The Suicide Squad
Official release poster
Directed byJames Gunn
Written byJames Gunn
Based onCharacters
from DC
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyHenry Braham
Edited by
Music byJohn Murphy
Production
companies
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release dates
  • July 30, 2021 (2021-07-30) (United Kingdom)
  • August 5, 2021 (2021-08-05) (United States)
Running time
132 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$185 million[2]
Box office$167.4 million[3][4]

The Suicide Squad is a 2021 American superhero film based on the DC Comics team Suicide Squad. Produced by 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 tenth 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, a task force of convicts known as the Suicide Squad are sent to the island nation of Corto Maltese to destroy any traces of the giant alien starfish Starro the Conqueror.

David Ayer was set to return as director for a Suicide Squad sequel by March 2016, but in December he chose to develop a Gotham City Sirens film instead. Warner Bros. considered several replacement directors before hiring Gavin O'Connor in September 2017. He left by October 2018, and Gunn was hired to write and direct the film after being temporarily fired by Disney and Marvel Studios as the director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023). He drew inspiration from war films and John Ostrander's 1980s Suicide Squad comics, and decided to explore 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 Panama and Porto, Portugal.

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 Gunn's script, direction, and visual style. Many found the film to be a significant improvement over its predecessor, and it became the most-streamed DCEU film on HBO Max. However, it was a box office disappointment and grossed just $167.4 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.

Plot

Intelligence officer Amanda Waller assembles two Task Force X ("Suicide Squad") teams, comprising Belle Reve penitentiary inmates who agree to carry out a mission in exchange for shortened sentences. Sent to the South American island nation of Corto Maltese after its government is overthrown by an anti-American regime, the squads are tasked with destroying the Nazi-era laboratory Jötunheim, which houses the secret experiment "Project Starfish". One team, led by Colonel Rick Flag, is almost entirely wiped out by the Corto Maltese military upon landing. This allows the other team, led by mercenary Bloodsport and consisting of Peacemaker, King Shark, Polka-Dot Man, and Ratcatcher 2, to enter the country undetected.

The squad finds Flag at a base camp for rebel soldiers and convinces rebellion leader Sol Soria to assist them. Meanwhile, first team survivor Harley Quinn is taken captive by the Corto Maltese government and learns of the new regime's plans to use Project Starfish against other nations. The squad captures the Thinker, the lead scientist in charge of Project Starfish, and are joined by Harley after she escapes from the government. They break into Jötunheim with the Thinker's help and begin to rig the facility with explosives. Flag and Ratcatcher 2 enter the underground Project Starfish laboratory with the Thinker.

Flag and Ratcatcher 2 discover that Project Starfish is Starro the Conqueror, a giant alien starfish that creates smaller versions of itself to kill people and control their bodies. The Thinker reveals that Starro was brought to Earth by the U.S. government, which has secretly funded the experiments for decades using thousands of Corto Maltese citizens as test subjects. An enraged Flag decides to leak a hard drive containing evidence but is killed by Peacemaker, who is under orders from Waller to cover up the U.S.'s involvement. Meanwhile, a skirmish between the Squad and the Corto Maltese military leads to Polka-Dot Man accidentally setting off the explosives prematurely. As Jötunheim crumbles, the drive falls into Ratcatcher 2's possession. Peacemaker attempts to execute her for knowing the truth about Starro, but Bloodsport shoots him and takes the drive.

Starro escapes the destroyed Jötunheim, kills the Thinker and much of the military, and begins taking control of the island's population. Waller tells the squad that their mission is complete, but Bloodsport leads the squad to fight Starro against her orders; Waller's subordinates prevent her from executing them. Starro kills Polka-Dot Man, Harley pierces a hole in its eye, and Ratcatcher 2 summons the city's rats to chew Starro to death from the inside. With the military diverted, Soria takes control of the government and pledges democratic elections. Bloodsport forces Waller to release him and the surviving squad members in exchange for keeping the contents of the drive confidential, and the squad is airlifted out of Corto Maltese. In a post-credits scene, Waller punishes her subordinates by assigning them to a new mission with Peacemaker, who is recovering in a hospital.

