James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad Provides A Blueprint For What DCEU Movies Could Be

Dept. of Corto-Maltesios... Maltezels?


James Gunn’s outrageous The Suicide Squad finally arrives in cinemas in Malaysia this week, with a reputation almost as bad as some of its members. The film was already available on HBO Max (via VPN) for a time, and via other more dubious sources, but despite the its status as a box office bomb, not only is it a worthy entry in Gunn’s great and gruesome oeuvre, and a far more enjoyable DC movie than David Ayer’s 2016 mess, but it’s also a blueprint for what DCEU movies could be.

Before I explain why, here are the answers to the two burning questions you probably came here for:

Q: Has The Suicide Squad’s blend of weird, bloody, and funny survived the path to Malaysian screens intact? Has it been censored much?
A: While there have been cuts made, you needn’t worry too much as the film still makes plenty of sense (see below for more).

Q: If you’ve avoided the film, and the accompanying spoilers so far, should you go see it?
A: Yes! A resounding yes!

Now back to my point.

A Whole New World

The Suicide Squad Malaysia

A sequel in name only to Ayer’s previous attempt, in The Suicide Squad, Gunn takes a cast of obscure characters, grafts almost entirely new characters onto their paper bones and puts them in a story that revisits some of his favourite plot points. You’ll find all your Gunn favourites here, like the importance of found family, dealing with familial trauma, owning up to personal responsibilities, and facing the lies we tell ourselves.

To use just one member of the Squad as an example of Gunn’s approach, consider Idris Elba’s Bloodsport. His exasperated swearing at the weirdness of his teammates, and the indignities he’s forced to suffer, gets funnier and funnier on each viewing.

Apart from one glorious example in the films climax, Gunn isn’t particularly interested in trying to reproduce iconic DC comic characters on screen in a way that suits everyone. (As we all very well know, this usually ends up pleasing no one). He has a story he wants to tell, some points he wants to hit, and none of them are the modern day equivalent of having Superman fight a giant spider in the third act.

Apart from an affinity with weapons and killing, Bloodsport’s abilities are never really gone into in any great detail, except through what you see him doing. What’s the deal with his armour? Where did he get it? Did he build it? Steal it? Why is there a skull on the bottom of his helmet? Why does he have a helmet at all? What’s with the nanotech bullshit?

It Doesn’t Matter

The Suicide Squad Malaysia

Forget all of that. None of it matters. Bloodsport looks like that because it’s fucking cool. Seriously, this is one of the coolest movie costumes in quite a while, and despite being CGI enhanced, there are still plenty of practical elements, like the crossbows in his gauntlets and pistols embedded everywhere, that make it feel “real.”

Everything you need to know about this suit is shown to you in action. No one ever talks about it. Bloodsport drops enough hints about his father to explain his own skills and that’s led him to have a weapon, or gadget, ready for every conceivable occasion. Right up until the moment he doesn’t. And that’s when he has to rely on someone else – something he’s never done before.

This applies to almost every character. John Cena’s Peacemaker and Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag highlight different aspects of the military hero. Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) has the opposite of Bloodsport’s daddy issues, providing a sweet counterpoint to his problems, while The Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) adds another flavour of parental dysfunction. Most importantly though, none of them resolve their issues by fighting their actual father figures. Meanwhile, Margot Robbie’s doesn’t deal with any of that, but still gets to continue her journey from Birds of Prey.

And Nanaue? No Father issues there. King Shark is just awesome.

Squad vs. Shang-Chi

The Suicide Squad Malaysia

It’s interesting that The Suicide Squad now opens alongside Shang Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings in Malaysian cinemas. Despite the massively inflated cast of Gunn’s film compared to Destin Daniel Cretton’s, I feel like I got to know The Suicide Squad far better than the cast of Marvel’s Asian actioner. Again mostly though the action of the characters.

What do we learn from the first fight in Shang-Chi? Shang-Chi is a great fighter and Awkwafina didn’t know this. Contrast this with the camp assault in The Suicide Squad, which turns into a dick measuring contest between Peacemaker and Bloodsport. While superficially similar military characters, a point brought up early in the film and paid off beautifully later, their differences are highlighted as they vie to outdo each other for the coolest kill. The scene showcases their distaste for each other and establishes their particular skill sets and weapons for the audience, so they can be reused later in the film.

Even the climax to both films show contrasting approaches to handling similar scenes. Without going into spoilers for either, both films feature a fight with an enemy far bigger than our heroes which, heaven knows, is a challenge to portray convincingly at the best of times. How should you pit your human sized heroes against a giant creature that towers over them?

The Suicide Squad use everything we’ve seen them do throughout the movie (in one case using something one of them has literally carried with them from the opening of the film) to take on their opponent in the packed streets of Corto Maltese. They use the buildings for cover and to gain height on their opponent, and the action takes place in broad daylight.

Contrast this with Shang-Chi, which not only complicates things further by having our heroes face a flying enemy (Spoilers: Shang-Chi can’t really fly), but it puts a bloody big body of water in between them and their adversary. The result is that Shang-Chi mostly fights his enemy though the use of muddy CGI.

Gunn’s climax, while equally impressive, builds its spectacle around things that its heroes can nearly do, with just a light dusting of movie magic required to suspend belief.

Post Mission Lessons Learned

The Suicide Squad Malaysia

Unfortunately, the wrong lessons will probably be taken from The Suicide Squad.

With regards to the box office, most commentators seems to have disregarded the impact of a global pandemic on the willingness of people to sit together in a crowded theatre. Studio executives will probably learn not to green light more films like this, you know, ones that take their source material and actually try to build on it in new and interesting ways.

As with Alan Moore’s Watchmen, many upcoming comic book adaptations will probably take the wrong message and just add more exploding heads and swear words, entirely missing the point.

Don’t tell more stories like this one. Tell different types of stories in this genre.  

Gunn had a story he wanted to tell. On my second watch, the climax of The Suicide Squad affected me so much, not because it reminded me of some comic book moment from decades ago, but because of these characters we’ve gotten to know to know in this film. 

Is The Suicide Squad Censored in Malaysia?

Having already seen the film on HBO Max I can confirm that have been some cuts made to The Suicide Squad for Malaysia, either by the censor or the distributor, but they don’t ruin the film by any means.

Some particularly graphic kills have been lost, including a man exploding from the inside out, but other cuts are more baffling. A CGI depiction of a heart being stabbed is gone, as is a brief scene of someone giving the finger to a computer screen, and at least one instance of “fucking dickhead” has been cut. The rest of the swearing still remains. AND THERE IS A LOT OF IT.

What’s weird is how much hasn’t been cut. There are still plenty of gruesome(ly funny) deaths. That guy still gets shot in the face and the beach covered with dicks scene remains, thankfully, intact.

If you can put up with that, The Suicide Squad is still more than worth seeing in the cinema in Malaysia, if only to witness the glory of its “five star villain” on the big screen.

The Suicide Squad is now showing in Malaysian cinemas

Irish Film lover lost in Malaysia. Co-host of Malaysia's longest running podcast (movie related or otherwise ) McYapandFries and frequent cryer in movies. Ask me about "The Ice Pirates"

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