DC’s Suicide Squad (2016), whilst a financial success and not without it’s merits, was a disappointment that combined wasted potential and inherent flaws, due to David Ayer’s poor and misguided creative decisions and studio enforced editing that created an almost incoherent final product. After Slither and Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn’s brief firing from Disney, he signed onto the sequel and makes it both a step up from the first film in almost every way and an impressive adaptation of the comic on its own.
Government official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) has once again assembled a task force of criminals for a mission, consisting of Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Ratcatcher II (Daniel Mecholer), Polka Dot Man (David Dastmalian), King Shark (Sly Stallone) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). The mission is to infiltrate a foreign country to destroy a lab used for dangerous experiments related to Starro the Conqueror, an alien being that is being kept in captivity under the watch of scientist Dr Graves (Peter Capaldi).
The Suicide Squad, despite the potential for Gunn to just retread his Guardians formula, is an almost perfect translation of its source material’s unique spirit. It takes advantage of the R rating, with a lot of edge and idiosyncratic touches that sets it apart from the still slightly held back Guardians films. Yet there is also a lot of heart that slowly comes out through character reveals and arcs, with the final shot being the most emotionally affecting one I’ve seen in a blockbuster this year.
Characterisation-wise, the film brings out the grey morality of the cast, yet still makes them likeable enough to compensate. Even the anthropomorphic King Shark is an endearing character despite being a shark that eats people. Almost everyone gets a great moment to shine and the actors both have good chemistry and do well individually. Idris Elba relishes playing a jerk who slowly reveals a human side, John Cena starts out as fun comic relief then changes in a manner that he surprisingly nails, Daniela Melchor is a sweet presence and Margot Robbie is still great as Harley Quinn. Returning players like Viola Davis and Joel Kinnaman are also better served by the material than last time.
The story itself is relatively uncomplicated yet contains many twists and turns, some that you might see coming and others that you might not. Some can be predicted, but many are genuinely surprising, whether it be a plot twist, a character death or a character choice. The overall narrative pace is much better than the prior film (no overextended first act or big reveals spoiled early on) and helps to make the 132-minute runtime cover as much ground as it can whilst still keeping the story simple.
The action scenes are gritty yet OTT, dynamically filmed, and creative as well. There is a heavy amount of bloody violence, yet there’s not a juvenile vulgar streak to undermine being able to take the film seriously. The soundtrack is well chosen, never overpowering the film like it did the 2016 one, and the editing is rather tight yet not too quick.
As for any flaws, some the jokes don’t land and do feel inappropriately placed, a couple of narrative elements do not get the best payoff and whilst the ensemble cast is well handled, some could have gotten more screen time (one character death was effective but I was looking forward to seeing them in the film more). The biggest issue is that there is not enough of a specific villainous threat throughout the first two acts with him or Starro, with the main threat being the military force that are efficient but mostly made up of expendable goons. The Suicide Squad is not only a step back up for the DCEU after the disappointing WW84, but one of the most creative and fresh comic book movies to have come out recently, a sign that even blockbusters can stand out from their peers in many ways. It’s recommendable regardless of whether you’ve seen the first film or not and if you hated the first film you will potentially be won over with this one.
Four stars out of five.