Cast

Further information: List of DC Extended Universe cast members

The ill-fated first Suicide Squad team includes Nathan Fillion as Cory Pitzner / T.D.K. (The Detachable Kid), a metahuman who can detach his arms from his body;[5][13][40] Sean Gunn as Weasel, an anthropomorphic weasel whose portrayal is based on Bill the Cat from the comic strip Bloom County and who James Gunn described as "barely more than an animal";[8][41] Flula Borg as Gunter Braun / Javelin, a former Olympic athlete who wields javelins as weapons;[5][16][33] and Mayling Ng as Mongal, an alien mass murderer.[5][42] Ratcatcher 2's pet rat Sebastian is voiced by Dee Bradley Baker and portrayed on-set by rats named Jaws and Crisp Ratt,[38][43] while Taika Waititi portrays her father, the original Ratcatcher.[32]

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.[44][45] Other aides to Waller include Jennifer Holland as Emilia Harcourt and Tinashe Kajese as Flo Crawley.[44][46] Also appearing in the film are Juan Diego Botto as Silvio Luna, the dictator of Corto Maltese who tries to woo Harley Quinn;[38] Joaquín Cosío as Mateo Suárez, the Major General of Corto Maltese;[38] Storm Reid as Bloodsport's daughter Tyla;[25] and Julio Ruiz as Milton, an associate of Task Force X.[47][48] Lynne Ashe appears as Polka-Dot Man's Mom.[49] 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.[50] John Ostrander, creator of the 1980s Suicide Squad team that influenced the film, makes a cameo appearance as Dr. Fitzgibbon,[25][51] while Stephen Blackehart has a small role as the pilot Briscoe,[52] and both Lloyd Kaufman and Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 collaborator Pom Klementieff appear as dancers in a nightclub.[38]

Production

Development

Before the first Suicide Squad was released in August 2016, director David Ayer and star Will Smith were expected to return for a sequel, with filming starting in 2017 after completing their work on Bright (2017).[53] The following month, 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.[54] 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.[55][56] In December, several spin-off films were also in development, including one featuring Smith as Deadshot. The project that was furthest along was Gotham City Sirens, with Margot Robbie planned to star as Harley Quinn. At that time, Ayer was set to direct and produce that film.[55]

Warner Bros. began searching for a new director for Suicide Squad 2, and were courting Mel Gibson by mid-February 2017.[56] Ruben Fleischer, Daniel Espinosa, Jonathan Levine, and David S. Goyer were also considered.[57][58] 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.[59] 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,[60] by which time Zak Penn had pitched a new story treatment for the film to Warner Bros.,[61] and both Smith and Robbie were set to reprise their roles.[60] Penn wrote a draft of a new screenplay for the film as a favor to the studio.[61][62] 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.[63]

In August, Jared Leto was expected to reprise his role as the Joker from the first film,[64] while production was not expected to begin until Smith completed his work on Aladdin (2019) and Gemini Man (2019) in late 2018.[65] 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.[66][67] 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.[68][69] Michael De Luca joined the film as a producer in January 2018, working with the first film's producer Charles Roven.[70] David Bar Katz and Todd Stashwick were co-writing the film with O'Connor in June,[71] and they had completed their draft by that September.[72] By early October, O'Connor left the film 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 with a very similar story to the one he wrote for Suicide Squad 2.[73] By then, Joe Manganiello had been attached to four or five planned versions of the film, with his Justice League (2017) character Deathstroke fighting Deadshot, but these plans were never brought to fruition.[74][75]

James Gunn, writer and director of The Suicide Squad
James Gunn, writer and director of The Suicide Squad

In October 2018, James Gunn was hired to write and possibly direct the next Suicide Squad film.[76] His deal with Warner Bros. closed following the completion of his exit settlement with The Walt Disney Company, after he was dismissed by Disney and Marvel Studios as director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023) in July 2018 when conservative commentators began circulating old controversial tweets he had made.[77] Warner Bros. had been interested in recruiting Gunn for the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) immediately after his dismissal by Disney,[78] and asked him to make a new Superman film.[7][79] Gunn was uncertain if he wanted to take on Superman, so Warner Bros. told him that he could adapt any DC property he liked. He chose to make a Suicide Squad film, recalling that it was the one DC property he dreamed of adapting and had been jealous when Ayer's Suicide Squad film performed well.[7] Ayer supported Gunn's hiring as a "brave and smart move" and called him "the right man for the job". Dave Bautista, who starred in the Guardians of the Galaxy films for Gunn, expressed interest in appearing in his Suicide Squad film.[80]

The day after he was hired by Warner Bros., Disney decided to reinstate Gunn as director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. He discussed his new DCEU commitment with Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, who encouraged him to "make a great movie" and agreed to delay production on Guardians until Gunn had completed work on the Suicide Squad sequel.[81] In January 2019, the film was officially titled The Suicide Squad and was scheduled for release on August 6, 2021.[82] The title was suggested by Gunn as a joke, but executives at Warner Bros. liked it.[83] At that time, Gunn was in negotiations to direct the film, which was described as a relaunch rather than a direct sequel that would take the franchise in a new direction and feature a largely new cast. Roven and Peter Safran were set as producers, with Zack Snyder and Deborah Snyder as executive producers.[84] Safran had pushed for Gunn to take on the project, feeling that there was no better director than him to "bring together a disparate group of outsiders on a mission".[85]

Pre-production

We really wanted to make sure that this stands on its own two feet. So... it's not a sequel, but there are some characters that were in the first movie, right? So it's not really a full reboot either. So we just call it James Gunn's The Suicide Squad.

