You could probably get away with calling writer/director James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad an R-rated version of Guardians of the Galaxy, but it isn’t entirely fair or correct. It’s a complicated comparison, much like Gunn’s status with Marvel Studios that allowed him to make the film in the first place and whether or not The Suicide Squad is a sequel or a reboot to David Ayer’s 2016 film…
Gunn has always had a knack for getting gory or gross or raunchy if the opportunity presented itself. The Suicide Squad almost feels like a clean — wait, strike that — blood-splattered slate for the filmmaker. Gunn had complete creative control while making The Suicide Squad and it shows; not only in its graphic content and excessive vulgarity, but also in the characters Gunn chose to be in the film.
Nearly everyone has been replaced from the previous Suicide Squad film except for Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Colonel Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), and Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). The new characters are mostly unknown, or barely known Z-list villains, which makes the fact that nearly all of them are expendable all the more intriguing.
While Guardians of the Galaxy and The Suicide Squad are two different films, there are some undeniable similarities. The cast of The Suicide Squad is insanely stacked, but you have to know by now that three quarters of these characters die in horribly gruesome, sometimes hilarious, ways.
Witnessing who lives and who dies is half the fun of the film, so that won’t be spoiled here. But The Suicide Squad has a team of five characters that are grouped together and featured more than anyone else. It’s a lot like how Guardians began with Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot. These five characters also end up being the ones you love the most.
Gunn also has a thing for taking a group of assholes and giving them meaning and heart. In the tenth season of South Park, Eric Cartman meets Bart Simpson face-to-face. Bart has always been a troublemaker and a prankster, but Cartman ground up Scott Tenorman’s parents, slapped that ground-parent-meat in some chili, and made Scott eat his own parents.
The comparison between Guardians and The Suicide Squad is a lot like the difference between Bart Simpson and Eric Cartman. The Suicide Squad features straight up murderers, demented psychopaths, and whatever the hell Weasel is…
Not unlike his other comic book film work though, Gunn typically takes what would be unlikable characters on their own, and finds a purpose for them once they’re with other outcasts to which they can relate. There is a ton of heart in The Suicide Squad, almost unexpectedly so.
You fall in love with King Shark (Sylvester Stallone) because he’s trying to read books upside down and use one of his fingers as mustache as a brilliant disguise, but you don’t feel for him until he reveals that he’s never had a friend. Sebastian, Ratcatcher II’s (Daniela Melchoir) go-to rat, is adorable because he waves at, offers leaves to, and flocks toward Bloodsport even though he’s afraid of rats. There’s still this camaraderie in The Suicide Squad. It may be broken and gory, but it’s still camaraderie.
There are some unusual choices that Gunn made with The Suicide Squad though. They originally wanted Will Smith to come back as Deadshot, but supposedly cast Idris Elba to replace Smith in the role. Then they backtracked and made Elba “Bloodsport”.
The odd thing is that both Bloodsport and Peacemaker (John Cena) are exactly the same as Deadshot: Peacemaker seems to be a bit crazier, but both characters have a thing for making anything a weapon in their hands and having precise aim. Bloodsport is even doing everything in the film for the sake of his daughter. It gives Warner Bros a chance to bring Smith back as Deadshot down the line, but having all three characters in the same film would be serious overkill.
Harley Quinn’s action sequences in The Suicide Squad are better and more satisfying than anything Margot Robbie has done with the role to date. Polka Dot Man (David Dasmaltchian) is low-key the coolest character of the film, despite seeing his mom in every person that he meets. Many will likely point to the blood, the gore, and all of the F-bombs shouted mostly among teammates as Gunn cleansing his Marvel/Disney palette so to speak.
However, the major difference is Starro. Starro is a giant blue and purple space starfish with an eyeball in the middle of his body. He is essentially a kaiju, but he shoots miniature versions of himself out of his armpits which latch onto people’s faces, kills them, and turns their corpses into zombie-like slaves that do his bidding; all while Starro gets bigger and bigger in the process. The abridged version of this starfish heavy explanation is that Starro is fucking terrifying; this film made Starro, of all characters, terrifying. The entire world is basically on the verge of bowing down to a Godzilla sized starfish that has the ability to shoot armies of himself out of his Goddamn armpits! The MCU featuring a monster or creature of any kind that is that scary is slim to none.
The Suicide Squad is an uproarious extravaganza filled with grotesque nom-noms, full-on naked dick shots, and John Cena in tighty-whities and it’s is the most fun you’ll have with an R-rated comic book film in a theater (or at home with HBO Max) since Deadpool. It’s the first comic book film to come along in a good long while that’s charming because of how weird it is. As a final note, stay/watch after the credits. James Gunn and John Cena are doing an 8-episode Peacemaker TV series for HBO Max due sometime in 2022, so that may or may not be teased in some capacity… 4/5 “Starfish is slang for butthole” whiskey shots.