In a year without Comic-Cons, DC Fandome was a must-see event for those of us who were thirsting for a glimpse of any new comic book-related content coming to our, hopefully, post-pandemic lives. And while the event is remembered for it’s first look at Matt Reeve’s The Batman and Wonder Woman ’84, it was the behind-the-scenes feature on James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad that hooked me instantly. James Gunn. Suicide Squad. Where do I get my tickets please and thank you.
James Gunn is a writer/director who I will follow from project to project, no questions asked. Slither was a delight to this horror junkie, I’ve spoken at length how much the Guardians films mean to me on an emotional level, films like Brightburn and The Belko Experiment were a blast, and there are parts of me that is still haunted from the events of Super (* insert shiver here *). Seeing Gunn get to stretch his legs in the DC Universe, with an R rating, with a team that I can’t help but find charming sounded like a win-win for all parties included.
Hands down, The Suicide Squad was one of my most anticipated films of 2021… and boy did it deliver.
From start to finish, The Suicide Squad isn’t just a refreshing take on the superhero genre, tons of Saving Private Ryan and Dirty Dozen vibes here, but it breathes new life into a DCEU that is desperately trying to emerge itself from the shadow of Zack Snyder. There’s an entire column to be written discussing how the color pallet alone moves the DCEU forward. I’m dead serious.
Gunn takes the DNA that made his Guardians films so emotionally investing and applies it to a premise that is insanely over the top. The Suicide Squad feels like it’s torn from the pages of a comic book as it embraces all of the best outlandish/bonkers/strangeness that somehow only make sense within the comic medium and makes them work on the big screen. Amidst all the gory deaths, the colorful language, and giant starfish-shaped aliens is a movie full of heart that thrives on its characters.
Using a number of F-List characters, outside of Harley Quinn, gave Gunn a tremendous amount of freedom, not just because these characters were disposable but because it provided Gunn with a blank canvas of sorts. Previous DC films relied on the audience to know who these characters are as opposed to building them up, The Suicide Squad gives us characters we don’t know and presents them in a way that allows the audience to fall in love with them. No easy feat for a film that takes out half the cast in the first twenty minutes. We love these characters despite knowing they could die literally at any moment and that’s part of the beauty of this film. The audience willingly allows itself to be hurt because of how vibrant the characters are. It’s a wonder and a delight and makes the consequences resonate.
I could literally spend hours breaking down this film and discussing all the wonders that had my wife and I laughing, screaming, and gasping as the film moved forward, but a film as unique as The Suicide Squad deserves a unique type of review. Listen, I’ve written my share of reviews, that you can find throughout the I Am Geek Archives, but I’m feeling a bit more adventurous today. Let’s have some fun with this movie, shall we? You all know, I have an undying love for award shows, so I think the best way to celebrate James Gunn’s latest film is with an awards column. A column that will present awards to various aspects of The Suicide Squad in the hopes of relishing in all that made this film grand and spectacular.
Geeklings, I present to you the first-ever Squadies!
MASSIVE SPOILERS FOR THE SUICIDE SQUAD BELOW. CONTINUE AT YOUR OWN RISK
Our first award…
Actor/Actress Born To Play This Role-
The Squadie goes to… Viola Davis as Amanda Waller. This is just superb casting. Not a lot of things were kept from David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, but Davis as Waller was a no-brainer. My god, she’s terrifying. You feel her presence as soon as she’s on screen. You can almost taste how afraid everyone, outside of Bloodsport, is of her. Davis demands your attention and your fear and crushes every scene she’s in. She’s throwing nothing but heaters. The amount of relative calm Davis uses to portray Waller is perfect, this is a woman who knows what’s up and will do what’s needed. That calmness allows the scene towards the end of the movie, where Waller loses her shit, to punctuate how frightening Waller truly is. When she’s screaming that she’s going to kill the whole rest of the Squad, I believe every swear and threat that comes out of her mouth. In fact, if I was her staff, I would’ve been gone the minute she woke up. No need to hang around for whatever she’s going to do once she regains conscience. Nope. No sir.
