"I'll just get my gear."

The Suicide Squad

THE SUICIDE SQUAD, from writer/director James Gunn (SLITHER, SUPER, writer of TROMEO & JULIET and DAWN OF THE DEAD) is kind of miraculous as far as these big ol’ corporate franchise movies go. Imagine the odds against a director starting out as a writer at Troma, making some well-liked-but-not-super-successful hard-R comedies, then going mainstream with two beloved Marvel hits, then being temporarily fired by Disney due to right wing trolls feigning offense at his old tweets, and spending his time off going over to a different comic book universe to make a super gory and death-filled but heartfelt sequel to someone else’s widely-hated part 1, building off of his horror comedy past, the skills he built on his GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY movies, and what was fun about that first SUICIDE SQUAD movie, to make something really special?

Though I didn’t hate David Ayer’s 2016 SUICIDE SQUAD the way most seem to have, I had many complaints. I suspect he had a more sensible version before the studio literally hired the trailer company to re-edit it, but even in its present form I think the movie deserves praise for establishing a rowdy, cartoony take on the DC Universe that BIRDS OF PREY and now this were able to riff on and use as a jumping off point. And of course even bigger than that is its casting of Margot Robbie (THE LEGEND OF TARZAN) as Harley Quinn, as close to a universally beloved character and portrayal as has ever come out of such a widely hated movie.

Please note for future movie news reading reference that what was originally announced as a “reboot” is of course what we once knew as a “sequel” – a continuation of the same concept with some of the same characters. Scary agency head Amanda Waller (Academy Award winner Viola Davis, BLACKHAT) once again forces some of the super villain prisoners of Belle Reve Prison, including Harley and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney, I, FRANKENSTEIN) to go on a dangerous mission for the U.S. government under the leadership of elite soldier Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman, RUN ALL NIGHT).

The new Task Force X is activated in response to a new regime in the DC-Universe-country of Corto Maltese, and this is a movie happy to bring back previous characters and surround them with a bunch of fun new ones knowing it will extravagantly slaughter some of each. The opening is a nice little vignette about the beginning of the mission, with an ironic closer to it and credits spelled in spilled blood (the various ways of lettering chapter titles in this are a legitimately comic book-y choice we don’t see in many comic book movies).

I’m not gonna keep complaining about the first film, but to me the big disappointment about it was that they have this great set up of a DIRTY DOZEN type team made up of expendable super villains, but then they didn’t really give them much of a team mission. They go fight some magic lady as a group, there’s not much strategy or using their specialties. This one does much better with that. They invade enemy territory, trek through the jungle, set up camp, meet with a contact, do some side rescue missions. There’s delegating different parts of the mission, finding out new information that changes everything, betrayal, disobeying orders, all that. Harley gets a pretty great spin on the thing where the female lead is romanced by a suave villain (Juan Diego Botto, 1492: THE CONQUEST OF PARADISE). Didn’t see where it was going there.

There are a whole bunch of fun new characters. Idris Elba (PROM NIGHT) plays Bloodsport, not the classic movie but the honorable mercenary who, we’re told, shot Superman (no context ever given). Though it’s obvious that he just filled the slot of Will Smith’s character after he opted out, it’s still one of the only big movies to actually use Elba well. He has a rivalry with Peacemaker (John Cena, THE MARINE), a cornball quasi-patriotic fascist who has similar abilities but enjoys slaughtering people to, he believes, create peace. The nicest character is Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), who has a device that controls all rats and has one rat named Sebastian who sits on her shoulder and wears a cute little backpack.

I also gotta shout out Weasel (Sean Gunn, “Traction Sailor,” PEARL HARBOR), a weirdo mocap character reminiscent of Bill the Cat from Bloom County. And Mayling Ng (LADY BLOODFIGHT, DEBT COLLECTORS) as the orange-skinned Mongal (one person in the control room asks if she’s an alien or some kind of god, for betting purposes). And Gunn really figures out an interesting use for Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian, SUSHI GIRL, PRISONERS), a harmless ’60s Batman villain in a white bodysuit with colorful spots that he can throw and turn into weapons. He looks very retro and silly, and he’s a funny character, but in this version the dots are an inter-dimensional virus that he has to expel twice a day or they glow under his skin and create giant painful bulges. I do believe this is the prettiest-colored body horror we’ve ever seen. It will be interesting to see if this interpretation makes its way into the comics and revives the character the way the Mr. Freeze tragic backstory from the animated series did.

One of the most lovable characters, although he’s also responsible for the goriest deaths, is King Shark, voiced by Sylvester Stallone. His strong appeal is mostly a combination of the basic concept (a huge man with a gigantic shark head who likes to eat people) and the cute storyline (after he tries to eat Ratcatcher 2 in her sleep and the others plan to kill him, she promises to be his friend if he won’t eat her, and he gets excited about making friends). But it’s also the little details – the way he lumbers around, the way he waves hello to people, that he wears jean shorts, the labored breathing that his size and/or gills make necessary, even when he’s not going up stairs.

(King Shark is also my favorite on the Harley Quinn cartoon, in a higher-functioning interpretation voiced by Ron Funches.)

Most of the fun here is character-oriented, but I really appreciate that this, like BIRDS OF PREY, actually qualifies as an action movie. The fight coordinator is longtime Rothrock co-star/FURY ROAD Prime Imperator Richard Norton, stunt coordinator is Tim Wong (TRIPLE FRONTIER) and supervising stunt coordinator/second unit director is Guy Norris (FURY ROAD). There are legit battles and fight scenes, well choreographed, shot and staged. My favorite is the one with Harley gunning down all the soldiers in the palace. It would be one of the best scenes even if she didn’t start hallucinating psychedelic flower petal blood and cartoon bird companions, but she does, so it becomes twice as good.

Note that this is one of the rare comic book movies with one writer/director. Unless I’m forgetting something pre-DECU the first SUICIDE SQUAD (David Ayer) is the only other DC movie with that distinction, and the only Marvel ones are Joss Whedon’s two AVENGERS movies and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2.

