In some ways, “The Suicide Squad” didn’t have to do much to succeed its predecessor, “Suicide Squad“. Many dismissed the first film entirely because of a lousy studio. I’ve warmed to it some listening to David Ayer cryptically reveal what might have been. I was excited, however, when the announcement came that James Gunn would be manning the ‘reboot’ of the series. I’d enjoyed his “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies and hoped he could bring the same magic to “The Suicide Squad.”
For the most part, Gunn does succeed. “The Suicide Squad” is an action-packed, chaotic, gory 2 hours and 13 minutes. The movie spends enough time on its characters and leaves enough room for the plot. It doesn’t leave its characters underdeveloped either, though we’ll come back to this point. Having a coherent story is a significant feature the first film lacked, so in that sense, this film wins. Still, I left the movie feeling a little less than satisfied.
Perhaps what was lacking was in the reactions of the audience. I saw the film without an audience and do feel like I missed out somewhat. A shared reaction is a powerful thing. Let’s face it, an attack on a giant starfish counts on that one person to start the whole audience laughing. Watch with a group of friends, and you get closer, but not all the way there. As I’m now unlikely to see the movie in a theater, I’ll never really know for sure.
I know what you are thinking; “He probably was looking for reasons to dislike the movie in the first place.” I can say that isn’t true. I’ve always been more of a DC guy than Marvel. I’ve always been more attracted to the darker side of the DC universe as well. Think Batman over Superman. So the idea of the Suicide Squad is intriguing. It held the promise of setting up a world where a Joker or Harley movie was just as possible as a Batman or Superman. That didn’t happen, but the second movie came with fresh hope for this side of the DC universe.
If you’re a follower of my reviews, you’re about to notice my underlying theme. One of the first movie’s problems was having too many characters and not enough time to develop them. This new version does pair that number down significantly in a scene that borrows a bit from “Deadpool 2” but still doesn’t give us a lot to go on. Harley Quinn lacks dimension after three different movies. Perhaps the idea is to let the comic books do the legwork, and the films are the special effects bonanza Hollywood wants to give us? That can’t be the studio directive because the development is present in the other DC ventures. What would work would be solo ventures for each character before coming together as “The Suicide Squad.” I don’t know if Warner and DC are willing to give us that, however.
Idris Elba’s Bloodsport and Daniela Melchior’s Ratcatcher (2) bring backstory and motivation enough not to say there is no character development. David Dastmalchian’s Polka-Dot Man and Sylvester Stallone’s King Shark are more than devices. Polka-Dot Man isn’t going to get treated to a feature-length film like The Joker did, but I can’t say I wouldn’t see it. What we learn of most of the characters is one note, though. Bloodsport is trying to save his daughter. King Shark doesn’t have any friends. Polka-Dot Man hates his mother. Is it so much to ask to have just a bit more depth? It might be a giant leap in a world where directors expect their audiences to come in knowing the characters.
“The Suicide Squad” is an entertaining movie. It doesn’t rely on deep knowledge of the comics, though that is where you would build any bond with the characters. Like the first film, there are too many characters, so that getting to know anyone is a problem. Character development is flat, so any of the over 50 members introduced in the pages could sub in the movies. “The Suicide Squad” could work better as a high-budget weekly series on HBO Max. Throw in an occasional appearance by one of the big names while building a team that we can all relate to, and then come back to the theaters with the third movie.