Friday, August 6, 2021

The Suicide Squad - Review


Five years and a few missteps ago, Warner Brothers and DC release Suicide Squad. A film that took a lesser comic property and propelled them to the big screen with less than ideal results. Now, we get a new version, with a few familiar faces from that first incarnation, and a brand new creative at the helm in James Gunn. With a bright new outlook and the embracing of comic book weirdness finally a priority, DC might just have produced their best film in years.

The government sends the most dangerous supervillains in the world -- Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and others -- to the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese. Armed with high-tech weapons, they trek through the dangerous jungle on a search-and-destroy mission, with only Col. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) on the ground to make them behave.

One thing that doesn’t differ between the 2016 version and this one, this team is assembled with the premise that their odds of survival are severely low. They’re villains, placed in a nearly unwindable situation simply because its okay if they die, they’re not heroes after all right? Except Gunn is allowed to bring that into question ever so slightly. Granted they’ve done bad to terrible things, in the face of impending doom, these rag tag group of villains suddenly become very heroic. 

It’s not a 180 degree turn mind you, the pieces are laid out extraordinarily well in the character work done throughout. There are a few repeat offenders here like the always phenomenal Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn or Joel Kinnaman’s soldier Rick Flag, who gets to have a bit more fun here, but the true standouts are the new players. Idris Elba as a grumpy assassin turned pseudo-leader named Bloodsport, John Cena as Peacemaker, a twisted, murder-inclined version of Captain America, and Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher II, a wide-eyed rogue who fittingly controls rats, are all stellar additions from the deep catalogue of comic book characters. 

That’s where a property like The Suicide Squad can shine. Taking obscure characters with little to no backstory beyond their abilities, throw them in a room together, and let the comedy work from there. Gunn has a tendency to mix some cynicism and silliness with heart, and this film is no different. Sure, there’s plenty of violence, gore, and poking, self-award humor, but Gunn has an affection for these characters, and allows their humanity to shine through in spite of everything happening around them. 

More than anything, it’s clear that the creatives here were allowed the freedom to adapt the source material a little more faithfully this go around. Gunn has an understanding for what makes the comic team interesting and fun, and brings all that to the big screen in a way that few adaptations have ever truly accomplished. From its fantastic ensemble cast, its undeniably grotesque action scenes, and the perfect balance of heart and humor, it’s hard to imagine anyone not having a blast with this insane ride of a summer blockbuster.

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