When Wrongs Make Right.
What makes DC’s THE SUICIDE SQUAD of 2021, different from their 2016 movie of the almost same name, SUICIDE SQUAD? Well, many more things than just THE – R-rated, deeper characterization, rapscallion director, premium swearing, delicious gore, and moral ambiguity right up the chocolate starfish. Written and directed by James Gunn, it’s better in many ways – and the same in the worst ways. It’s a soft reboot / wink-wink sequel / lazy Hollywood cashing in on a recognizable property, that finds another convict team of superhero-adjacent misfits blackmailed into service to the American government, sent to the fictional dictatorship of Corto Maltese to eliminate a threat to democracy. Let the double-crosses and high crimes and malfeasance begin, mostly perpetrated by the BIGGEST threat to democracy – the American government. Hey there Movie Maniacs, welcome to THE SUICIDE SQUAD Top 5 Bottom 5.
Let’s start with the Bottom 5 things about THE SUICIDE SQUAD, starting with number 5 and working our way up to the worst.
Michael Rooker opens the film, with long blond hair, looking sexy as hell – and immediately I thought: Are there no more actors? Rooker was already a prominent character in one of James Gunn’s other tentpoles, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. That was a Marvel property. And now, instead of letting another talented struggling actor make rent, Rooker crosses cinematic universes to appear in this >DC< film? Really, are there no more actors?
Josh Brolin was Thanos – then he was Cable in the same Marvel universe! What the fuck? And Sylvester Stallone has ENOUGH franchises – ROCKY, RAMBO, EXPENDABLES, ESCAPE PLAN – can they not give his role as the voice of King Shark to someone else? And his voice is so treated, Stallone is not even vocally recognizable, nor is he doing the mocap for the CGI creature he’s voicing – that’s Steve Agee, who also plays a staff member. It’s like wasting the salary on Vin Diesel to say “I am Groot” from the comfort of his dickcheese bathrobe. Of course, it’s their agents who have the casting company connectrions to these blockbusters – that’s why the same 12 actors get all the work. And the astronomical salaries of the stars is well worth the cost of the viewers they draw. Their names are marquee Viagra.
That’s why any productions out of Hollywood are on this upward-spiraling budget and downward-spiraling creativity – they HAVE to make back the money for hiring name actors, so they HAVE to hire name actors to make back the money. Now, we can’t begrudge anyone making money, but it’s so transparently —– venal, with everything homogenized to offend the least people and maximize the viewership. This is not like Clint Eastwood using his same trusted cast in a slew of fun 80s films for low budget efficiency and reliability – these are blockbusters that could afford to hire new actors, new writers, new directors, with new ideas – no, every tentpole, you’ll see the SAME 12 actors, the SAME 12 writers, the SAME 12 directors.
To subvert expectations, major characters die unexpectedly – on the pretense that the movie is edgy, and on that conceit that all these characters are expendable D-list DC properties… yeeeeh, but the main ROLES are played by A-LIST actors – I mean, they tried to get Will Smith back – but – other contractual obligations – so there’s the obvious Will Smith replacement – Idris Elba, basically playing exactly the same character as Will Smith, down to his daughter being his motivation. So the arbitrary deaths are basically the D-list ACTORS – stop pretending like your highest paid A-lister might die – Margot Robbie, reprising her D-character Harley Quinn. And it’s gonna be hard for A-lister Idris Elba to die also, even though you’ve probably forgotten his D-character’s name by now. But Pete Davidson? Who gives a fuck? D-actor, D-character…
Like Marvel did with GUARDIANS in the hands of Gunn, DC pulls out lesser-known properties like King Shark and Polka Dot Man and Peacemaker, in an attempt to drag diehard D-character fans out of the woodwork, while throwing in those A-listers to keep it profitable, but if you want to be venal, DC, why force untapped characters into the DCEU, instead of dusting off your established properties that made more money at the worldwide box office than SUICIDE SQUAD? I’m looking at BATMAN V SUPERMAN‘s 872 mil vs SUICIDE SQUAD’s 746 mil. (Which number is bigger? I can’t tell.) Because yeh, I wanna see Henry Cavill as Superman in MAN OF STEEL 2. Get to work, Warner Bros. dickheads.
Viola Davis is government agent, Waller, overseeing the black operation. After the last movie built her into the most ruthless, vicious, callous mercenary, who gunned down her own staff because “they didn’t have clearance,” this installment totally loses its grasp of her character, when her underlings knock her out with a golf club – and suffer ZERO retribution! Waller represents a government operation so deadly, it blows people’s heads off for insubordination – and in knocking her out, her staff has mutinied against the government they are working for. And none of them lose their lives, let alone their jobs?!! A comic reaction shot of Waller holding an ice-pak and looking at her staff like kids in a sitcom who have learned the meaning of decency.
Whereas John Cena’s character is an idiot-patriot called Peacemaker, Waller is the intelligent despicable dark side of that paradoxical statement. They show her disregard for life when she blows Michael Rooker’s skull to pieces, and her reprehensible ethics when she blackmails Bloodsport into the team by threatening his daughter’s life (Oh yeh, that’s Idris Elba’s name)… The filmmakers forget that when her character comes to, she would simply shoot every mutineer in the fucking head. Twice. Like John Wick.