It also has a unique quality for a modern comic book movie in that despite being part of a series it isn’t really beholden to continuing anything. You figure they wouldn’t kill Harley Quinn, but they can and do off plenty of other characters we like, and they have no responsibility to set up threads for future movies, since none are necessarily planned, and Gunn might not be available. (There is a post-credits set up for a Peacemaker show that’s gonna be on Home Box Office Maximum, but that was something Gunn decided to do after the movie, during the pandemic, for fun.)

One of my favorite things in this world is fun, well-made genre entertainment that also has something under the surface that speaks to me as a person. I appreciate that THE SUICIDE SQUAD actually is about something, has some heart to it, and even some politics. I’ve written a few times about trying to come to terms with how some of the action movies I enjoy indoctrinate us (intentionally or not) to be more okay with militarism. My whole life I’ve hated war. I was one of the only kids I knew upset about the Panama Invasion and the first Gulf War, and I wasn’t into war movies either – I wouldn’t even watch SAVING PRIVATE RYAN when it came out! But eventually I turned around on the movies and after a million of ‘em I started getting a little too fascinated with the abilities of the elite soldiers with the lingo and the big vests and shit.

So I love that THE SUICIDE SQUAD follows some of the traditions of the special ops mission movies (and the comics also inspired by them) in a context that’s unambiguously critical of American ends-justifies-the-means foreign policy.


It’s right there in the premise and in the image of a group of comic book super villains slo-mo strutting in front of a giant American flag. And in the way scary-ass Amanda Waller (whatever people may think of Davis being in these movies, she’s legitimately great in them) matter-of-factly explains that they have bombs in their heads and have to help stop the new dictators because they’re more anti-American than the last dictators, and even her employees seem unsure if she was serious about threatening to imprison Bloodsport’s daughter. Hurting kids is a line drawn by super villains, but not the United States government, throughout the movie.

The dangers of Wallerism are painted with a Verhoevian painful laugh when the camp of soldiers joyfully massacred by our anti-heroes to rescue Rick Flag turn out to be freedom fighters who saved him and were protecting him. I’m not sure if Waller was thinking of “U.S. interests” when she told the Task Force to kill everyone they saw in those woods, or if she just fucked up, but it kinda doesn’t matter.

If that’s too subtle for anybody (or they got distracted by all the gore and the brief dick shot) the plot eventually comes to a point when U.S. involvement in (spectacular sci-fi) atrocities and their attempt to cover it up become the soul focus and point of contention between the characters.

But the message isn’t just “war is for super villains.” A goal of these movies, particularly well done here, is to blur the line between “hero” and “villain,” to show that “good guys” are not always what they’re cracked up to be, that they can fuck up too, that not all people who fucked up have to be “bad guys,” and that even if they are maybe there is some amount of redemption possible for them. They’re forced into this mission under the guise of redemption, but they really find it when they turn against the mission to protect innocent people. Hopefully none of us have been responsible for any evil plots, but plenty of people have been assholes or had bad addictions or fucked up relationships or embarrassed themselves or failed to become who they thought they would or starred in a ROBOCOP remake that people didn’t like or have a past of making tasteless jokes on Twitter to show off how edgy they are. If so they can use this tale of larger than life fuck ups as a reminder that even if you think you’re a piece of shit, or other people do, or the law does, you can still do good things, and find good friends, and you can be better and things can be better.

It goes without saying that the GUARDIANS movies and THE SUICIDE SQUAD are both mega-budget franchise products where a team of hired artists mine the “intellectual property” of comic book companies the corporation bought to make mainstream entertainment, selling tickets, downloads, subscriptions, t-shirts and trinkets. Gunn has gotten really good at making a very effective version of that with a sense of humor and some oddness and a celebration of camaraderie among misfits that are all good things to be putting into our pop culture. So far THE SUICIDE SQUAD is the only one of those that’s humorously gory and anti-war and finds sympathy for a giant alien starfish and beauty in Harley floating in the aqueous humor of a giant eyeball while a swarm of rats swim in and chew on its veins. So if I had to choose a favorite, this is the one.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 11th, 2021 at 10:46 am and is filed under Action, Comic strips/Super heroes, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

62 Responses to “The Suicide Squad”

  1. It was heavy handed but I don’t care…the symbol of bottom-up rebellion against imperialism represented by the rats was beautiful to me. I’m in recovery so Gunn’s personal story as well as the positive worldview (despite the ultraviolent affect) in the film is a great shot in the arm no pun intended (;

  2. I love it. My favourite joke was the one when Ratcatcher asked about the overhead. I remember does things, and how it felt like you were microwaved when you sit beside them.

  3. I never would have thought the word I’d use to describe this would be “beautiful,” but I’ve been haunted by Starfish’s final line for days. This was something special.

  4. There are a lot of movies that would like to be Inglourious Basterds but I think this is the closest thing to it in spirit. The chapter structure and the loose playing with time and willingness to go on tangents about characters while not losing sight of the big picture was so well done.

  5. The setup for a Suicide Squad movie seemed like such a slam dunk, I was shocked at how badly the first movie bricked. They even fucked up the initial kill that shows Waller and by extension the movie is serious. I legit had an existential crisis in the theaters watching that dumb movie. Here I was, a thirty-something adult sitting by myself watching a shitty superhero movie in the theater. What the hell was I doing with my life? The one, two punch of Ayer’s Suicide Squad and Snyder’s Batman vs. Superman actually made me stop seeing these movies in the theaters.

    But I love the concept of the Suicide Squad so much that I’m down for Gunn actually getting it right in live action. I just watched Birds of Prey over the weekend, and I thought it was a blast, so maybe DC is finally figuring out how to make these movies.

  6. After watching this one, I can finally see why Scorsese is so jealous of Gunn.

  7. I have a question, if all the gore is CGI is it really gory?

  8. Sternshein, I think there’s two answers to the question:

    1. If you can’t tell whether or not it’s CGI, it doesn’t matter.

    2. Most of the gore is done practically. Gunn made a note in an interview somewhere that the scene where King Shark rips a dude in half involved really elaborate wirework so the dude ripped apart could be practical even though King Shark is mocap.

