Whoever floated the idea of giving James Gunn the director's chair for Guardians of The Galaxy must have had a real uphill battle in the boardroom.
A guy who wrote Scooby-Doo and the maligned Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed – both whose critical reception could be generously described as “underwhelming” – and whose directorial credits prior to this include a sci-fi dark comedy horror film and dark comedy superhero film would have had to have led to some chuckles from those in attendance.
I wonder how long the silence was after everyone realised that it was a serious suggestion. I’m going to guess a good couple of minutes. This decision must have been one of those Back to the Future/Loki/Third classic sci-fi time travel film that I can’t think of right now type of timeline altering events and it turns out we ended in one of the better timelines. I’m happy we landed in this timeline and I imagine the executives from that original meeting are too.
So, history lesson real quick for everyone not in the know. Guardians of The Galaxy got made and skyrocketed both the characters and Gunn’s stardom to incredible heights, the sequel doubled down, and then out of nowhere, he was unceremoniously dumped by Marvel.
He’d barely hit the ground before DC swooped in from the sidelines to revitalise their lagging cinematic universe with a reboot of their critically panned David Ayer-directed Suicide Squad that in the great tradition of the majority of DC films, bombed.
With interest for another Suicide Squad film understandably not at an all-time high, James Gunn had quite a high bar to clear even with his strong track record. Personally, when I heard the announcement, I was hopeful that Gunn could inject the same sense of fun and irreverence that he brought to Guardians.
I was not disappointed.
New squad members Polka Dot Man, Peacemaker, Bloodsport and Ratcatcher 2.
Along with the returning cast members Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, and Joel Kinnaman, the cast stocks are bolstered with the likes of Idris Elba, John Cena, Daniela Melchoir, Peter Capaldi, and a bunch of great cameos.
The basic setup for Gunn’s film compared to Ayer’s film is quite similar. Amanda Waller (Davis) recruits a ragtag group of criminals with the promise of time off their prison sentence – or the threat of violence against loved ones – and drops them into a shitty situation to try and survive long enough to complete their mission.
This week’s shitty situation is particularly explosive in that the squad is dropped into the South American island nation of Corto Maltese after the government is overthrown by an anti-America regime and tasked with destroying the mysterious “Project Starfish” located in a Nazi-era laboratory.
However, nothing is ever that easy with The Suicide Squad. Most of the squad is decimated after the local militia are tipped off in a visceral and gruesome fashion with special mention for the humorous cameo played by Nathan Fillion as TDK (The Detachable Kid).
T.D.K showing off his "unique" powers.
The rest of the squad manages to survive the onslaught and fall into the hands of rebel freedom fighters who help them in their quest after an amusing dick-measuring contest between Peacemaker (Cena) and Bloodsport (Elba).
After a couple of lighter moments and a great scene where Harley Quinn gets time to shine - thanks mainly to Margot Robbie’s superb acting chops - they eventually reach the laboratory and discover the truth.
It turns out that Project Starfish is actually the giant alien starfish Starro the Conqueror that can create smaller clones of itself in order to enslave and exert his will on the populations of worlds unlucky enough to encounter him.
Rick Flag (Kinnaman) learns that US astronauts discovered Starro in outer space and brought him to Corto Maltese where he could be experimented on away from prying eyes. He also learns that it was the US government that funded the research and experiments on Starro and is determined to reveal the truth to the world’s media.
The thing is, Amanda Waller always has every angle covered and now the ace in the hole reveals himself. Peacemaker has been charged with ensuring the truth never leaves the laboratory on that hard drive by any means necessary. Flag, sick of being forced to hide his country’s secrets, is determined to serve his country and isn’t backing down.
The most vicious and brutal fight scene of the movie begins with a great inventive shot that shows just how good Gunn is at shooting action. It’s fast, bloody street fighting that pushes both of the fighters to the limit. Then just as you think Flag has the upper hand, Peacemaker stabs him through the chest, and in the most heartbreaking scene in the film, we watch Flag breathe his last.
Peacemaker begins hunting down his former teammates, determined to fulfill his mission like the soldier he had trained to be. In a pleasing moment of catharsis, Peacemaker is killed (or is he?) by Bloodsport with a nice call back to their first meeting.
Bloodsport on action.
Eventually, Starro is defeated and the surviving squad members (RIP Polka Dot Man) ride off into the metaphorical sunset with their safety guaranteed as they have the footage to blackmail Waller.
I think what I enjoyed most about this film was the absolute rollercoaster Gunn take us on from start to finish. From Flag and Polka Dot Man’s tragic deaths to great action fight scenes and the tongue-in-cheek humour sprinkled throughout the film.
Sure, the humour can be bloody dark and gruesome with some of those scenes with Ratcatcher 2’s rats giving me the willies but there’s just so much energy and charm to the entire film I love it.
The confidence the film has to show the dark and squeamish stuff while also embracing the inherently camp and silly nature of the superhero genre is refreshing especially when compared to Ayer’s Suicide Squad (although that lack of confidence isn’t surprising considering the original film was propping up a cinematic universe with all the integrity of a biscuit submarine).
Other than that, the soundtrack, visuals, and action set pieces have that James Gunn flair that is the icing on the cake to this great film. The characters are given enough time and space to show off their depth and other facets of themselves that other films wouldn’t bother spending time on.
So yeah, The Suicide Squad is probably Gunn’s best work in my opinion. If you’re still on the fence about watching this film let me shove you off the fence here.
Go and watch it!
Have you seen The Suicide Squad? What did you think of it and are you excited for James Gunn's return to Marvel? Let me know in the comments or on my socials
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