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‘The Suicide Squad’ Exit Survey

DC’s superteam of villains returned with a new director and a mostly new cast. So did the 2021 version redeem the 2016 version?

DC Entertainment/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

After the release of 2016’s Suicide Squad, no one wanted a sequel. But five years, a new director, and a new cast later, The Suicide Squad hit theaters and HBO Max on Friday. It’s not quite a sequel—more like a reboot—but in the wake of such a disaster, the bar was high for director James Gunn and his ragtag team of supervillains. Was The Suicide Squad able to pull it off? We asked some people that very question (and several more).

1. What is your tweet-length review of The Suicide Squad?

Alison Herman: The first Suicide Squad gave me a hangover. This Suicide Squad is some hair of the dog.

Miles Surrey: My DCEU > MCU take grows stronger with each release.

John Gonzalez: Someone really should have checked to see whether the Weasel could swim.

Arjuna Ramgopal: The Suicide Squad proves that superhero movies can and should be weird and fun, and try new shit.

Jomi Adeniran: It wasn’t Suicide Squad (2016), so that’s a W in my book.

2. What was the best moment of the film?

Surrey: “I don’t like to kill people, but if I pretend they’re my mom, it’s easy.”

Adeniran: Peacemaker and Bloodsport’s dick measuring contest in the resistance camp was hilarious, and Bloodsport’s emphatic acknowledgement of Peacemaker’s win made it even funnier.

Ramgopal: There’s something really touching about Nanaue (King Shark) in the little aquarium area at the top of Jötunheim, admiring the fish and gleefully laughing as they follow him. Can you imagine watching Sylvester Stallone in the recording booth making those heart-warming chuckles and sounds?! Iconic.

Herman: Harley Quinn’s dalliance with a dictator made me feel like I was rewatching Birds of Prey—which is what I wished I was doing the whole time anyway.

Gonzalez: So many candidates, including all things Harley Quinn, Polka-Dot Man (“I turned them into my mother in my head and killed them”) and King Shark (he was right—the shark mustache was a great disguise). But the winner here is every exchange between Bloodsport and Peacemaker—up to, including, and especially when the former gives the latter the finger and the latter makes a jerk-off motion while they’re busy killing a bunch of people that it turns out didn’t need killing. That’s just good family fun.

3. What was your least favorite part of the movie?

Herman: Being asked to memory-wipe the 2016 movie (and give the 2021 version brownie points for figuring out basic stuff like “tone” that should’ve been obvious the first time).

Adeniran: The movie needed about 25 percent more Viola Davis. She was great in her spots, but I would have loved to have seen more of her in the film.

Surrey: The copious on-the-nose needle drops—Cruella has competition!—and pain inflicted on birds, of all creatures, was a bit much. Then again, “a bit much” comes with the territory of a James Gunn production.

Ramgopal: As a huge Whovian, watching Peter Capaldi get ripped to pieces was … disturbing.

Gonzalez: John Cena’s squiggly biceps veins. They’re a lot.

Jessica Miglio

4. Who is the MVP of The Suicide Squad?

Surrey: Probably the best endorsement of the film is that there are many worthy candidates to choose from. But I’ll go with Viola Davis, who is somehow the most terrifying part of a movie in which she shares screen time with a man-eating shark and a giant starfish from outer space. (The fact that Davis looks visibly annoyed at having to even be in The Suicide Squad is just the icing on the cake.)

Gonzalez: Peacemaker, for this exchange:

“If this whole beach was completely covered in dicks and someone said I had to eat every dick until the beach is clean for liberty I would say no problemo.”

“Why would someone put penises all over the beach?”

“Who knows why mad men do what they do?”

Herman: Margot Robbie is the boring if obvious answer, so I’ll give my vote to Idris Elba for stepping into Will Smith’s shoes and not instantly falling flat on his face.

Ramgopal: Ratcatcher 2 (and our little rat pal Sebastian) stole just about every scene, but Idris Elba’s Bloodsport was the leader of the team and really helped everyone become their best … even if just about everyone else died. Elba’s Heimdall in the Thor movies has been underutilized, to say the least, so it’s nice to see him really shining with more opportunity. Everyone had great moments, but I’m not sure it would work without Bloodsport leading the way.

Adeniran: I’d watch Idris Elba hesitate to pet a rat 10 times out of 10.

