As the first footage from The Suicide Squad emerges, the DCEU sequel is already looking superior to its 2016 predecessor. Much has been said about the studio interference Zack Snyder was subject to on Justice League, but during that same period, David Ayer experienced something similar on Suicide Squad. With a knock-out cast and a distinctive style, the arrival of Harley Quinn’s rabble-rousers was eagerly anticipated, but while Suicide Squad impressed in terms of box office takings, reviews and fan reactions were largely negative. Ayer has since spoken of how his vision was altered, and maintains that a much improved “Ayer Cut” exists.
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There’s no sign of Suicide Squad‘s Ayer Cut seeing the light of day, but Quinn and co. have another route to redemption thanks to The Suicide Squad. With James Gunn taking the reins, this sort-of-sequel takes a mostly fresh crop of willing(ish) sacrifices on a perilous mission into certain doom. Due to premiere in August 2021 on HBO Max and in theaters where available, a pair of The Suicide Squad trailers recently dropped online, and general consensus suggests there’s already a vast improvement compared to 2016.
DC fans may never witness Ayer’s Suicide Squad as it was originally intended, but those seeking a more satisfying interpretation of the supervillain motley crew might find what they always hoped for in The Suicide Squad. Here’s how Gunn’s sequel is already fixing the mistakes of the past.
Embracing The Silliness
Striving to fit the strict parameters of mid-2010s DCEU, Suicide Squad took itself quite seriously, even when trying to have fun. Grimness isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it comes to DC’s Suicide Squad but, according to David Ayer, Warner Bros. ordered a series of “lighten up” reshoots, and the result is an awkward mismatch of two very separate ideas. Suicide Squad might’ve benefited from picking a direction and sticking to it, and that’s precisely what The Suicide Squad is doing. Embracing the inherent silliness of D-list (Miss Quinn excluded) heroes doing the government’s dirty work, The Suicide Squad pokes fun at itself, with the gang’s comedy blue van, joke characters such as Polka-Dot Man and Weasel, and the kind of witty sarcasm that worked so well for Guardians of the Galaxy.
Combined with the gleeful violence one would expect, and The Suicide Squad carves out a tone all of its own – silly without parody, cartoonishly gory and, most importantly, in on the joke. Rather than two distinct creative mindsets fighting for dominance, The Suicide Squad knows what it is, and that’s already a major step forward.
The Cast Are Much More Interesting
It’s clear by now that if Suicide Squad got anything right, it was introducing the world to Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. Comic cons and Halloween parties would never be the same again. As the one team member without a criminal conviction (two if you remember Katana) Rick Flag gets some emotional development too, but Killer Croc, Captain Boomerang, Diablo, and Slipknot all get superficial outings, while Deadshot isn’t so much an antihero, but a low-carb antihero substitute suitable for Will Smith fans of all ages.
Boasting an even bigger cast, The Suicide Squad might be making that same mistake again. Fortunately, the trailers make clear that some Task Force X members are there to get killed sharpish (Blackguard, Mongal, Javelin, TDK…), while others form a fascinating central group with a strangely compelling chemistry. Harley Quinn, Bloodsport, Peacemaker, Rick Flag, King Shark, Ratcatcher 2 and Polka-Dot Man look to be the actual stars of The Suicide Squad, and each of them has a unique angle heading into the full movie. Bloodsport is the struggling leader, Peacemaker the patriotic goof, Ratcatcher the one who just wants to go home, etc. The Suicide Squad could still fumble the ball and trip over its own huge cast, but early signs promises a much more interesting dynamic between the leading names.
Harley Quinn Is More Independent
Harley Quinn is a highlight of 2016’s Suicide Squad, this much we know. Nevertheless, she’s still wrapped tightly around the pale little finger of Jared Leto’s Joker. This isn’t exactly Suicide Squad‘s fault – Quinn’s unhealthy dedication to her Puddin’ comes straight from Batman: The Animated Series, but Birds of Prey proved how much better Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn can be when separated from Mr. J. Harley soars in Birds of Prey (even if hardly anyone saw it…), with Cathy Yan’s underrated DCEU effort coaxing out Harley’s complexly hilarious personality. Rather than relying on an infamous boyfriend, Harley now does things her way – and her way is much more fun. The Suicide Squad reaps the benefit of getting post-Joker Harley Quinn, rather than the still-lovesick version introduced in 2016.
