For a film brand that actually landed itself in critical suicide back in 2016, it was surprising to hear Suicide Squad (2016) was about to get a sequel – that’s right – a film that was panned by both critics and audiences got a second shot. In reality, this shouldn’t really be all that surprising, especially when you look at the long history of films that achieve economic success in spite of the critics wailing that the film is “objectively bad”. After all, if you’re making money, what does it matter? Suicide Squad (2016) made a whopping $746 million at the box office, so, where’s the harm in a sequel? Well, not every film studio is Warner Bros Pictures – and if history has told us anything, it’s that Warner Bros Pictures has a strong disdain for their films being poorly received, and so they decided to can Suicide Squad and any potential of a sequel… or did they?
Now, the question of whether this sequel has rewritten the last film is largely a pointless avenue of discussion; this film is simply a new interpretation that honors the past without retconning it – think of it as a full reconstruction of a car with only the original chassis intact. It’s a do-over, but not the whole way. Try not to think about it too much. Now, none of this is particularly new ground for Warner Bros Pictures, as they’ve been on a roll of rewriting their mistakes, from the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021) to even remastering Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition (2016) on 4K UHD. Warner Bros Pictures revisionist approach could optimistically be seen as a sign that the company is trying to right their wrongs or pessimistically seen as mere damage control by your standard corporation. Regardless, this reimagination of their Suicide Squad brand is perhaps one of the most potent examples of revisionism in recent memory, excluding of course the aforementioned Snyder cut.
So we know why this film was made, but how does it hold up? Well, this is a James Gunn film through and through. There’s crude humour, a fantastic team dynamic, and a wholesome message tucked into the seams of it all. This film isn’t all that different from the 2016 version; structurally it follows the same approach, only with the fully guided hand of Gunn aiming with near complete accuracy. Despite its large cast this film seemingly sports through its advertisements, the core team of The Suicide Squad can be rounded down to about 6 actual key characters, not all that different from the 2016 film. The difference lies in how their backstories are laid out, most of which is far richer and more emotionally charged than the previous film – by an order of magnitude.
This film takes intentional left-turns with both its story and characters in order to surprise you. Gunn consistently tricks you into thinking you can predict the fate of each character, but if the opening 10 minutes of this film is any indication, you should know to expect the unexpected. There’s a major emphasis on the more unassuming characters being front and center in this story; as the film’s theme is generally in line with the idea of the unassuming small voice standing up to the larger and more oppressive one. We see unexpected leading roles from characters like Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) as she holds quite a major position in the film alongside the likes of Bloodsport (Idris Elba) and Peacemaker (John Cena). The antagonists themselves, from the hardened Amanda Waller, to the merciless dictators that reign over the island of Corto Maltes, and even the alien monster Starro all represent large oppressive voices trying to control the masses. Again, the unassuming characters are key here, they are the antidote to this theme of overwhelming control.
Real locations such as Panama and large sets were used to bring Corto Maltese to life. The sets and locations were well constructed as the lower class aesthetic was really felt with the design of the metal houses and dirt roads when the Suicide Squad was walking through the streets. The Suicide Squad has excels in its make up and costuming were each of the characters costume feels like a true representation of themselves. Suicide Squad (2016) wasn’t known for having the best visuals, however its pleasing to say that The Suicide Squad has vastly improved from the visual stand point. The use of bright colours in dark locations is brilliantly done throughout this film and it is most notable in one of Harley Quinn’s scenes where vibrant flowers explode in the background with cartoon birds flying around, it is easily the best visual moment in this film. The CGI work that has gone into this film is fantastic and it is easily noticeable whenever King Shark is on screen. The attention to detail is mind-blowing as in the close up shot of King shark you can see the textures and roughness of his skin. Another delight I noticed while watching this film is the interesting camera work that was used. There is a particular fight scene when it is only shown through a reflection of an object, this creative use of shot made the fight more intense and was just as engaging as a normal fight scene.
Not overly stuffed with soundtrack songs, The Suicide Squad has the right balance of soundtrack choices and musical score pieces. John Murphy’s soundtrack choices don’t feel forced, making it flow naturally enhancing the scenes even further. The accompanying score John Murphy composes perfectly complements The Suicide Squad characters and the emotion that plays on screen. Some of the rock style score pieces resembles what the Suicide Squad is about, an edgy unpredictable group of villains and the big moment scenes are enhances when this score piece is played.
This film has a delectable ratio of violence, comedy, and heartfelt energy that should make even the best Marvel Studios flicks feel a little envious. The best DCEU flick yet? Too damn right. James Gunn proves that profanity and violence can come hand in hand with a big heart and a slick eye for inventive visuals. This film is a beautifully fun joy-ride that honors its source material and even the widely unappealing 2016 film. A wholesomely gruesome piece of superhero imagery that deserves respect, if only for how it displays effectively written characters.