*. Perhaps the biggest story in the movie business in the twenty-first century has been the stunning dominance of superhero movies at the box office. It’s no exaggeration to say that when it comes to blockbusters these kinds of films have been the only game in town for a while now, so much so that they’ve generated significant backlash, and counter-backlash as well.
*. The Suicide Squad is part of the DC Extended Universe (I’m not sure what the “Extended” part refers to), which for most of this time has been the also-ran to the more profitable Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s billed as a “standalone sequel” to Suicide Squad, a much-maligned superhero movie that I actually thought was better than reported (though it was a long way from being good). But Suicide Squad, despite all the bad press, did great box office so . . . here we are.
*. One change from the first movie is that writer-director David Ayer has been replaced by writer-director James Gunn. Gunn is a veteran of this superhero shtick — a nice niche to occupy in the current dispensation — having done the ho-hum Guardians of the Galaxy and the godawful Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. This is more of the same — there’s even a giant shark on the squad who takes the place of Groot — but this time with the edginess of an R rating. What that rating means is lots of gore and f-bombs. In other words, DC’s Deadpool. Even the opening, where a team of second bananas get wiped out on the beach, seems a direct borrowing from the disastrous debut of the X Force in Deadpool 2.
*. I’d forgotten that Gunn’s feature directing debut was Slither. Looking over his filmography I can’t say I see a lot of progress, except in terms of the budgets he’s been given to play with.
*. I thought Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was one of the only bright spots in the earlier film, and it was a cinch that she’d be back. Unfortunately, after Birds of Prey I’m finding Harley is really wearing on me. There’s only so much of that voice I can take and it wasn’t long before I was hoping she’d just shut up.
*. The back-up is just capable. Instead of Will Smith as Deadshot we have Idris Elba as Bloodsport. I don’t know what the material difference was between these guys, though I guess they’re both different from Bloodshot. Actually there’s a joke here in the early going where Bloodsport complains that Peacemaker (John Cena) is basically the same sort of generic superhero. Seems no one can tell the difference.
*. Filling out this version of the Squad are the aforementioned talking shark (voiced, totally unnecessarily, by Sylvester Stallone), a young woman who can summon and control rats, and a guy who sheds Tiddlywinks. Together they’re off to some South American island to shut down a project involving a giant alien starfish.
*. By this point you know the drill. Huge production values, non-stop action sequences, a hip soundtrack, none of it taking itself very seriously. The jokiness, however, makes some of it problematic. Viola Davis’s character comes across as moronically mean, while the anti-American message just feels tossed in to no real purpose other than to help establish the Squad’s progressive bona fides.
*. I guess it’s a better movie than Suicide Squad, and I did like the giant starfish, but it wasn’t nearly as funny or as edgy as it wanted to be and it mainly struck me as just more flashing lights and loud noises. I may be feeling jaded, but if so that’s a feeling that might have been shared by audiences, who didn’t take to it. Is the decades-long reign of the superhero movie finally played out? There’s hope yet.