Please give me allllll the Viola Davis as Amanda Waller content. She’s the powerful, almost unstoppable, villain, the DCEU needs.
Ridiculous Scene I Can’t Help But Still Think About-
T.D.K. after he lets his arms loose and the wiggle dance-like move he’s doing as his arms are beating up the soldiers. I don’t know how to explain it but that visual of Nathan Fillion moving around without arms has “haunted” me since my viewing. Honestly, I can’t stop seeing it. Majestic in its absurdity. It’s these little moments that lead to the biggest laughs within the movie.
The “Did That Just Happen” Moment-
Weasel “drowning” at the start of the film. I don’t know about you, but based on the trailers, I thought we were in for some crazy shit concerning Weasel. I mean, they weren’t shy in letting us know that this guy ate twenty-seven children (in a row?!). Then the attack starts and my dude… drowns. Insert hilarity here as Flag asks if anyone researched if Weasel could swim or not. It was a moment that wonderfully set the tone for the rest of the movie while providing a strange sigh of relief at the end when you found out the creature still lived. Maybe not a sigh of relief considering Weasel is a monster but more of a chuckle of relief? Snortle? Something?
The “Holy Crap, Is That Calendar Man” Moment-
The Squadie goes to… Calendar Man. Duh. What a delightful little easter egg for such a bizarre rouge. Great stuff from Sean Gunn here who clearly was all in on these ten seconds of screen time where he didn’t have to be motion captured.
The I Can’t Believe There’s Another Character In This Movie I Would Die For Who Isn’t Named King Shark Award-
I have been very vocal about my undying love for King Shark. One thing the trailers for The Suicide Squad made apparent was how quickly our thicc, board shorts-wearing boy was going to win our hearts. Hell, he had me before the movie was even released. What I didn’t expect was another creature within the film that would capture that same “I will die for you energy”. Looking at you Sebastian the Rat.
Much like Bloodsport, I’m not really a rat guy, outside of Master Splinter, of course. But the moment I saw Sebastian wave… my heart was overcome with fullness. I then spent the remainder of the movie in trepidation of his survival. The movie made it clear that no one was safe but I couldn’t imagine a world where Sebastian didn’t make it through to the credits. No, I refuse to live in that world!
Luckily, our little guy not only made it through to the end, he was instrumental in saving the day. Him and his stupid little backpack. I can’t. Sebastian getting his good boy pets was the only way to end this movie.
Where is my Sebastian and King Shark spin-off?! Where?!?!
Best King Shark Moment-
Speaking of my boy, King Shark, I think it’s safe to assume that the best King Shark moment came from his desire for a fake mustache disguise. The group’s denial of his request, his attempt at trying to prove them wrong, his anger when he was shot down all came together for a wonderful mixture of laughs and heart. King Shark’s journey was from human-eating monster who reads books and knows that he has a hand to a self-aware monster who eats people but understands there is value in friendship. King Shark may have brought the laughs and the gore but there was heart in that character too. How heartbreaking was it when those dumb fish turned on him? Especially after how excited he was to meet them. King Shark was wonderful and I hope somewhere out there there’s a cut where he got his mustache. Because him not getting it lead to this…
Saddest King Shark Moment-
Him sitting in the van all by himself while the rest of the squad partied. Broke my little heart to see our guy so lonely and bored. Clearly, he just wants to be a part of the team. He just wants to have friends. You couldn’t rotate members of the group to hang out with him while the others partied?! Make him feel like less of an outcast?! You couldn’t get my dude a mustache?! Shame. Shame on all of you. Shame!
Now on to some of the meaty awards…
Best Character Chemistry-
Anytime a story focuses on a group dynamic that group needs to have a certain amount of chemistry otherwise everything falls apart. The cast of The Suicide Squad played off each other wonderfully which helped quickly mold a group of self-serving individuals into some sort of a team. When they start functioning like a well-oiled machine, or a machine that understands that they need to kill a giant starfish, everything comes together splendidly.