5. This movie takes the term “Suicide Squad” much more literally—which team member’s termination was the most shocking?

Herman: I thought Pete Davidson was famous enough by now to last at least 20 minutes!

Surrey: Tough beat for the returning Captain Boomerang, especially when Jai Courtney’s performance was one of the few things that worked in the original Suicide Squad. But bringing back one of the original members of the team and immediately killing him off was a great way to establish that all bets were off.

Gonzalez: Mine doesn’t quite qualify as a “team member’s termination,” but in terms of my honest WTF reaction in the moment: the goddamn movie opens with Michael Rooker’s Savant—rocking a killer long-hair-and-orange-Crocs combo, for what it’s worth—killing a small bird with a racquetball for reasons that still surpass understanding. (I did however enjoy the almost immediate … let’s call it “bird-brained revenge.” That was a nice touch.)

Ramgopal: Rick Flag’s death at the hands of Peacemaker in the last third of the movie got me. Flag arguably had the biggest transformation between Suicide Squad and The Suicide Squad—he was one of the best characters and was super likable. I was sad to see him bite the dust at the end, as it really felt like Gunn and Co. had unlocked a great performance in Joel Kinnaman.

Adeniran: Rick Flag’s death was very surprising. I figured he was safe along with Harley and Bloodsport but NOPE. It’s a shame too, he was a really fun part of the movie.

6. Choose your Gunn: Guardians of the Galaxy or The Suicide Squad?

Adeniran: James Gunn (The Suicide Squad) has the ball with five seconds left … four seconds … He pulls up from way down town …


Final score: James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) 123, James Gunn (The Suicide Squad) 45

Ramgopal: Guardians of the Galaxy was something wholly unique to the superhero genre at the time. Gunn, a relative unknown, took a fairly obscure property and turned it into one of the most thoroughly enjoyable movie experiences of the era. As great as The Suicide Squad is, it’s neither the first R-rated superhero movie nor the first time a Suicide Squad movie has been made. While it’s amazing and perhaps the best DCEU movie, it owes a lot to Guardians of the Galaxy.

Herman: Just because Gunn is ripping off himself doesn’t make The Suicide Squad any less of a ripoff.

Gonzalez: Entering the movie, I figured this would be an easy victory for Guardians. Now I’m super torn. The Suicide Squad was much better and funnier than anticipated. We need to settle this with a dance off, bro.

Surrey: Neither. I choose Scooby-Doo and Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed Gunn, because the Scooby Gang is his best group of oddball heroes. (Real heads know ... and share the Scooby Snacks.)

7. Has this movie successfully rehabilitated the Suicide Squad franchise?

Herman: Birds of Prey already salvaged Margot Robbie’s Harley, which was the only part of it worth saving.

Ramgopal: 1,000 percent yes. The characters and journey of the 2021 flick are so much more impactful and memorable. I need more of it—and I certainly did not feel that way after seeing the 2016 version.

Adeniran: Simply put, now there’s actually a good Suicide Squad live-action film! Will audiences demand more? Maybe—we’ll see how many F-list DC villains Warner Bros. can scoop from the bottom of the barrel to die unceremoniously in a sequel.

Surrey: Yes, but at the same time, it probably closes the door on a follow-up—and not just because the sequel-cum-reboot racked up a huge body count. But I’m certain we’ll see Harley Quinn popping up in future DCEU projects like a glorified utility player, because Margot Robbie’s just so damn good at this.

Gonzalez: That movie was so extremely dumb—please make 100 more.

8. What are your hopes for the upcoming HBO Max series Peacemaker?

Herman: That they hire the writers of Harley Quinn, the best DC show on that (or any) platform.

Gonzalez: High. Give me all the John Cena in his tighty-whitey, beach-dick-eating glory.

Surrey: Expectations are fairly high? Gunn is intimately involved in the making of the series, and The Suicide Squad knew how to use Cena way better than the other blockbuster he starred in this summer, F9, because he was allowed to have a sense of humor.

Ramgopal: I’ll be honest, I’m not excited for the show. I don’t love that they walked back his death and I’m not sure how a Peacemaker show works without Idris Elba’s Bloodsport coming back. Wouldn’t this guy want revenge on the guy who tried to kill him? I’m just not sure there’s much more after the events of The Suicide Squad that I want to see from Peacemaker.

Adeniran: John Cena being an unbearable tool ordinarily wouldn’t seem like fun, but after this movie, I’m ready for all of it.