Sunday, 8 August 2021

The Suicide Squad

Starro Starro Night

The Suicide Squad
USA/Canada/UK 2021
Directed by James Gunn
Warner Brothers

Warning: This one has lots of spoilers so,
yeah, if you don’t want to know... don’t read.

Wow... it has to be said, in the long lineage of movies and theatrical serials based on DC comics characters going back to the 1940s, James Gunn’s sequel (ahem... sorry... I meant ‘soft reboot’... nah, it’s a sequel) to Suicide Squad (reviewed here), entitled The Suicide Squad, has to be somewhere within the top ten. Or if you’re counting just the modern DC Expanded Universe films... easily within the top three. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this film all that much, it has to be said but, when I saw it I was completely bowled over by just how brilliantly put together it is.

Okay, so the film stars a few actors reprising their roles from previous DCU movies... Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Joel Kinnaman as Rick Flag and Viola Davis as Amanda Waller. It also stars a huge amount of heavy weight actors in various roles, far too numerous for me to mention here but a quick taster would be Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher 2 (who really is the emotional heart of the movie), Idris Elba as Bloodsport, John Cena as Peacemaker, Peter Capaldi as Thinker and Sylvester Stallone as the voice of the wonderfully animated shark character, King Shark. They and all their co-stars are absolutely brilliant in a movie, which is as unpredictable (for the most part) as it is wildly entertaining and it’s one of those near perfect comic book movies where it gets almost everything right.

The film starts off before the opening logos have even started, with a Johnny Cash song which immediately ties into the opening prison scene. Most of the characters who make up the Suicide Squad this time around are newcomers (apart from Flag and Harley Quinn) and we have a very short introduction to the new characters in a kind of ‘fast forward’ through the recruitment process, including the Escape From New York style bombs implanted in the necks of the majority of the squad (and we also get to see what happens when one of those goes off). We then get the squad sent to the island of Corto Maltese, which of course is named after a character in a famous European comic book. If you remember, Kim Basinger’s Vicky Vale character in Tim Burton’s first Batman movie (reviewed here) was also known for her war torn photographs taken on the fictional island of Corto Maltese.

Anyway, I said this review contained spoilers and I’ll reveal now that, in a serious rug pulling exercise, of all the characters you meet in the early scenes, only two of the squad make it off the beach of Corto Maltese alive. It’s an explosive and incredibly violent scene which finishes most of them off before they’ve even started and... then we get the opening credits and find that Viola Davis’ character has been hedging her bets, with the first team being just a distraction to keep the military busy while another team landed on another part of the island. And then, as we get to know them, more hilarity, action and gory violence ensues as they go about their special mission to destroy the main bad guy of the movie, while of course, stopping to rescue the two surviving members of the other team who kept the military so busy. Well I say two surviving members but, the first of the two post credits scenes does one of the few things I was expecting to happen much earlier on in the film so, yeah, stick around when the end credits start up people.

And, actually, there are a few bad guys in the film but when I say the main bad guy I actually mean the main bad starfish. Yeah, that’s right. Anybody remember the truly ridiculous giant starfish character Starro The Conqueror? Starro first appeared in comics (and on the cover) in the very first Justice League Of America story from an issue of The Brave And The Bold in 1960. And as silly as the thing looks.. well... he looks even sillier in the movie but James Gunn somehow manages to pull off his character really well and, grounded by some of the truly visceral violence (there’s way more spilled blood in this one than most modern horror movies... think of the fourth Rambo movie and that should give you some idea), the big pink starfish smashing buildings kaiju style (which is also used as an ‘in film’ dialogue reference) works really well and you do fear that this could be the end of humanity as we know it... if the squad doesn’t think of something.

The film is extraordinarily fast moving, even in it’s exposition scenes... hey, if you want someone to move that kind of dialogue along fast without it getting boring, what can I say? Peter Capaldi was an excellent choice after his experience playing in Doctor Who... and it’s a real visual, eye candy assault on the senses. Some of the scenes, such as Harley Quinn breaking out of a prison, are handled in a very surprising, expressive, totally comic book manner while still being absolute adrenalin rushes of cinematic action. The whole thing works really well and even the practice of using songs to illustrate certain scenes (okay, I’d prefer it was just score utilised but hey, you can’t have everything)  is not overly distracting and gives the film a certain lift in some sequences.

My one complaint... and it’s a really minor one which most people might not notice, is that a couple of long shots don’t match up to what is happening in the close ups. For example, Harley Quinn looking to the upper right of screen in one scene and then cutting to a long shot showing her looking down at a corpse. Or the scene where she is being tortured with electricity and in one shot her feet are clenching through the pain but, when you see this repeated for a long shot, she’s forgotten to clench her toes up. It’s all pretty small stuff though and it really doesn’t hurt the film, which is frankly one of the best movies of the year.

Although the film certainly is a sequel and certainly fits in with the overall arc of the current crop of DCU movies, The Suicide Squad can also be used as a jumping on point because it barely refers to the other properties and it certainly would work as a stand alone movie when required. Truly one of the best movies DC and Warner Brothers have put out and fans of big budget comic book movies should definitely give this one some time. I can’t wait for the Blu Ray myself.

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