“The Suicide Squad” strikes again although it appears it didn’t take the time to add more than the word “the” to differentiate it from the original in 2016. What it did take the time to do is drone on repetitively to give this film a 2 hour and 12 minute running time. While it’s no secret that super hero (or is it superhero?) films are not my cup of tea, going into them with zero expectations, I am occasionally pleasantly surprised. For example, both versions of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” or the original “Thor,” or, well, ok, that’s about it in the vast sea of superhero films. This version of “The Suicide Squad” was certainly better than the first one, but again, that is a low bar from which to rise.
You might be asking yourself, like I did, “Where or should I say when does this story fall into place given Harley Quinn’s “Birds of Prey” flop?” In the wise words of a fellow film critic, “It doesn’t really matter.” And it doesn’t. The premise is the same as the first rendition: A crew of horrid incarcerated supervillains are corralled by the director of a black ops program, Waller (Viola Davis). These characters are charged with saving America from some unknown future threat, but if they deviate from the plan, the detonator installed in their heads will be remotely engaged resulting in a horrific death.
Colonel Flag (Joel Kinnaman) leads the craziest bunch of characters into what becomes a death mission. The bloody onslaught quickly convenes and we appear to lose many of the characters to this guerrilla warfare. With heads sliced open like a cantaloupe and bodies exploding everywhere, you think you can’t take anymore, but then you are quickly ratcheted back in time to meet this motley crew just a few months ago. This back and forth time warp is one storytelling tool that actually keeps us interested in the story, thin as it may be.
Creative chapter markers keep us in the right timeline and we are left with Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Peacemaker (John Cena), Ratcatcher2 (Daniela Melchior), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) and King Shark (Sylvester Stallone) to infiltrate the human experimental site and take down its leader, Thinker (Peter Capaldi). Along the way, there are so, so, so many fights to win and the plot thickens (remember, it starts as thin as chicken broth) which, I am assuming, will delight comic book fans. For others, it’s just another bizarre CGI character that artists have fun bringing to life.
“The Suicide Squad” has quite a bit of unexpected comedy, most of which is brought to light by the competitiveness between Bloodsport and Peacekeeper. Cena and Elba are truly fun even amidst the bloodbath of violence. These actors understand comedic timing and reactionary humor which plays beautifully. If only writer James Gunn could have focused more on this relationship rather than the ever-repetitive and overly choreographed fight scenes.
Newcomer characters Ratcatcher2 and Polka-Dot Man give us hope in the film with their bizarre backstories and skills. If you have a rodent phobia, this will give you nightmares for weeks. And Polka-Dot Man’s mommy issues are disturbingly humorous as the animators take us into his psychologically warped mind. Unfortunately, Quinn’s oddball personality adds nothing to the narrative arc and actually puts the brakes on, bringing the story to a screeching halt.
Also disappointing is the fact that several of the initial characters such as Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Javelin (Flula Borg), Blackguard (Pete Davidson) and Weasel (Sean Gunn) are disposed of within the first few minutes of the film. A sigh of disappointment comes over you as you realize that these actors will not have an opportunity to perform and entertain, reaching their potential in this Universe.
As well as the time-line tool works, the disjointed feel of the individual stories just doesn’t. The promise of a film that works for both comic book fans and those who are not, falls flat and becomes exactly what you think it’s going to be: non-stop fight scenes with over-the-top violence. While some of that violence is ridiculous—comic book-like—a lot of it is truly disturbing. Torture scenes and realistically gruesome deaths are just too much to stomach.
Gunn had a kernel of what could have been a fun sequel to a bomb, but blew it when the focus became the special effects and fight scenes. At a running time of over 2 hours, the only thing repetitive actions scenes do is lull you into a state of sleep.
“The Suicide Squad” with a core group of interesting characters, personalities, and charm are
highjacked by the one-dimensional character of Harley Quinn and Gunn’s inability to focus on what makes a story work—the story. Missing out on utilizing his characters to their fullest, Gunn gives us a disappointing sequel even if it is better than the original.