Being one of the most anticipated movies of 2021, The Suicide Squad’s release was highly awaited by the DC and Marvel franchise’s fans. Alex Watkin explores the film in depth, and why it disappointed him in places.
The Suicide Squad’s strength is its playful personality – director James Gunn’s dark sense of humour is clear to see in every scene and is more pronounced here than in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014). The raunchy jokes and gory violence will not be to everyone’s taste, but I’m thankful DC have given Gunn the freedom to execute his vision with confidence. For that reason alone the film is memorable when compared to other big-budget Hollywood blockbusters.
Just like the 2016 rendition of the Suicide Squad, the film revolves around a team of supervillain convicts (Task Force X) employed on a mission by the US government and kept in line with explosive devices in the back of their heads. Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Viola Davis as Amanda Waller and Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag also return from the previous film.
The key difference with this new iteration is the tone as Gunn applies a patina of postmodern deconstructivism to the concept, bringing in the weird and wacky sides of the DC universe. I enjoyed seeing some of the more obscure and bonkers elements of DC’s catalogue in a mainstream live action film – too often both DC and Marvel films seem to shy away from some of the more imaginative elements of their respective universes.
This time around, Task Force X, made up of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Bloodsport (Idris Elba), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), Peacemaker (John Cena), Polka-dot Man (David Dastmalchian) and led by colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), are planted on fictional South American island Corto Maltese and tasked with destroying “Project Starfish”.
When combined with the inventive camera work there are some genuine moments of visual intrigue
The plot overall is similar to Suicide Squad 2016, but it’s undoubtedly more tightly plotted and is helped by the exotic location. When combined with the inventive camera work there are some genuine moments of visual intrigue. Maybe there is supposed to be some geopolitical social commentary, but really the South American location is all surface. What is to be appreciated about it is base level film tourism.
This is symptomatic of my main criticism of the film; individual scenes work fine and for that reason the film is never boring, but it all adds up to very little – the film has no punchline. Just because a film is self-aware about its bad storytelling doesn’t magically make said bad story good storytelling. The argument that it’s for comedy is a lazy excuse, not to mention earnest bad storytelling is always funnier than on purpose bad storytelling.
The issue is that the postmodern genre commentary goes nowhere of sophistication – instead the ending purely operates on an emotional level, with the film almost becoming what it is satirising. The emotional conclusion revolves around Bloodsport’s relationship with his daughter. The relationship is unignorably reminiscent of Will Smith’s Deadshot and his daughter in Suicide Squad (2016), so expectedly it is boringly formulaic and simplistic. You’d expect this kind of character arch, in a postmodern context, to be played for satire, but it isn’t. It’s played with complete sincerity. One minute the film’s poking fun at formulaic superhero fiction, and the next it’s asking you to take it seriously.
There is little doubt The Suicide Squad has above average moments of spectacle, with some genuinely creative set pieces, camera work and humour. It’s a shame then the film falls a little flat as a whole. That being said the spectacle is just about good enough to override the film’s flaws and make it worth a watch on the big screen.
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