James Gunn crafts an anarchic summer blockbuster, with more than enough thrills and chuckles to be worth the price of admission.
I still have nightmares about the last Suicide Squad movie. Jared Leto’s Joker somehow slithers into my subconscious whilst I sleep, mocking me with his awfulness and his irreversibility. “You can’t undo me” he says, rubbing his face tattoos and baring his gold-grilled teeth. That movie came out five years ago, and I will still gladly take the time to deride it. It was a low point; crushing my hopes that the DC extended-interconnected-Zack-Snyder-universe could ever be anything but trailers for themselves, shamelessly trotting out decades-old pop-culture iconography in the most derivative way possible. The Suicide Squad, directed by James Gunn, goes a long way to heal those scars.
However, I feel that simply comparing The Suicide Squad to its predecessor does it a disservice. This movie stands on its own two feet as a sit-back, have a laugh, get lost in action sequences summer blockbuster. Gunn gives each squad member ample time to show off their unique abilities, which range from the gruesomely efficient killing of Bloodsport (Idris Elba) to the zany yet charming cosmic polka dots of the sardonic Polka-dots man (David Dastmalchian). The best of these sequences feature Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) in a fast-flowing, Jack Sparrow-esque prison break scene; Harley utilises her dazzling gymnastic skills as she runs, jumps, shoots and slashes her way to freedom, demonstrating why she is a worthy member of a black-ops team and not simply the Joker’s girlfriend (which was previously the limit of her characterisation).
Harley is a Squad’s shining crown-jewel. Robbie and Gunn capture the feeling that she is, despite (or maybe because of) her madness, a real, breathing human with a unique perspective on the world. I will happily see more Harley-centred DC properties. Seeing her go toe-to-toe, or even work with a Batman or a Justice League, is a dish I am now desperate for DC to serve me.
The Suicide Squad also feels like it has a heart. It’s not here to simply mock the absurd, low-ranking-supervillains that make up Task Force X. Gunn finds something to adore in each character, a remarkable feat when you’re dealing with characters such as a walking Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone, because why the fuck not?) or a woman that telekinetically controls rats. These are loveable rogues the audience can laugh with and not at.
The Suicide Squad ticks every box as a summer action movie and as a comic book movie; it even flows like reading an engrossing volume of a comic book, unashamedly showing love for the kind of vibrancy and smart ridiculousness that made its source material so popular in the first place. I think it will be a long time before Leto's Joker haunts me again. And next time he does, I hope I can dream up a renegade Idris Elba to clip him in the face.
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