While films in the superhero genre generally fall into the "eagerly anticipated" category — with fans excited to see how their favorite characters are going to be portrayed on the screen or how certain stories will continue — James Gunn's The Suicide Squad holds that designation for another reason. The state of DC Comics movies has been complicated over the past few years, to say the least. What once seemed like a fairly direct plan for a connected universe guided by filmmaker Zack Snyder's larger vision has instead become something else. Stories and characters continue, but DC is moving away from the so-called Snyderverse to pursue a more sprawling multiverse. It's within this new approach that The Suicide Squad isn't just the next hot superhero film, but truly a fresh start for DC.
As most moviegoers know, this isn't the first film to be centered around Task Force X. In 2016, filmmaker David Ayer released Suicide Squad, a film that was a commercial success yet didn't fare especially well among critics and some fans. That isn't to say the film didn't have its highlights; there were some strong performances from the cast, particularly Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, but very generally it just didn't land the way many hoped. Enter Gunn's The Suicide Squad. The film is not a reboot, but also not exactly a sequel. Instead, Gunn's film incorporates some of the characters from the first Suicide Squad (and indeed utilizes the same actors) while also bringing in a host of new faces to tell a story that doesn't invalidate or devalue the first one, but also doesn't find itself beholden to it. The Suicide Squad is just its own story.
That is extremely important as it sets the bar for DC to be able to revisit characters and concepts it's brought to life in recent films and do it without throwing out things that people already love. It helps to remove some of the artificial walls that often surround DC projects and signals to fans and moviegoers that this is an open world, rather than a closed community. Given that upcoming films on DC's slate such as The Flash will be taking a similar approach in using established characters in different ways, The Suicide Squad is very much building the path.
The Suicide Squad is also offering DC a fresh start in terms of how it's reinventing DC's cinematic universe. The film isn't even open in theaters in the United States at the time of this writing and already it has a spinoff television series, Peacemaker starring John Cena, set to debut on HBO Max in January 2022. It's a huge leap forward for DC which, while there are many DC television projects across HBO Max and The CW, have not previously had anything directly tied to its cinematic properties. Peacemaker will be the first.
The Suicide Squad is also poised to do for DC what Iron Man did for Marvel. It seems wild to think about now, but when Iron Man was released in 2008, the character wasn't exactly the hugely popular one it is today. Iron Man was more of a character that fans of comics knew, but the film took the character and told a heartfelt and action-packed story that deeply engaged viewers of all types, ultimately launching the Marvel Cinematic Universe and bringing lesser-known characters into the hearts and homes of viewers. Gunn has relished in using lesser-known characters for his take on Task Force X, including some truly odd villains like Polka-Dot Man and even the film's major antagonist, Starro. And, if reviews and early reactions to the film are any indications, those weird, unknown characters have had major resonance with audiences. A fire has been lit and DC would be well served to stoke that flame.
But The Suicide Squad and its probable success isn't just a fresh start for film and live-action. As the characters catch on with fans, this could be a fresh start for other forms of media as well. After seeing Starro on the screen and getting to know Ratcatcher 2, fans could be in a place where they will crave additional content. It could lead to fresh, new stories in comics, creating a whole new world of adventures for readers old and new.
As a film that stands to be utterly itself while also respecting what came before and examining lesser-known characters in a way that gives new heart and dimension to the greater DC Universe, The Suicide Squad is going to be a brand new start for DC. The movie itself may be dying to save the world, but they may just save the stories of DC, too.
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