How is it that it took five years, a new director, and an R-rating to finally make the Suicide Squad team feel indubitably fun and fabulous onscreen?
The Guardians of the Galaxy film director, James Gunn, breaks the mold on the genre’s rules and pokes fun at the thundering morality (like Ryan Reynolds with his fourth wall-breaking in his Deadpool works). More like a reboot or mulligan, this “sequel” is redemption for Warner Brothers, the DC Extended Universe, and James Gunn after the atrocious 2016 film.
The plot is brutally simple: sending many villains to an island in the Latin American country, where they must destroy all evidence of “Project Starfish” (no, not Patrick Starfish). Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), the despicable leader of the government’s Task Force X program, summons them to take on land. The villains enter by storming a beach, infiltrating the capital, and destroying this cylinder prison (and then an alien
starfish). Also, there’s no escape possible for them as bombs become planted in their necks. So, as it says in the title and trailers, this is indeed a “suicide mission.”
What takes it above and beyond the horrendous structuring of the first one in 2016 is Gunn’s direction, casting, and themes. The first had clunky exposition, poor quips, and quite the issue with helicopters. Nothing felt consequential, and the cast could’ve gotten better roles in other films (not rival the awful taste of Batman v Superman which came out in the same year). Gunn balances the absurdity and cynicism exceptionally well thanks to some genuinely funny moments, heart, and violent showcases (like Deadpool and Logan have competition on their hands). Every bit of carnage lights up the screen so colorfully due to the ensemble.
We have some returning characters from the first, but the newcomers stand out spectacularly. Bloodsport (Idris Elba) is a disgruntled mercenary; Peacemaker (John Cena) is a jingoistic killer with a shiny silver helmet; Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) blasts polka dots from his entire body; King Shark (Sylvester Stallone) attempts to eat everyone, and Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) can control an army of rats. Each of them steals the screen multiple times, and Gunn gets to show the dualistic personalities of each newcomer. Except for the ones that died so gruesomely in the first ten minutes. It is a shame, T.D.K.
Gunn also subtly establishes the theme of Western imperialism and America’s refusal to confess its sins in the past (and present). The setting of Corto Maltese, the presence of Starro (the extra-terrestrial starfish), and the small jabs at how America became responsible for chaos all contribute to this matter.
Sure, there are some swings and misses, but this movie indulges in hardcore violence, language, and crazy irreverent humor abundantly. It is leagues better than the first in 2016 and the best superhero film since Avengers: Endgame. If Gunn promised a rebound for this genre, he triumphed, and he will strive to keep that momentum up with the upcoming Peacemaker series and his return to Disney with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.3.