Writer/director James Gunn delved into the Marvel universe with Guardians of the Galaxy and now he crosses the street to the DC Universe with The Suicide Squad. The result is engaging, messy, hilarious, and oddly kind of joyous war movie crossed with comic book superheroes. With a sprawling cast of characters, each gets an individual moment to shine or at least be dispatched in a shockingly messy manner. For a movie that has a giant shark eating people and mind controlling aliens, it manages to be emotionally powerful and then jump right back into chaos. This is definitely a very different comic book superhero movie, and one of the best.
Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) leads the Suicide Squad, super criminals who are sent on dangerous missions. If they succeed they get 10 years off their sentence but if they run their head gets blown off by a bomb implanted in their neck. A mission to the warn torn nation of Corto Maltese goes sideways with survivors Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) stranded. A second team comprised of DuBois aka Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), and the giant shark Nanaue (voiced by Sylvester Stallone) have to continue the mission. They have to find Doctor Grieves (Peter Capaldi) who is running a secret program called Project Starfish and what they discover may have devastating consequences for the entire world.
This is a sort of sequel to the first Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey but it doesn’t harp on continuity. Returning characters Flag, Harley, Waller and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) have an implied history that isn’t explicitly stated. Basically, this is a war movie about a group of disparate and crazy individuals, some of which have super-powers. Like in most war movies, there’s a scene establishing the grunts on the ride to the mission and a messy raid where everyone gets blown to bits. One of the early casualties is pretty surprising and shows that in The Suicide Squad anyone can bite it.
The genius of the film is getting emotionally invested about one-joke Z-list characters. Dastmalchain’s Polka-Dot Man is an absolutely trash looking character who spews polka-dots at his targets. His condition is portrayed like a terminal disease that will threaten to destroy him if he doesn’t expel the dots. Glimpses into his psychology are downright twisted and his bursts of polka-dot violence are a cathartic release. Nanaue is a similarly dopey looking character and Stallone’s vocal performance is hilarious as Nanaue can barely string together sentences. When DuBois points Nanaue in the direction of the large threat, it’s fantastic. Another seemingly joke character is Ratcatcher 2; she’s named that because her father was the first Ratcatcher. This is funny because there’s a weird trope in comics to differentiate an ancestor character by just adding a number. At climax she leads an attack against the big baddie and the scene is stirring with a moving, propulsive musical cue by John Murphy. It takes a seemingly gross and dumb idea, a girl who can control rats, and makes her power downright inspirational.
Elba’s DuBois is a cynic who can’t help but eventually do good as he’s paired up with Cena’s Peacemaker. Amusingly, they both have the same power-set of making any object lethal which leads to a very funny scene where they one-up each other by bumping off unsuspecting guards. Peacemaker is a total jerk who has deeper layers of a bigger jerk underneath. There’s also a throw-down Pacemaker has with Flag that is way awesome.
Robbie’s Quinn has a neat scene where it shows the POV of Quinn’s mind’s eye as she’s smashing soldiers but as the violence is shown in colourful bursts of flowers and unicorns. Also one moment when Harley gets unexpectedly cozy with a military leader ends in an extremely Harley Quinn way involving self-actualization and ultra-violence. The story of Project Starfish is revealed by Capaldi and he gets in some truly nasty moments as rants about what it can do. The ultimate baddie may be represented by Davis’ Waller, who is almost inhuman in her casual disregard at the tools of her mission.
The finale is great when Starro the Conqueror is unleashed. It’s a perfect mix of giant monster smashing silly and terrifying as Starro sends out mind-controlling tiny versions of itself that latches onto people’s faces and makes them a minion. The visual of people with Starro’s attached to their faces and speaking its will is dopey and freaky. The showdown is amazingly epic in scope with great action as the team comes together with lots of drama. Even Starro talking through its possessed victims gets a moment of sympathy. It is a perfect summation of how The Suicide Squad manages to take all these dumb characters and make them feel like real people in brief little bits.
The Suicide Squad is amazingly weird, spectacularly gory yet truly heartwarming flick. It throws in dozens of oddball superhero characters in a war movie, gives everyone a standout scene, and then proceeds to explode, eat and mind-control alien the heck out of everything. This is as wild as comic book movies should be.
The Suicide Squad
Director: James Gunn
Starring: John Cena, Margot Robbie and Pete Davidson