Peter Capaldi plays the baddest of the bad in new supervillain action movie The Suicide Squad

Cinema is back. Even as the situation remains highly changeable from country to country, as vaccination rates climb many nations feel comfortable enough to cautiously reopen movie theatres. And so in a socially distanced screening Blogtor Who sat down to watch The Suicide Squad. The new DC Comics movie features Doctor Who’s very own Peter Capaldi as the dastardly Thinker.

Capaldi may be playing a villain here but he’s far from the only one. For those unfamiliar, the Suicide Squad (officially known as Task Force X) is a group of hardened supervillains. But they’re criminals whose super-powers and skills the US government refuses to allow to go to waste in prison. Instead they receive ten years off their sentences for every covert mission they successfully complete. There’s a catch, of course; by definition they go on missions too impossible – too suicidal – to throw away good men and women’s lives on. In fact, it seems at times that as far as their ruthless recruiter Amanda ‘the Wall’ Waller (Viola Davis) is concerned, the more of these murderers and thieves die in the attempt the better. Just so long as those left standing succeed.

 

Mongal (Mayling Ng), daughter of an alien warlord, and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) in Suicide Squad (c) Warner Brothers
Mongal (Mayling Ng), daughter of an alien warlord, and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) in Suicide Squad (c) Warner Brothers

Director James Gunn follows the comic’s example and loots DC Comics’ back catalogue for its most disposable characters

In assembling his team for the movie, writer and director James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy), has followed the tactics of the comic book’s original writer John Ostrander. (Ostrander cameos here in a morbidly sardonic roles as the doctor who injects each Squad member’s skull with a bomb. One Waller can set off at will as the ultimate remote control). As in the comic, Gunn delves deep into DC Comics’ endless library of villains. With an eighty year history, hundreds of titles, and a dozen monthly issues a year to fill with story, DC has more bad guys than it knows what to do with. Some of them only appearing a handful of times. Characters Ostrander, and now Gunn, was free to kill off without legions of fans complaining.

So the Squad assembled here includes minor Gotham City villains like Savant (Michael Rooker), or Superman adversary Mongal (Mayling Ng). Even Polka Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) leaps straight from the weirdness of 1960s Batman comics to the silver screen. Meanwhile, Idris Elba’s Squad leader Bloodsport would send many comic book fans scrambling to the DC wiki too.

 

Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is both funnier and tougher than ever in The Suicide Squad (c) Warner Brothers
Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is both funnier and tougher than ever in The Suicide Squad (c) Warner Brothers

Alongside the new characters, old favourites like Harley Quinn return

But what they lack in familiarity, these characters make up for in heart. The film may haveΒ  incredibly stylish visuals, brilliantly choreographed action, and viciously dark humour. But the most impressive thing is how much we care about all these ne’erdowells despite the sprawling cast. Even more so considering Gunn begins pruning the numbers almost immediately, with some getting only a handful of lines before losing half their faces. “Don’t Get Too Attached” warns the poster tagline, but we do. Whether it’s Elba’s permanently grumpy misanthrope, Mastmalchian’s emotionally and biologically damaged experiment victim or Sylvester Stallone’s surprising cute, if shockingly violent, shark god, we feel for them as Waller puts them through the meat grinder. Even Weasel (Sean Gunn), a feral creature that’s killed twenty-seven children, becomes strangely sympathetic. Possibly not even human, the panicked beast isn’t intelligent enough to know what’s going on, or why.

And, of course, there’s Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, now in her third DC movie appearance. Despite the crowded cast, she still remains an absolute highlight. The first Suicide Squad film cast her as a victim, unable to break free of the Joker’s hold on her. And then Birds of Prey showed her adrift, trying to find her own path without him. But this is Harley gone to war. She’s no less scatty or irreverent than before (she interrupts one gun fight to argue about what their dead colleague’s name was.) But she knows and accepts herself, and she’s no longer any man’s fool. And in one of the film’s finest action sequences, she battles her way through an entire building, using every weapon and fighting skill at her disposable, before being genuinely touched by discovering the Squad of would be rescuers outside.

