Once the credits rolled on Avengers: End Game I was pretty much done with the superhero genre. While I wouldn’t be opposed to going to see a new entry, I wouldn’t exactly be chomping at the bit for the next installment of high-octane superhuman activity.
That went double for DC movies. It’s pretty clear that Warner Bros. was trying to compete in the genre with Disney/Marvel, and they just weren’t stacking up. They tried dark and gritty, they tried lighthearted and fun, and no matter what they did, they just couldn’t compete with the house of mouse.
It released a lot of bad movies, but its worst was arguably 2016’s “Suicide Squad.” The overly cheesy dialogue and confused plot made the movie nearly intolerable. Even Will Smith and Margot Robbie, two actors who played their parts as well as they could, couldn’t stop this movie from being a steaming pile of garbage, and that was likely thanks to Warner Bros. You could tell that the film was meant to be one thing, but the studio intervened midway and made it another, making for a movie that seemed to have multiple personality disorder at times.
It wasn’t until Disney fired Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn over some old tweets containing pedophilia jokes that Warner Bros’s fortunes would turn around. The only good news the DC universe had on the horizon that looked hopeful was the news that while Disney decided to leave it, Warner pulled up quick to retrieve it. They announced Gunn would make his own Suicide Squad movie
It finally dropped over the weekend and box office numbers haven’t been anything to smile about. It pulled in just $72.5 million in its first few days in theaters, falling heavily short of its $285 million production and marketing budget. While disappointing, it wasn’t entirely unexpected. The Delta Variant has made moviegoers nervous about appearing in seats, and what’s more, it’s also featured on HBO Max, where much of its viewership likely sat and watched it. So while numbers fell short, Warner Bros isn’t exactly calling it a loss. So long as it drove subscriptions to HBO’s streaming service, parent company Warner can call it a win.
But despite its bad box-office numbers, is the movie any good? In short…it may be one of my favorite superhero movies to date.
To be clear, “The Suicide Squad” is Guardians of the Galaxy without Disney’s family-friendly temperance. Gunn stuck with an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mindset when creating this movie, and his previous work as the Guardians director shows through in everything from character interactions to archetypes. He has both a Groot and baby Groot in the form of Sylvester Stalone’s “King Shark” and a slightly intelligent and very cute rat. He has a highly capable and confident, yet comedic lead in the form of Idris Elba’s “Bloodsport.” He has an awkward tag-along with weird powers in David Dastmalchian’s “Polka-Dot Man.” He even managed to mix Drax and Rocket Raccoon into John Cena’s character “Peacemaker.”
But while Gunn serves up Guardians of the Galaxy “DC Edition,” it doesn’t become tired. You never get a “seen it before” vibe. The characters are their own and, what’s more, they’re highly enjoyable. Rounding out the cast are Suicide Squad alum Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) who now feel far more enjoyable and well-rounded in the hands of Gunn. Quinn is no longer a try-hard “bad guy” who is in the movie for nothing more than audience draw. She’s now a capable fighter whose crazy actually works with the plot. Flag is also given an injection of likeability, maintaining his every-man status while managing to fit in with the misfits he’s been assigned to lead.
Minor spoilers ahead.
Gunn takes these characters and puts them into a plot with twists, amazing action, and hilarious moments.
For one, he wastes no time in making you understand that this isn’t the previous Suicide Squad and, what’s more, the leash has been taken off. He begins by killing off members of the previous Suicide Squad in the first few scenes of the film, including Jai Courtney’s “Captain Boomerang” and seemingly, Flag and Quinn. The action is equal parts gory and hilarious as each member meets their end.
By the time the dust has settled, Gunn’s own Suicide Squad arrives on the scene and it kicks off a series of events that range from the hilariously absurd to darkly comedic. Bloodsport and Peacemaker are consistently attempting to one-up each other in terms of killing capability, with Cena delivering a line about his killing style that actually made me laugh out loud. King Shark attempts to eat a fellow squad member which leads the two down a path of friendship, and a repeated joke about Polka Dot Man’s mother being a driving force for his violence is played out in a way that’s legitimately hilarious.
The film doesn’t take itself seriously, which it shouldn’t in this stage of the superhero movie fad, but it’s not lazy about it either. The story is actually pretty creative despite being kind of goofy, and the characters are written so well that instead of being satisfied with the end, I actually wanted more interactions from them. There are even moments in the film where your heartstrings get pulled at when one of the gang is in danger or feeling sad.
It’s clear that what was missing from the Suicide Squad IP was Gunn and his brand of filmmaking. He made it so that the movie isn’t trying to have fun as its predecessor did, it is having fun. If you’re into dark humor and goofy action movies, then The Suicide Squad is definitely worth a watch.
What’s more, other studios should probably pay attention. In this stage of the genre’s evolution, Gunn just set the bar.