Welcome to the latest Dark Knight News Roundtable! In this edition, the staff gave commentary and opinions about the latest DCEU film, The Suicide Squad directed by James Gunn. On the panel are DKN writers Lauren Fiske, Kevin M. Gallagher, Jr, and Eric Lee.
No reason to bury the lead, what are your thoughts on The Suicide Squad?
Eric: Loved it. I love James Gunn’s weird sense of humor and the pacing. It was way better than the original Suicide Squad by a wide margin.
Lauren: I loved it. The Suicide Squad definitely met all my expectations, and I was impressed with the twists and turns of the story. Far more diversity in the cast too – that was super impressive. I personally really appreciated having more female heroes!
Kev: I couldn’t agree more. It’s become an easy top 5 DCEU movie for me. While I don’t like to bring something else down to build something else up, I’ve never made it past the first 15-30 minutes of the first Suicide Squad movie.
Eric: That’s okay. The first Suicide Squad movie is not really worth your time.
Lauren: I’ve only seen clips of the first one! Not worth it and kind of terribly written?
Kev: Which is a shame, I like that cast and the premise clearly works. The first one was trying WAY too hard to be a Guardians of the Galaxy movie.
Eric: It’s hilarious how the first one tried to be Guardians of the Galaxy and then they just said “screw it, get the director of GotG!”
Kev: I agree! The best part is that Gunn doesn’t try to make this GotG!
Eric: I can see similarities between this and GotG. Mostly the random humorous side jokes.
Kev: Oh, for sure, but it’s not beating you over the head with it. the first Suicide Squad legitimately has at least one song from the first Guardians soundtrack.
Eric: This movie has more in common with Gunn’s earlier films; Slither and Super, with the over-the-top violence and dark comedy.
Speaking of James Gunn, how did you think he handled the characters and the film?
Lauren: The Suicide Squad has characters who felt like real people, and matched who they are in comics much more. I didn’t think the previous film understood the characters.
Kev: I agree, Gunn does understand these characters more (or, at the very least, the studio is interfering less).
Lauren: I feel like James Gunn wasn’t given the same limits we’ve seen with his Marvel films and it really paid off!
Kev: There are benefits to what Marvel is doing (clearly, the MCU is beyond successful), but Gunn’s someone who can really tell a great story when he’s not tethered. (Though, to be fair to Marvel, Gunn has even said he had more freedom than most because GotG wasn’t attached to everything else as much as the rest of the MCU films).
So… the birds?
Eric: Can we talk about this movie’s weird violence against birds? *laughs*
Kev: There was a great interaction with Gunn and a fan about that.
Eric: Oh? what was the story?
Kev: It was a quick QRT on Twitter… Gunn said something about “I definitely killed a lot more humans” or something like that.
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) August 6, 2021
Eric: *laughs* That’s one defense, although I always feel more shocked when any animal is killed on screen than a human. I don’t care about humans.
Kev: I feel like I’ve seen Gunn’s, we’ll say “viewpoints” on birds in other movies too… and they definitely didn’t live. Maybe I’m just trying to force the Gunn hates bird narrative though. *laughs* Yeah, animal deaths are always more impactful than human deaths in film/TV. Humans are the worst.
Eric: *laughs* The Gunn hates birds narrative seems like a fan theory that needs exploring.
Kev: For sure… that could be DKN’s first exposé!
Does The Suicide Squad feel like a course correction for the DCEU?
Kev: I think, to varying degrees of truth, Gunn’s about to get a lot of credit for the shift the DCEU is taking (and this isn’t meant as an anti-Zack Snyder thing. While I’m not the biggest fan of his, his Justice League is phenomenally better than the theatrical cut). I think we need to look at Cathy Yan and Birds of Prey as the actual moment that the DCEU found its footing. In my opinion, Gunn builds so much off of what she did.
Eric: I like how the film doesn’t really bother to reference other movies (including the older Suicide Squad). It can be enjoyed as just a good standalone.