Weasel – what the fuck? Even in this comicbook universe where men shoot polka dots and a galactic starfish can communicate in English, this character doesn’t make any sense. It’s a distraction, because every time it’s onscreen, all I can think of is: it can’t communicate – how does it even know to BE here? The comicbook character was a man transformed into a weasel, so he had human cognizance and language. But this thing is just a dumb animal. How did Waller communicate the concept of shortening its sentence if it performed the mission? And why is it in prison anyway? Oh, it killed 27 children. Yeh, but it’s an animal – if a lion kills 27 children, you don’t put it in HUMAN jail.
How do they make it walk in a line for the SLOMO shot? Does it understand there’s an explosive in its head? Does it even know what side it’s on? James Gunn wanted it to look like that cartoon, Bill The Cat – okaaaay, but without the barest human cognizance, you’ve created a character with no character.
The worst, stupidest, most annoying thing about THE SUICIDE SQUAD: Exposition! It’s bad enough in a regular movie, when it jumps out at you totally divorced from the scene, like when two characters meet for the first time, “Hey sis” “Hey bro” [somebody shoot me] – and then never call each other that for the rest of the movie. Now multiply that by 20 characters, unnecessary dialogue desperately trying to shape full life histories in 5 seconds screentime – with the filmmakers trying their damndest to get away with “creative” ways to slide the OBVIOUS EXPOSITION by us unnoticed, like the office staff taking bets on which squad member will die first, while explaining to each other the member’s powers, or one of the senior staff – who should know the “guy who put Superman in the ICU” asking who that guy is. Waller, the most insufferable offender, with a monotonal seen-everything attitude that gives Jack Reacher a run for his smug. Stop telling each other what you should already know. And ESPECIALLY stop telling THE CHARACTER WHAT THEY ALREADY KNOW ABOUT THEMSELVES!!
And now, Movie Maniacs, the Top 5 things about THE SUICIDE SQUAD.
The Harley Quinn origin movie BIRDS OF PREY had Harley shooting up a police station with non-lethal bean bags of glitter. Even though it was an R-rated movie, it seemed like a desperate PG-13 solution to side-step the gore “creatively.” Here, James Gunn ACTUALLY purveys a creative method of representing gore – with cartoon flowers. Granted, these are dictator soldiers, so they can be murdered in good Western conscience, but this tongue-in-cheek filmmaker succeeds in distracting from the heavy gore truly creatively by seeming to take us on a journey into what Harley’s deranged mind might be perceiving, instead of the same old Black Widow thigh-jitsu action sequence.
Writer-director James Gunn has done for DC what he did for Marvel: bring D-list characters into A-list infamy – and make us care about them! He does this through his unique flair for comedic timing, his countless creative shots, gutshock action, and imaginative title cards. He’s like a more tolerable Michael Bay. Director David Ayer’s 2016 SUICIDE SQUAD (which we now know is more of a studio Frankenstein than the director’s vision) lacked the charm of this entry, which explodes with color and verve and contextual humor, and grand lessons in film MAKING. Either that, or – goddamit! – we’re getting sucked into the style of these same 12 directors…
I cannot give the filmmakers enough props for bringing the very first Justice League villain to life – STARRO THE CONQUEROR [yes, imagine echo echo echo echo…] – and making him… cool. Talk about walking a tightrope between goofy and terrifying. Starro is not – as originally written – some “space parasite intent on conquest”; his backstory here is changed to one of poignant victimhood. We learn that American astronauts encountered him in space and brought him to Earth, to weaponize him. Good ole Murrica. He laments to the Squad, “I was happy… floating… staring at the stars…” Cute. Tragic. Starro.
Daniela Melchior stars as Ratcatcher 2, the hypersomniac daughter to an original Batman villain called Ratcatcher, who is played here for a few brief poignant moments by Taiki Waititi. Even though her character is written from scratch for this movie, Daniela brings a humanity and heart to what could’ve been the most shallow of paper-thin placeholders.
Her arc from a reluctant casual observer to the actual savior of the day is as surprising as it is touching. Combined with the finale orchestra swell, grandiose hero shots, and the turnaround of her saving the life of the man who promised HE would get HER back alive, she goes from that girl with the ratty hair that you never noticed, to the woman you want to marry for her power and beauty! Margot Robbie may be the obvious sex appeal of the movie – but little Daniela steals the show.
If THE SUICIDE SQUAD is about villains, then surely the biggest villain of all is the united states government. Not in a simple “hey, we install dictators in other countries” kind of way – which is bad enough – but in a layered, ambiguous, insidious, anti-society, anti-human manner. (Oh you mean republiKKKan?) The film illustrates how a banana republic works by showing us the handsome dictator of Corto Maltese and his ugly policies – and by the time we realize it’s an analog for the United States with brown faces, “freedom fighters” are rebelling against the fascist government by BREAKING INTO THE PRESIDENT’S HEADQUARTERS to stop the new president from being sworn in [sideways look at January 6th].
These Suicide Squad “villains” are only considered villains because they weren’t the people who made the rules on what constitutes villainy. Because, let’s face it – the hypocrisy of a government that derides dictators and then installs dictators in other countries is equal to the irony of that same country not having laws to deal with latent dictators within its own political system (see: the never-indicted dumbo donald, after 4 years of daily high crimes and misdemeanors). And THE SUICIDE SQUAD illustrates this government villainy transparently; they’re pretty much saying, “You think these brown people are villains – you think this purple starfish is the villain – nope, THIS is the villain.
So there you have it, Movie Maniacs. The Top 5 Bottom 5 things about THE SUICIDE SQUAD…
Y’know, I could be wrong – but you know I’m right!