Movie Review: The Suicide Squad (2021)

TL;DR – more blood, more mayhem, and a giant starfish does not make a great comic book movie.

Review (warning: spoilers)

I’m a big fan of James Gunn. Guardians of the Galaxy was directed and co-written by Gunn, and one of my favourite Marvel films – the soundtrack, cinematic style, and storytelling were wrapped up wondrously into a popcorn film that satiated many comic book fans including me. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (also written and directed by Gunn) fell short of the first film but still delivered a decent sequel.

Unfortunately, expectations are a dangerous thing. I managed to keep my expectations low for The Suicide Squad (a standalone sequel to 2016’s Suicide Squad), but even then I struggled with this film.

Before I continue, I should preface this with the fact that while I am an avid reader of novels and comics, Suicide Squad isn’t one of them. My understanding is that Gunn has stayed true to the source material. If this is the case, then perhaps I missed a good deal that the die-hard fans will pick up.

With that caveat in mind, I didn’t enjoy The Suicide Squad as much as I had hoped.

As with the first film, the Suicide Squad is comprised of super criminals/villains serving jail time. The government use them for missions in exchange for reduced time. To ensure compliance during the missions and extinguish any temptation to escape, each member of the squad has an explosive chip inserted in the back of their head, which can be detonated if they stray too far from the mission’s path. So far, so good.

The movie opens with an introduction to a bunch of super villains, some new and some coming back from the first film like Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). None of these characters except Harley registered, so I could not tell the new from the old (which demonstrates how forgetful they all are to me). Still, as they all load up to fly to a South American island nation to destroy a laboratory named Jotunheim along with an evil experiment called ‘project starfish’, you get glimpses of what this dysfunctional mob is all about. There’s the field leader of the squad, Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), a dude with boomerangs, another with a javelin, some alien chick, an anthropomorphic weasel named… you guessed it… ‘Weasel’, some guy that can throw a handball and rebound it off multiple surfaces with pin point accuracy, a guy who can detach his limbs and a mercenary figure named Blackguard.

Just when you get to know who’s who, any attempt to build a story on this bunch is wiped out in the first fifteen minutes when they land on the island and are ambushed (it’s revealed Blackguard has somehow betrayed the squad, but it’s never explained how he managed to do this as he’s shot in the face by the very soldiers that he gave information on the squad to). An attempt to salvage the situation is quickly snuffed as all of them perish in an assortment of comic ways except Harley (who gets captured) and Rick (who escapes).

We, the viewers, then see there is a second Suicide Squad that has landed on the island and the first squad was a distraction. Yeah, I don’t know. It took quite a bit of effort to invest in the first bunch and now we’re being asked to get to know a second bunch. The back stories and emotional depth is explored in greater detail with this second squad along with Harley and Rick who join up with them. For the first half of the movie, I felt it did not go anywhere and there were only small glimpses of depth and story.

The scene where Harley is tortured and escapes is probably the best sequence in the film. And when Bloodsport (Idris Elba) and Peacemaker (John Cena) go at each other even though they’re meant to be on the same team brings a real feeling of conflict rather than a farcical feeling of one. There’s some emotional backstory revealed for both Bloodsport and Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) that is an attempt albeit feeble in getting us to care about them.

But after that we have a giant starfish aiming for world domination. Think Godzilla but a starfish. I kid you not. The climatic battle scene falling flat in my view. I am pretty sure Suicide Squad aims to have the highest death count of any comic book movie ever filmed so far. The collateral damage (no matter how creative or gruesome) ends up being ho hum because you end up saturated in it.

In a credit scene, we find out that Weasel, who we thought drowned in the opening scene cause he can’t swim, is actually alive and we watch him wander off into the forest on the island. Why? Who knows? Who cares? It’s almost like they had some leftover CGI budget and decided to throw that in for laughs. The Suicide Squad had the potential to add more depth and build on the first film. Sadly, expectations got the better of me.

5.5 out of 10

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