James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad is the latest oyster in the sea of superhero movies that have been released over the last 15 years. It may also be the harbinger of an end to this era of super-powered crusaders, which frankly is starting to get quite tiresome.
And, where Marvel excels at universe- and multiverse- building, DC excels at its standalone animation and live-action flicks. This latest addition is no different.
It’s no secret that the previous Suicide Squad film was universally-panned and hated, perhaps not even on the many demerits of the movie alone, but because it gave us hope – hope that DC was getting its act together, hope that there could be a thriving anti-hero universe and hope that superpower movies might finally be getting their grunge era.
This movie, fortunately, has come in when expectations of DC are at an all-time low. Even though Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey last year was an excellent movie, it was all but forgotten when this little thing called Covid-19 shut down cinemas around the world.
The Suicide Squad aims to rewrite the dark chapter of history that was Suicide Squad (note the use of definitive ‘The’ in the new movie’s title).
It starts off with a new stable of super-villains being thrown onto a plane, and it gives us hope that this movie will dispense with something that has become a nuisance in superhero movies, because of how hastily and terribly it is always done – back story.
But within 10 minutes, this ensemble, featuring Pete Davidson, Nathan Fillion and Michael Rooker, is decimated, giving the B-Team Suicide Squad an opportunity to infiltrate the fictional island of Corto Maltese.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy watching Pete’s face being blown off, while Nathan’s very useless detachable arms tried to tickle his enemies to death.
But then the movie switches to the other extreme of serious comedy with the ‘real’ heroes – Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) and Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior).
They are joined later by the best character of the DC Extended Universe – Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie).
They are controlled again by the completely-unlikeable Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and a much-more cynical Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman). As they proceed onto the island, the movie makes it clear that it’s not just an anti-hero movie, it is on a crusade against caped crusader films themselves.
In many ways, this movie could be considered the teenage love-child of Guardians of the Galaxy and the fantastic TV show The Boys. A progeny that is on a single-minded teenage mission to say, “This is my life, mum and dad!” while still subconsciously re-treading their footsteps.
Yes, there is cheesy badly-wedged back story. Yes, there is music that clearly tries to evoke the same feelings as the original Guardians of the Galaxy. Yes, there is constant questioning of the US’ foreign policy, because that’s what all the cool kids are doing these days.
But, Margot and Idris truly shine in their role, dominating every scene they are in.
But, the callousness with which main characters are killed off is a wonderful breath of fresh air, for the audience more so than the characters themselves.
The Suicide Squad has, just like Birds of Prey, dispensed with the 50 shades of dull colour palette in which the rest of DCEU bathes.
The main villain in this movie, in particular, was absolutely beautiful, in a horrifying sort of way.
All in all, The Suicide Squad won’t rewrite cinematic universes, but it is a harbinger of the end of the superhero movie era.
As more and more films start to do to superhero movies on the silver screen what Twitter and memes were trying to do, perhaps we will start to see either an improved superhero flick or the death of the era – at this point, I’ll take either one.