“You know the deal: successfully complete the mission and you get ten years off your sentence. You fail to follow my orders in any way, and I detonate the explosive device in the base of your skull.” – Amanda Waller
NOW we’re talking.
NOW we have a big, full-on summer blockbuster, a must-see that nudges DC ahead of Marvel in the comic book movie genre, and no mistake. Black Widow, as I’ve noted, did a great job of fleshing out the beloved and missed Natasha Romanoff, but The Suicide Squad are in town now, and they’ve made the town their own.
Long-time readers will recall that I was pretty high on Suicide Squad directed by David Ayer five years ago, and I was ready for another instalment by the same director despite the inevitable naysayers who spoke out against the original movie. (Hey, I like what I like, right? And I’m still hoping for the director’s cut of Suicide Squad which is confirmed to exist)
But then fate took a hand and James Gunn, director of the Guardians of the Galaxy films for Marvel was fired by the eager to please Mouse for posting offensive Tweets several years ago. Warner Bros immediately hired him to develop whatever DC property he chose, and he chose well.
Guardians of the Galaxy have been the most irreverent of the Marvel movies, combining action, drama, some heart-breaking and heart-warming scenes underpinned by rapid-fire, often hilarious dialogue as the misfit characters interact with each other. And this is exactly what Gunn brings to the DC Universe.
The Suicide Squad are a bunch of DC’s supervillains. They’ve been caught, tried, sentences and imprisoned and let’s face it, they’ll never (theoretically) live long enough to be freed. So, they’ve been recruited to work as a team, designated Task Force X. They undertake top secret missions from which they’re not expected to return. If they DO survive, they’ll get a few tears off their sentences. If they go off-mission or try and run… well, see the quote by their director, Amanda Waller up at the top of the page.
It’s all a lot like a comic book version of the classic war film The Dirty Dozen. They have nothing to lose and it’s no great loss if they DO die. But we grown to love these quirky antiheroes, perhaps because they’re NOT perfect, and they’re in an impossible situation.
Gunn was given free rein to select which characters he’d like and he came up with a bunch of dysfunctional miscreants that make The Guardians look normal, well-adjusted and fully functional.
This is an ensemble cast, including some of Gunn’s Guardians stock troupe, Michael Rooker plays Savante, Sean Gunn plays both Weasel and the Calendar Man, and there’s a cameo for Troma Films head Lloyd Kaufman. But despite some big names showing up, including Nathan Fillion and Sylvester Stallone, all eyes are going to be on Margot Robbie returning as Harley Quinn, Idris Elba as Bloodshot and ex-WWE champion John Cena as Peacemaker. And it’s pretty much on these three that the film will stand or fall.
In reverse order, John Cena proves yet again he’s one of the few WWE wrestlers who can have a successful Hollywood career. He could go as far, maybe further than Dwayne Johnson. Peacemaker is kind of a more gung-ho Captain America type without the naivete and the innocent wholesomeness.
Idris Elba as Bloodshot basically takes the role Will Smith took in the first film, and runs with it. He is laid back, sarcastic, the hitman of the group who is charged with becoming the leader. He has been imprisoned for shooting Superman – with a kryptonite bullet.
And then there’s Margot Robbie. It wasn’t lost on me that as we were going into the whole dystopian Covid nightmare in March of last year, Robbie was Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey, now we’re coming out of the Orwellian restrictions, we’re greeted by Robbie as Quinn again. I don’t thin I’ll ever get fed up of seeing Margot Robbie play Harley. It’s a role she’s perfect for. As much as Christopher Reeve was perfect for Superman back in the day, Margot Robbie appears to be the living embodiment of Harley’s raging psychosis and unpredictable homicidal tendencies. Explaining her incarceration; “I had road rage. In a bank”.
Also on the team are Ant-Man’s David Dastmalchian as silver age villain The Polka Dot Man. And yes, he’s every bit as goofy as it sounds. His power is to throw lethal polka dots, and he has mommy issues. (Man, what was in the ink back in the sixties?) But Polka Dot Man isn’t even the goofiest or the weirdest character to join the Suicide Squad in this film – (even Weasel, the human sized, well…weasel isn’t) that title goes to T.D.K. who can detach his arms to hit people (ineffectively). T.D.K is short for The Detachable Kid (Nathan Fillion). And no, I haven’t forgotten that this is the film that features Stallone as the voice of a bipedal shark whose catchphrase is “nom, nom”.
The heart of the team, the emotional core is Ratcatcher 2, daughter of the original Ratcatcher whose power is to use her control of rats to commit crimes (I remember the Ratcatcher’s debut in the Batman comic book in the eighties.) Daniela Melchior plays the character with empathy, and becomes the force that unifies the team, even befriending the member who’s eyeing her up as a snack.
Plotwise, the team has to infiltrate the South American island of Corto Maltese, a fictional Cuba-like region under a fascist rule which was referenced in the Batman film of 1989. There’s a lab where scientists are conducting experiments involving human beings and a giant alien starfish named Starro the Conqueror which was introduced in the first ever comic book appearance of the Justice League of America in Brave and the Bold issue 39, 1960.
Leading these experiments is The Thinker a supervillain with an enhanced brain played by ex – Doctor Who Peter Capaldi, looking bizarre with a shaven head and what appear to be TV tubes embedded in his cranium.
There are a few twists and turns, several casualties and some fatalities. So as to keep this spoiler-free I’ll say don’t get used to anybody being around. They may not make it to the end of the film. There are a few surprises – but watch the film through the credits right to the very end for a giveaway what comes next as a TV series. Written by James Gunn, with several of the episodes to be directed by him as well. It’s one of the things I’m looking forward to most in the coming months.
So, I’ve given a flavour of what to expect. The question is, does it all work? And will it please those who didn’t care much for the first film?
Yes, it works. It works beautifully well. I see it as pretty much a middle finger to the Mouse for their knee-jerk over reaction to something that happened a long time ago and has since been apologised for. The Suicide Squad takes us to a violent, anarchic, irreverent team who inhabit a dark place that Marvel haven’t yet ventured cinematically. And he’s taken us there with a team of anti-hero sociopaths that we care about. In my opinion, DC currently have the edge on Marvel. It’s a 15 rated film, which pretty much keeps the kids out, and rightly so. The team hasn’t been watered down to kid friendliness levels. This bunch of psychos are what they are and they’re portrayed as the maladjusted misfits they’re supposed to be and given full rein to let loose their dogs of war.
I understand that James Gunn has been rehired by Disney and WILL be directing Guardians 3, which is a relief – but I hope he comes back for another Suicide Squad, after his NEXT project for DC. A Superman film.
Copyright © 2010 - 2021 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.