Superheroes rule the entertainment space right now, that is not a question. From the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the DCEU, from Netflix’s Umbrella Academy to Amazon’s Invincible and The Boys. Most people have taken a crack at it, but James Gunn has cracked the code. Gunn has helmed and is in the process of completing one of the best trilogies of the MCU in Guardians of the Galaxy. He produced a gritty, dark re-telling of Superman in an alternate universe where he goes off the deep end as a child in Brightburn. Now, he’s successfully released a splendid Suicide Squad for DC Comics and he killed it. Warning: There are light spoilers regarding James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad in this article. Read at your own risk. James Gunn is hands down my favorite creator when it comes to comic adaptation because he gets it, at his heart, he’s a fan. He’s talked several times about growing up with the Suicide Squad and watching the movie proves he was the right person for the job. With his success on Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s clear to see that Gunn is an expert at telling stories centered around the group of misfit supers. There are plenty of parallels to draw to the two films, but we’ll avoid for now the simplest yet meaningless question of “was it better than Guardians of the Galaxy?” The first thing that The Suicide Squad does right, it completely ignores the first movie, 2016’s Suicide Squad by David Ayer. Besides a few actors reprising their roles from that one in this one, it doesn’t seem to exist. Gunn wastes no time introducing us to the new members with returning favorites like Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), plus Viola Davis returns as Amanda Waller.
The Suicide Squad is quickly thrown into a battle against military forces on the island nation of Corto Maltese. Its blood and violent and the squad definitely lives up to its name. Meanwhile, a second smaller team is infiltrating the island on the other side and the missions to stop Project: Starfish begins. From here, the movie delivers on everything you’d expect, there’s gruesome violence, there are quippy one-liners and funny scenes with King Shark. But where Suicide Squad really delivers and what makes this the best DC Universe movie so far, has nothing to do with superpowers or how high of a body county John Cena’s Peacermaker has. The movie shines in its quieter moments when Ratcatcher2 (Daniela Melchior) talks about the relationship she had with her father or the moments of genuine human interaction between her and King Shark. It’s in the scenes where a CGI rat tries to bond with the bloodthirsty killer or Harley Quinn has a moment of self-reflection on the long-term damage that toxic relationships can have.
Everyone thinks the draw of superhero movies is all about the powers and the battles, but that’s just the dressing to set it apart from every other flick in the theaters. Like every other movie that draws us in and captures our heart, it’s the moment of humanity, love, and acceptance that makes The Suicide Squad shine. Of course, there are amazing fight scenes and more blood, death, and gore than you’ve ever seen in a superhero project, yes, even The Boys. Between Peacemaker and Idris Elba’s Bloodsport, you could’ve made John Wick 4 and 5. There is one other aspect of this movie, which you’ll only get from someone as dedicated to the comic lore and as beautifully deranged as James Gunn. When Gunn sold the world on Rocket Raccoon and Groot, the flood gates were open for what he could put on the big screen from cutting deep into comic lore. The Suicide Squad took that to heart and dialed it up to 21. The fact that Polka Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) is not just in the movie, but a headlining character in one of the biggest summer blockbuster movies of the year is mind-blowing. His story is heartbreaking, his powers are off the charts and he will bring you near to tears. James Gunn also packs in a walking Weasel (Sean Gunn) and a talking Shark, aka King Shark (Sylvester Stallone).
Then to top it all off, Gunn takes one of the most absurd villains in all of DC Comics history, and trust me, there are a lot. Starro the Conqueror is a giant, blue, interstellar, cosmic Starfish with psychic powers and the ability to control anything with a face that it puts its tiny starfishes on. That idea should’ve been laughed out of the writers’ room at DC Comics when it was first conceived in 1960, let alone at Warner Bros, but Gunn manages to make it all work and more. But the bottom line is this if you’re a fan of comic books, DC, Marvel, or anything between then you will enjoy yourself at this movie. As for the question of whether or not it’s better than Guardians of the Galaxy? It’s hard to tell right now, Guardians is about to finish off a trilogy, but if The Suicide Squad and the prisoners of Belle Reve get a sequel with the same characters (or the ones that survived at least) then it’s going to be pretty close.