James Gunn’s spin on a really dark subject matter in The Suicide Squad has shown that GOTG wasn’t a one-time lucky fluke
Warner Bro’s poaching of James Gunn from Disney could be argued to be probably the most tactical decision that the misguided studio has done for its superhero cinematic universe. Fortunately, the movie has clearly worked in Gunn’s The Suicide Squad favour with the result being a wildly creative ride that isn’t afraid to play with a little black humour and ample amounts of gore.
Before we get into the review, here’s a quick summary of the movie: a team of incarcerated superpowered beings – Task Force X – is sent by Amanda Waller to the island of Corto Maltese. Their mission is to take down Jotunheim, a Nazi-era remnant that houses, what intelligence reports claim to be weapons of mass destruction. Does this ring a bell?
Bloodsport (Idris Elba), who is currently serving his sentence for hospitalizing Superman with a kryptonian bullet, is blackmailed into leading a team consisting of Peacemaker (John Cena), King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastamalchian) and Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior).
It seems like Warner Bros’ has settled into its act of playing ‘redemption’ – first with the reworking of Justice League, and now being the newer version of Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. The sudden success with DC’s last two releases could be chalked up to a couple of things: a humorous spin a-la Gunn, and humanizing the characters enough to gain a sympathetic following from the audience. The humour is dark – the kind to make you gasp and stifle your giggle as you look to your friends for support.
James Gunn’s comeback film humanizes a team of losers and sprinkles it with ample humor and gore
James Gunn’s Suicide Squad
Even when the “first” squad is killed off within seconds of landing in Corto Maltese, it’s hardly an emotional affair. This is supposed to be an elite squad of assassins and killers, which turns into a mess of a landing party playing up the superhero trope. No surprise that TDK’s reveal turns into a complete laugh fest even when he’s writing in pain on the floor (don’t judge us – watch the movie first!) Gunn’s choice to quickly disposes of the members that are trying to be heroic is not just further the plot.
Even hardened criminals that crush cute birds (Savant) are at the mercy of self-preservation which is hilariously shown in how the elite force reacts to being completely ambushed. Gunn’s direction doesn’t ‘marvelize’ the humour – a problem that the previous DC films tried to do, (*cough * Whedon *cough) Rather, it’s a constant undercurrent balancing the sheer ridiculousness of the whole situation. It isn’t a prop, but rather becomes an endearing quality that makes the reject group become instantly likeable.
Humane to Gore
Humanizing is evident in how Gunn lets his viewers experience the spectrum of emotions that his characters are facing. King Shark doesn’t have any friends – which probably explains his need to “nom nom” everything (he’s a shark man after all). But once befriended by Ratcatcher, King Shark quickly turns his chompers for the good of the mission. Another is Gunn’s choice in the characters themselves, which he described as being, “…a bunch of losers, B-grade supervillains.”
This is exactly what makes the audience cheer for the squad at its lowest moments – even where they’re busy mowing down other people with the most cold-blooded moves. This is why Bloodsport doesn’t stay an elite assassin and an almost-killer of Superman – but a struggling dad with a rat phobia.
The Polka-Dot Man is a man with mother issues that suffers from hallucinations and functional issues. Ratcatcher 2 is a bit too comfortable with her animal companions for human company, but a quality inculcated by her father who was equally trying to do something great. (Hi Taika Waititi!)
The Politics of It All
Political commentary isn’t far behind. Gunn’s plot isn’t anything new, but perhaps a strategic choice to comment on American foreign policy and the inevitable ensuing mess that happens. This is at the time when another country is being added to the long list of foreign occupations: Afghanistan. While Corto Maltese isn’t Afghanistan, it definitely rings of past presidents and botched Operation: Freedom[s].
The dictatorial ‘El Presidentes’ and the people’s revolution is done to death, but the focus is the squad’s emancipation. This is in no way an America-saves-the-day type of movie. Gunn isn’t one to hold pack the punches, however, as he disposes off Polka-Dot Man and Peacemaker in quite an unceremonious way.
By the end, The Suicide Squad is as much a redemption movie for James Gunn as it is for Warner Bros. Trigger Disney’s decision to fire Gunn from arguably one of its most creative film franchises ever made was a big win for the studio. But Gunn’s spin on a really dark subject matter has shown that GOTG wasn’t a one-time lucky fluke.
Gunn’s vision shines through not only in his own beginnings as a fringe director but in how he embraces telling a heartfelt story about a team of losers.