The Suicide Squad is a 2021 American superhero film based on the DC Comics team Suicide Squad. Produced by Warner Bros. Pictures, DC Films, Atlas Entertainment, and The Safran Company, and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, it is a standalone sequel to Suicide Squad (2016) and the 10th film in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). It was written and directed by James Gunn and stars an ensemble cast including Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Sylvester Stallone, Viola Davis, David Dastmalchian, Daniela Melchior, Michael Rooker, Jai Courtney, Peter Capaldi, Alice Braga, and Pete Davidson. In the film, several convicts join a task force known as the “Suicide Squad” in exchange for lighter sentences. They are sent to the South American island nation of Corto Maltese to destroy all traces of the giant alien starfish Starro the Conqueror before it falls into the local government’s control.
David Ayer was set to return as director for a Suicide Squad sequel by March 2016, but in December he chose to work on other projects. Warner Bros. considered several replacements before hiring Gavin O’Connor in September 2017. He left due to creative differences, and Gunn was hired in October 2018 to write and direct the film after being temporarily fired by Disney and Marvel Studios as director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023). He drew inspiration from war films and John Ostrander’s 1980s Suicide Squad comics, and explored new characters in a story separate from the first film’s narrative though some cast members do return from Suicide Squad. Filming took place from September 2019 to February 2020, primarily in Atlanta, Georgia, as well as in Colón, Panama, and Porto, Portugal. The film had the biggest sets ever built for a Warner Bros. production.
The Suicide Squad premiered theatrically in the United Kingdom on July 30, 2021. It was released in the United States on August 5, simultaneously in theaters and on the streaming service HBO Max. The film received positive reviews from critics, who praised the performances, Gunn’s writing and direction, action sequences, soundtrack, and visual style, with many deeming it a significant improvement over its predecessor. The film became the most-streamed DCEU film on HBO Max, but underperformed at the box office and only grossed $169 million worldwide against a production budget of $185 million, which was attributed to factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the film’s availability on HBO Max, and its relationship to the first Suicide Squad. Peacemaker, a spin-off television series starring Cena, debuted on HBO Max in January 2022. Two other spin-off series are in development for HBO Max, including Waller.
Before the first Suicide Squad film was released in August 2016, director David Ayer and star Will Smith were expected to return for a sequel. Filming was planned to begin in 2017 after the pair completed their work on the film Bright (2017). Karen Fukuhara expressed her interest in fleshing out Tatsu Yamashiro / Katana’s backstory in a sequel, though she also noted that if not, that could be in a spin-off film of her own. In September, Ayer said the first film had been rated PG-13 because it had originally been envisioned that way by the studio, and an R-rating needed to be planned from the start of a production. He said that it would be worth “lobbying” to make a sequel R-rated, as he felt the first film had the “edge” and “attitude” of an R-rated film already. Suicide Squad was released to a polarized response and was reported to have a difficult production, but the film grossed enough for Warner Bros. Pictures to fast-track development of a sequel. Several spin-off films were also in development by December, including one featuring Smith as Deadshot. The project that was furthest along was Gotham City Sirens, an all-female team-up film with Margot Robbie planned to reprise her role as Harley Quinn. Ayer was set to direct and produce that film rather than Suicide Squad 2.
Warner Bros. began searching for a new director for Suicide Squad 2, and were courting Mel Gibson by mid-February 2017. Ruben Fleischer, Daniel Espinosa, Jonathan Levine, and David S. Goyer were also considered. Adam Cozad entered negotiations to write the film a month later, at which point there was still no director attached to the project. It was described as being a priority for Warner Bros. Script delays led to the planned filming start being pushed to mid-2018, at which point Gibson moved on from the project. Jaume Collet-Serra became the new frontrunner to direct in early July, by which time both Smith and Robbie were set to reprise their roles. Zak Penn had pitched a new story treatment for the film to Warner Bros., and wrote a draft of the script as a favor to the studio. Later in July, Collet-Serra was hired to direct Disney’s Jungle Cruise (2021) and withdrew from directing Suicide Squad 2 after deciding he would rather originate a new story than continue an existing franchise; Collet-Sera went on to direct the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) film Black Adam (2022).
