“The Suicide Squad” is a bloody joyride

Despite the messy reputation of its predecessor, “The Suicide Squad” sticks the landing. Photo by Serge Kutuzov on Upsplash

James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad” feels like a reaction to the “Suicide Squad” movie that preceded it. The color palette, dialogue and overall tone feel almost contradicting to the previous film. These changes are all to the movie’s benefit, as director James Gunn gave audiences one of the best superhero movies in years.

“The Suicide Squad” is a sequel/reboot of DC’s previous cinematic universe film, “Suicide Squad.” Newcomers will not be lost if they decide to watch this movie and not the previous films, avoiding the issues of continuity lockout that many films in the genre face.  

However, when comparing the two films, it is impressive how much “The Suicide Squad” improves on the flaws of its predecessors. 

The original “Suicide Squad” is a mess of a film. The first movie suffered from issues, such as its bloated cast of characters and the distracting use of licensed music. It was also subject to general mismanagement by Warner Bros, which mangled the writing. 

The original movie received multiple cuts and was edited by numerous teams before the theatrical version was released. Director David Ayer even released a letter on Twitter accusing Warner Bros. of ruining his movie. Despite its poor reception, “Suicide Squad” was a massive financial success, grossing over $746 million worldwide.

In some ways, the opening scenes of the sequel are a light-hearted refutation of its predecessor.  The opening scenes introduce the audience to an already pretty sizable cast of nine named characters. This scene establishes our characters as criminals trying to lessen their sentences by doing dirty work for the U.S. government, with the threat of their heads being blown off if they disobey. 

They all engage in typical action movie banter with each other. The humor is relatively solid, and we gain some insights into their character traits. 

Then they all die horrific deaths at the hands of enemy soldiers less than five minutes later. Pete Davidson’s character gets his face blown off, heralding the death of seven of our supposed protagonists in a scene that is as violent as it is hilarious. 

This scene cuts into another entirely different squad invading the same beach, and this smaller group of antiheroes are the show’s real stars. The bait-and-switch at the beginning of the film serves two purposes. 

The first is to illustrate the darkly comedic tone that the movie will have, and for the most part, the movie completely sticks the landing with it. The second is to acknowledge the first film’s underdeveloped yet bloated cast by unceremoniously killing the cast in less than 20 minutes.

The previous film is notoriously messy in terms of plot and tone, so the consistency in the follow-up is appreciated.

Outside of its predecessor’s context, “The Suicide Squad” stands well enough on its own merits. One of the movie’s greatest strengths is its ability to be comedic without relying on an entire cast of snarky quip masters that so many other superhero films do. 

Instead, the comedy in the movie takes the excessively morally ambiguous actions our protagonists commit and makes it hilarious. In no other film will viewers see two mercenaries trying to one-up each other by killing terrorists in increasingly brutal ways, which is hysterical. 

The reveal that said terrorists were freedom fighters that were on their side makes it even funnier. A huge strength of the movie comes from its incredible cast. 

The actors do an incredible job at making what could have been incredibly unbearable characters into likable if troubled, characters. Sure, Idris Elba’s character Bloodsport is not groundbreaking by being another hitman with a heart of gold in a franchise that already has one, but his execution leaves no complaint.

Margot Robbie returns to playing Harley Quinn and is the perfect amount of off-kilter and awesome without being tied to the first film’s loathsome version of the Joker.

The standout performance is John Cena’s as Peacemaker, a psychotic personification of American interventionism. The way Cena effortlessly turns Peacemaker’s seemingly hilarious over-the-top patriotism into an incredibly tragic trait in the film’s third act is a sight to behold.

At its core, Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad” is an absurd, gory film about bad people attempting to do good things. Even if it’s somewhat heavy-handed in its commentary about interventionism and foreign policy, the movie never really stumbles in its execution. It is a gory, hilarious, heartfelt and tragic film, aided by the incredible performances by its actors.