James Gunn’s Long-Awaited Reboot is a Quinn-Tastic Improvement on its Clownish Predecessor that Demands to be Seen on the Big-Screen

by Hassan Ilahi

Superhero movies that face excessive studio interventions seldom surpass fans’ sky-high expectations. After 2016’s Suicide Squad, Warner Bros. has acquired terrible tendencies for interfering with filmmakers’ creative visions in comic-book movies. Like suicide notes foreshadowing comic-book genre’s passing, Suicide Squad suggested comic-book movies usually boomerang when quinn-tessenial antagonists are shot dead like jokes by flag-bearing corporations. In all fairness, filmmaking entails collaborative choices that one director’s vision can’t bring into fruition. Nevertheless, creative differences that arise when studios and directors can’t make compromises often generate demise. As Zack Snyder’s Snyder Cut demonstrated, men of steel with flashy acquaintances only enchant movie-goers with wonder when they’re unbattered by studio preferences. Could Warner Bros. finally eliminate fans’ reservations by rewarding supervillains redemption without any studio restrictions?

For a company amidst suicidal declines, Warner Bros.’s latest film The Suicide Squad is a quinn-tastic surprise that suggests loosening studio confines lets supervillains shine. A blood-soaked, darkly comic and unpredictable reboot, it showcases death-defying heights comic-book movies achieve when filmmakers possess unlimited authority. With his sixth feature, James Gunn reimagines DC’s rag-team through uncensored R-rated vision. Packed with engrossing action, ingenious storytelling and terrific performances, it marks improvement over 2016’s misfire. Although The Suicide Squad is undeniably riveting, ultimately it isn’t flawless. It suffers from inconsistent humor, and culminates in a conventional ending. Nonetheless, it offers enjoyable entertainment that will satisfy comic-book fans.

The Suicide Squad follows mismatched misfits’ squads that must overcome mutual differences to protect humanity from catastrophic circumstances. Idris Elba stars in the lead role as Bloodsport, a wearisome convict desperate to reunite with his long-lost daughter. When he’s recruited for squad missions in exchange for shortened prison sentences, Bloodsport’s wishes are satisfied. However, what starts as safe expedition turns treacherous when the squad encounters militants. As bloodshed rises, Bloodsport’s family reunion hopes diminish.

Writer/director James Gunn is familiar with comic-book movies. Ever since he gunned for glory with 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Gunn has become an extraordinary comic-book filmmaker. His blockbusters are commonly characterized by practical stuntwork, idiosyncratic characters and memorable soundtracks. With The Suicide Squad, however, Gunn has created his first R-rated comic-book reboot. It’s the filmmaker’s first attempt to reimagine DC’s iconic antagonists through R-rated perspective without company confines, but he pulls it off successfully. Using mesmerizing cinematography, Gunn immerses viewers into mischievous squads’ life-threatening expedition. Taking pages from Tim Miller’s Deadpool, Gunn successfully utilizes on-screen sentences to indicate squad missions. Whereas the previous film overused on-screen text for meaningless villain introductions, Gunn utilizes it sparingly to introduce missions. Working alongside cinematographer Henry Braham, Gunn successfully employs on-screen words to give viewers perceptions that they’re reading comic-book chapters. Gunn succeeds at reimagining DC’s reprehensible supervillains, and his latest blockbuster is worth watching in theaters for this reason alone.

If backstories behind mismatched supervillains do not attract your attention, though, there are still plenty of other reasons to see The Suicide Squad. Gunn has always excelled at using realistic stunts in his movies, and The Suicide Squad is no exception. Whereas studio cuts plus a PG-13 rating limited the original’s action, Gunn makes full use of an R-rating to create blood-spattered action scenes. Assisted by stunt coordinator Guy Norris, Gunn successfully uses gore to highlight supervillain squad’s relationships. For instance, bloody violence is utilized exceptionally well to capture companionship in the gentleman’s club sequence. During this nail-biting scene, the squad barely escapes mercenaries in a nightclub using teamwork. It’s hard to not marvel at bone-crunching bloody brawls that demonstrate the squad’s soldierly camaraderie in demented style that evokes Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds. Using this blood-spattered violence, Gunn creates believable antiheroes’ relationships absent from 2016’s version. Furthermore, the soundtrack deserves recognition. Each needle-drop enhances storytelling and leaves viewers humming. Through marvelous production-values, Gunn constructs Tarantino-esque world.