In August, Jared Leto was expected to reprise his role as the Joker from the first film, while production was not expected to begin until Smith completed his work on Aladdin (2019) and Gemini Man (2019) in late 2018. The next month, Gavin O’Connor was chosen to direct the film and co-write it with his writing partner Anthony Tambakis, based on his own vision. The character Black Adam was reportedly the main villain of O’Connor’s script, with Dwayne Johnson already attached to that role for DC Films. Michael De Luca joined the film as a producer in January 2018, working with the first film’s producer Charles Roven. David Bar Katz and Todd Stashwick were co-writing the film with O’Connor in June, and they had completed their draft by that September. O’Connor left the film by early October to focus on The Way Back (2020). This was reportedly out of frustration that Warner Bros. was already moving ahead with Birds of Prey (2020), a new Harley Quinn spin-off film with a similar story to the one he wrote for Suicide Squad 2. During the development process, the character Deathstroke appeared in four or five different version of the script to fight Deadshot. Joe Manganiello was attached to reprise his role as Deathstroke from Justice League (2017), and the experience left him feeling that he would never portray the character again until he was asked to return for Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021).
- Margot Robbie as Dr. Harleen Quinzel / Harley Quinn:
A crazed criminal and former psychiatrist. Robbie said the film would show a new side of the character compared to her previous DC Extended Universe (DCEU) appearances due to her being in a new place and surrounded by new characters. Despite inheriting this version of Harley from previous films, writer/director James Gunn loved the character and felt very comfortable writing for her. He wanted her to be “the most Harley of all Harleys” depicted on film, including making “healthy” choices, following her toxic relationship with the Joker, that other people would find insane. He likened Harley’s relationship with Bloodsport to the comedy duo Abbott and Costello, with Harley being Costello.
- Idris Elba as Robert DuBois / Bloodsport:
A mercenary with a technologically advanced suit that he can use to create different gadgets and transforming weaponry (an adaptation of the comic book character’s ability to manifest weapons). After being convicted of shooting Superman with a Kryptonite bullet, Bloodsport shortens his prison sentence by joining Task Force X so he can help his daughter Tyla. Gunn said each member of the Suicide Squad in the film was inspired by a different film genre, and described Bloodsport as an unsentimental portrayal of a 1960s action hero like Steve McQueen, without their “moral repercussions”. The character’s story in the film takes him from a “toxic asshole to a true leader”.
- John Cena as Christopher Smith / Peacemaker:
A ruthless, jingoistic killer who believes in achieving peace at any cost. Gunn told Cena not to read any Peacemaker comics before filming, and Cena originally approached the role with an “angular, drill sergeant, Full Metal Jacket-esque personality” before Gunn told him to act like a “douchey, bro-y Captain America” who could have appeared in a 1970s television series like Wonder Woman. The character does not get as much exploration or development as the other members of the Suicide Squad, which is one of the reasons that Gunn decided to create the spin-off television series Peacemaker despite him originally intending for the character’s apparent death in the film to be permanent.
- Joel Kinnaman as Colonel Rick Flag:
The field leader of the Suicide Squad. Gunn said Flag was the character that changed the most compared to the first Suicide Squad (2016), with Kinnaman describing this version as sillier, less jaded, more naive, and funnier. Gunn said Kinnaman was not used to comedic acting but “quickly showed a talent and an affinity” for it. Flag begins the film on the Suicide Squad team that Amanda Waller sends as a decoy, and a deleted scene would have explained that she did this because he made fun of an ugly shirt she was wearing. Gunn said Flag has grown sick of being taken advantage of and doing bad things, which leads to him disobeying Waller and being killed by Peacemaker.
- Sylvester Stallone as the voice of Nanaue / King Shark:
A man-eating shark-human hybrid, created with visual effects. Steve Agee, a longtime friend of Gunn’s, developed King Shark’s portrayal on set. He was chosen partly because he is 6 feet 7 inches (2.01 m), and wore a wireframe version of a shark head as well as a body suit to further approximate the character’s size and shape. Gunn wanted the underlying story for King Shark to explore his loneliness as someone who wants to be part of the world and connect with other people, but is not able to due to his appearance. This is seen in moments where he pretends to read or looks longingly out a window at a couple who are together.
