The DC Extended Universe’s first attempt at bringing the “Suicide Squad” into their cinematic universe was one of the worst studio films this critic has seen in theatres. It’s a bog standard plot, complete with the 2010s cliché of a big beam in the sky, its characters are nonexistent and its musical choices were infuriatingly on the nose. But we’re not here for the millionth takedown of David Ayer’s butchered movie. Now, five years later, we have a film that actually manages to capture the essence of old school, comic book, camp in James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad.”
Somehow, with a team made up of “Polka Dot Man,” “Bloodsport,” “Peacemaker,” who sports one of the most gauche helmets in cinematic history, and a giant bipedal shark, Gunn’s script manages to make you not only have a great time, but also become attached to these D-tier villains. With some of the most genuine character interactions seen in comic movies, these villains are destined to become fan favorites, especially Sylvester Stallone’s King Shark.
To be fair, there is one returning character who did fall flat for me: Harley Quinn. Her character doesn’t grow any more than she did in “Birds of Prey.” Her sequences are set far aside from the rest of the team, so if one were to cut the admittedly fun Harley from the film nothing would be lost, aside from Hot Topic clothing sales.
Another mark against the film is its length. “The Suicide Squad” is a touch too long, clocking in at hefty two hours and 12 minutes. A longer movie isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when a whole character seems pointless, scenes including them drag. Harley gets a separate subplot around midway through the film that doesn’t amount to anything more than a punchline. Yes, it does play for laughs, but takes far too long to do so. Again, this is a character and subplot that could be cut with no repercussions to the story.
Getting back to the positives, Gunn’s script showcases an unparalleled understanding of character and dark comedy writing. Gunn manages to pull whole belly laughs out of some of the darkest situations ever put in a comic book movie, and I applaud him for it. At times, it seems the man is actively antagonizing the greater DCEU by constantly killing off characters, as soon as ill intent can be felt though, a scene that actually grips your heart harder than any of DC’s recent entries. Leave it to the man behind the new “Guardians of the Galaxy” films to bring a new level to comic book scriptwriting.
The final piece of praise for “The Suicide Squad” is for its effects. In a world of computer-generated sequences, Gunn and his team go full force with the practical effects, making this movie feel an extra degree more real than its cohorts. Paying homage to his low-budget horror roots, the gore and monster effects feel especially gross.
If the past releases from DC have left too much of a self-serious taste in your mouth, check out “The Suicide Squad” in its simultaneous release in theatres and HBO Max.