 

Peter Capaldi as the Thinker - not quite the Biggest Bad in The Suicide Squad (c) Warner Brothers Doctor Who Twelfth Doctor
Peter Capaldi as the Thinker – not quite the Biggest Bad in The Suicide Squad (c) Warner Brothers

Doctor Who’s Peter Capaldi excels as a skin crawlingly evil, but fiercely intelligent, dark mirror to his Twelfth Doctor

But with these many characters, and so much death and destruction, many Doctor Who fans will be asking them – how much is Peter Capaldi actually in the film? In truth, as suggested by the trailers and the posters, he’s very much a secondary character. Technically his Thinker’s not even a member of the Suicide Squad but rather the man they’ve been sent to intercept and force to help them.

But despite appearing in little more than half a dozen scenes it’s easy to see why he was chosen for the role. In a film about bad guys that questions if good guys even exist, Capaldi expresses it in a towering speech. He rages about the naivety of good and the inevitability of corruption like a dark mirror of some of his finest moments as the Twelfth Doctor. And if the film’s great strength is to make you care deeply about deeply terrible people, Capaldi’s Thinker stands on top as the true villain of the piece. He’s the one you can practically feel make the other supervillains’ flesh crawl and whom they seem to instinctively back away from.

 

Ratcatcher (Daniela Melchior) faces the end of everything, but she won't do it alone (c) Warner Brothers Suicide Squad
Ratcatcher (Daniela Melchior) faces the end of everything, but she won’t do it alone (c) Warner Brothers

Learn to love your inner rat

Though if Peter Capaldi’s far from wasted in a smaller role, the true heart of the film are the rats. Oh, yes. Because it’s the pets of the sweet young Ratcatcher that reveal The Suicide Squad’s surprisingly touching theme. Along with her evolving surrogate father/daughter relationship with the ratphobic Bloodsport, they anchor the film. Because rats don’t lie to themselves about who they are or what they have the potential to become. They accept themselves and their role in life. They’re a fundamental, necessary part of every city, and no less worthy of love and affection than anyone else. And if the Suicide Squad are the rats of the superhuman world, they may just be the rats to save us all.

Learn to love your inner rat. Not the message you expect from a comic book movie. But among a thousand cookie cuter ‘Believe in Yourself’ stories, it may be one of Blogtor Who’s favourites.

Heartfelt, hilarious, and visually stunning, with the type of eclectically brilliant soundtrack you’d expect from Gunn, The Suicide Squad is a film you deserve to see to life your weary spirits. Just make sure you can see it safely and responsibly.

 

The Suicide Squad (c) Warner Brothers
The Suicide Squad (c) Warner Brothers

The Suicide Squad is in cinemas in the UK now, and will be on screens and on HBO Max in the US from the 5th of August.

3 COMMENTS

  1. You didn’t get any comments!! ☹️ That’s a shame. Let me be the first, then. Lokean Liz here, @oneoflokis on Twitter. πŸ™‚ I liked the whole idea of the film, especially that it had Peter Capaldi in it, and Margot Robbie reprising her role. I can see why they essentially made this a reboot, seeing as the script of the first one was so confused. (And why, in that first one, did they send largely non-supernatural and non-psi-powered Rogues, except for Diablo, to fight against a supernatural foe? 😏)

    But I didn’t have the neck to go out to the cinema this past summer. I will just have to download it. It doesn’t have a lot of great reviews on Google Play though: so I suppose I will be renting it. 😏

    Your review seems very positive however; and I kind of like the idea of “the sweet young rat girl”! 😁 Is she a friend to Harley Quinn in this movie, or are they rivals? πŸ™‚

    I’m quite glad, as well, to see from your review that they kept the notion of ambiguity, and “what is good, anyway?” In this, from the first Suicide movie, which I did see at the cinema, where it was also present.

    Why then, is The Thinker the villain, who makes all the other supervillains’ “flesh crawl”? Is it because he uses his head?? (Yes: *within a culture that idolises the likes of Trump, I can see why even comic book villains might find that quite spooky!* 😏 And he’s British. Yes. I see! 😁😁)

    A couple of people on Google Play reviews claimed to find the movie too gory, and over-exaggerated, over-the-top, anti-believability. I suppose that can even be a problem in superhero productions. (Despite the lower threshold of belief that we must needs have for those.)

    But I can’t really conceive that a movie that Peter Capaldi agreed to appear in, and that has the positive plot and character elements which you mention, can be all bad. So download it, I shall! πŸ™‚

  2. But really, my dear Peter Nolan, I would like to go further in my analysis (of your review, seeing as I have yet to watch the movie!) And ask you some questions. πŸ™‚ As well as make further observations.

