The Suicide Squad comic books follow the misadventures of Task Force X, a team of incarcerated supervillains who are forced to take on high-risk black ops secret missions in exchange for parole, work release, and reduced prison sentencing. Bombs are placed in the base of each members’ skull in order to ensure their obedience. It’s a twisted-yet fun and unique premise that’s a nice change from standard superhero comics.
It makes sense that DC would want a live action Suicide Squad movie series to be made while comic book superhero films rule the box office. However, the 2016 movie, simply titled Suicide Squad, wasn’t exactly loved by critics (even though I personally enjoyed it for what it was). Now, they’re giving Task Force X another shot on the big screen with a sequel, just as simply titled The Suicide Squad, with James Gunn writing and directing this time around. Does The Suicide Squad deeserve more praise than its predecessor, or is it just as expendable? Let’s take a look at every mind-blowing detail to find out.
Caution: heavy spoilers for The Suicide Squad are ahead.
The Suicide Squad offers some of the most wickedly dark humor around. Extreme gore is used throughout to add to the twisted comedy as faces are shot off, people are ripped in half, and heads explode. It’s definitely a difficult feat to take something so horrific and make it funny, but the folks behind this film managed to succeed with flying colors. The gore is also used to create the sense of real danger each of these characters are in. The gore isn’t the only source of outstanding humor. The witty dialogue and banter between the characters add a lot of big laughs throughout the film. Each character’s personality adds an extra layer to the comedic moments because of how they respond to certain lines or react in a given scenario.
There’s barely a break from the exhilarating action throughout the movie. The characters genuinely feel like they’re in danger, and there’s a sense that no one is safe. Each member of Task Force X has a unique set of skills that keep the action from getting stale. Bloodsport has a wide array of weapons that are used throughout, but it’s not all shooting as King Shark brings his strength and teeth into battle. Want to see John Wick style shooting? It’s here. Want to see gritty hand-to-hand combat? It’s here. Want to see comic book superpowers being used against aliens? That’s here too! The action is violent, gorey, and perfectly well-choreographed throughout the movie. All of it is such a blast to experience.
The movie isn’t all crazy action and big laughs. There’s quite a bit of heart throughout as well. Most of the members of the main team bond over time, and it truly feels like they grow to care for each other. Ratcatcher 2 befriends King Shark and makes him feel like he has friends for the first time in his life. Bloodsport’s primary motivation throughout the story is making sure his daughter has a better life. There’s even a rat named Sebastian that the movie makes the audience care for. Accurate to the source material, the members of the Suicide Squad help Harley develop as a character and grow to be her own person rather than the Joker’s punching bag. She clearly has an actual friendship with Captain Boomerang and Rick Flag, and she bonds with some of the newer members as well.
There has been some confusion regarding whether this film is a sequel or reboot of the original 2016 Suicide Squad movie. The answer is that it’s a standalone sequel, which is handled quite well. One can definitely go into this one without seeing the first movie and enjoy it without being lost. However, for those who have seen or enjoyed the original, there are moments that tie the two movies together. Harley and Captain Boomerang have a conversation about how they’ve done this sort of work for Amanda Waller before, and that Harley escaped and was arrested again. Harley and Rick Flag are friends because of the events of the first movie. Again, the necessary little nods are there to tie things in, but this is ultimately a great standalone movie which is something that sequels often struggle with.
The performances from everyone involved are outstanding. Idris Elba, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, John Cena, Viola Davis, and the rest prove that they can pull off both dramatic moments and humor in the same role, which can be difficult to pull off. They each play off each other perfectly. The whole cast has incredible chemistry together. This is John Cena’s best performance, proving that he can make that leap from WWE superstar to Hollywood actor similarly to Dwayne Johnson. Viola Davis masterfully uses a serious demeanor to provide humor. This is definitely one extremely talented cast.
The Suicide Squad is also the best use of Robbie’s Harley Quinn in the DCEU. She’s not overly sexualized, she’s a badass who can hold her own against an entire squadron of trained military troops, and she’s hilarious without ever feeling shoved down the audience’s throats. Plus, Robbie proves once again she’s an ideal choice for the role.
Even though there are quite a few characters, each member of the main team gets an appropriate amount of time in the spotlight. They each get their time to shine and all feel like the story’s protagonist. Ratcatcher 2 and Bloodsport stand out a bit more, but the others never feel like side characters. This gives the audience a chance to get to know and care about each of them.
Comic book movies have become somewhat predictable. Quite a few of them come out every year now, and most of them use a similar formula. The Suicide Squad, however, is completely unpredictable at times. The unexpected can happen at any moment. It’s hard not to watch on the edge of your seat as a character death or something incredibly silly may happen any time.
The visual effects are extraordinarily impressive. The blend between motion capture, CGI, and traditional effects is incredible and helps make this over-the-top movie actually feel real. The closeups of King Shark look like the face of an actual shark. Weasel may be disturbing to look at but his fur is lifelike. Each explosion and every crumbling building looks outstanding. Adding to the visuals is creative imagery shown throughout. Scene transitions, like “30 minutes ealier” or location titles are written in fire, tree branches and smoke. There’s a scene where a flashback is shown in the reflection of a window. Clever use of imagery like this is very Edgar Wright-esque and is always appealing to the eye.
