Was Suicide Squad as bad as people say? In this critic’s humble opinion, not really, at least not compared to Batman v Superman. Even as someone who didn’t hate Suicide Squad, though, it’s hard to defend it as a competently made product. The film’s biggest problem was the studio and director both trying to mold it into polar opposite things. The Suicide Squad is 100% James Gunn, however. The film delivers everything one would expect from this director and source material, which were tailor-made for each other. Gunn’s offbeat sense of humor, unhinged imagination, and ability to make even the silliest characters sympathetic results in another bullseye for him.
Seeing how much Warner Bros. wanted the first Suicide Squad to be their Guardians of the Galaxy, they couldn’t have asked for a more fitting director than Gunn. While The Suicide Squad encompasses the self-aware humor and striking visuals associated with the Guardians movies, Gunn isn’t constricted to Disney’s family-friendly brand here. He’s able to go all out with bloodshed and profanity, but unlike the R-rated version of Hellboy, the more mature tone never feels forced. Perhaps “mature” isn’t the right word, as The Suicide Squad is unapologetically childish at times. When one of your heroes is a talking shark voiced by Rocky Balboa, how can you not be?
Gunn starts by cherry-picking the elements that did work in Suicide Squad: Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, and the phenomenal makeup design. Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag is also back, and thankfully, he’s given more to do than just spout exposition. The backstories flow more naturally, allowing us to connect with the characters before learning about their past. While Will Smith’s Deadshot is MIA, the team brings several new big guns to the table. The standouts include Idris Elba as reluctant leader Bloodsport, John Cena as the ironically named Peacemaker, and Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher 2, who controls the most adorable rats since Remy.
There’s a laundry list of other scene-stealers, but the less you know about them, the better. Unlike its predecessor, The Suicide Squad takes its title quite seriously. While the film has all the hallmarks of a colorful comic book movie, the heroes aren’t invincible here. Well, a few are, but there is a higher body count than some may anticipate. War movies served as a primary inspiration, and like The Dirty Dozen, there is a genuine fear concerning who will live and die. At the same time, there’s an element of fun to guessing who will make it to the end. Before sitting down to watch your friends, it’s worth placing a few bets. What is this, some kinda Deadpool?
In addition to war movies, The Suicide Squad might be the best Ghostbusters movie since 1984. Maybe I’m speaking too soon, as Ghostbusters: Afterlife looks promising, but The Suicide Squad captures the same spirit of that comedy classic. It’s childish, yet adult. It’s completely bonkers, but surprisingly smart. Even the climax has a Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man feel, being thrilling, inventive, and hilarious all at once. Forget the Ayer Cut (no offense to Mr. Ayer). This movie is the only Suicide Squad we need.