I enjoyed the first Suicide Squad when it came out, however looking back on it, it was a bit of a disappointment to say the least. The follow up Suicide Squad film has been in development, eventually it was James Gunn, director of the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, who ended up helming the project. Honestly I wasn’t that excited for the movie, first of all while I enjoy the GOTG movies, I’m not a massive fan of Gunn and his style. Second of all, the trailers weren’t that good, and didn’t do a great job at getting me interested in watching it. Nonetheless, I still decided to check it out. The trailers really didn’t do The Suicide Squad justice, it was better than expected. I still have some issues with it, but on the whole, I enjoyed it.
First and foremost, you don’t necessarily have to have seen the first Suicide Squad to get into this new Suicide Squad. While it works as a sequel, it is more of a reboot. I will say that as a movie about the Suicide Squad, Gunn’s version does succeed more than the Suicide Squad movie from 2016 (speaking as someone who doesn’t generally read comic books). In these Suicide Squad comic books, there’s usually a large cast of characters, and by the end most of them are dead. Whereas the first Suicide Squad really only had two members of the Squad being killed off throughout the entirety of the movie, The Suicide Squad has a larger amount of people dying. The tagline “Don’t get too attached” is certainly apt. Gunn certainly delivered a lot of deaths, almost to the point of going overboard, but more on that later. The plot like the 2016 movie is pretty straightforward. I do think that it gets a little weirdly complicated at points, with the time jumps, perspective changes, and the like. I was able to follow it fine enough, it was just a bit jarring how it jumps from place to place at points. The movie even surprisingly has too much going on at times. The plot is familiar to a lot of other comic book movies and doesn’t break new ground, but I don’t think it really needed to. The first act starts off pretty well, as it introduces the main characters. The second act is where plotwise I have most of my criticisms, it slows down quite a bit. The movie is long at nearly 2 hours and 20 minutes, while I don’t have a problem with longer comic book movies, The Suicide Squad is one where occasionally you feel the length, and you especially feel it in the middle section. There’s also a section involving Harley which I really didn’t like for the most part, even though it does pay off by the end of it. The third act actually does a lot at making this movie work as well as it does. It is very reminiscent of other comic book movie climaxes with large scale threats that the main characters have to deal with, but of those examples, The Suicide Squad is among the best executions of them. There’s also some surprisingly emotional and impactful moments involving the characters. I would say that it’s worth watching the movie for the climax alone. It is worth noting that there are two credits scenes worth staying around for, the second of which is especially worth watching.
One of my main two predictions going into the movie was that the humour would be my least favourite aspect, and that turned out to be true. It is strange because although I don’t find the Guardians of the Galaxy movies to be hilarious, they are funny, and are certainly funnier than The Suicide Squad. For every witty line and joke that’s actually funny, there’s a back and forth lines about “an island of dicks”, or a 69 joke. Somehow the R rating actually made the jokes less funny, and most of the time they attempted humour, at best it doesn’t leave much of an impact, at worst it’s annoying. However, if you watched that first red band trailer and found the jokes in that to be funny, you’ll probably have a good time with The Suicide Squad. Effectiveness of the humour aside, another issue with it is that sometimes it undercuts dramatic or emotional moments, something that also appears in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. The movie gets surprisingly dark at times, whether it be with characters, or the deaths that occur. With that said, there is a general feeling of Gunn trying hard to be edgy. This was a feeling I had ever since the trailers proudly announced that The Suicide Squad was “from the horribly beautiful mind of James Gunn”, and that feeling was in the movie itself. I don’t have a problem with the violence, gore, etc. However when it feels like it’s being done to get a reaction out of the audience, it does get annoying, and unfortunately The Suicide Squad slips into that at points. Some of it is the violence, which might be surprising and shocking in the first act, but by the halfway point it loses its impact. Some of it was the deaths, specifically who is chosen to die. I mentioned earlier that I thought the movie had killed off too many of its named characters. There were two deaths that I downright hated in this movie. The first was in the first half of the film, it was partly because of how quickly it was executed, and it seemed rather unnecessary outside of it being done for shock value. The second was in the second half of the movie, and it was mostly the nature of the death, how it was done without having any weight to it, and feeling like a joke despite the death being for a major character that we are meant to care about (and do care about).