Kev: Yes! Yet, it still feels so connected to everything in the DCEU.
Eric: it definitely does not have that world-building pressure that Snyder had to go through with Batman V Superman.
Kev: There felt like there was zero pressure on The Suicide Squad to be anything but a good movie. The fact that it was done while still feeling part of the bigger universe is, I’ve got to say, very James Gunn.
What did you think of The Suicide Squad cast?
Eric: All winners, all around.
Kev: Yes, 100% agree,winners all around! I will say, I was a bit surprised that so many characters saw their untimely demise so early on. I mean, I get it… you can’t have a huge group for very long. Not enough screen time to give them justice. I would love to see more of Fillon’s TDK!
Eric: I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Idris Elba be so funny before, but it’s great. Especially when paired with John Cena’s Peacemaker. Speaking of TDK, I have a fan theory that he’s is still alive.
Lauren: I loved this cast. It felt like each actor was made for their character. Nathan Fillion would have stolen so many scenes if he’d had more screen time, and I would not have complained!
Kev: There’s a lot to love about Elba and Cena’s chemistry, but I need to hear this theory.
Eric: Well, we don’t see a body, we just see him coughing up blood.
Kev: I need a TDK spin-off now that there’s a chance he’s alive.
Eric: I feel like he’s alive, but armless now. So now he needs to get robot arms, like Jax from Mortal Kombat.
Kev: *laughs* I’m all for that, so long as they can detach too!
Lauren: I think the idea behind TDK is super cool.
Eric: He’s based on Arm Fall off Boy, who was part of the Legion of SUBSTITUTE Heroes. His powers are even stupider in the comics, because he detaches his limbs and uses them as blunt weapons; like a club. At least TDK’s arms float, even if they’re more annoying
Kev: When I read Arm Fall Off Boy was a real thing, I couldn’t stop laughing. Like, TDK was kind of funny to see in action, but AfoB would seem so lame.
Lauren: Okay yeah, I’m not sure even James Gunn could make this guy a compelling antihero.
Getting back to Bloodsport and Peacemaker…
Kev: Elba’s Bloodsport and Cena’s Peacemaker had such great chemistry! I would love to see more of the two of them together.
Eric: I love the one-upmanship they have with each other. It’s also very good foreshadowing when Peacemaker turns on the team. What a clever way to insert conflict without being overt.
Kev: As dark as the scene ends up being, Elba and Cena killing everyone in that camp to rescue Flagg is perfect.
Eric: That camp scene was hilarious.
What about Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn? It is her third time taking on the character.
Eric: The Suicide Squad is my favorite film with Robbie as Harley. It felt more… focused?
Kev: I think it builds off a lot of her arc from Birds of Prey, but in a way where you didn’t have to see that film to understand her growth here.
Eric: Yeah, Harley’s arc is subtle character building.
Kev: Robbie’s performance is at its best and the character’s growth, even from just within the film, is probably the best arc in the film (though there is an argument for Bloodsport’s arc too).
Lauren: I think every character was allowed to grow, but getting to see Harley go from literally [email protected](#!£& ng a guy on every piece of furniture in the mansion to suddenly realizing he was kind of a monster, and handling the situation in a “mature” way was really empowering.
Eric: I also really enjoyed the javelin scene where she kills everybody, but flowers come out instead of blood. It’s whimsical and darkly funny.
Kev: Oh, that was trippy… but in a good way.
Lauren: I both enjoyed it and didn’t entirely understand what was happening. *laughs*
Kev: It made me feel like I was inside her head for a little bit.
Eric: I think it’s probably for the best that we don’t fully understand what’s happening, as Harley’s head is a messed-up place.
Kev: That scene gives the perfect amount of time to see the world as she sees it.
Lauren: Fair enough. That being said, I like that Harley’s a gal who can be associated with both flowers and death. Get you a hero who can do both!
Kev: I love that Harley started out (not in this film, but in the first Suicide Squad) as a dependent person with Joker, then spent Birds of Prey figuring herself out, and in The Suicide Squad finally believing in herself and being independent. I really hope that Robbie gets another crack at this character in a Gotham City Sirens movie (or something that pairs her up with Ivy).
