2021, Movies

The Suicide Squad (2021, James Gunn)

Before I get to the film: the branding is super weird, right? With an article different from the title of the notorious disaster it is supposed to replace, it sure feels like we’re supposed to forget about the earlier movie now.

More than most DC (or MCU) films, this film tries to play around with comic book movie conventions – well, for a while, anyway – even though everyone knows everything about these movies due to the internet and nobody is fooling anyone. I still appreciate the effort and I suspect that anyone who somehow goes into this movie knowing nothing about the cast might be pleasantly surprised by how it initially unfolds. I don’t know who that would be but, if you’re out there, I wish you good luck. This is the Psycho of comic book movies in its opening act but we all know too damn much about the movie for it to work.

There are other things that work. The interplay between Elba and Cena is mildly amusing and some of the other characters are kind of funny. (Particularly Polka Dot Man.)

But there are problems, typical ones I associate with MCU movies, actually, which I think we can safely blame on James Gunn:

The first real inclination of MCU alternate reality madness is when the titular group kill basically an entire village of people and the survivors are like, well, you’re still better than the government so sure, let’s team up. That’s an actual plot point from this movie.

Next, whether it’s intentional or not, King Shark feels like a cross between Drax and Groot, at least a little bit. Would I have thought so if Gunn hadn’t made the movie? I have no idea. But the thought kept crossing my mind. But this one’s minor.

A more major nitpick is that Jutenheim (or whatever) falls possibly even more slowly than the stupid cloud city in Black Widow. Nothing ever seems to collapse or fall from the sky in these movies because our heroes have to fight on the falling debris. It gets old, doesn’t it?

And then, of course, we have yet another city totally destroyed. The MCU has completely legitimized the destruction of towns and cities in action movies – and even half the universe that one time – and it really drives me crazy. (As you know if you’ve read any of my reviews of MCU films which feature that as a trope.) And here DC is embracing it too, perhaps because the script was written by an MCU hand. Shouldn’t it be possible to tell these stories without the deaths of thousands? I guess not.

But I still think the film should get credit for its bold attempt to be a little different from other superhero movies. And even if the continuity jumping didn’t work for me in the climax I appreciate the ambition of it all, much more so than with the over-stylization of Birds of Prey.


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