- Viola Davis as Amanda Waller:
The director of A.R.G.U.S. who runs the Task Force X program. Gunn said Waller, along with the U.S. government, is the true villain of the film, which explores the different reactions that the Suicide Squad have to her asking them to cover-up illegal experiments in Corto Maltese. He added that there was “no better Amanda Waller” than Davis, and said she was “incredibly intimidating” when portraying the character.
- David Dastmalchian as Abner Krill / Polka-Dot Man:
An “experiment gone wrong” in a suit covered with polka dots. Gunn described Polka-Dot Man as “the dumbest DC character of all time” whom he hoped to turn into a tragic character, with the film’s version being infected with an interdimensional virus by his mother in an attempt to turn him into a superhero. The virus develops into colorful balls of acid under Krill’s skin that cause him pain unless he expels them as polka-dot weapons or vomits them up. Unbeknownst to Gunn, Dastmalchian felt a personal connection to the character because he has the skin condition vitiligo, for which he was bullied as a child and called “polka dots”.
- Daniela Melchior as Cleo Cazo / Ratcatcher 2:
A thief who inherited the mantle of “Ratcatcher” from her father, along with equipment that allows her to control rats and communicate with them. Gunn described her as the “heart of the film”, and noted that she is different from the other characters because she had her father’s love growing up where the other characters had problematic relationships with their parents. Gunn explained that the moment where Ratcatcher 2 covers Bloodsport to protect him from the rats at the end of the film signifies her being able to share her father’s love with him, which is why the moment is intercut with a flashback of her sitting with her father.
- Michael Rooker as Brian Durlin / Savant: a hand-to-hand combat and weapons expert. He is killed in the opening scene when Waller detonates a bomb in his head for deserting the mission.
- Jai Courtney as Digger Harkness / Captain Boomerang: an unhinged Australian thief who wields boomerangs. Courtney said the character was “the same shitbag liability” he was in the first film.
- Peter Capaldi as Gaius Grieves / The Thinker: the lead scientist of Project Starfish, who has been experimenting on Starro the Conqueror on behalf of the U.S. government.
- Alice Braga as Sol Soria: the leader of a rebel faction on Corto Maltese who aligns herself with the Suicide Squad.
- Pete Davidson as Richard “Dick” Hertz / Blackguard: an easily manipulated mercenary. He betrays the first Suicide Squad team to the Corto Maltese military, who then kill him.
In addition to playing King Shark on set, Steve Agee portrays John Economos, an A.R.G.U.S. agent who is an aide to Waller. Other aides to Waller include Jennifer Holland as Emilia Harcourt and Tinashe Kajese as Flo Crawley. The ill-fated first Suicide Squad team includes Savant, Captain Boomerang, and Blackguard, as well as Nathan Fillion as Cory Pitzner / T.D.K. (The Detachable Kid), a metahuman who can detach his arms from his body; Flula Borg as Gunter Braun / Javelin, a former Olympic athlete who wields javelins as weapons; Mayling Ng as Mongal, an alien mass murderer; and Sean Gunn as Weasel, an anthropomorphic weasel whose portrayal is based on Bill the Cat from the comic strip Bloom County. James Gunn said Weasel was “barely more than an animal” which raised some ethical questions about his involvement in the squad.
Also appearing in the film are Juan Diego Botto as Silvio Luna, the dictator of Corto Maltese who tries to woo Harley Quinn; Joaquín Cosío as Mateo Suárez, the Major General of Corto Maltese; Storm Reid as Bloodsport’s daughter Tyla; Julio Ruiz as Milton, an associate of Task Force X; Lynne Ashe as Polka-Dot Man’s mother; and Taika Waititi as Ratcatcher 2’s father, the original Ratcatcher. In addition to Weasel, Sean Gunn also portrays Calendar Man, one of several DC Comics villains that appear as Belle Reve inmates. Others include Natalia Safran as Kaleidoscope and Jared Leland Gore as Double Down. John Ostrander, creator of the 1980s Suicide Squad team that influenced the film, makes a cameo appearance as Dr. Fitzgibbon, while Stephen Blackehart has a small role as the pilot Briscoe, and both Lloyd Kaufman and Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) collaborator Pom Klementieff appear as dancers in a nightclub. Ratcatcher 2’s pet rat Sebastian was voiced by Dee Bradley Baker and portrayed on-set by rats named Jaws and Crisp Ratt.
July 30, 2021
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