Lauren: Not to mention that she didn’t need ANYBODY in this film. The whole gang gathered to save her at the behest of Flagg and she’d already handled it all by herself. Honestly, Harley rescuing herself was one of my favorite parts of the movie, as dark as it was.
Kev: Yes! It’s so important to Harley’s overall arc that she didn’t need ANYONE to save her. She can handle herself now. Maybe Harley of two films ago needed rescuing, but she’s a confident woman now
Lauren: The men were still an important part of the team, but this movie was all girl power! Starro wouldn’t have gone down without Harley or Rat-catcher II. Plus, most of Harley’s action happened with her wearing a ball gown. The princess isn’t in another castle, she got herself out of that castle with style.
What are your thoughts on Starro?
Kev: Ok… I’m glad we got to this. Guys… WE GOT STARRO IN A LIVE-ACTION DCEU MOVIE?!?
Eric: Starro is way more disturbing in real life than I ever imagined. The bumps, the giant eye, and the millions of mini Starros are horrifying.
Lauren: I’m not the biggest DC head so I didn’t know who Starro was before this film. I’m honestly glad though, because he was TERRIFYING.
Kev: Starro’s one of my favorites, and to see him in live-action was nightmare-inducing. I loved it!
Lauren: It’s the sort of thing we ask for, a little bit regret, but also super enjoy in a comic book film, for sure!
Eric: I always liked the inhuman nature of Starro. This film version is perfect where it’s equally creepy and ludicrous.
Lauren: I really wanted to make jokes about SpongeBob whenever Starro was onscreen, but I was too freaked and grossed out.
Kev: I also felt a little bad for him! He didn’t like being experimented on by the Thinker and that line about just wanting to be in space? ::chef’s kiss::
Eric: It’s definitely easy to sympathize with Starro.
Who was your favorite actor/character in The Suicide Squad?
Eric: It’s hard to choose one favorite actor from this, but it’s probably Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher 2 for me.
Kev: Picking one favorite?!? Ratcatcher 2 is certainly the heart of the film and up there, but if I’m being honest? Polka Dot Man.
Lauren: I think Daniela Melchior was the best actor in this film, but Polka Dot Man was, and still is, my favorite character.
Kev: In the comics PDM is such a lame character, to the point I had assumed he’d be killed off early on. Gunn ending up giving him one of the best stories in the film.
Eric: PDM seems way more powerful here than in the comics. I don’t recall his polka dots DISINTEGRATING PEOPLE.
Kev: For sure… but it’s not just because he’s more powerful that PDM stands out here. Gunn just had some great writing for him, and that performance?!?
Lauren: Gunn almost definitely made PDM more powerful, but considering his back story, it kind of made sense? I mean, I can’t really be mad about it since he’s my favorite. He reminded me a lot of Jubilee of the X-Men in some ways, but far more delightfully depressed.
Kev: Oh… that’s a good comparison!
Lauren: Dastmalchian really brought his all. I struggle with depression and definitely still see ghosts of my trauma everywhere. Seeing that displayed, and it being part of how he harnessed his colorful powers, made me feel seen and understood by both Gunn and Dastmalchian. I could rave about PDM all night!
Eric: The joke about how PDM sees his mother everywhere is such a dark comedy, James Gunn gag.
There are several antagonists in The Suicide Squad, who stood out the most to you?
Kev: For me, it’s Waller.
Lauren: Amanda Waller is a straight-up snake.
Eric: Waller is way more morally ambiguous in The Suicide Squad than she was in the first one. I like this dynamic between her and the rest of the Task Force X team. It’s a more dangerous feeling.
Kev: There have been many interpretations of Waller, and Viola Davis’ is definitely the easiest to love and hate, at the same time.
Lauren: I honestly couldn’t believe that Gunn really went for it with her vileness. I felt like Waller was definitely a metaphor for how the US handles “unpleasant situations”, such as foreign affairs and the prison system, but maybe that was just me?
