Release Date(s)2021 (October 26, 2021)
Studio(s)DC Films/Warner Bros Pictures (Warner Home Video)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B
After James Gunn was temporarily removed from developing the third Guardians of the Galaxy film over some tasteless comments that he had tweeted years ago, he jumped ship from Marvel to DC to write and direct The Suicide Squad instead, which was both a sequel and a soft reboot to David Ayers’ financially successful but critically reviled 2016 supervillain team-up. On paper, at least, that looked like a home run: Gunn exploring the same dysfunctional extended family dynamic as the Guardians films, but with a return to the R-rated gross-out violence and humor from his Troma days, as well as his earlier films like Super and Slither. Instead, the results seem to prove how difficult that it is to go back to the farm after you’ve seen Paree.
Ironically, the tweets that got Gunn in trouble with Disney and Marvel demonstrate why. Gunn issued an apology for them, even though he had already apologized years previously. (The fact that those tweets were already old news when Marvel hired Gunn the first time raises fair questions about their motives for firing him later, but that’s another story.) In his apology—apologies, to be precise—Gunn noted that he was trying to be edgy when he was younger, but he’s grown since then. That appears to be a true statement, because the edgy humor in The Suicide Squad feels more forced than it was in Gunn’s earlier films. It seems like it just doesn’t come as naturally to him anymore.
The other problem is that the family dynamic from the Guardians films doesn’t translate as well into the world of The Suicide Squad, and so that seems somewhat strained here as well. The second Guardians film was just as loud and overstuffed as The Suicide Squad is, but it never lost its heart in the process. Even the ostensibly villainous Yondu had a touching character arc, and his unconventional relationship with Rocket proved oddly affecting. So the problem here isn’t necessarily that the characters in The Suicide Squad are “the bad guys,” but rather something else. Perhaps Gunn was working too hard at trying to be edgy again, and didn’t put enough effort into doing what he does best now.
None of that is to say that The Suicide Squad is a bad film; far from it. The issue is that it tries to find a middle ground between the two extremes of Gunn’s career, and as a result, it doesn’t do either of them justice. It’s amusing enough, even though the lack of any real emotional resonance means that it’s also somewhat forgettable. For a film that features Sylvester Stallone playing a talking shark, and Starro going on a kaiju rampage, calling it forgettable is not exactly a ringing endorsement. Yet it’s also not the worst thing in the world. There’s still a place for this kind of empty fun, even though Gunn is capable of so much more. Now that Marvel has hired him back, we’ll see where he goes with the third Guardians film—hopefully he’s learned a few lessons along the way.
Cinematographer Henry Braham shot The Suicide Squad digitally at both 6K and 8K resolutions, using Red Komodo IMAX, Red Ranger Monstro IMAX, and Red Weapon Monstro IMAX cameras, with Leitz Thalia and M 0.8 lenses as well as Angenieux Optimo Ultra 12x lenses. The film was finished as a 4K Digital Intermediate, framed at the digital IMAX aspect ratio of 1.90:1. For this Ultra HD release, Warner Bros has provided HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision options. The image is absolutely razor sharp and finely detailed, right from the opening moments in the prison where you can make out the fine denim weave in the orange jumpsuits—in the closeup of Michael Rooker’s hand holding the rubber ball, check out the fabric on his pants leg. All of the textures are beautifully resolved, including the clothing, hair, beards, sand, and much more. Braham didn’t add any effects to mimic the look of film, so it’s nothing but pure and detailed imagery from beginning to end. The HDR grade gives strong contrast with deep black levels, and brilliant highlights when appropriate, such as the explosions during the beach assault. The production design tends toward drab earth tones, such as browns and grays for many of the sets, which let the bright colors of the costumes stand out in sharp relief—it’s the characters who provide the color, in more ways than one. There’s a lot of variation to those colors, with Starro in particular becoming the poster child for Wide Color Gamut. This is a gorgeous transfer for a sometimes deliberately ugly film.
Primary audio is offered in English Dolby Atmos (7.1 Dolby TrueHD compatible). It’s a suitably aggressive track, with gunfire, rockets, and even boomerangs flying in all directions. The bass from explosions is deep, with plenty of dynamic impact. There’s also a suitable rumble from Starro stomping through the city. The overheads are used throughout the film to increase the immersion, including the sounds of the jungle, rain, thunder, and other such effects. The Suicide Squad was the first time that Gunn worked with composer John Murphy (28 Days Later), and the score perfectly supports the images.