    Anyway, this movie is great. I can’t believe a film this bizarre, this off-kilter, this ludicrously gory, this blatantly satiric, and this goofy actually escaped from the system.

  9. Some of the gore had to be practical, right? It had this chunkiness and weight to it, really off-putting. Maybe the CGI finally got good at it or it was a mix of effects. Either way, I was really impressed.

  10. I have been looking forward to this one for a long time, since the original ’80s comic holds a special place in my heart as one of the greatest story ideas ever to come out of shared-universe superhero stories- The Dirty Dozen, but with shitty supervillains. God-damn, it’s a good idea!

    And I was really pleased that this mostly pays that off! Glad they kept around so many folks from the first one (the main bright spot of which I thought was the casting) and gave them a chance to shine a little more. Particularly I thought Joel Kinnamon did a great job as Flagg, and was much more of the kind of guy I wanted him to be in the first one. Loved that they even got him in the bizarre bright yellow t-shirt he wore in the comics too.

    I was also glad that the movie was so willing to wipe out so many characters. I don’t want to get into too many details, but I was sad to see more than one of them go (although I think for [REDACTED] in particular, he could come back given what we see happen for [ALSO REDACTED] in the credits)

    Finally, I was very pleased about how it treated Waller like the villain she properly is finally. In most adaptations of Task Force X/Suicide Squad stories, she’s portrayed as kind of a Jack-Bauer-ends-justify-the-means-but-her-heart-is-in-the-right-place person, while ignoring the fact that anyone who puts a bomb in someone’s head and sends them out to get shot for them is a *bad person*. Her plan to, essentially, sacrifice at least half the characters (including some of the main characters!) right away as a distraction is so cold-blooded that you never even *start* to think she might be nice in this one. Good stuff!

  11. ***SPOILERS***

    Were we supposed to be nervous that Bloodsport was going to squash Sebastian at the end? Because I was. I’m just not sure if it was Gunn’s intention or my own fears. I kind of think it was intentional and I am very impressed by that move.

  12. I think Bloodsport was enough of a sympathetic character by the end that at least I wasn’t worried that he was gonna kill Sebastian. Maybe flick him off, but not smoosh him. The animation of the rat getting comfy on Bloodsport’s leg was Pixar worthy in my book. Apropos of nothing, my daughter has a friend who keeps rats as pets and she’s already watched this three times on HBO Max, LOL!

  13. Back in middle school we had rats in the science classroom. I have no idea why. We didn’t do anything with them, like dissect them or anything. Maybe some of the classes did. I don’t know. Anyway…one of them had babies and then proceeded to EAT THE BABIES in class. It was a white rat, covered in blood, like the bunny in HOLY GRAIL. Right after this horrifying incident I got the flu and had fever dreams about rats. Since then I’ve had a fear/revulsion of rats. I have good friends, and even family members, who have had rats as pets and no matter what they said or did I couldn’t get over it. I would literally shudder over rats in movies, like INDIANA JONES AND THE HOLY GRAIL. I don’t know why, but in the last year or so, that suddenly just kind of…went away. No idea. Maybe the real world got so scary and revolting that my brain said, let this one go, girl.

  14. Can’t really say that I’m a James Gunn guy. I vaguely remember seeing bits of TROMEO & JULIET on cable back in the 90s. I did see SLITHER remember thinking it was ok but can’t really remember anything from it in detail. When I put this one on I was ready to turn it off after 30 min. I was unimpressed didn’t find any of the “comedy” funny and the overuse of music was grinding my gears like with the first movie. But I understand it’s a James Gunn trademark apparently so I let it slide. Most egregiously though

    (SPOILERS)

    Killing off Boomerang was bogus as fuck. The one role I like Jai Courtney in and wanted more off from the first movie is barely a bullet point in this. Terrible

    (END SPOILERS)

    Then the rat whisperer showed some empathy and extended an olive branch to a shark man that speaks like Rocky. All while John Cena watched standing in a jungle in tighty whitie and Idris Elba cowered in the presence of rodents. The movie finally got a chuckle from me at that absurdity. From there I decided to get jiggy with this bullshit. Glad I did. Lots of cool stuff I would’ve missed had I turned it off.

    I had stayed away from marketing for this and everything else. So I had no idea the first Justice League villain was a big bad here. Pleasant surprise. B team was pretty cool. Though the deconstruction of the 80s action movie tropes via Bloodsport and Peacemaker in the jungle felt like condescension to me as a genuine fan of that shit. I rolled my eyes though the payoff with who they really were being revealed did make me laugh.

    Then the movie just fell flat for me again when we had the Harley montage with the president. I don’t like this character outside of Margot Robbie’s version and that whole sequence highlighted some of the worse aspects IMO.

    (SPOILER)Then she merks him and the reasoning was so consistent with were we left her in BOP that I smiled because my girl was back. The fact that we got a sequel to the excellent BOP prison sequence right after was a bonus. Love how they highlight her acrobatic agility in these fights. Gives a Harley Quinn ass kicking real character (END SPOILERS)

    I actually found it interesting how Peacemaker who in the comic books goes out of his way to use non lethal weapons was basically The Comedian from Watchmen in this. Interesting since Watchmen was originally going to use the Charlton Comics characters after DC bought them and they told Alan Moore though. The Comedian was the Peacemaker proxy in that story so talk about going full circle.

    Overall this was cool. Though I wish we had some Justice Leaguer cameos like in the original with The Flash and (REDACTED). Would’ve been cool to see Bloodsport take down Cavill Superman even if for a brief moment.

    I’m nowhere near in love with this like the rest of the internet is. I don’t think I’ll ever see it again tbh the only DCEU joints I actually have rewatched were all directed by Snyder. However I have enjoyed everything in the DCEU. Nothing has influenced me to check out like THE AVENGERS did back in 2012 with the MCU. Not even this very movie’s much maligned predecessor. If anything now I really would like to see The Ayer Cut.