    “In assembling his team for the movie, writer and director James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy), has followed the tactics of the comic book’s original writer John Ostrander..” Yes, I could see all along how a movie by the Guardians Of The Galaxy director, James Gunn, who apparently understands irony in the fantasy format, was surely always going to be superior, than one directed (and written πŸ™„) by Zack Snyder, who is really not a very good film director, if things like Watchmen are anything to go by. I read Empire magazine’s entire build-up to the first Squad movie throughout 2015 though, and was pleased to see he actually felt sympathetic towards the Rogues. But if you can’t bring yourself to use a good screenwriter or two (the first Pirates Of The Caribbean movie had four, to develop that concept) what can you expect? As a result? 🀷

    Re your view of the character Harley Quinn, in these movies. (She’s obviously the star. πŸ™‚)

    “The first Suicide Squad film cast her as a victim, unable to break free of the Joker’s hold on her.” Really – do you think, Peter, that that is what the movie conveyed?? πŸ€” I thought she was pretty independent – and oversexed as ever – in that one. 😏 (Haven’t seen the EXTENDED cut, so no doubt I missed out on at least a few of the scurrilous details! 😁) And at the end, when Amanda Waller had in effect done the dirty on the Rogues, as Harley and some of the others indeed suspected from the first that she was – Harley somehow manages to have a mobile phone smuggled in, as I recall: and she still keeps in touch with the Joker: and they are texting like mad! *To good effect*: because the Joker and his crazily-dressed henchmen *do in fact turn up*, at the end of the movie. And they rescue Harley, by book or by crook, automatic weapons a-blazing, from the clutches of Belle RΓͺve. And, no doubt, provide plenty of opportunities for their fellow Rogues also to escape, was my deduction.

    Now. So, you see, the Joker (disappointingly absent, in my view, for the rest of the movie, after all that hype in Empire about his part) finally turns up. And be does something USEFUL – for Harley – he rescues her!

    Now some may see this, as, for example, akin to the rescue of the stricken Clarice Starling from the pigmen, by Hannibal Lecter, in both the book and the movie Hannibal! 😁 But as a Lokean, my view on this is *different*, and more positive. The thing that should be obvious,however, is that the villains in both these instances, “come up trumps”, as I like to call it, in both these instances. As far as the heroine is concerned. πŸ™‚ A Lokean *likes results*.

    It satisfied me, whatever the ludicrous (yet romantic) nature of the credits scene – was that apricot fruit swirl yoghurt they were wallowing in?? Looks like it! 😏

    But you see: to me that development was saying: You may think, Amanda Waller, that we the Rogues are your fools and bitches!! *But not while I, me, The Joker, am around, we’re NOT!*” 😀

    So I thought that the Joker here should really be presented as the – eventual – hero. πŸ™‚ Which however is of course, something that DC/Warner are COMPLETELY loath to do: because they are so completely fixated on having him as “the face of evil” playing against their gloomy (boring) modern Batman. And of course, they HATE Trickster characters (particularly male ones – all they could do for years on end was portray the likes of the Joker as a sadistic queer – Harley’s rehabilitated his reputation there, though, I think 😁 ! How could ANYONE see the credits scene of the first Squad movie and doubt that? 😁)

    DC hate male Tricksters. In contrast to Marvel, where of course Tom Hiddleston has made the Marvel version of Loki into a total star! πŸ™‚πŸ‘

    But anyway: THAT is the reason the character of the Joker has been all but banished from the Suicide Squad movies. *Tell me I’m not right*, Peter!

    You could also, however, interpret the absence of the Joker from the first (and the second) movie, as a way of saying *he was too smart to be caught by the likes of Amanda Waller*. Or if caught, he’d use all his influence with the psychiatrists at Arkham (come on, TELL me he hasn’t got them wrapped around his little finger! 😁) To stay in Arkham and not to step foot in Belle RΓͺve!

