Warning — This article contains spoilers for The Suicide Squad.
James Gunn's The Suicide Squad has been released into a swarm of praise from fans and critics alike. Having achieved one of the highest Rotten Tomatoes ratings of the comic book genre, it's safe to say most critics are loving this film, and the fan reception seems to be just as positive.
There is no doubt that the Guardians of the Galaxy director has masterfully crafted a perfect ensemble flick, but does it live up to the highest regarded films in DC history such as Christopher Nolan's award-winning Dark Knight trilogy and fan-favorites like Wonder Woman or Aquaman?
WHAT A BUNCH OF A-HOLES
When a film has an ensemble cast as large as The Suicide Squad, there's always a risk of it becoming an overcrowded mess. Fortunately, James Gunn does a perfect job of balancing an expansive cast in a way that makes every villain feel memorable by giving them their time to shine.
Warner Bros. and James Gunn didn't hesitate to cast A-list actors in every single role of the film, a genius decision that makes it impossible to predict who will make it out alive.
While Task Force X is bigger than ever in their latest adventure, much of the team is killed off in a bloodbath on the beaches of Corto Maltese in the first few minutes of the film. Ultimately, The Suicide Squad is focused on a small group of villains being: Harley Quinn, Bloodsport, Polka Dot Man, Ratcatcher 2, Peacemaker, King Shark, and Rick Flag.
Bloodsport is the surprise leader of the film, with plenty of action-packed sequences and memorable moments of heart. However, being the squad's signature gun-toting marksman with a character arc heavily tied to his daughter, it sometimes feels as if he may simply be standing in for Will Smith's Deadshot.
Having abandoned his wife and daughter years before his arrest for attempting to kill Superman, the mercenary strikes up a beautiful father-daughter relationship with the young and misunderstood Ratcatcher 2.
Speaking of which, Daniela Melchior's rat-controller squad member is the heart and soul of this film, as she is ultimately the only one of the group who never had any villainous intentions. The daughter of Taika Waititi's Ratcatcher grew up on the streets with her father, building up a close bond with the rodents she could control.
Ratcatcher 2 also builds a strong relationship with King Shark after she manages to befriend the hungry villain — but only after he tried to brutally eat her as the group slept. Sylvester Stallone's hungry character is the source of many of this film's laughs, but he also gets a surprising amount of character development throughout this film as he learns the value of friendship.
The Suicide Squad might be John Cena's biggest acting role yet, as he perfectly embodies the role of Peacemaker. James Gunn definitely said it best as he described this character as a douchey Captain America as he seeks out world peace, no matter how many lives it costs.
As the squad's two sharpshooters, Peacemaker and Bloodsport established quite the competitive rivalry throughout the film. While this starts off as a friendly competition, it culminates in Peacemaker's betrayal of the team to complete his own mission for Amanda Waller, leading Bloodsport to shoot him through the neck and leave him to die in the rubble of Jotunheim.
Polka Dot Man is absolutely the weirdest of the team with his unique color-shooting abilities making him the source of plenty of laughs, but also arguably the most powerful of the squad. David Dastmalchian plays up the character's mother issues in a hilarious way as he sees his hated parent in the face of everybody around him, even in the giant starfish Starro, which leads to plenty of laughs.
SUICIDE SQUAD'S RETURNING FAVORITES
While much of the cast consists of new characters, Harley Quinn, Amanda Waller, Rick Flag, and Captain Boomerang all return from David Ayer's 2016 Suicide Squad. Sadly, Jai Courtney's boomerang-tossing Australian is one of the fatalities of the opening, but Harley, Waller, and Flag are critical characters of the entire film.
Harley spends much of the first half interacting with the dictators of Corto Maltese as she sparks up a romance with the president of the fictional country's president, who she ultimately ends up killing. Since Margot Robbie's crazed villain is one of the few characters already established, this allows the rest of the squad to grow as characters in their own right while still keeping the fan-favorite in the spotlight.
Meanwhile, Rick Flag leads the team through much of The Suicide Squad, sharing memorable moments of friendship with Harley Quinn and freedom fighter Sol Soria along the way. In a twist on the last film, this time around Joel Kinnaman's military leader was among those swindled by Amanda Waller after she hid the U.S.'s involvement in Project Starfish from him. After Flag decided to release the proof of this to the press, he is tragically killed by Peacemaker in what may be The Suicide Squad's saddest death.
Throughout the film, Amanda Waller leads a group of office workers from ARGUS command, with this group proving to be hilarious the whole way through. As the group places bets on which squad members will die on the mission, it paints a picture that a lot of time has passed since 2016's Suicide Squad and the office dynamic has shifted significantly from its more grounded tone in the first film.
As a whole, every returning character is better than ever in The Suicide Squad, with James Gunn making drastic improvements on David Ayer's work or at least the work that was released to the public in 2016.
A NON STOP THRILL RIDE
The Suicide Squad has five antagonists, which may sound like too many, but each serves their own unique purpose in the story which ultimately makes them essential inclusions.
Given his size and the scale of the squad's action-packed battle against him, Starro is naturally the most memorable of the bunch. Having spent years floating in space, the alien starfish was retrieved by a group of United States astronauts before becoming the subject of Project Starfish in Corto Maltese in an effort to weaponize him.
As the genius scientist behind Project Starfish, Peter Capaldi's Thinker is perhaps the most involved of the film's villains, but ultimately lacks the development necessary to make him a memorable threat.
Corto Maltese President Silvio Luna and General Mateo Suarez contribute little to the story as a whole but will make you hate them nonetheless. Ultimately, the two leaders serve more purpose as faces of the country's corrupt regime, than antagonists in their own right. Granted, this is far from a bad thing as the overall storyline requires the viewer to fear and hate the Corto Maltese government, something that is achieved well through Luna and Suarez.