Kev: Nooo… I totally got that too. I wonder how Waller plays in that sense out of the US? Do we hate her more than, say our UK friends because we live in that world daily?
Lauren: The writing was phenomenal, so I loved her in that sense, but I’d deck her if she was a person I knew in real life!
Kev: Exactly! Which is both a testament to Gunn’s writing and Davis’ performance!
Eric: I think that the first scene where Waller’s aides give nervous glances at each other when she threatened Bloodsport’s daughter says everything about the character and her relationship with everybody else.
Lauren: It kind of makes you wonder if other people in our government want to enact change and stand up for the underprivileged, but can’t because of who their boss is.
Kev: I would love to see this explored more, like a 24 type spin-off that examines Argus and their work, mixed with the drama of Waller crossing lines her team is uncomfortable with??!
Eric: I wonder if that will be followed up in the Peacemaker HBO Max show.
Kev: I hope! Though I don’t know if Davis is in that.
Lauren: I also really appreciated the wokeness in the Corto Maltesians, calling out Flag’s bullshit patriotism. It was an important statement to make, but I worry it didn’t have enough impact because of the moment it was presented in the movie.
Eric: Kinnaman’s Flag is much more enjoyable in this film. He has more of a personality as a staunch patriot… up to a certain point.
Were there any character deaths that got to you?
Lauren: Honestly, the only deaths in the movie that made me sad were Flag and sweet, messy, Weasel.
Eric: Weasel’s death is the most laugh-out-loud death for me.
Kev: I feel like this movie is ripe for Peacemaker-type spin-offs and I need a Weasel origin story. Like 10 to 13 episodes exploring Weasel.
Eric: It can be about Weasel exploring Corte Maltese. It’s funny because nobody even anticipated that he couldn’t swim. But it’s cool because he’s fine in the end.
Lauren: See, to me it was funny, but also very revealing about how messed up the whole mission and team were from the very beginning. Like, if nobody checks that he can’t swim, how little else do they know about the team?
Eric: Yeah, Waller doesn’t brief Flag on his team at all. She really set him up for failure…
Kev: Totally. Making Argus look terrible… like they don’t care about actual human (err or whatever) life.
Lauren: Team A was definitely just bait, and it really revealed Waller’s lack of humanity.
Kev: I was so p!$$ed that Team A was bait.
Lauren: Honestly, same. I really enjoyed Javelin in the brief time we had him as well.
Kev: I loved how he kind of lived on through Harley though.
Lauren: Oh, absolutely. She carried his legacy, and his javelin was the key for any of them making it to the end.
Why was Waller okay with Starro living?
Lauren: I didn’t entirely understand why she was OK with it. Like, yes project starfish was covered up, and Corto Maltese could fall, but Starro and his minions would have found their way off the island eventually, and then what would have happened to the world?
Eric: Waller had a short-sighted goal. She probably barely considered the possibility of Starro becoming a bigger threat.
Kev: I guess she thought the Justice League could handle it?!!
Eric: Or she thought that she can just nuke Corte Maltese. She’s arrogant enough to do that.
Kev: Oh… you’re right. That’s Waller 100%.
Lauren: This is the real tea right here!
What other characters from The Suicide Squad would you like to see get the Peacemaker spin-off treatment for HBO Max?
Lauren: Justice for Weasel. I’d also be interested to see Bloodsport come back and have a super aggressive standoff with Peacemaker like “why the [email protected](# ain’t you dead?” I also really want to see how Waller treats Peacemaker after he “failed” his mission.
Eric: I want more Bloodsport and Peacemaker antagonism.
Kev: For me, I think PDM or Ratcatcher 2 could have really great spin-off series.
Lauren: If only! I also know that David Dastmalchian adopted a cat from Panama, who has since been dressed up as PDM. I would also enjoy a mini-series about the cat version of PDM. I could also very easily see a King Shark spinoff; a chance to learn so much more about who he is and the whole mythos of his species!
