4K Review: The Suicide Squad Comes Loaded, as All DC Movies Should
Say what you will about James Gunn‘s The Suicide Squad, and there’s plenty to say. Like a patchwork crazy quilt, it has lots of fun shiny things, and other parts that look less appealing. But don’t say the home version lacks anything. While DC movies typically come with maybe an hour of extras and no commentary, all carefully stage-managed, Gunn delivers almost everything a fan could reasonably request in the 4K and Blu-ray package. Never one to be silent about his work, on social media or anywhere else, the writer-director maintains the kind of open communication fans love. And he’s not shy about admitting flaws.
It’s widely known that WB and DC micromanaged the theatrical Justice League and original Suicide Squad to the point that their directors eventually more or less disowned those versions. But since allowing James Wan and Patty Jenkins free reign with Aquaman and Wonder Woman, they gained such auteur confidence that they basically let Gunn do whatever he wanted. In part, that creative freedom looked like a way to stick it to Disney, who briefly fired Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 when some old, bad-taste Twitter jokes resurfaced. But as Gunn makes clear on the commentary, he used the opportunity to try everything he ever wanted to do. He’s equally clear that he knows not all of it works.
Warning: for anyone who has not already seen The Suicide Squad, there will be spoilers ahead.
Ironically for a director who seemingly got “cancelled,” Gunn describes the arc of main character Bloodsport as one of toxic masculinity who eventually learns vulnerability, and to trust the women around him to save the day. It’s a lesson for Gunn as well; the sensitive character moments play better than the extreme violence. Gunn’s movies typically feature female leads who are crazy and/or violent: think Gamora and Nebula in Guardians, or Boltie in Super. Harley Quinn and Amanda Waller still fit that template, but Daniela Melchior’s Ratcatcher 2 is something else. A sensitive, vulnerable figure, she nonetheless turns out to be the strongest in the group and the savior of the day thanks to the love she’s shown in unlikely places.
Perhaps because Gunn has embarked on a path of sensitivity, he’s no longer as shocking as he thinks. He describes Bloodsport and others on the commentary as legitimate bad guys rather than simply misunderstood, but he also frequently demonstrates himself stopping short of making them terrible. Even Harley slitting a throat concerns him as being too callous. Compared to, say, Homelander and Stormfront on The Boys, however, they’re practically Mister Rogers.
Which means the movie never quite generates the uncomfortable, “I can’t believe they did that” audacity laughs it craves. Because we can believe it. Despite Gunn’s protestations to the contrary, it’s not hard to guess who survives. He may think he’s shocking us by killing off the two major characters besides Harley who carry over from David Ayer’s film. But did anyone not expect he’d dispatch the carry-over characters, given how much everyone involved wanted distance from that film? Ironically, of course, it remains the bigger hit of the two. After all, the first one had Will Smith, Batman, and the Joker. Also, if Warner Bros. really told him he could kill Margot Robbie’s Harley if he wanted, they were either lying or fools.
A couple of the deleted scenes feel like they got sadly clipped for being too edgy. In one, Harley, meets the friendly palace staff and announces her plans for playing with them as if they were Barbie dolls. These include casual death sentences and literal head swaps. Gunn concedes he likes his Harley a little less sociopathic than Robbie does. Another makes the viewer briefly think King Shark ate two children. It turns out he just went away with them to play with toy cars. But even the fear might have been too much. Peter Capaldi’s Thinker actually gets to use his thinking prowess in a couple more scenes, and the reason for the bandage on his ear is revealed.
Various featurettes spotlight the team, Gunn’s directing style, the use of Starro, and the costumes. Several scenes get their own dedicated mini-documentaries, one of which — Harley’s escape sequence — is on the 4K disc. A gag reel already leaked to YouTube features actual gags and swears, rather than the usual Marvel “show people dancing between takes” tame montages. Comics creator John Ostrander shows up to get his due. Three alternate trailers portraying the movie as a war film, buddy comedy, and a horror movie round out the extras. Plus, on Movies Anywhere, there’s a bonus King Shark “music video.”
Hearing Gunn say on the commentary that he tried everything he wanted, including drastically varying tones and styles from scene to scene, makes the movie’s choices more understandable. The inability to find a consistent tone ultimately detracts from the movie, but understanding why helps the viewer look at all the weird stuff it does pull off. The 4K presentation isn’t perfect, with occasional dodgy CG moments involving rats and King Shark. But on the whole, it pulls off that yellowed smoker ’70s filter effect over an ultra-clean image. Gunn calls the movie a relaxing experience, yet the extras make it clear that his hair turned white between wrapping the movie and actually putting it out.
Oh, and according to the director, Nathan Fillion’s TDK is still canonically alive. Make of that what you will.
Not every disc makes its rewatches worthwhile. By contextualizing all the choices and breaking down the production, The Suicide Squad shows everyone how to do it.
Movie grade: 3/5
4K/Blu-ray grade: 4.5/5
The Suicide Squad is now available on Blu-ray, 4K, and digital.
Recommended Reading: Suicide Squad Vol. 1: Trial by Fire
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