Mr. Corman, The Suicide Squad, and Princess Mononoke

Victor lies on top of Josh on the floor of their apartment
Courtesy of Apple TV+

Welcome to What’s the Buzz, where members of our staff provide you with recommendations on a weekly basis. This week, Hawk Ripjaw gets excited about The Suicide Squad, Caemeron Crain recommends checking our Mr. Corman on Apple TV+, and Hal Kitchen sings the praises of Princess Mononoke.

The Suicide Squad

Hawk: The Suicide Squad. Oh my god, The Suicide Squad! Since the announcement that James Gunn would be at the helm of a reimagining of DC’s eponymous gang of expendable Z-grade misfits, I was absolutely glued to any and all updates and production details on the project. And oh, boy, did my anticipation pay off.

The Suicide Squad does everything as advertised: big action, graphic violence, vulgar jokes. Gunn’s Troma roots absolutely sing in how the movie’s insane personality manifests, resulting in an extremely satisfying balance of comic book mayhem and outrageous imagination. The fact that a $180 million R-rated comic book movie features a villain who is a gigantic Lovecraftian hive-mind starfish is absolutely crazy, and Gunn is just the man to do it.

The most distinct element of The Suicide Squad, however, and the ingredient that makes it possibly the very best DCEU entry so far, is its heart. A walking, talking shark, a troubled girl that can summon rats and a man who can fire destructive colored polka dots are given development and humanity to the point that you’re actively concerned for their survival. Ratcatcher 2 in particular is given ample room to explain her backstory, supplemented with beautifully realized visual storytelling. To boot, a flashback in the climax in which her father (Taika Waititi, welcome as always), emphasizes the importance of even the most hated of beings (rats) having worth. It’s an absolutely terrific moment that cements the reminder that anyone—particularly the weird, damaged, afterthought human beings that comprise the Squad—deserves to be seen as more than just their power, or their trauma.

The ultimate slam dunk of Gunn’s take on the Squad is how well he balances the movie’s gonzo tone with heartfelt character moments. A scene that has the Squad partying in a club and cutting loose a little bit is intecut with a miserable and lonely King Shark sitting in the back of the team’s bus, unable to properly integrate with society and spend time with his new friends. The movie’s ability to slow down and emphasize how its characters feel and interact with their own identities is a major factor in coming to love them. Hell, even Starro, the monstrous world-ending starfish, is given a moment of pathos that adds surprising context to their backstory.

Finally, the music choices are absolutely terrific. The 2016 movie went whole hog on its licensed soundtrack, at times swapping between songs in a matter of minutes, and the song in question barely related to the events on screen. Gunn’s attempt has much more thoughtful and exciting collection of songs ranging from The Decemberists, to the Pixies, to Culture Abuse. The latter especially contributes to an overwhelming sense of emotional release in the final moments of the movie, and is absolutely satisfying.

There were a lot of factors contributing to The Suicide Squad’s low box office numbers, but hopefully the HBO Max viewership and overwhelmingly positive word of mouth will allow Gunn to move forward with additional movies if he so chooses. Like Guardians of the Galaxy and even some of Gunn’s other movies like Super and Slither, the man has an incredibly steady hand on portraying flawed, discarded characters deserving of love. I loved this movie.

Written by TV Obsessive

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