When writer-director David Ayer dropped Suicide Squad in 2016, fanboys and girls rejoiced. Where the DCEU’s Man of Steel divided fans and Batman v Superman physically pained them (We get it. Y’all mommas got the same name. Damn!), Suicide Squad was sure to deliver. But alas, the Will Smith and Margot Robbie-led comic book adaptation about a group of supervillains turned good guys fell flat. Five years later, writer-director James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) is back with standalone quasi-sequel The Suicide Squad that hits where the first film missed.
It’s a Harley Quinn World
This time around, Margot Robbie gets top billing after the success of her most recent turn as Harley Quinn in 2019’s Birds of Prey. And while a handful of characters from the previous film make it to the (kinda-sorta-but not really) sequel, it’s a mostly new crew of villains forced into service by shady bureaucrat Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). Here the team is called upon to save a military hero, stop a dictator from committing mass murder, and save the world from a giant alien starfish.
Harley’s journey is the most interesting to watch as she investigates life without the Joker. For the first time in a long time, she’s truly on her own and loving every minute of it. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of her paramours.
“James put in a lot of very funny potential love interests throughout the film,” said Robbie. “It doesn’t always end well, obviously.”
But while Harley is the main attraction, it’s newcomer Robert DuBuois, aka Bloodsport (Idris Elba) who drives much of the story forward. He may be a killer with an itchy trigger finger, but he’s also a dad who wants to protect his daughter (Storm Reid). His frustrations leading the team provide genuine laughs and heartfelt moments that give ground to the film. Sure, there are global life-and-death stakes, but there’s also a whole-ass, grown-ass, murdering-ass assassin terrified of a damn rat. It’s levels to this shit.
Central to Bloodsport’s aggravation is his nonstop pissing match with teammate Peacemaker (John Cena). According to Elba, the two are in a “natural dick swinging competition” that results in big laughs and even bigger developments in the film’s third act. Whether those developments will lead to another film in the franchise remains to be seen.
A New Vision
With The Suicide Squad, Gunn & Co. are free to embrace the source material’s IDGAF attitude in a way David Ayer’s version wasn’t allowed. There’s F-bombs, gore galore, John Cena’s peen print, and murderous rats that will make your skin crawl.
Speaking of which, if you’re afraid of rats, you honestly may want to skip this movie or ask when to take your bathroom breaks. Seriously. Consider this your trigger warning.
And while fans and critics alike will likely praise Gunn’s take on the Suicide Squad, no one rooting for its success harder than David Ayer. The filmmaker has been vocal in his public support of The Suicide Squad in recent weeks. He’s also mincing few words when it comes to his feelings about the 2016 film.
“I put my life into Suicide Squad. I made something amazing – My cut is an intricate and emotional journey with some ‘bad people’ who are shit on and discarded (a theme that resonates in my soul),” Ayer wrote in a recent open letter on Twitter. “The studio cut is not my movie. Read that again. And my cut is not the 10-week director’s cut – It’s a fully mature edit by Lee Smith standing on the incredibly work by John Gilroy. It’s all Steven Price’s brilliant score, with not a single radio song in the whole thing.”
While The Suicide Squad isn’t exactly the masterpiece fans may be hoping for, it’s definitely an upgrade. There are a few awkwardly handled origin stories for some team members, and it takes too long for Harley to meet up with the squad. Other than that, The Suicide Squad is more than solid. It even gets philosophical with themes about politics, power, and corruption that reflect current political realities this side of the screen.
Like I said. It’s levels to this shit.
The Suicide Squad premieres in theaters and on HBO Max on Aug. 6.