As film fans, there’s always a handful of films that we allow to pass us by. This isn’t usually a comment on their quality or our willingness to enjoy them – sometimes, we’re just a little late to the party.

James Gunn’s first contribution to the DCEU was yet another victim of its release date. Falling foul of the pandemic, The Suicide Squad managed to fly under the radar for many, primarily because the landscape of cinema was still in tatters upon its release. As a result, the film wasn’t the success it probably would have otherwise been – although it did still make something of a splash.

Despite its title connecting it to David Ayer’s Suicide Squad and it sharing a few characters with its predecessor, The Suicide Squad is an incredibly different beast. Gunn managed to work in some of the first film’s quirkiness and recapture the spirit of the movie – essentially, villains having fun and doing a little good as a happy side effect – while simultaneously reworking everything that didn’t land in the original. Gone are the majority of Suicide Squad‘s characters (with some of those that did survive unceremoniously killed in the film’s opening scenes), and in their place Gunn introduces a wave of new villains: some are more sympathetic than others, but they’re all written to be interesting and to contribute to The Suicide Squad‘s more comedic tone.

The Suicide Squad makes excellent use of Gunn’s established formula. Injecting comedy into every aspect of what could otherwise be an over-serious plot and exploring a cast of colorful characters while making use of a somewhat bizarre sense of humor worked for Guardians of the Galaxy, and it works for The Suicide Squad. Gunn’s talent for catering to the whims of modern movie-goers cannot be understated, because he absolutely nails the formula for a superhero blockbuster: the stakes are high, the characters are quirky, and the action set pieces are plentiful.

Another key element of The Suicide Squad is its excellent cast. With a large ensemble of villains working together for the greater good, a cast with good comedic and dramatic chemistry was crucial, and it’s something that’s been delivered perfectly. John Cena as Peacemaker is by far one of the best castings of recent years, particularly as he’s so comedically gifted. The Suicide Squad makes good use of Margot Robbie and Idris Elba, with David Dastmalchian, Daniela Melchior, Peter Capaldi, and Joel Kinnaman all contributing brilliantly to the overall cast dynamic. Throw in a number of high-profile cameos from Michael Rooker, Nathan Fillion, and Pete Davidson, and The Suicide Squad features a truly staggering number of gifted actors.

The Suicide Squad‘s plot is a little by-the-numbers, but a liberal dose of comedy helps to keep things exciting. The use of regular well-timed action sequences also buoys the film’s pace, keeping things feeling light and enjoyable. What’s more, Gunn’s willingness to kill characters makes The Suicide Squad particularly interesting, because it truly feels as though no-one is safe, and the end result is all the better for it.

By far one of the best entries into the DCEU, The Suicide Squad works not by merit of featuring or referring to iconic characters, but simply by good writing and acting. The story it tells isn’t the most gripping, but its characters are both hilarious and compelling, and that makes it a deeply enjoyable film. James Gunn’s fingerprints are all over The Suicide Squad, and they seem to indicate a marked improvement for the DCEU – if his talents are further employed, it’s possible that the franchise can finally move away from the shaky ground it’s been on since its very beginnings.

Rating: 80%

Summary: A masterclass in how to deliver an action-packed and comedically-charged comic book movie, James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad is a marked improvement for the DCEU.

Highlight: Any of Peacemaker’s significant moments in the film were perfectly executed by John Cena, making him something of a stand-out.