    Which says something since I’m the resident DC nerd around here and it took years for me to appreciate MOS and I have to say Vern and others here were the ones who inspired me to stop worrying and learn to love MAN OF STEEL. Ever since I did and accepted this will never be the DC movie universe I envisioned growing up a lot of it has actually been pretty groovy. I do recommend this one and look forward to AQUAMAN TOO, THE FLASH, BLACL ADAM and even the first (REDACTED) movie I wasn’t sure I would actually see since it’s teaser did nothing for me but won the rest of the world with passing colors.

  15. INDIANA JONES AND THE HOLY GRAIL? Jesus. I guess I can’t talk about two different holy grail movies in one comment without combining their names.

  16. Well Maggie LAST CRUSADE (for the Holy Grail) was the one with the rat scene. So the comment works itself out in the end. I’m re-reading mine and cringed at “Alan Moore though” they told Alan Moore NO! which is why he and Dave Gibbons ultimately invented their own versions of the Charlton heroes.

  17. Ratcatcher 2 was the MVP in this for me. She’s such a sweet kid despite having a rough life.

    That MILTON exchange was hilarious!
    !

  18. This was the first movie I’ve enjoyed without caveat since 2019. And the first DC movie I could say that about since BATMAN RETURNS. I have no complaints whatsoever.

  19. Regarding the Alan Moore Watchmen/Charlton thing: DC had bought the rights to the Charlton characters because Dick Giordano (legendary inker and major-league editor) had started his career at Charlton and had an attachment to the characters. DC was initially OK with Moore’s treatment (since as a company, they really could not have cared less about third-rate characters from a third-rate publisher that was folding) but Giordano was horrified and either nixed the plans himself, or had them nixed by the higher-ups (meaning probably Paul Levitz and/or Jeanette Khan).

    Yes, I am a font of useless comic book trivia knowledge.

    As far as THE SUICIDE SQUAD goes, damn was this one fun! James Gunn is running around like a little kid blowing up his action figures in the backyard with M-80’s and then pouring ketchup all over them, and narrating a massive story that ends with “…and then the rats save the day!!!” And it was awesome. My wife & I had both read the John Ostrander/Luke McDonnell run back in the ’80s, and this seemed like an earnest and somewhat demented love-letter to that. Crazy-fun, high-energy, and full of heart. And it’s something Marvel (aka The Mouse) would never even consider making.

  20. I liked this one a lot, but I wish I had either avoided the marketing, or they’d given less away. It was pretty easy to deduce the twist at the beginning from the trailers. And the comic book nerd in me would’ve melted with glee if the Starro reveal was a surprise. Starro’s awesome.

    This served as a nice counterpoint to the more homogenous, bloodless, sexless, militaristic Marvel movies. I mean, I enjoy those too, but I dig how this one goes in the opposite direction.

    Looking forward to ANOTHER SUICIDE SQUAD five years from now from another writer/director, who hopefully includes Michael Jai White as Bronze Tiger.

  21. I haven’t watched a superhero movie since maybe Captain America: Winter Soldier, and I fucking hate the way they’ve taken over not only the movie industry but movie discourse, but I watched this because it seemed interesting. And I liked it a lot.

    This version of the Peacemaker makes me want to see John Cena star in a remake of the 1969 anti-superhero lefty political satire movie MR. FREEDOM, which you can watch on YouTube. It’s pretty fucked up.

    Mr. Freedom (1969)

    Dirigido por: William Klein95 minutosAgentes Stanilistas e Maoístas planejam invadir a pacata Suíça, com isso, o arrogante patriota americano, Mr. Freedom, u...

  22. burningambulance,

    It’s the movie discourse part that really bothers me. Hollywood can churn out whatever they want and mainstream audiences are free to love it, but I’m getting tired of going into spaces for supposed cinephiles and seeing them hijacked by people talking nonstop about the MCU or whatever, which then causes grumps like me to grumble about how and why we don’t like or care abut these movies, which only serves to propagate the fucking superhero discourse that we don’t want to be a part of in the first place. It’s maddening and seemingly avoidable for only brief periods of time, and here I am doing it again. Arg.

  23. It is unconscionable that things that are popular get talked about more than things that aren’t. Somebody had better put a stop to it before absolutely nothing happens.

  24. Mr M? I specified that I was talking about places where people traditionally don’t just talk about the popular stuff. I have no problem with people here talking about superhero movies to their hearts’ content.

  25. I snark, but I do think Dan hit the nail on the head: Even people who don’t like superhero movies see them and won’t stop talking about them. How is this the studios’ fault? They don’t give a shit one way or the other. They’d sell us stop motion necrophiliac romantic comedies if that’s what we were buying. Stop buying what they’re selling if you don’t like it. Constantly boosting the signal of the thing you want to disappear is not helping.

  26. I agree and accept some blame.

  27. For some reason more people want to talk about the super hero movies than TAKE BACK or THE DARK BACKWARD. But I will continue to write about all of them as long as they interest me. Maybe the ROVER DANGERFIELD review I’m about to post will change the discourse.

  28. I mean, I definitely think Vern has influenced the discourse before. You were certainly an early champion of talking about editing/camera work/coherency of action scenes during the shaky cam era.

  29. Dan: And obviously I have no right to point fingers in this regard, considering how often I complain about these boring ass anti-genre genre movies that are roughly 700 times easier to ignore than superhero movies.

    On that note I am really excited for everyone to forget that THE GREEN KNIGHT exists in a week and a half. So I am very much part of the problem.

  30. I’m curious if the juggernaut that is the superhero movie is starting to wear down. Marvel went all-out with their initial run of movies, leading up to the big Endgame blow-out (which I’ve yet to see). Since then they’ve done another well-received Spider-Man, a not-so-well-recieved Black Widow film, and their next release is a Shang-Chi movie that I’m doubting will break any BO records. They seem to be more interested in mining their IP for Disney+ shows right now, which honestly makes a lot of sense.

    The DCEU is another thing altogether. It’s a weird mishmash of cinematic elements and influences rather than a well-planned execution of a universal concept. It’s never been as successful as the MCU, of course, so it’s hard to gauge whether or not the fluctuations of their films reflect a waning of interest in the supers genre, or if their movies just aren’t finding an immediate audience.