R-rated superhero movies are few and far between, and while the MPAA’s red sticker doesn’t automatically denote a better movie, some comic book characters aren’t the same without the freedom that one letter brings. Deadpool, Logan and Joker are all popular and successful comic book efforts that simply couldn’t have worked within the restrictions of PG-13. For many, the Suicide Squad fall into that exact same category, and while a more mature rating wouldn’t have saved David Ayer’s 2016 DCEU release, the PG-13 restrictions certainly didn’t help matters. The central premise of deadly criminals taking on missions deemed too awful for “proper” superheroes just lends itself naturally to R-rated territory.
Opening with a red-band trailer, The Suicide Squad makes no attempt to pull its punches, reveling in F-bombs, flying intestines, and wanton violence. Compared to its predecessor, James Gunn’s sequel feels unleashed, able to enjoy the full scope of what the “Suicide Squad” concept entails. The R rating doesn’t guarantee success for the sequel, but its chances look far better.
Starro Is A Better Villain Than Enchantress
One of Suicide Squad‘s biggest disappointments was Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress – an underdeveloped and one-dimensional character that devolved into a CGI blob. Starro is even more of a CGI blob than Rick Flag’s possessed girlfriend, in fairness, but at least this one makes sense as a Suicide Squad villain. Starro is a big, bright, alien starfish intent on conquering the universe – a ridiculous concept perfectly in keeping with The Suicide Squad‘s tone. However, Starro is also steeped in rich comic book history, and was one of the first villains to trouble the Justice League of America. He’s every bit as kooky in appearance as the heroes, but still a genuine threat, and if Starro is as intent on world domination as he usually is, the villain could really come to life. The Suicide Squad will need to be careful to avoid the CGI final villain trap superhero movies often succumb to, but with Peter Capaldi’s Thinker potentially acting as a conduit for Starro’s thoughts, the starfish could have an all-important human guise too.
The Real-World Revolution
Aside from the danger of Starro looming overhead like an over-sized Christmas decoration, The Suicide Squad features a second, more grounded battle. Gunn’s sequel is predominantly set on the fictional island of Corto Maltese, where a ruthless military dictator called Silvio Luna has seized control. A movement is underway to bring this villain down, and Alice Braga’s Sol Soria part of the revolution. Task Force X’s mission seems primarily concerned with Luna and the freedom of Corto Maltese, with Starro turning up later as the mother of all complications, and this gives The Suicide Squad a (slightly) more grounded setup. Were Starro the sole focus, The Suicide Squad would risk losing itself in the intergalactic shenanigans, but the addition of a real-world battle keeps things safely anchored in reality. The combination of evil military dictatorship and giant star-shaped kaiju epitomizes what Task Force X is all about.
The Threat Of Danger Is Bigger
When you promise “Suicide Squad,” there’s an implied expectation that characters will die in all manner of morbidly creative ways. Like DC does Final Destination. The 2016 DCEU movie failed to deliver in that respect, with just two members of the “Skwad” going down, and only one of them doing so in dramatic fashion. Perhaps to satisfy the family-friendly rating or maybe to grease the wheels for future sequels, Task Force X offers a safer work environment than the group’s nickname implies
The Suicide Squad appears to be rectifying that problem. Many suspect the reason for Gunn’s bloated cast is the relentless string of death he has planned for The Suicide Squad, meaning far fewer recruits will be making it home on this occasion. Danger is a key ingredient for the Suicide Squad, and the audience should always believe their favorite character could drop at any time. Suicide Squad tried to manufacture a feeling of unpredictability by killing off Slipknot, but his ill-fated demise proved irrelevant, as his colleagues completed their mission more or less safely. With The Suicide Squad, there’s a genuine sense that only a handful could return, as James Gunn is doing his utmost to maintain that threat of danger.
More Jokes, No Joker
2016’s Suicide Squad made the unwise decision to include Joker as a sideshow to the main team, but the Clown Prince of Crime is never anything less than the ringleader, and commanded the film’s discussion prior to release. Not only did Jared Leto’s performance prove unpopular, but Joker was an awkward fit into an already muddled storyline. If nothing else, The Suicide Squad‘s trailers make clear that the focus will remain squarely on Task Force X and their mission into the unknown. This means no A-list characters playing interference, and no distractions from the central group, and that can only be a good thing.
More: The Suicide Squad Trailer Breakdown: 33 Story Reveals
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