Benjamin Wollmuth is a lover of literature who enjoys sharing his thoughts on everything from movies and video games to books and music.
Reviving the Squad
I think it's safe to say that not many people exited the theater after watching Suicide Squad in 2016 thinking, "Damn, I hope this movie gets a sequel." I, at least, didn't expect Warner Bros. or DC to have a desire to release a sequel to one of the worst-rated films in their new DCEU. But I guess when you have James Gunn, the man responsible for taking a lesser-known Marvel team and making them extremely popular, you'll want to try a few things... like give him the opportunity to take lesser-known DC characters and make them popular.
While it may have been a risky move, I must say that I think it was entirely worth it, because this movie may just be one of the best that DC has put out in recent years. It's funny, yet heartfelt. It's violent. It's profane. It's everything I wouldn't expect from an MCU film, which seems to be the direction DC is taking. It's a smart move to try and stand out amongst the many superhero movies released per year, and if not holding back on violence and profanity does the trick, then why hold back? These are violent characters, after all, and if anything was learned from Suicide Squad, it's that violent characters should not be inhibited.
In reality, much was learned from Suicide Squad, like how to let a director make the film they want to make and how to live up to your premise of suicide by, you know... having characters die.
But I want to get a little bit more detailed, which means I will be entering spoiler territory from here on out. You have been warned.
Embracing the Violence
Some of the most successful comic book movies to come out in recent years have been rated R. Deadpool, Logan, and Zack Snyder's Justice League are the films that come to mind (Birds of Prey was just alright). Why were these movies successful? Because they embraced the true nature of the comic book heroes the films were based around. James Gunn does exactly that with The Suicide Squad, and he doesn't hold back. The gore is extreme and intense, and the film is all the better for it. In fact, violence is something I think 2016's Suicide Squad sorely lacked. It replaced real men for strange beings created by Enchantress that lacked blood and made the film feel less intense than what I'm sure the creators wanted. Moreover, Suicide Squad lacked death altogether, opting to kill off only two of the squad members in a movie about criminals and vigilantes risking their lives on a suicide mission. But I'll get back to that in a bit.
The Suicide Squad's violence doesn't feel unnecessary, either. Instead, it helps properly define who the characters are. They are criminals, after all, with mindsets that don't equal that of Batman or Superman. Violence is in their nature, so why not let that nature show?
Developing Characters Properly
Not only do these characters feel more like their comic book counterparts, but they also received much more development than the characters in Suicide Squad. In other words, I actually cared about these characters, so it hurt me to watch Rick Flag or Polkadot Man (to name a few) bite the dust. I think it also helps that the stakes could actually be felt, meaning that each time a character survived an encounter that someone else didn't, you got more excited for them. This is something 2016's film didn't have, for after Slipknot died, no one else did until the very end. In action movies, it's hard to feel for a character when you don't fear for their safety. In The Suicide Squad's case, I was constantly fearing for everyone's safety, which helped bring me closer to each character. These characters also just had better backstories in general. I like Will Smith, but his Deadshot didn't really sell the whole "I'm doing this for my daughter" schtick. Idris Elba's Bloodsport, on the other hand, did, and I think it has to do with the fact that his character actually grows when Deadshot just didn't. It's hard to enjoy a story where the main characters don't grow––or at least don't appear to grow––so I'm glad James Gunn allowed these characters to do so (and I'm glad all of the actors and actresses did such a fine job with the roles they were given).
Letting the Director Do Their Thing
And I say "James Gunn" because it sounds like he was actually able to make the movie that he wanted to make––he was given almost full control. I think that's one thing DC has over Marvel at the moment: they aren't creating one big, arching saga of films. I'm sure that was their plan at the beginning of it all but after the failure of Joss Whedon's Justice League, I think their plans shifted. And that's perfectly fine with me. If it means the studio will step aside and let the director do what they want, then I can't complain.
It probably also helped that many of these characters were so obscure that DC and Warner Bros. probably didn't have big plans for them anyway, giving James Gunn the opportunity to kill who he wanted. And if James Gunn wants to hire big names like Jai Courtney, Nathan Fillion, Pete Davidson, or Michael Rooker just to kill them off in the first ten minutes, let him do it. It introduces the stakes and shows audiences that no one is safe. It's something Marvel would never allow, and as I said before, DC seems to be wanting to do what Marvel won't dare to do.
Look, I don't know how much is true about David Ayer's experience with DC, but from what it sounds like, the studio sort of took over when it came to how Suicide Squad would play out. After watching this movie, it appears that they have learned their lesson, and if each DC film following this one follows the same "do-what-you-want" format, DC films could become directors' creative playgrounds. I mean, if that is what helps DC stand out in today's comic book-obsessed world, then I'm sure it's what they will want to do, and The Suicide Squad is proof that it can work.
If what's been stated in this article hasn't been any indication as to how I feel about this movie, then I guess I should blatantly state it: I loved it. It was a joyride from beginning to end, which is not something I can say about DC and Warner Bros.'s first attempt at adapting this team of anti-heroes from comics to film. Based on the feedback both this film and Zack Snyder's Justice League are receiving, DC may just be looking at a huge comeback in the area of filmmaking, and it all has to do with the creative freedom given to the directors. DC's films currently aren't confined to the limits of an overarching story that directors must stay within, giving them the opportunity to allow directors to make creative comic book movies that can keep the genre fresh and that don't need twenty prior movies to make the plot understandable. This is how DC can stand out from Marvel. This is how DC can continue to make well-reviewed movies. This is the format DC should follow from now on, for it seems to be working, and I would hate to see them fall once again.
So, if you haven't seen The Suicide Squad––if you're hesitant out of the fear of wasting time with another DC slog––give it a chance. You may, like me, see the endless creative possibilities DC can have if they just let directors do their thing without the worry of not properly setting up one movie five films down the line.
With all of that being said, I give The Suicide Squad a 9.5/10.
© 2021 Benjamin Wollmuth