  31. I think the only reason the MCU train has slowed is covid.

  32. As someone tweeted a while ago (paraphrased): Over 700 movies were released in 2019. Only 9 of them were superhero movies, so people really need to stop complaining about how there is nothing else to watch.

    And yeah, even if it seemed like Marvel might be in trouble, it’s really just the forced Covid break, that made it seem like that. Even if BLACK WIDOW’s box office is the lowest of all MCU movies, it still managed to be the most successful theatrical release this year, even beating FAST & FURIOUS 9!

  33. CJ: If you’re interpreting my query as a complaint, you’re wrong. I don’t have any particular beef with superhero movies. I’m just curious how Marvel/Disney will respond to a weaker BO in the long term (since I think COVID will be affecting the numbers for another year or two). My guess is that they’ll continue to add Disney+ shows (which is a good plan) and set the next big series around the X-Men and/or Fantastic Four…which is also a good plan as long as they can catch lightning in a bottle again. They need to rely on spectacular casting for whatever the next films will be, along the lines of the hiring of RDJ and Chris Evans, as well as an audience that’s still interested in seeing men & women in spandex punch bad guys and evil alien overlords (which, hey, is definitely a good time).

  34. No no, I wasn’t talking about you, sorry if it sounded like that. Just commenting on the general vibe in the superhero discourse everywhere these days. Posting here before I’m fully awake, never helped with articulating my thoughts.

  35. CJ: No apologies needed! I wasn’t sure if I was being clear myself. Most of my movie-related interactions are here on Vern’s site, and it often takes me some time to catch up on movies these days, so my thoughts on genre-related material are likely treading well-worn ground.

  36. If you take TV into account, COVID hasn’t slowed the MCU train one bit. We’ve had WANDAVISION,FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER,LOKI and now WHAT…IF in rapid succession.

  37. Marvel’s reached the stratospheric heights of Brand Recognition. They’re the McD’s, Apple and Coke of movies. Not exactly the high watermark of excellence or even the best option, but it’s comfortable and consistent. The GDP-level budgets ensure the movies and even the TV shows look and sound terrific, the violence never gets too graphic to upset the kids nor the sex explicit enough to rattle their parents (actually…what sex???). Their challenge will be to replicate the visceral and emotional highs from the One-Two sucker punch delivered by INFINITY WAR & ENDGAME in Phase 4.

  38. I’m just here because my Google Alert for stop motion necrophiliac romantic comedies got pinged. What’s a superhero movie?

  39. Loved the movie. Watched it again tonight to wash out the foul taste Free Guy left behind, with all its shitty formulaic pandering, and I’m happy to say it was the perfect antidote.

    – The spanish accents are all over the place; There’s Argentinian, Mexican, Spanish, and… I want to say Colombian as well? (Sorry, my ear’s not that sharp after all these years living abroad.) Not bad for a tiny Caribbean island. In a related note, there’s a lot of Argentina-specific nods; I suspect that’s where the regional consultant or production designer was from.

    – Thanks everyone for the comic trivia – I’ve read the Ostrander run and a few other things, but I’m basically a dabbler. I knew nothing of the Watchmen connection and some of the other facts posted… that’s really interesting.

    – I like films in both the DC and Marvel side, but feel free to disqualify my opinion as I’m one of the few people who specifically dislike the Snyder and Russo joints. Anyhow- even as Dr Strange and Spiderverse are my favorites (and now this one)… I gotta say I find the DC movies more interesting overall. The Marvel house style and formula kinda renders them all samey to me, and prevents them from really clicking (even in the aforementioned Dr Strange, my main complaints are mainly MCU-isms.)
    Over in the DC camp, if we ignore the Snyder trilogy, we have: an 80’s style mishmash high fantasy/world trotting adventure, a tween comedy, a feminine take on an R-rated mob/vigilante action comedy, and now this, which is a purer, more concentrated version of whatever it is Gunn does than the GoG films. Even WW84, while I didn’t like it much, tried to really tried to tie everything into a cogent theme. Each individual movie is a lot more, um, individual.
    Again, the intention is not to slam on Marvel, but to point out that while people say “ant-man is really a heist movie!”, I’d disagree and say it’s a (fun and charming!) Marvel film, with the basic structure of a heist movie and in which the heist itself is one of its weakest elements. The genres they adopt seem to be more of a secondary concern, whereas the DC films seem to me to make it more part of their identity.
    Zombo earlier identified this as a lack of identity, and while I agree, I prefer it and consider it a strength.

    – The superhero conversation is everywhere not just because the films are popular as hell, but also because the phenomenon is really interesting, and will have some really far-reaching consequences. Just the degree of planning and coordination necessary for the MCU to function is incredible, not to mention ambitious as all hell – It’s worth discussing, if not maybe as much as we do.
    And there’s also a lot of conflation as well with the genuinely nasty Disney assimilation that’s going on in the background, that all blockbusters now need to be a part of or start a franchise, and the whole extended universe thing people were complaining of when geek media started becoming mainstream ages ago (remember when people made fun of Southland Tales not because it was a trainwreck, but because it had an ambitions series of ancilliary stuff that tied into it?)
    (Also, at the very least, it’s a richer seam to pick at than ‘are games art???/?)
    Problem is… if we’re willing to take the time collating our thoughts into posts (however poorly, in my case) we care about and believe what we’re saying. Talking about it without disrespecting other people’s opinions can be hard; and that’s one of the reasons I love this site – possibly the only comments section I consistently read the whole way through.

  40. I just saw this one and loved it, and I’m not a comic book superhero fan, really. If anything I like Batman movies. Marvels are sort of okay but who cares. DC looks so shitty I haven’t even watched the stuff with Batman in them for the Snyderverse stuff, but I did watch a few scenes of Batman vs Superman and I’ll give Snyder this…he for once made Batman look like he’s an expert fighter. Best Batman fight in all of the movies. Will definitely see the new Robert Pattinson one.

