The Suicide Squad (Review): Blew My Mind

DC delivers its latest “superhero” movie. Well, I guess that’s not an accurate description considering the subject matter… And they’re not all “villains”, so that doesn’t work either. Let’s try again: DC delivers its latest “Super anti-hero movie” and I went to see it. Read on for my thoughts!

A few days back I sat in the theatre with a big bag of popcorn, watched the lights dim, heard The Suicide Squad’s very first snippet of audio… and smiled. Maybe I shouldn’t hype this up so soon. The moment might not hit the same for everybody. But I for one immediately knew what kind of movie this was going to be and I was invested right from the opening credits. This was bound to be a good time.

My confidence in the film grew with the opening sequence. The Suicide Squad wastes no time catching you up to speed on the premise. So, if you’re someone who never got around to seeing the first movie, don’t worry about it. You don’t need to see the original Suicide Squad to understand this one– although it helps at times (mostly with certain character dynamics).

Long story short: the government offers reduced sentences to dangerous prisoners if they manage to survive various suicide missions. Every prisoner gets a bomb put in their head which will detonate if they try to escape. And the government will claim deniability if/ when a mission goes wrong because every member of the team is a felon (and of course the government wouldn’t openly work with them).

Maybe this is a good time to admit: I seem to be one of few people on the planet who didn’t hate the first movie… I mean, I didn’t like it– but I didn’t hate it. Maybe I’ll review Suicide Squad for an article someday. Basically: I always thought the characters were the best part of that story and I’ve wanted to see them get a second chance for the last 5 years. I kinda sorta got my wish but this movie is about a new squad. A fresh start was probably for the best.

I appreciated that this film’s stakes were set early on. From the first sequence, you know what kind of missions these people get sent on, how dangerous they are, and how the teams operate. The movie also provides a good reason why Superman doesn’t just fly in and save the day this time. Don’t ask me about the rest of the Justice League though. I have no idea what they were doing during this story…

The Suicide Squad is one of the most fun movies I’ve seen in a LONG time. Its action sequences were fun and riveting; the dialogue was genuinely funny and most of the jokes landed; the characters had great banter; and the soundtrack is fun. That last point shouldn’t be surprising though. It’s James Gunn so of course it was gonna be.

I am one of the comic book movie genre’s biggest supporters. I loved these movies and characters since LONG before nerd culture was mainstream. But I have to admit the movies have felt bland in recent years. Most end up feeling like different versions of the same thing. The Suicide Squad follows the superhero movie formula in many ways but it feels… different. This is the product of a visionary director unshackled. This is art– bloody, bold, and beautiful art.  

Look at those colours! Few superhero movies let their palates pop like this.

Something I appreciated was how The Suicide Squad used its R rating. TSS happened to be an R rated movie; not a movie that was made to be R. There’s a difference. Tell me if you’ve felt this way before, because I hope this isn’t just me, but some movies are stupidly gratuitous. They’ll shoot for their R rating by incorporating as much swearing and blood as possible, just because they can. And then there’s movies like this one, which have a lot of that stuff but uses it more naturally. Not every action scene results in buckets of blood, and not every line of dialogue needs to drop an ‘F’ bomb. The movie got its rating because it just ended up that way, not because it was trying to play for an adult crowd.

But make no mistake: this movie is super violent. And the body count is high. Some of The Suicide Squad’s marketing even threw around the motto “don’t get too attached”. I wouldn’t take that warning lightly if I was you, because nobody’s safe. Your favourite character might go at any time. That was largely awesome in principle because it added legitimate stakes to the story but it sometimes sucked too– notably when I’d grow to like someone, thinking they’d be great in a possible sequel, and then OOPS: they’re dead.

The shock value of such deaths is a large part of the film’s charm though. Next to no other comic book movies will treat death this way so it’s refreshing. Comics are all about the longevity of their worlds and keeping characters around forever. Part of the fun of a cinematic universe is giving heroes and villains a definitive ending. And, though it’s disappointing to never see some heroes fight their comic book antagonists, I love that The Suicide Squad is willing to adapt, use, and kill off those characters instead of making up original characters only for the movie. That would be a cheap tactic to avoid pissing off fanboys like me.

