If you went to the movie theater this past weekend or logged into your HBO Max account, you most likely saw something relating to James Gunn’s most recent directorial outing, “The Suicide Squad.” And like many, including myself, you probably said to yourself, “I really hope this isn’t as bad as the first one.” Luckily, the series is much better this time around with the help of Gunn’s direction and creative freedom.
From the fantastically outlandish characters to the disgustingly satisfying amount of violence to the quality comedy, Gunn’s iteration of Task Force X is far more focused and coherent than the original, with a couple of standout performances to boot. The connection between the two films is vague, but that actually helps more than hurts.
Familiar faces can be found in the new movie, like Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn and Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag, that came from the original film. Yet, the first movie’s events are never referenced and there aren’t any explicit references to the larger DC Extended Universe. However, this lack of connection isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it makes the movie feel refreshingly isolated with no overt references to the infamous 2016 film, which would’ve weighed it down.
It’s no question that 2016’s “Suicide Squad” was more than a disappointment. It currently sits at a 26% on Rotten Tomatoes, meaning 26% of critics awarded the film a positive review.
“‘Suicide Squad’ boasts a talented cast and a little more humor than previous DCEU efforts, but they aren't enough to save the disappointing end result from a muddled plot, thinly written characters and choppy directing,” Rotten Tomatoes wrote in its “Critics Consensus” column.
For the most part, the critics are right. “Suicide Squad” feels like a movie that’s been cobbled together using pieces from multiple films, ultimately leading to something that is horribly confusing and not fun to watch.
So, how did Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad” turn out so great in 2021 while David Ayer’s “Suicide Squad” crashed and burned in 2016? Both movies revolve around the same concept, both are helmed by equally talented directors and both films have some of the same actors playing the same characters. The answer to the difference in quality comes down to Warner Bros. Pictures.
Following criticism that “Batman v. Superman” was too dark, Warner Bros. announced they would perform extensive reshoots on “Suicide Squad” ahead of its Aug. 4 release to make it funnier, according to an initial report by Business Insider.
However, taking funny scenes and shoving them into what would have otherwise been a not-so-funny movie never ends well, and “Suicide Squad” was no exception. Without just reshooting the entire movie, it’s impossible to conceal Warner Bros.’ attempts at trying to make something out of nothing. Just the airport suit-up scene where unfunny jokes and quips are tossed back and forth while Eminem sings in the background soundtrack is almost enough to make you want to close your eyes and wish the movie never existed.
Meanwhile, in Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad,” Idris Elba’s Bloodsport and John Cena’s Peacekeeper are pitted against each other in a hilarious and gory trickshot competition, which turns into one of my favorite scenes. This scene does an excellent job of having characters interact while actually being funny. The scene also contains no dialogue between the two, which demonstrates Gunn’s mastery as a director.
Suffice to say, 2021’s “The Suicide Squad” is a large improvement over 2016’s “Suicide Squad,” but this isn’t because 2016’s writer/director Ayer is less capable than 2021’s writer/director Gunn. It really comes down to creative freedom.
Ayer released a letter on Twitter on July 29 following the release of Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad” publicly denouncing the studio cut of his “Suicide Squad.” He said the process of making the film was a “studio takeover.”
In comparison, Gunn said he had a lot of enjoyment making “The Suicide Squad.” He specifically noted how much he loved the process as well as the people around him in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter.
Clearly, these two directors had drastically different experiences working on each of their respective films and it really shows. “The Suicide Squad” is a funny, violent and unapologetiaclly weird take on the suicide squad concept whereas “Suicide Squad” is a messy, boring and painfully unfunny endurance test for anyone who is willing to subject themselves to it.
This just demonstrates how important it is to trust the people you hire to create these stories and bring these characters to life. Film is art and it’s important to let artists do their work. If given enough time and space, you might just end up with a masterpiece.
If you have to choose one movie, it should definitely be the 2021 version of “Suicide Squad” over the failure that 2016 had to see. Still, remember whose fault that failure really is.
John Scott is the photo editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @JScott050901