    Now I haven’t seen any of the previous Harley Quinn movies and only saw Guardians 1 in terms of Gunn’s big superhero movies…but I thought this was pretty damn great. Good characters, fun, good action, had something to say. Had real stakes too since they bumped off characters I didn’t expect. Harley and the Ratcatcher were the real stars, Harley for being awesome and Ratcatcher because she had so much empathy for others. Apparently Gunn was going to kill her off and he made the right decision because that would have ruined the movie.

    Dread, the thing that annoys me about Marvel movies is they doing something and act like they’re doing anything interesting…”oh this one’s a heist movie, or Winter Soldier is a 70s paranoid cold war thriller.” No, they aren’t. They’re like every other Marvel movie. And I didn’t hate either of those, but they never felt like Marvel was stretching. Now they’re hyping the next Dr. Strange as their first horror movie. Sure, Marvel.

  41. I agree with dreadguacamole (and this is from an old-time comic book fan) that the whole superhero-movie thing is an interesting phenomenon. For a long, long time, comic books were considered bottom-of-the-barrel entertainment, and were in general an embarrassment for those connected with them. Joe Simon, co-creator of Captain America, used to let his neighbors think he was a bookie as that was considered a more respectable profession than that of a comic book writer or artist. The head of CBS brought the hammer down on comic book adaptations in the ’70s, despite the successes of The Incredible Hulk and the various other superhero TV movies, because another bigwig referred to CBS as a superhero company.

    So here we are decades later and superhero movies are a massive part of the current Hollywood output (in terms of dollars spent, if not necessarily sheer volume) and like KayKay said, Marvel has basically achieved brand recognition. But while that means a lot in terms of physical product sales, I’m less sure that it will have the sort of long-term consumer meaning that Coca Cola has. Entertainment goes through waves (usually around 10 years or so, I think), simply due to the populace (and thus the fans) aging. What the next generation embraces is often miles apart from what the previous one did, whether it’s Nirvana slamming the door on hair metal or gangster movies fading quickly into obscurity as WWII began and war movies took center stage. I think the cinematic genre that maintained its hold the longest was probably the Western, but I’m not certain that superhero movies have that kind of longevity. Especially since, like Muh mentions, there is an air of sameness about much of the Marvel product. And of course that could be said of the Westerns Hollywood churned out as well, but that was over the course of several decades. Marvel is 13 years in and is not only dealing with a somewhat staid product, but also the loss of their major actors and characters. I could see people lining up for another Avengers movie, but I have a harder time imagining that they’ll be able to generate a ton of excitement over The Eternals (and that’s coming from a huge Jack Kirby fan).

  42. @muh – It sounds like I like these films more than you, but other than that we’re in full agreement. If you liked Quinn in this I’d recommend Birds of Prey; there’s quite a few problems with the script and the scope is a lot smaller, but it’s very funny, and the action is actually much better.

  43. Yeah this had everything going against it – I actually liked the first one so wasn’t excited about seeing a remake-quel shitting all over it. Idris Elba has been good in exactly one Hollywood movie (Molly’s Game) and is a giant void of charisma in every other movie I’ve seen him in. I’ve never liked a James Gunn movie and think GOTG2 and it’s self-indulgent, pleased-with-itself attitude was the worst movie in the MCU, and the promise of James Gunn having full control from WB sounded like my worst nightmare. Then the reviews came out and every review mentions how it’s super gory but a tearjerker and full of heart and emotion and I was having flashbacks to the time I was supposed to be heartbroken that a minor asshole character in GOTG2 dies and the movie pulls out needle-drops to make you well up and I’m sitting there like “wait am I really supposed to care about this?” I still think the Suicide Squad 1 “I Started a Joke” teaser is one of the best things to come out of the DCEU, a perfect 2 minute short – and I literally never even watched a trailer for this. All I saw were stills where the colors and outfits seemed garish and off-putting, further cementing that I don’t need to waste my time on this.

    So color me surprised that I think this is kind of a masterpiece. It’s everything the reviews said it was, and also everything I feared it would be – an unbridled, unfiltered blank check given to a madman whose two obsessions seem to be over-the-top gore and childlike sentimentality. The Venn diagram for the audience for this should be nobody, least of all me, but for some strange reason everyone seems to love it, especially me. It’s joyfully entertaining, funny, exciting, and sad. It has the wildly uneven flow and structure of Inglorious Basterds and the dark political commentary of the first five Planet of the Apes movies, while delivering action I didn’t think Gunn was capable of. The script surprises just when you think you have a handle on it – it always zigs right when you expect it to zag. Even Idris Elba is good in it! He’s better in the first 5 minutes of this movie than all of The Dark Tower, Prometheus, and Hobbes & Shaw combined. And yeah, like Dryden I’m also still thinking about Starro’s final words days later, plus the look on Peacemaker’s face in his last scene with Flagg is strangely still sticking with me. I actually think Peacemaker: Redemption or whatever the hell the TV show is going to be is a must-watch now.

    I have a million other things to be said once I can begin to process them all, but I’ll just say as much as I loved this, I kinda hope we get another director to do the next Suicide Squad and put his or her stamp on it. Just like the first 4 Aliens and the first 5 Mission Impossibles, I think this series is ripe for re-interpretation by someone with a strong vision. I really love how (after bingewatching the Harley Quinn trilogy), Robbie seems to have a slightly different take on the character each time, and this version – more disturbed and straight-up SCARY than we’ve seen before, was totally not what I expected after her lovable heroine turn in Birds of Prey. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

  44. dreadguacamole I might one of these days…I did see the fight scenes on Youtube and they are good. Typical 87Eleven style…which is really good but funny that you can tell right away it’s them. Characters does a roll and locks the legs, then some fancy stuff with a weapon, shooter stances all over, same stuntmen. But nice to have cliche GOOD fights as opposed to what came out before which was hopefully at best, mediocre boring fights. And every now and then you get Darker Than Amber.

    My problem with movies is I am more into tv shows…my favorite scenes in movies used to be the first 10-15 minutes where they were setting up the characters and not having to speed along the plot and you got character scenes. But now that the writing on tv isn’t total shit, you can watch a tv show like Justified and get 45 minutes of those scenes and STILL see someone get shot. Ugh I didn’t intend to but I just had tried to start watching the last season of Better Call Saul but ended up starting from the beginning, and with my schedule there goes the next two months of tv watching time.