Some of the highlights of the movie were the cast and characters for me, and they shared great chemistry between each other. There were two standouts for me. One is Bloodsport, played by Idris Elba, who is essentially the main character. Immediately there have been a lot of comparisons between him and Will Smith’s Deadshot from the first Suicide Squad. However, Bloodsport is his own character and he’s a great character, from his action scenes, to Elba’s performance. The other standout is Ratcatcher 2, played by Daniela Melachior, who is essentially the heart of the movie. One of the new main characters is John Cena as Peacemaker, a character I was very curious about given that even before the movie was released, it was announced that he would be getting his own spin off tv series. I haven’t seen Cena in a lot of movies but this is definitely the best performance I’ve seen from him, he handled the humour, the action scenes, and even the emotional and dramatic moments really well. I’m not sure that he’s interesting enough to lead his own spin off but I am curious to see how it plays out. Another new main character is David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man, and it really is a credit to the movie that they can make us like a character as ridiculous in concept as him. Another of the main characters of the Squad is King Shark (who’s basically just like a giant humanoid shark), and the second of my main two predictions was that I would really dislike him, mostly because he looked like he would be treated as a mix between Groot in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies and any other ‘funny animal character’. However I was wrong, he’s not one of the best characters in the movie by any means, but I didn’t mind him and I surprisingly liked him. Joel Kinnaman returns as Rick Flag and although he basically has the same role as in the first movie, I do like him more in this movie.
Another major returning Suicide Squad character is that of Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, one of the biggest standouts in the first Suicide Squad, who had her own spin off with Birds of Prey last year. I do like Harley in this movie, although there were some decisions involving her I wasn’t such a fan of. There is a segment with Harley in the second act which I particularly take issue with. With that said, it does lead to one of the standout action sequences in the movie. In fact I really liked the action that she was involved with. She is more of a supporting player compared to her past appearances, but I didn’t necessarily mind that, as Suicide Squad in concept is more of an ensemble piece, and she does play off other characters quite well. Another returning Suicide Squad character is Amanda Waller, played by Viola Davis. Waller serves as the same purpose in the first movie as the person making the Squad take on this mission, and Davis as usually delivers her part at the top of her game as always. The character is made way more over the top in this movie, but my main issues with her lie in the third act. In that section, the way she acts, the decisions she makes, and her motivations just made no sense. Her character is really the one part of The Suicide Squad where I preferred the 2016 version more. Other cast members like Peter Capaldi also delivered, as well as the other Suicide Squad members who don’t get that much screentime.
The movie is directed by James Gunn, and it certainly feels like it, while still feeling different from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. It does have a distinct visual style and it is well shot, from the camera movements, to the colours, the costumes, and the production design. Even the CGI is pretty strong throughout. The action scenes are one of the highlights of the movie, all very entertaining, bloody, well shot, and great to watch. The third act is particularly done well, and the final enemies managing to be effectively threatening despite the initially absurd concept. The Suicide Squad also handles its music a lot better than the first movie. In 2016’s Suicide Squad, there was a good score from Steven Price but most of the music that we hear is a ton of random song choices slapped together in so many scenes, and it was just a mess. In The Suicide Squad, we get both a great score composed by John Murphy, as well as a good lineup of pre-existing songs that are utilised well throughout the movie. There are some effective needle drop moments, even if they aren’t as memorable as in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies.
The Suicide Squad has its issues. The humour which mostly doesn’t work, some of the characterisation, and some of the plot decisions (especially in the second act) do linger in my mind as parts I really didn’t like. However, I did find myself enjoying it, and what it gets right, it really gets right. The cast and characters for the most part are great and they have great chemistry between each other, the visual style is strong and distinct, and the action is enthralling to watch. The Suicide Squad is also a reminder that the DCEU movies really are at their best when Warner Bros lets their directors deliver their visions, and it would be great to see them learn this from how well their latest movie turned out (not that I’m counting on that happening). Even if you dislike the first Suicide Squad movie, this second version might be worth a look.