Within that group dynamic though, there were two characters whose chemistry outshined the others. Any time these two were interacting you were captivated by whatever the absurdity that they were going to say/do next. That award goes to Peacemaker and Bloodsport.
It helps that these characters are essentially the same, from a power set standpoint, and they’re introduced back to back to help build that rivalry between them. What John Cena and Idris Elba do is magic. The quick quips back and forth, the whatever you can do I can do betterness, all results in electricity when these two share the screen. We already knew that Elba can bring it on the big screen but seeing John Cena go toe to toe with him and not miss a beat was a blast. I’m pumped for this Peacemaker show and hope some of our friends from The Suicide Squad make an appearance. Someone like…
The Breakout Star/Character-
Which is hands down Daniela Melchoir’s Ratcatcher 2. I loooooved this character. The way Gunn slowly builds her, that flashback in the bus window (*gushing*) and how confidently but delicately Melchoir plays her… she easily won the movie for me. Reading some interviews with Gunn post-film, I’m happy to see that he revised the ending where Ratcatcher 2 died. She was the heart and soul of the movie. The driving force that made Bloodsport understand he could be a leader and possibly a father. The soul of the team who knows they shouldn’t bury the events of the starfish program because it’s necessary for the country to remain blameless. She’s the one who tapped into that pocket of humanity within King Shark and introduced him to the idea of friendship. Ratcatcher 2 brought Sebastian to the party. What a wonderful character who I would love to see more of. On paper, this seems like a character that shouldn’t work but through the power of Gunn and Daniela Melchoir she shines like that glowy stick she uses to call her rat army.
Most Poignant Moment-
Harley Quinn becoming self-aware and actively avoiding toxic relationships was such a pivotal/important part of her character journey thus far in the DCEU. This started with Birds of Prey and comes to a head here as the DCEU looks to move Harley further and further away from the Joker making her less of a fanboy sex symbol and more of an actual person who understands and grows from her journey. Her tattoo that used to read “Property of Mister J” now reads “Property of No One” in a subtle but impactful nod to this new independence. Her ability to understand that the president is a toxic person is a perfect bit of character advancement. It displays such growth. It allows Harley to be Harley and not an object of the Jokers or anyone else for that matter. The mix of social commentary and Margot Robbie’s performance… is a tremendously important and poignant addition to this movie making it more than a story with an army of rats and an alien starfish. This was a moment that not only really resonated but felt incredibly earned and way overdue.
I Still Can’t Believe They Put This In A Movie-
As a lifelong comic book reader, I’m still kind of reeling from the fact that Starro was in a movie. Freakin’ Starro! It just boggles my mind. This should be a character that doesn’t translate from page to screen but within this universe and Gunn’s imagination, a giant starfish destroying a city seems completely in play. I had to suppress the giggles of glee anytime Starro was on screen. And his final line, saying he was happiest amongst the stars?! Ooooof, that got me too. Man, why are humans the worst?!
This Was A Tough Movie If You Were…-
… a bird. From the opening bird death with Michael Rooker to the lets set some birds on fire scene, this was a tough movie to be a bird. Can’t help but wonder if James Gunn was making some kind of commentary here?
And finally, our last award.
I’ve debated back and forth with this one but I think it has to be the entire opening. A bloody, chaotic, hysterical introduction to this universe that really set the tone that no one was safe. If you were cast in The Suicide Squad there was a good chance you were going to die before the credits rolled and Gunn really made sure to get his bucket of blood. A spectacular helicopter crash. Nathan Fillion’s armless dancing. Goodbye Captain Boomerang. This opening really went for it and I love the movie for that. There was no messing around. You knew immediately what kind of film this was based on that opening sequence. Beautifully shot with the right balance of “holy shit” and humor, the storming of the beach was everything I was hoping to get from this movie and there were still like two hours left. What a treat.
There you have it Geeklings, the Squadies are now complete. What awards would you hand out that you didn’t see here? Be sure to sound off in the comments or throw me a line over on Twitter @iamgeek32. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to saddle up with Sebastian, King Shark, and my favorite Milton and go for another ride with The Suicide Squad.