicide Squad focused on a core group of characters. They were Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), Ratcatcher II (Daniela Melchior), and Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian). Due to the film focusing on seven characters the audience got to know them well.
Bloodsport and Rick Flag were the straight men who had to work with these wacky characters. Peacemaker had similar skills to Bloodsport and they formed a rivalry: an example of this was during the mission to save Flag they were trying to one-up each other when killing the soldiers. Polka-Dot was a morbidly depressed man who had superpowers, and Ratcatcher II was a seemingly lazy millennial with the power to control rats. Yet many of these characters have had some sort of tragedy in their lives and had issues with their parents. If circumstances had been slightly different many of these characters could have been good guys.
They were all fun characters in some way. Peacemaker was wonderful with his arrogant alpha male attitude. John Cena had a great one-two punch with this film and F9. King Shark, or Nanaue as he was called in the film was the Groot of the team, super strong but simple-minded. He could only say simple words and a big action star to voice him.
The most surprising character was Ratcatcher II. She committed crime out of circumstances and acted as the team’s conscience. She saw the goodness in some of her teammates. Ratcatcher II was Melchior’s first English language role and hopefully, we’ll get to see more of her.
Gunn made a wonderfully gory and darkly funny film. This was shown with the opening sequence where a mission by Task Force X launched an assault on a beach. There were tons of banter and violent deaths as the assault goes wrong. The film continues from there. Some of the action highlights were the attempt to rescue Rick, Harley’s escape from the Corto Maltesian army, and a big bonkers finale. It was a film where death was treated with casual disregard. The Suicide Squad can be compared to the Deadpool films because there they were all superhero-based action-comedies that reveled in the violence and carnage.
Whilst the film did have a light touch, there was still an underlying darkness. As stated, many of the members of Task Force X had a tragic backstory. Gunn came from a horror background, and it was traumatic when the film revealed what really happened in Jotunheim.
The filmmakers brought back some of the popular characters from the first film: i.e. Harley Quinn, Rick Flag, Amanda Waller, and Captain Boomerang. The casting was excellent for those characters so there was no point wasting them. The return of these characters did give The Suicide Squad some semblance of continuity. The Suicide Squad establishes that Harley, Rick, and Boomerang had a friendship with each other.
The Suicide Squad was a delight of a superhero film due to its action, humor, and energy. It’s already one of the best films in the DCEU.