  45. neal2zod if those are the only Elba movies you’ve seen no wonder you think he sucks. You need to see him in some GOOD shit. He’ll never find a better part than The Wire.

  46. To be fair, everyone’s been waiting for Elba to live up to the promise he showed on THE WIRE for damn near 20 years now but the roles he’s been given (at least that I’ve seen) just haven’t given him much room to shine.

  47. I just wanted to add that between THE SUICIDE SQUAD and PSYCHO GOREMAN, it’s been a great year for practical gore FX.

  48. Muh – Darker than Amber! I wish every fight scene would start with a surprise madman screaming in, arms flailing. IIRC it was namechecked as the main inspiration for Haywire.

    Still can’t believe the guy getting ripped in two was done with practical effects, I was sure it was uncommonly well made CG. That’s beautiful.

  49. Yeah, i think I always end up in this conversation because I’ve never seen The Wire, and so dissing Elba without seeing it is like dissing The Rolling Stones just based on their output from the 90s and beyond. I get it. A man who hasn’t heard Satisfaction or Sympathy for the Devil doesn’t really get to have an opinion about The Stones.

    But in my defense, people don’t line up on the internet after each successive underwhelming Stones album to point out how they were held back or underused or screwed over or not given enough room to do what they need to do. Bomb after bomb, disappointment after disappointment, everyone’s been making excuses for Elba for at least 15 years, and I’m just kinda tired of it. They were going to build a whole Dark Tower franchise (TV and movie!) around the guy but he’s being held back. They gave him the big role in Cats and made all the marketing about him (and Taylor Swift) but he’s being held back. He gets to be a Star Trek villain, which historically can lead to some pretty juicy and memorable performances, but again he was forgettable but it totally wasn’t his fault, etc. etc.

    For chrissakes, he played a Cyborg Terminator guy in the Fast & Furious Universe, and Vern’s review doesn’t even mention him once. If that doesn’t say anything about how forgettable and mediocre he was in that movie, nothing will. I’ve got nothing personal against the guy, but don’t tell me you can’t name 5 other actors off the top of your head who would have KILLED it as a Cyborg Terminator guy in the Fast & Furious Universe. But anyways, I don’t want to come across as an asshole here – I thought Elba was great in The Suicide Squad (even though he did kinda fade into the background towards the end) and I think he deserved an Oscar nod for Molly’s Game. I think Majestyk’s right that he needs to be given the right roles to shine, but I think if you’re one of the greats, you should kinda be able to shine all the time, not once or twice in 20 freaking movies. In conclusion, I think I just need to shut the fuck up and watch The Wire finally.

  50. neal2zod – The difference between the Stones and Elba is that the Stones created their own product…they write and play and produce their own material. Elba is not an A-list star, I’m sure he has enough offers but I doubt he gets to just pick whatever he wants. Some actors take what they can get. I don’t think he’s THAT hard up, but still. You get offered an Alien movie with Ridley Scott you turn it down? Bu I do think he needs to quit with the big movies and do more dramas and such, he does tend to kind of just blend when he does bigger movies. I don’t know that anyone’s saying he’s one of the GREATS, he ain’t THAT good…but he’s definitely been let down by his productions.

    dreadguacamole – Cray thing about Darker Than Amber is Robert Clouse made that movie, and never before or since did he show any talent for action. I mean dude makes a Bruce Lee movie and saps the energy out of it. All the props for Amber has to go to William Smith and Rod Taylor alone…Taylor especially has always been excellent at fight scenes.

  51. I watched this over the weekend for the 2nd time and I think I liked it even better. I don’t have a whole lot to add to an actual discussion so I’m just going to list some things that stood out:

    Weasel was so off-putting. The way he looked, the way he moved, the way he sounded – it was all just so wrong.
    The whole Milton exchange was hilarious. Really, Polka-Dot Man is low-key great – I turned them all into my mom in my head and killed them all. His mom as the giant destroying the building was also top notch.
    Harley’s escape and the reunion with Flagg, complete with him rubbing her back with a gun when she was hugging him.
    Bloodsport dropping through floor after floor and interrupting Peacemaker and Rat Catcher 2.
    TDK’s arms just ineffectually slapping at people.
    Starro being bright pink and blue with a yellow eye. It was so cartoony and great.
    We go on one? One!

    The one thing I didn’t like is **SPOILER** Flagg dying. I know it was supposed to be jarring and drive home the point that it *is* a suicide squad and no one is safe. I just really like Flagg. More particular, I like Kinnaman. The regretful look on Peacemaker’s face was the best moment for him, though.

  52. Honestly, I try to figure out a way to insert William Smith into any given movie conversation but even I couldn’t find a way to inject him into comments about THE SUICIDE SQUAD.

    Then Muh comes along & shows me how it’s done.

  53. Can’t quite get behind the Elba diss, neal2zod. Muh’s made some of my points for me, but you need to be in that specific space and time where luck and opportunity come knocking and you answer the door in time. Elba is an effortlessly good actor, oozing charisma and screen presence, but is he being offered the roles that maximize those talents and to be fair, does he choose the right scripts? Then again, as mentioned, if the good scripts are scarce and Ridley Scott comes along with an “Alien” prequel, are you going to say no? Or a baddie turn in a spin-off to one of the most successful action franchises in the last decade? Or a supporting role in the MCU?I actually enjoyed THE DARK TOWER (haven’t read any of the books so had zero expectations) and it was cool to see Elba take the lead role and the arguably bigger star, Matthew McConaughey play the baddie. Not sure why it tanked but I won’t blame Elba for that. He did a cop thriller called BASTILLE DAY which was pretty good but it had the misfortune of opening in the same week of a terrorist attack in France. The confluence of the right script and film-makers willing to take a chance on him seems to have largely eluded Mr.Elba. Was there anything in the gangly kid in FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR which hinted at a future action hero? But one BAD BOY, INDEPENDENCE DAY and MEN IN BLACK later and bang! Hollywood had it’s new superstar. Anything in the dramatic actor of JUNGLE FEVER or the comic sensibilities of WHITE MEN CAN’T JUMP which suggested Wesley Snipes can be a cool action hero? But it took Kevin Hooks making his own DIE HARD variant to take that chance.