Additional audio options include English, French, Italian, Spanish (Spain), Spanish (Latin America), Hindi, Hungarian, Polish, Tamil, and Telegu 5.1 Dolby Digital; Italian 5.1 Dolby Atmos; and English Descriptive Audio, with both US and UK options. Subtitle options include English SDH, French, Italian, Spanish (Spain), Spanish (Latin America), Danish, Finnish, Greek, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, and Swedish.
Warner Bros’ Ultra HD release for The Suicide Squad is a 2-Disc set that includes a Blu-ray copy, a Digital code on a paper insert, and a slipcover. With a couple of exceptions, the bulk of the extras are on the Blu-ray only:
DISC ONE (UHD)
- Audio Commentary by James Gunn
- Harley's Great Escape (4K SDR – 7:17)
DISC TWO (BD)
- Audio Commentary by James Gunn
- Deleted & Extended Scenes (HD – 17:27)
- Gag Reel (HD – 10:23)
- Bringing King Shark to Life (HD – 5:40)
- Gotta Love the Squad (HD – 11:37)
- The Way of the Gunn (HD – 7:50)
- Scene Breakdowns: It’s a Suicide Mission (HD – 6:37)
- Scene Breakdowns: My Gun’s Bigger Than Yours (HD – 5:44)
- Scene Breakdowns: Harley’s Great Escape (HD – 7:16)
- Scene Breakdowns: The Fall of Jotunheim (HD – 5:38)
- Starro: It’s a Freakin’ Kaiju! (HD – 6:17)
- War Movie Retro Trailer (HD – 3:24)
- Horror Movie Retro Trailer (HD – 1:23)
- Buddy-Cop Retro Trailer (HD – 1:17)
Gunn opens up his commentary by explaining how he always intends to take notes before he starts recording, but ends up doing everything off the cuff anyway. That’s not really an issue, because he never runs out of things to say in this lively track. He talks about all of the actors and the characters that they play, and points out which parts were improvised, as he says that’s what people on Twitter always want to know. (Surprisingly for a cast that includes Michael Rooker and Nathan Fillion, Gunn says that John Cena was the best improviser on set.) He talks about the crew as well, who he considers to be family, and also spends plenty of time on the production itself. Gunn’s fans should have a good time with this commentary.
There are a total of eight different deleted scenes, most of which don’t add any essential information. There’s an explanation for why Rick Flagg was included in the first mission, and a couple of moments that give Margot Robbie a bit more time to do her schtick as Harley. The Gag Reel arguably has more real laughs in it than the entire film put together. Bringing King Shark to Life is a quick look at the process of creating the CGI King Shark, focusing on Gunn’s use of performance capture rather than motion capture. (Gunn’s friend Steve Agee, who played John Economos in the film, also performed King Shark on set.) Sylvester Stallone gives his own thoughts about how much he enjoyed providing the voice. Gotta Love the Squad covers writer John Ostrander’s original run for the Suicide Squad comics, and how it influenced the film—Gunn says that he considers the film to be a sequel to the comics more than anything else. (Ostrander has a cameo as Dr. Fitzgibbon during the opening sequence with Michael Rooker.) The Way of the Gunn features members of the cast and crew talking about working with the director, including Gunn’s brother Sean, who did the performance capture for Weasel and is also briefly glimpsed as Calendar Man.
The Scene Breakdowns focus on some of the major set pieces in the film: the opening beach assault, the attack on the rebel camp, Harley’s escape from General Suarez’s lair, and the mass destruction during the finale in Jotunheim. None of them offer very much depth, but they do provide interesting glimpses at the giant beach set that was built for the film, as well as the massive dump tanks used for the flooding scene. Starro: It’s a Freakin’ Kaiju! says it all right in the title, and while it also doesn’t provide much detail, it does show how they created an iPad app that allowed them to see how Starro would look in each shot while on the set—a lo-fi solution to the difficult problem of visualizing effects work during principal photography.
The Suicide Squad may not be James Gunn at his best, but Gunn at his worst is still a fascinating filmmaker. There’s enough here to maintain interest, and regardless of how you may feel about the film itself, the Warner Bros UHD release is demo-worthy quality.
- Stephen Bjork
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