Amanda Waller remains just as antagonistic as ever in The Suicide Squad as she orchestrates the group's mission for the comfort of her office. However, this time around, she's even more of a villainous threat as it is revealed she hid her efforts to cover up the U.S.'s involvement in Project Starfish.
A TWISTED SENSE OF HUMOR
Unlike most comic book films of the modern era, The Suicide Squad is an R-Rated romp. From a dark and twisted sense of humor to gore, sex, and nudity, James Gunn really held nothing back when it came to crafting Task Force X's latest mission.
Given almost the entire cast of the DC blockbuster are wrong-doing villains, the inclusion of more adult content feels fitting and allows Gunn to fully realize their evil. Michael Rooker's Savant establishes this within the first scene of the film as he violently kills an adorable bird with a bouncy ball, demonstrating his skill and villainy.
As much of the squad gradually die throughout the film, many do so in incredibly gory fashion. For example, Pete Davidson's Blackguard has his face splattered to pieces with a bloody headshot, while T.D.K. is repeatedly shot in his detached arms until he eventually dies.
The Suicide Squad is truly hilarious in an incredibly dark way, making light of almost every twisted thing that happens within it. Granted, this may be something some viewers strongly dislike, but the film knows when to take itself seriously to generate the appropriate emotional response, such as Rick Flag's tragic death.
Beyond that, James Gunn's film has one notable instance of frontal female nudity as the squad runs through an adult entertainment venue. Meanwhile, Harley Quinn stars in a passionate sex scene with the attractive Corto Maltese President Silvio Luna.
As a whole, Gunn takes full advantage of everything the R-rating allows for to create a film that parents may wish to avoid showing to their kids. Ultimately, this isn't a film for families or young viewers, it's definitely an adults-only fare.
As one can imagine given the stardom attached to every character in this film, every actor is perfectly cast and delivers a truly excellent performance.
Despite being killed off within the first fifteen minutes of the film, Michael Rooker delivers a powerful and memorable performance as Savant. The Guardians of the Galaxy actor actually opens the film as he bounces a ball around his cell with perfect accuracy, using it to brutally kill a bird.
After arriving on the beach only to watch the entire team die at the hands of the Corto Maltese military, you can see the fear across Rooker's face before he attempts to flee the battle, only to be blown up by Waller's implanted bombs.
The Suicide Squad marks Margot Robbie's third performance as the fan-favorite Harley Quinn, and it's undeniably her best yet. The actress is also given the Gotham Queen of Crime's coolest action moment yet as she massacres her way through the guards at Corto Maltese's regal building to escape capture.
Daniela Melchior proves to be a surprising stand-out of the cast as her character acts as the central emotional crux of the movie, and she portrays the millennial in a believable way. Ratcatcher 2 builds a close, heartfelt bond with every member of the team that makes her simply lovable and impossible to dislike.
If you weren't already excited for the Peacemaker HBO Max series, you will be after this. The Suicide Squad may feature John Cena's best acting performance to date as he encapsulates the douchey Captain America. Cena portrays the anti-hero's determination to achieve world peace in a powerful way that displays excellent acting ability beyond anything he has done yet in his post-WWE acting career.
PRODUCTION — CINEMATOGRAPHY, MUSIC, EDITING
Each element of the production — from cinematography to score — is masterfully handled in a clever, surprising, and unique manner to excellently convey the quirky nature of the film and its characters.
James Gunn also cleverly took advantage of each scene to play around with cinematography uniquely. For example, as Rick Flag and Peacemaker duke it out for a critical hard drive, the fight is initially viewed through a reflection in the douchey villain's helmet. By taking advantage of each scene itself to form its style, every scene becomes memorable in its own right for the distinct way it was filmed.
Another unique feature of the film is the on-screen text. Unlike other comic book films, James Gunn takes advantage of objects and effects within the scene to display these messages. In a film that hops between characters, locations, and time periods a lot, this helps to make it clear where and when viewers are at every given time to avoid confusion.
Since Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn has become renowned as a master of music in Hollywood, taking advantage of both masterful original scores and pop favorites from decades before. The Suicide Squad is no exception to this and is certainly up to the director's high standard.
The film's primary original song comes from indie artist Grandson in collaboration with Jess Glynne, with the result being “Rain.” As a whole, this song is a hit and many are sure to be adding it to their playlists right after seeing the film.
But throughout the film, fans are sure to be recognizing songs all the way through with hits from Johnny Cash's “Folsom Prison Blues” to The Fratellis' “Whistle for the Choir.”
Just as he once did with the Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn will quickly make you love this band of D-list misfits. Every single one of the expansive star-studded ensemble feels perfectly cast, and every character, no matter how minor, is memorable for their own unique reasons.
James Gunn's DC debut is nothing less than a masterpiece, and the best film to come out of the comic book universe in years, arguably the best ever. It will keep you on the edge of your seat for over two hours and leave you excited to see more from its few survivors.
In comparison to past comic book flicks, The Suicide Squad utilizes a much lighter tone than the likes of The Dark Knight or Man of Steel. However, James Gunn still manages to include powerful character moments that will make fans grow attached to this group in a way no DC film has before.
From the cast to the action, The Suicide Squad is bigger and better than anything to come out of DC Comics in live-action yet. Even when compared to fan-favorites like Wonder Woman or Christopher Nolan's critically-acclaimed Dark Knight trilogy, it surpasses everything through a true sense of originality.
The Suicide Squad is in theaters and streaming on HBO Max now.