    (Though I’m not so sure if that was the case in Ostrander’s comics. 😏)

    But anyway: the way they previously went on in Empire magazine, that the Joker was going to be a major character: I honestly thought that Amanda Waller was going to capture him and TORTURE him, or something, to be in the Squad: and that’s how he’d end up in it! (And then I hope he kills her! Was my earnest and very Lokean wish! 😏 Well – you bully one of the Trickster archetype, at your peril! πŸ™‚)

    But smashing your way into Belle RΓͺve with lots of guns comes a close second. πŸ‘

    So, Peter – do you think that diagetically, the reason the Joker has not featured in either of these movies as a member of the Suicide Squad, is because

    a) Amanda Waller is afraid of him

    b) He’s too unpredictable for her liking

    c) Both!! πŸ™‚

    And NON-diegetically, probably the only time when Joker will figure as a member of this Squad, in the movies: is probably when dC finally get over their “phobia” of him, and allow him too, to be a hero at last.

    (And then I still hope that he kills Amanda Waller. She reminds me of Condoleeza Rice. πŸ‘Ž)

    And then Birds of Prey showed her adrift, trying to find her own path without him.

  3. Oh – sorry about the fragment of quote I inadvertently left above! πŸ™‚ (Can’t edit these comments.)

    Anyway: Birds Of Prey, while Robbie’s performance was perfectly adequate, was really not much of a good movie. 😏 And I didn’t see how it really related to Suicide Squad, tbh.

    Questions of motive hobbled the plot. (For example, IF the movie was meant to be a sequel to the first one – If the Joker was (as he was) portrayed as being in love with Harley there at the end, and she with him – what was the motive for him “kicking her out” at the start of Birds?

    Not wanting to give her credit for cooking up ideas for crimes? THAT’S a bit outdated… 😁

    Anyway: If the Joker in particular WERE such a patriarchal dinosaur – WHY would be give Harley all that freedom? WHY would he allow her to dance onstage, at his club? Why would he allow her to go with – or at least sexually tantalise – the Batman? (As we saw in all these cameos.) Why – when he heard about her romance with Deadshot, wouldn’t he trawl the cells of Belle RΓͺve, trying to shoot Deadshot?? Why would we never hear anything about the Joker’s patriarchal jealousy, including from his own lips?

    See – doesn’t fit!! THIS is what shows you that these writers don’t know what they are about. πŸ™‚

    I will tell you something. PERSONALLY I would rather see the Joker developed properly, as a (hero) character: *even if there was a story arc that effectively led to “the moral rehabilitation of Joker”*. However that would disappoint the “Joker is evil Satan” fans. 😏 NO – he’s NOT – YOU’RE WRONG! Would be my point, as the director.

    I would like to see the Joker come to the eventual realisation – and it would come fast when it came – that he a) is SICK of all of this, and just wants his girlfriend back b) that yes, he probably WAS at fault for the breakup, for whatever reasons we want to give in the script and c) IF he has to change himself – to remedy this, and get Harley back, and finally have a partner for life, mother of his kids, all the rest of it – he’s going to do it! He’s FINALLY motivated, towards a bit of self-improvement. (Bit like Russell Brand coming off drugs. πŸ™‚) He’s not going to do it, for the likes of the Batman, oh no – but for the love of Harley, he will CHANGE. πŸ™‚

    THAT might be, the most romantic story EVER. Might provide quite a bit of drama and interest! But as I said, I don’t think the likes of DC/Warner are ready for it! Basically because they are stupid. 😏

    Anyway, back to the most recent movie. (I still bet that Capaldi is great in it.)

    ‘β€œDon’t Get Too Attached” warns the poster tagline, but we do. Whether it’s Elba’s permanently grumpy misanthrope, Mastmalchian’s emotionally and biologically damaged experiment victim or Sylvester Stallone’s surprising cute, if shockingly violent, shark god, we feel for them as Waller puts them through the meat grinder. ‘

    This part of your review, sounds so cool, actually!! πŸ™‚πŸ‘

    Now I wonder what Ash Sarkar, the journalist and writer from Novara Media, would think about the above? (She’s recently done a NM Youtube video, about how she hates the Batman movies in particular, which she says are basically about a billionaire beating up disabled and disfigured people! πŸ™‚)

    But I think that – going by your review as well – the Suicide Squad series is an effort to be a bit more nuanced than that; and to get away from that, while still being comics-style entertainment.

    I don’t know yet who the Mastmalchian character is, but an “experiment victim” sounds to me to be terribly like V from V for Vendetta, Alan Moore’s revenger’s tragedy, later made into a movie. πŸ™‚

    Seems to me as if all “the freaks” are finally having their say, in comic book movies at last! Which can only be a good thing. πŸ™‚πŸ‘

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