Eric: Wow, I can’t believe we barely talked about King Shark.
Kev: How did we not talk about King Shark!!? That is easily in the top 5 of spin-offs that I want right now!
Lauren: Also, I think it could raise questions about the morality of killing people when he needs meat to live. Is he really a villain, or is he just trying to survive?
Eric: Well… he doesn’t need to eat PEOPLE.
Lauren: Could he just be responsible for carrying out the death penalty? Maybe that could be a career for him? Just make him an executioner and suddenly he’s not so bad a guy *laughs*
Eric: If we’re talking about ethics and King Shark, how is it ethical to hold him in Belle Reve? He clearly doesn’t have the intellectual capacity to understand that he committed a crime!
Kev: The core team each shines in different, yet important ways. King Shark’s story was about friendship! It was an interesting choice for him not to have human-level intelligence.
Lauren: Now you’ve got me on a tailspin thinking about mentally incapable people being locked up. Man, this movie had layers.
What DC Films project would you like to see James Gunn tackle next?
Eric: I think the next best DC property I want to see James Gunn handle is Legion of Superheroes. That franchise has so many weird characters, it’s perfect for Gunn.
Kev: I’ve said this from before he was hired by DC, but I’d love to see his take on Superman.
Eric: Ummm… that would be the movie Brightburn.
Lauren: I’d be interested to see what Gunn could do on a solo DC project. Something really mundane though, and not super hyped. Like the Joker spending time in prison and just monologuing about nothing. I want to see Gunn try and do something lower key and bring his same energy, life, and wit to the project. He’s an excellent filmmaker, but I don’t always have the energy for large ensemble action flicks. He could handle doing something just as clever, but less punchy.
Kev: Eric’s right, Gunn works best with weird! Give me James Gunn’s Booster Gold! It checks all the boxes: solo, weird, lower stakes.
Eric: James Gunn doing Booster Gold would be amazing! Why didn’t I think of that!?!
Kev: I really think it’s meant for him. We need to petition him and DC films to make it happen.
Lauren: I’d also love to see what Gunn could do with horror or thriller movies! If he already has some, please recommend them. I love his humor; I just want different sensations and reactions. *laughs*
Kev: It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but Slither is wonderfully messed up.
Eric: Maybe a hypothetical Doom Patrol movie for Gunn then?
Kev: Oh, that’s good too!
Eric: Then again, the Doom Patrol show is already pretty trippy.
Kev: Yeah… and part of its appeal is that it’s not getting DC Films budgets!!
What are your thoughts on The Thinker?
Lauren: The Thinker was probably the only disappointment in The Suicide Squad, for me.
Kev: I wanted so much more out of Peter Capaldi… not that it was his fault. His performance was great, but the character just didn’t hit the way I wanted him to.
Lauren: Me too. I thought he was going to be part of the team and was super disappointed when he didn’t get to be comedic. He acted the hell out of what he was given though.
Kev: If Capaldi’s Thinker is the worst the film has to offer, that isn’t a bad thing.
Lauren: I couldn’t agree more! His death was also super anti-climactic to me. Dull all around.
Kev: Yes, but I kind of get it… Starro was pissed at this guy.
Lauren: At least he was able to deliver on a super creepy scientist who matched Starro’s eek vibes to a T.
Kev: I think it goes to show that, even as the weakest part of the movie, it still worked on some level.
Lauren: Absolutely. Definitely wasn’t the best part of the film, but even this movie’s worst was better than many others’ bests!
That’s a Wrap!
I want to thank Lauren Fiske and Eric Lee for joining me in what ended up being a late-night discussion on The Suicide Squad. I think it’s safe to say that we all enjoyed the film and that James Gunn’s involvement with the DCEU will hopefully be the catalyst needed to really take off.
The Suicide Squad is still in theaters, and streaming on HBO Max. Be sure to be on the lookout for the film’s spin-off series, Peacemaker hitting the streaming service sometime in January 2022.
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