The sequel to 2017’s disastrous Suicide Squad, James Gunn’s soft-reboot The Suicide Squad also tells the story of a ragtag group of villains and maniacs with unique abilities who are forced to work together by the America Government. If they are able to survive this suicide mission, they get reduced jail time. Disobey an order though and their head blows up. This time, their team consists Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), King Shark, a giant CGI shark-man (voiced by Sylvester Stallone) and other crazy characters thrown in the mix like a living human weasel and Mongal, an alien warrior from another planet. Their mission is to destroy Jötunheim, a Nazi-era prison located in Corto Maltese, South America where alien experimentations are being used by its new evil dictators.
The Suicide Squad is James Gunn at his absolute best. This is a film that really feels like an R-rated Guardians of the Galaxy (which is definitely a good thing). Picking James Gunn as the writer/director was a great decision for the WB and the difference in quality between the first Squad film and this one is night and day. Widely panned by critics and audiences, the first film felt like it was made by Hot Topic. Overstuffed by character backstories with limited action scenes and, lest we forget, the worst depiction of the Joker ever, 2017’s Squad was a tremendous let-down for the company. However, in Gunn’s vision for Squad, we jump right into the action and craziness, where half the team gets decimated within the first 5 mins of the movie. (It really is a Suicide Squad…) Gunn’s voice is nuts, often unexpected, and truly fitting of a rated-R movie.
In addition, unlike the first film, Gunn’s film really isn’t trying to take themselves too seriously. Gunn clearly understands how insane both the premise and some of these characters are. For instance, there’s one really epic scene where King Shark rips a guy in half with his bare heads in slow-motion while lighting strikes in the background. (And that’s not even the craziest part of the movie!) This Squad also contains a woman that controls rats, Harley’s epic escape from prison and Bloodsport’s shooting through someone else’s bullet. That sort of high intensity action pairs really well with the comedy that James Gunn loves throwing into his films like Polka-Dot Man’s deep hatred for his mom that runs so deeply that he sees her everywhere.
The underlying theme of The Suicide Squad seems to be a criticism of American nationalism and the smoke and mirrors that the American image upholds. This idea is best symbolized through Amanda Waller and John Cena’s character, Peacemaker. Decked out in the classic red, white, and blue colors of America, Peacemaker has dedicated his heart for “liberty.” Both characters are willing to do whatever they can to preserve the image of America as ‘for the people, by the people’ and the nation that all others should aspire to be. Of course, this is all a delusion but both characters act to try to preserve this false image simply because it’s something that they were led to believe. They truly think what they’re doing is right, despite being on both sides of the propaganda.
The Suicide Squad further delves into its critique of the US by mentioning how many South America countries have been ravaged by them during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Similar to the way that Corto Maltese was used to store illegal human experiments using the alien starfish, so too did the US use Cuba for their nuclear weapons in the 1960s. In an example of toxic American nationalism, Waller and the Peacemaker will do whatever it takes to preserve US interests, even at the expense of poorer and less developed countries.
Overall, The Suicide Squad is the rag tag team of villains that we deserved (and needed). James Gunn is allowed total freedom here and looks like a genius. Not only is the action exceptional (and plenty) but the comedy is incredible and works so well with the characters they have.
The Suicide Squad is in theatres on August 6th, 2021