    Which I guess is one of the many things I love about THE SUICIDE SQUAD. It’s nice to see Elba in a lead role and even nicer that it’s makers saw him as a fitting replacement for Will Smith as opposed to whoever fits the current definition of “hot property”.

  54. Still on the topic of Elba (sorry, I love the guy!), whenever I watch THE LOSERS, a movie I thoroughly enjoy but which seems to slot me in a select minority, I keep thinking, had Elba and Jeffrey Dean Morgan swapped roles with Elba now the hero and Dean Morgan the Heel, the movie would have been equally entertaining. So, it’s curious to think about the thought process that went into the casting which decided that the actor who played a detestable villain in an Alan Moore comic adaptation was best suited to lead another comic book adaptation. Don’t get me wrong, I like Dean Morgan, but just making a point, in my usual meandering manner, as to how most film-makers look at Elba and see Bad Guy. Which then leads to type-casting. Although in this case, it wouldn’t have made a lick of difference. THE LOSERS bombed spectacularly and is all but forgotten.

  55. Count me as another fan of Idris Elba. His work in The Wire and Luther is fantastic, and I thought he was a definite upgrade in the Deadhsot-to-Bloodshot trade (although I was impressed with Will Smith in the first film). I have high hopes for his upcoming BEAST, which sounds like it could be a tense “man vs. nature” film.

  56. I don’t mind Elba, but as a guy who has never seen THE WIRE, I do agree that he never did anything that justified the hype around him. And honestly, it’s a miracle that he still gets cast in these supposed tentpole movies, even if it’s mostly as part of an ensemble. Good for him, but there are other actors who would’ve returned to TV full time or became proud B and indie movie icons by now.

    That said: DJ Idris Elba is one of my favourite DJs.

    Idris Elba - Live from Amsterdam (Heineken powered by Defected)

    Heineken & UEFA Presents The Opening Party Powered By Defected | Playlist available here: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7hkduGkMRHv6hy05nPdM45?si=QXvtBhB...

  57. Best Gunn film since SLITHER, best superhero flick since LOGAN.

    I get where neal2zod is coming from.. Idris Elba has primarly brought his Office vibe rather than his Wire vibe to most of his performances. I don’t see any reason why he can’t have been more memorable in his various roles. You can always invoke the Nic Cage / Tom Hardy method and simply overrule the wishes of your filmic collaborators and be a little mega, right?

    He’s great in THE SUICIDE SQUAD! He had me from the scene where he instantly goes from 0 to “fuck you!!!” with his daughter.

    (Actually he’s really great in The Office too, but his casting is sort of a joke about “what if this guy actually *wasn’t* megacharismatic? hahahaha i know, how ridiculous!”)

  58. Maggie, I too found Weasel a genius creation of off-puttingness. Him licking the glass door was the first really big laugh for me.

    The scene between Elba and his daughter was a thing of beauty because both performers were super into the opportunity to act off each other…. it seemed like the girl was like “Idris Elba omg” and Elba was like “Finally, a scene partner who’ll just open up and go there with me.” Playing whoever in the Norse marvels isn’t gonna let him zero in like that. I also agree that he is phenomenal on The Wire and what I’ve seen of Luther was good largely because of his performance too. I’d love to see him in a Tarantino lead role before the big retirement.

    Interesting that Taika Waititi popped up in this one, too, considering he and Elba both share a past relationship to Disney’s Thoriverse. I wonder if more performers are gonna start defecting to DC now that the MCU seems kind of adrift?

  59. I don’t think anyone’s defecting – Gunn and Waititi are already doing GUARDIANS 3 and THOR 4.

  60. Oh right, I’d heard that about THOR 4. Thanks for the reminder, Vern. I was thinking studios can lock down creatives who are then not allowed to work with rival studios until X Y and Z occurs, but that region of my brain is apparently stuck in the 1930s.

  61. Universal Rundle

    August 19th, 2021 at 8:00 am

    dreadguacamole – What were the Argentinian references? My favourite coverage of THOR: RAGNAROK was about all the Maori culture in it (

    Thor and his magic patu: notes on a very Māori Marvel movie

    Dan Taipua explores indigenous ideologies in Thor: Ragnarok, the blockbuster movie from the king of the space Māori, Taika Waititi.

    Warning: contains spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok

    Without a doubt, Taika Waititi is the finest New Zealand filmmaker of his generation. At the time of writing, Thor

    ) – the “if you know, you know” stuff smuggled into these huge products. Now how a Latin American island ended up with the Italian name Corto Maltese in-universe, when in real life it was just a nod to a European exotic adventure comic from the 60s, that beats me…

  62. Universal Rundle-

    Off the top of my head- There’s a prominent dashboard ornament of Mafalda on the van, a couple of people using lunfardo (Argentinian argot) – specifically “che” (“hey”) and “boludo” (anything from “dude” to “moron”). Juan Diego Botto, who plays the (hunky) president doesn’t even try to neutralize his Argentinian accent even a little, but I guess that’s true of the rest of the very international hispanic cast, everyone uses very noticeable accents.
    As an aside, I find it weird that the Klingon or Elvish languages are more likely to get a language coach than trying to get Spanish speakers to work on sounding like the country they’re supposed to come from, or in this case to make it seem like they’re all from the same place).
    There’s also a reference to Empanadas (what we here in the UK call Pasties, kinda) which I’ll probably incorrectly chalk up to Argentina even though it’s a Spanish dish popular in other countries. My rationale is that one of the characters says “I got a chicken one” which highlights there’s different fillings, which as far as I know is not that common in other countries.

    And you probably know this, but Corto Maltese is a reference to an excellent series of Italian comics. No idea where the reference comes from, but it gets used in DC comics when they need a politically troubled central american island, a la Val Verde.

Leave a Reply





XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <img src=""> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <b> <i> <strike> <em> <strong>