There are plenty of obscure DC references scattered throughout the movie to make fans of the source material happy. Kaleidoscope, Calendar Man, and Double Down are all seen in Belle Reve, implying they may be used by Amanda Waller in a future mission. The doctor who places the bomb in Savant’s skull is none other than John Ostrander, the creator of the Suicide Squad comics. The starfish kaiju the team battles in the final act is Starro the Conqueror, the first ever villain the Justice League took on together. The country of Corto Maltese where most of the film takes place is a fictional setting used throughout the history of DC Comics. If you’re a diehard DC fan, it’s a joy to pick out all of the subtle nods to the iconic stories.
There’s a surprising-yet-intriguing political theme in The Suicide Squad. The film draws attention to the idea that the U.S. government participates in not-so-ethical activities that harm innocents around the world for personal gain. It probably doesn’t relate to alien starfish (hopefully), but it is interesting to think about, and is worth keeping in mind when voting. The theme ties into the story well as it serves as the catalyst for much of the team’s character development.
Early on, Amanda Waller explains that each member of Task Force X is chosen for a mission based on their powers and skills, but some of them die before we see what some of them can do. Blackguard never gets a chance to show off his ergokinesis, his mace, his superhuman strength, or any of his gadgets. Savant doesn’t get to showcase his computer-hacking skills. Weasel drowns before the mission starts (which is actually hilarious). Having them die so quickly is understandable, but at least give them the time to show what they’re capable of first. At least Captain Boomerang gets to use his boomerangs to cut some heads off and TDK detaches his arms to beat up some baddies before they’re taken out.
Mongal is killed by being burned alive in a helicopter crash. I question if that would even be possible given her superhuman durability. Her powers make her impervious to bullets, blades, and explosions. She has gone toe-to-toe with Superman. How can fire kill her so easily?
Polka-Dot Man’s superpower in the movie allows him to shoot corrosive polka-dots at enemies. In the comics, however, his polka-dots can be used in a variety of ways. The various dots include a flying buzzsaw dot that can be used as a projectile to cut through almost anything, a flying saucer dot that can be used as transportation, a “hole dot” that serves as a portal, and fist dots for attacking foes. The movie adaptation using his polka-dots differently isn’t an issue, but it is a bit of a missed opportunity to go even further with the ridiculousness. They clearly wanted to be over-the-top in the movie, and they missed the chance to be even more so.
Speaking of missed opportunities, having so many characters killed extremely early on may have been fun, but it also means that some of the more fun characters don’t get the chance to interact. As said before, the banter throughout the film is fantastic. Imagine if we got to see the likes of Captain Boomerang and Blackguard in the mix with Peacemaker and Bloodsport. King Shark and Weasel interacting would have been hilarious.
The Suicide Squad does work as a standalone movie, but it is a sequel. We know that some team members didn’t make it out of the first film alive, but there were survivors that aren’t seen or mentioned in this one. Deadshot got his happily ever after, but what about the others? It doesn’t take anything away from this one, but it’s hard not to wonder what happened to Killer Croc or Katana. Perhaps they have been set free or they’re in a part of Belle Reve that was not shown. As a sequel it would have added some cohesion between the two if they were at least mentioned.
It’s understood from the get-go that no character is safe from being killed off. Plus, a character dying does not inherently make a story bad by any means. That being said, having major characters from the first film who are also mainstays of the Suicide Squad comics return just to be killed off before the mission truly gets started is a bit of an insult to the returning fans. They could at least be killed doing something important or badass, rather than just being murdered.
Rick Flag’s death especially hurts for a couple reasons. For one, he’s almost as important to the Suicide Squad as Amanda Waller. Taking him out is like Batman or Superman being killed in a Justice League movie, which doesn’t feel right. What’s even more frustrating is how he’s killed. He’s murdered by another member of the Suicide Squad, which is extremely upsetting. Given Flag’s importance, killing him off makes it truly feel that Warner Bros. may no longer care about the DCEU or continuing it, which is sad. How would a Suicide Squad movie be able to happen with so many keyplayers off the table?
The Suicide Squad is an extraordinarily entertaining rollercoaster ride of a movie. It’s one of the most over-the-top comic book movies ever made due to shark men, hordes of rats, starfish kaiju, wacky characters, and extreme gore. The action, humor, and heart all make the movie worth seeing multiple times. The obscure references only add to that for comic book fans.
It ultimately works well as a fantastic standalone movie, but it does have some issues while being looked at as a part of a Suicide Squad series or as a part of the larger DCEU. Some surprises were more upsetting than exciting, making this the most fun I’ve had with a movie that’s also made me mad. The portrayal of some superpowers and abilities (or lack thereof) could have been handled differently here and there, but that’s an ignorable issue because of how much fun the movie is otherwise. As long as they’ve got Viola Davis/Amanda Waller, and Warner Bros. and DC allow it, there could be an endless supply of Suicide Squad movies with different lineups of members every time. I’d always look forward to them if that’s the case.