Let’s talk about those characters now. Despite a crazy amount of cast members, I actually cared about most of the team. And I enjoyed many of the returning cast members even more this time around (remember I said the characters were my favourite part of the first movie). The Squad’s relationships to one another were the heart, soul, and primary entertainment value of the movie. I was invested in these character dynamics, even though the connections didn’t get a lot of time to develop. It shocks me how well the writing managed to make me care within the movie’s runtime. That junk’s not easy to do (speaking as a film fan and an amateur screenwriter). Characters I’d never heard of before this movie became new favourites of mine by the end. Goes to show that sometimes you underestimate awesome people/ things. Word to the wise: just because you’ve never heard of something doesn’t mean it sucks.

Going back to the solid writing for a moment– I’d like to point out that liking these characters should not be easy. Most of them are anti-heroes at best and outright terrible human beings at worst. My favourite sequence in the film demonstrates this point clear as day. For anyone who’s seen the film, it’s the “competition” sequence.

By the way, I’m glad they found the time to add some rivalries among the team. Because of course some of these hyper-masculine tough-as-nails dudes are gonna make time to square off with each other. The irony is, the macho guys aren’t even technically the toughest members of the squad…  

King Shark: AKA the actual toughest member of the squad

Maybe I should talk a bit about Harley Quinn now, because she’s easily the most well-known quantity in this movie. She was… solid, I guess? Honestly, Harley didn’t have as much to do in this film as I’d hoped but that’s OK. You probably already know where you stand regarding the character by now. So this will either disappoint you or be delightful news. Just so ya know: this isn’t another Birds of Prey situation where the movie might imply it’s about one group of people and then it’s really about Harley Quinn. Margot Robbie was excellent as the character though, as she’s been since her first appearance in the DC movie-verse.

The actual villains of this film were, in many ways, no worse than the character of Amanda Waller (the Suicide Squad’s creator and ruthless handler). I saw many parallels in both their motivations and their M.O.

Between Amanda Waller and the bad guys’ main plans, The Suicide Squad crafts a good message about the concept of “expendability”. Most of our main characters are viewed as unimportant cannon fodder, both in the movie and in our world. They’re D-list villains from DC’s extensive roster who most people have never heard of and don’t care about. But that doesn’t mean they have no value. And their value isn’t limited to those who would exploit them. Every one of the characters is a human being with their own motivation and backstory.

Sometimes it’s too easy to write off entire groups of people with simple justifications. But The Suicide Squad makes you think twice about whose lives we think of as having little worth in the grand scheme of things: namely soldiers and prisoners. The most important conversation in the movie, which hits this point home, concerns the contributions of a minor character. They do some big things for the team, and his deeds don’t go unnoticed, but their actions seen by most of the characters as expected rather than meaningful. Don’t you dare forget his name after you leave the theatre!

But of course there’s irony in this premise, as the bad guys also use a disposable military force whom the Suicide Squad kills with reckless abandon. So that kinda flies in the face of the whole “makes you think twice about whose lives… [have] little worth” argument. The Suicide Squad are arguably worse people than most of those they kill. Suppose that goes to show: just because everyone has value doesn’t mean they’re inherently good. And that’s an important lesson to keep in mind as well.

Oh yeah. One more minor thing which I felt obligated to take note of before wrapping up: James Gunn must really hate birds…

Maybe this story wasn’t the absolute tightest. Some themes could have been hit harder. Not everything came together perfectly. But The Suicide Squad is a damn fun time! I had half a mind to bump my score down just because I had a couple of gripes. Then I thought harder and said to myself “It’s not perfect but I don’t care!” Movies ought to be more about how they make you feel than what’s “technically” flawless. And I had a blast all the way through. That is rare and I need to celebrate that feeling. Gimme more comic book movies like this please and thank you!

You ought to Watch The Suicide Squad A.S.A.P before you it’s spoiled, because the less you know going in the better.

NOTE: Hey! My first Watch A.S.A.P! A personal milestone.

What’s an awesome superhero team you’d love to see get adapted to the big screen (or on TV) some day? What did you think of The Suicide Squad? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!

Till next time,

Joe Morin

REVIEW METRIC: Don’t bother; If you’re bored; Worth a watch; Pretty darn good; Must see; Watch it A.S.A.P.

By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.

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