Another extraordinary component of The Suicide Squad is the screenplay. Gunn’s greatest screenwriting strength is his ability to build compassionate backstories for misfit supervillains through flashbacks. In Hollywood, most superhero team-up movies are driven by exposition and depend heavily on dumbed-down monologues to describe character backstories. As case in point, 2016’s Suicide Squad utilized unnecessary exposition to convey supervillains’ backstories. Thankfully, though, that is certainly not the problem with The Suicide Squad. Gunn appropriately repairs the predecessor’s wrongs. Inspired by Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy, Gunn takes show-don’t-tell approach by employing flashbacks rather than exposition to build supervillain backstories. The film smoothly switches back and forth between two timelines: present-day expeditions and flashback backstories. For example, Ratcatcher 2’s heartbreaking backstory describes how she developed rat-controlling superpowers from her mastermind father. Like Bruce Wayne’s bats childhood flashbacks in Batman Begins, Ratcatcher 2’s flashbacks reveal her significant connection with rats. Through this non-linear structure, Gunn crafts sympathetic supervillains viewers can connect with despite their bizarre behaviors. Using an unconventional script, Gunn crafts iconic anti-heroes.

One can’t overlook outstanding performances.

Margot Robbie delivers her finest performance to date as Harley Quinn. Following her introduction in 2016’s predecessor, Harley Quinn has always been objectified as a sexualized heroine defined by her disparaging relationship with men. With The Suicide Squad, however, Robbie finally infuses emotional depth into the heroine. Drawing inspiration from Scarlett Johannsson’s transformation in Marvel’s Black Widow, Robbie advances from eye-candy object to empowering feminist heroine. With mesmerizing expressions, she captures anger, desperation and resentments of a superheroine that yearns to be freed from her traumatized boyfriend past. It’s a phenomenal performance from one of Hollywood’s most seasoned actresses.

The newcomer cast is worth dying for and shares upbeat camaraderie. Idris Elba is excellent and brings grace to a world-weary anti-hero that yearns to reconnect with his disappointed daughter. John Cena exhibits sharp comic timing as Peacemaker, proving his future lies in acting rather than unseen wrestling. And finally, one can’t ignore Sylvester Stallone. As a talking shark bitten by loneliness, he’s absolutely hilarious.

Despite its phenomenal performances, however, it’s unfortunate that The Suicide Squad can’t quite get fans hooked on rocket-ing feelings of Gunn’s groot-est comic-book movies. Unlike Guardians of the Galaxy, the movie struggles to find seamless balance between being comical and serious. Due to this inconsistent tone, there are times when jokes go little overboard. Crass, foul-mouthed and distasteful, the film’s comedy won’t tickle everyone’s bones. Moreover, the movie is undermined by a formulaic conclusion. Gunn’s decision to conclude the movie with a city’s crumbling destruction without addressing consequences is bold and innovative, but it doesn’t entirely work. It’s a conventional city-blown-up finale that been done to death in comic-book movies. Whereas this spectacle-driven ending worked in a superhero caper like Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, it feels inappropriate in a film that otherwise avoids common superhero cliches. Hence, The Suicide Squad falls short of expectations.

Nevertheless, comic-book aficionados will certainly enjoy The Suicide Squad and so will movie-goers seeking enjoyable entertainment. A spectacular reboot, it proves supervillains shine without studio confines. If its supervillains can save Warner Bros. from suicide, their quinn-tessential strategy may entail peaceful rather than blood-sporting relationships by flagging artists authority instead of ratting them like shark boards chasing profitability.

Hassan’s Grade:  A-