TThe Suicide Squad starts out roughly as you might expect. On the way to the island nation of Corto Maltese, we are introduced to the members of a revamped Task Force X, a motley crew of super (anti) heroes gathered for a covert mission at the behest of the shady US intelligence agency Argus. These are new faces, but we recognize them anyway: there’s the cocky joker, the pretty boy, the taciturn older figure – familiar guides to seeing us through another team-based superhero movie.
Or so we think.
Before the opening credits, most of these newcomers are wiped out in a brutally comic orgy of violence, their faces replaced by sticky bullet holes, their heads exploded by bomb implants, their bodies atomized in a burning helicopter. All the observant Argus agents can think of is placing bets on who will die next.
The Suicide Squad is not your daddy’s superhero movie. Bloodthirsty and generously unholy, James Gunn’s hardcore reprise of Suicide Squad from 2016 wouldn’t have seemed possible even five years ago, when the equally violent and irreverent Deadpool was made for a relatively hesitant $ 58 million (reportedly, The Suicide Squad cost around $ 175 million.) ). But the success of Deadpool, along with its sequel and X-Men spinoff Logan, proved that an audience that grew up on a constant diet of PG comic books was ready for the F-bombs and bloody beheadings, and for have your expectations challenged. The Suicide Squad doubles down on oaths and blood, and like its R-rated cousins, it strives to defy the conventions of a now-well-established genre.
Ridiculing mismatched superhero teams of its kind, The Suicide Squad features characters with essentially useless powers like Nathan Fillion’s TDK, whose detachable limbs can do little more than tickle baddies from a distance; pokes fun at the ubiquity of troubled mommy and daddy superheroes, with David Dastmalchian’s Polka-Dot Man seeing his detested mother in the faces of all his enemies, including the skyscraper-sized celestial starfish that is the main antagonist of The Suicide Squad; then there’s John Cena’s Peacemaker, who’s poised to kill absolutely everyone in the name of freedom, and he plays as a more extreme version (just a bit) of every caped superpatriot who ever appeared on a comic book cover.
As deliberately goofy as it usually is, The Suicide Squad is proof that the superhero movie is starting to mature. It’s not just the growing taste for violence and sex (one of the funniest scenes in The Suicide Squad finds Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn falling in love with lust with Corto Maltese’s handsome dictator); the genre is now reflecting and commenting on itself. And while this makes a movie like Gunn’s, and like Deadpool and Logan before it, feel fresh, it could also be evidence that the superhero genre has entered its late stage.
Beginning with X-Men in 2000 and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man in 2002, the superhero movie has grown over the past two decades to become a Hollywood obsession. In recent years, as mid-budget movies disappeared and original blockbusters became increasingly rare, studios have started betting on their extended comic book universes. Meanwhile, commentators and some top filmmakers (including most famously Martin Scorsese) have lamented the cultural dominance of superhero franchises at the expense of just about everything else. As Marvel plans its next phases in 2026 and beyondIt could almost seem like the on-screen golden age of the superhero will never end. Like James Gunn himself admitsHowever, no genre remains popular forever.
The musical, the epic, the romantic comedy have all enjoyed their day in the sun as a reliable box office giveaway. Once upon a time, the Westerner ruled. For years western movies and TV shows were produced with such regularity that it might have seemed like the stream of cowboy content would never end. As the fan base grew, the genre just evolved. The spaghetti western replaced the traditional ‘white hat’ with the anti-hero and then, beginning with movies like Sam Peckinpah’s Bloodbath Oath The Wild Bunch, the western entered its revisionist phase, a period of reflection that gave birth to some of the best cowboy examples. picture. Then the genre sold out and faded away.
With The Suicide Squad, as well as TV shows like Watchmen and The Boys, it would appear that the superhero genre is now in its own revisionist phase. The number of superhero projects aimed specifically at adults is growing: Peacemaker from The Suicide Squad, for example, has its own R-rated television spin-off hitting HBO Max next year, though it’s too early to tell if this will. It will come at the expense of the family. -Friendly comic projects. (Some commenters You already wonder if Black Widow’s disappointing box office indicates a waning interest in Marvel’s cleaner, more conventional superhero story, but it’s easy to be skeptical given the myriad factors which could have led to the poor performance of that movie).
Regardless of how long the superhero movie has passed as Hollywood’s leading genre, the stage of evolution the genre is in now could prove particularly fascinating. The revisionist phase of the popular western gave us classics like McCabe & Mrs Miller and Ulzana’s Raid, films of great depth that could not have existed without decades of spent tropes on which to build and change. Following The Suicide Squad, it’s tempting to think that we could be owed to more adult-oriented revisionist superhero stories that are so free, inventive, and deliberately current (yes, The Suicide Squad has things to say about American foreign policy).
Marvel’s rising epic Avengers: Endgame, with its colossal box office shown two years ago, will undoubtedly represent the peak of the superhero movie’s popularity. Meanwhile, The Suicide Squad may turn out to be for the superhero movie what The Wild Bunch was for the western: a bloody and revolutionary end to one phase and the beginning of another, even richer.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism