In 1987, DC Comics had just wrapped up the ground-breaking, multiverse altering, Crisis on Infinite Earths. There were a lot of things changing in the DC Universe, and John Ostrander, a very talented writer, got a new title with a new concept. Supervillains also get out of prison eventually, so why not have a way to explain that and do something very new and different? While DC had used this title before, this was the start of a very new and different concept for the Suicide Squad. Prisoners were given a chance to go on a mission to earn time off their sentences, but the missions tended to have very high mortality rates. Watched over by a few heroes (more or less) in the field, the team was the creation of ruthless political operator Amanda Waller. From that time forward, there have been many different versions of the Squad, including different volumes of comics, appearances in various cartoons, and a live action movie. And now, in 2021, there’s a second movie, sort of connected to the first but with a lot of changes.
The Suicide Squad, as opposed to Suicide Squad, the first movie, has some familiar faces (Amanda Waller, Rick Flag, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang) and a lot of new ones. The movie is brutal, violent, extremely bloody, and has a few amusing scenes. It also seems to have a serious grudge against birds. There’s not a lot of set up, as the team is launched into a desperate situation right from the start. Things don’t go as most expected, and there are a few very entertaining scenes of how the support staff back at Belle Reeve have adapted to very dehumanizing work conditions. I won’t give away what happens, but I will say an early series of surprises is very much in keeping with the character of the comic book.
Most of the focus of the movie is on a smaller strike force, consisting of Bloodsport, Peacemaker, Ratcatcher II, King Shark, and the Polka Dot Man. If you haven’t heard of most of these characters before this movie, don’t worry about it. The Suicide Squad excels at giving obscure characters a (usually brief) chance to shine. I will say that many of the characters in this movie are either original creations, or so different from their comic book selves they might as well be brand new. This violent group of chaotic creatures has been coerced, blackmailed, or bribed into going on a mission to the made-up DCU country of Corto Maltese, which has been in the comics a lot, and in the Arrowverse shows on the CW. The mission has some murky goals, and things undergo some big changes along the way, also par for the course.
Idris Elba is great as the conflicted Bloodsport, Margot Robbie does her usual stellar job as Harley Quinn, and Sylvester Stallone himself voices King Shark for his few lines. I wasn’t familiar with Daniela Melchior before she appeared as Ratcatcher, but she does a good job. John Cena has been entertaining in everything I’ve seen him in, and he’s in fine form as Peacemaker. I’d like to give a moment of appreciation to David Dastmalchian, who is Polka Dot Man in this crazy story. The actor has been Abra Kadabra on the CW Flash series, the pitiless killer Murdoch on the recently cancelled MacGyver reboot, and had a minor role in the Ant-Man movies. He’s becoming a favorite character actor of mine, and gives a really odd performance. Joel Kinnaman is also good as the frequently out-of- his-depth but plowing ahead anyway team leader Rick Flag.
Various DC villains come and go as the movie goes along, and most of them won’t be coming back. There’s lots of action, violence, betrayal, and a few attempts at nobility. Several times along the way, the Squad are their own worst enemies. They give nice nods to a few minor characters from the title’s long run. John Ostrander, the man behind the team for many years and arguably their best writer, gets a brief cameo. A background character most would miss is credited on IMDB as Briscoe, a member of the Squad’s support staff for a while in the comics. And one scene impressed me as particularly slick, when Amanda Waller is practicing for a golf meeting while her team is in mortal danger. The scene shows her indifference to the team’s welfare, but also mentions a Senator Cray. Cray, and his son, were recurring characters in the comic many times.
A much thinned-out team ends up in a huge final battle, way out of their league, but trying anyway. The body count soars, increasingly desperate measures are called for, and an even more reduced Squad eventually makes their way out of the rubble they tend to leave behind them. I will say the movie did a great job of subverting expectations of comics fans, because a lot of our “Oh, they won’t do that” ideas actually happened. Learning a bit from Marvel, there are two late scenes, one during the credits and one at the very end of them.
What I liked: This was just plain fun. It wasn’t a cinematic masterpiece, but it was enjoyable to watch. They managed to surprise me several times. There were a few creative ways to work graphics into the background, which I thought they rendered well. It’s a very dark humor movie, but if you’re ok with that, it’s a good time. They captured the horror of an old school villain who is often played for laughs quite well.
What I didn’t: A few of these characters were so different from the ones they are based on, I’m not sure why they didn’t use someone else. I was actually disappointed at a few of the deaths. “Don’t get attached” indeed.
It was a fun outing. I’d give it a 3 out of 5. Not great, but fun. If there is another of these movies, I’d watch it, but I have a feeling there might not be.