• Zach Youngs

Movie Review: The Suicide Squad (2021)

The Suicide Squad is about a group of very low level supervillains sent into a dangerous situation in order to shave time off their prison sentences. Our "heroes'" mission is to invade Corto Maltese, the scene of a recent violent military coup, in order to stop the cadre of generals from unleashing the terror that is Project Starfish on their enemies. The film stars Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Daniela Melchior, David Dastmalchian, Peter Capaldi, Slyvester Stallone, and Viola Davis. The film is written and directed by James Gunn. The film is playing on the big screen, but if you would prefer it is also streaming for 30 days on HBO Max.

I didn't see the first iteration of this idea. I saw the trailers like everyone else and I realized it was not for me. Yet, what really strikes me about what I know of the emotional plot of the first stab at this material is very similar to the emotional plot of this film. The Suicide Squad is sort of a hodge podge of the old and new ideas and a bit of a hodge podge of a story.

What I really don't like about it is the gore. I get the appeal of an R-rated superhero movie and R-rated superhero shows and I understand the emotional impact violence can have when done right, but this is violence for laughs. Violence for laughs can surprise you and even if you don't think the act itself is funny, the way it happens is ridiculous enough to cause a reaction. Though, when it happens intentionally over and over and over again, I get turned off.

What works about James Gunn's scripts, especially in the superhero context, is that he makes a well rounded ensemble. Every character has a weight to them, they're not just filler, except the film's first casualties. He's able to balance pathos, character growth and hilarious dialogue in a perfect way. Some of it feels very forced at times. Especially a scene in the minibus as Ratcatcher II and Bloodsport share a heart to heart that feels wedged in a little too hard. Though a lot of it works. I was even surprised at the short, but meaningful depth given to Peacemaker.

Some of Gunn's most intriguing fight scenes are here, too. There are so many, often beautiful scenes of weird, chaotic, physicality. Gunn and cinematographer Henry Barham look at these fights in such unique and interesting ways. Not only that, but the montage between Harley and President Luna is shockingly gorgeous. I love that Gunn is able to bring a little more of the art form that birthed these stories onto the big screen creating majestic beauty amongst the killing.

The other beauty is that Margot Robbie, despite multiple writers, directors, and producers has been able to grow the character of Harley Quinn. She's added a dimension and presence to the character. In previous animated shows and comic books I've found Harley as annoyingly ubiquitous and uninteresting as Deadpool, but like that character, it takes one person to really find that niche to slip into to make them palatable, watchable and enjoyable. Robbie is the best part of The Suicide Squad without completely yanking our focus from any one else for more than necessary or ever turning her back into an obvious ploy for male viewers.

Another brilliant stroke by Gunn is his objectification of male bodies. There are more bulges, hanging bits, ladies doing catcalls, and men slowly emerging from water than tits and ass of any other kind. It's honestly refreshing to see our "heroes" go to a club that has sex workers who are objectifying their perfect physiques. And then to have it so the men don't overly objectify the sex workers as they run through their changing room at the end.

The Suicide Squad isn't perfect, but it doesn't need to be. James Gunn has finally made a comic book movie that truly embraces the weird logic of comic books. There are plenty of things to pick out to have made it a thoroughly enjoyable movie experience. It's hilarious, planned chaos that comes together well in the end. Even if I didn't like some of the plot, I say see it for the characters, the surprising pathos and the staggering effects that are well utilized and brilliant.

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