—Producer Peter Safran on the relationship between The Suicide Squad and the first Suicide Squad film[85]

One of the first things Gunn did when discussing the film with Warner Bros. was watch Suicide Squad for the first time. The studio said he could take or leave any elements he wanted from the first film, but they hoped that he would bring back Robbie as Harley Quinn.[26] When asked whether his film would be a sequel or a reboot, Gunn described it as "its own thing" and said it would not contradict the first Suicide Squad.[7][86] Safran added that The Suicide Squad would not explicitly address the events of the first film or Birds of Prey.[87] Gunn acknowledged the first film's negative reception, but said there were aspects of it that he loved and defended Ayer's casting choices;[7][86] the first decision Gunn made on the new film was to bring back Robbie as well as Viola Davis as Amanda Waller.[7][88]

Gunn quickly produced several drafts of the script that Warner Bros. was "extremely high" on.[89] He took inspiration from John Ostrander's original 1980s run on the Suicide Squad comics, but described his script as more of a sequel in the same spirit as those comics rather than an adaptation.[25] He was drawn to Ostrander's take because it was about a "bunch of loser, B-grade supervillains", and felt encouraged to find the best characters for his story even if "a lot of them are losers".[10] Gunn noted that one of the main differences between this film and the Guardians of the Galaxy films was that it would be unclear whether some Suicide Squad members would turn out to be good or bad in the film, unlike the Guardians of the Galaxy who are portrayed as heroes despite their flaws.[86] Gunn told Warner Bros. that he would only direct the film if it was R-rated, which the studio initially "balked" at but ultimately agreed to.[32] Safran called The Suicide Squad a "gritty 1970s war movie combined with the brilliance of James Gunn's characters and comedy",[19] while Gunn said it was the superhero version of The Dirty Dozen (1967).[25] Gunn also cited The Great Escape (1963), Where Eagles Dare (1968), and Kelly's Heroes (1970) as influences.[7][90]

On February 27, 2019, Smith was revealed to no longer be in the film's cast due to scheduling issues,[91] with filming set to begin in Atlanta, Georgia, that September.[92] On March 1, Gunn met with Idris Elba to discuss him joining the film, reportedly as a replacement for Smith as Deadshot. Elba was Gunn's only choice for the role,[89] and he wrote the script with Elba in mind—something Gunn rarely does for actors he has not met.[12] Elba agreed to join the film during that conversation,[11] as he wanted to work with Gunn and felt "so touched and honored that someone of [Gunn's] talent was really keen to work with" him.[93] Elba was in official negotiations the next week. Joel Kinnaman's Rick Flag was expected to return from the first film at that point, though Gunn's script mostly featured DC Comics characters who were not in Suicide Squad.[89] Later that month, Jai Courtney revealed that he was returning as Captain Boomerang from the first film, and said The Suicide Squad would be fun but different from the previous version.[35] In April, Davis was confirmed to be returning,[94] and the film's creative team decided that Elba would play a new character rather than Deadshot. This decision was made, following weeks of discussions that included Gunn and Elba, to be respectful to Smith and allow him the option to return to the role in the future.[11] Elba later stated that Gunn never intended to cast him as Deadshot.[93]

The first new character that Gunn added to the Suicide Squad roster was King Shark,[88] who was intended to appear in the first film before being replaced by Killer Croc.[95] Gunn sought to feature an animal on the team, and chose King Shark because he enjoyed the concept of a man-eating fish-human hybrid.[88] Gunn wrote the character with Sylvester Stallone in mind,[96][88] but tested three other voice actors before asking Stallone to join the film.[97] Stallone agreed to voice the character due to his experience working with Gunn on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017).[88][17][18] Other new characters that Gunn added include Polka-Dot Man, Peacemaker, and a female version of Ratcatcher. Gunn was looking to cast Bautista as Peacemaker,[98] but the actor had a scheduling conflict with Zack Snyder's Army of the Dead (2021).[99][100] John Cena entered talks for a role in the film that was believed to be Peacemaker in late April,[99][101] as Gunn had wanted to work with Cena since seeing his performance in Trainwreck (2015) and had been looking for the right role for a while.[102] Cena made numerous unsuccessful attempts to join the DCEU prior to his casting in this film.[14] David Dastmalchian and Daniela Melchior were respectively cast as Polka-Dot Man and Ratcatcher 2.[103][104] Melchior was cast from 200 actors,[105] and did a chemistry test with live rats since her character controls rats in the film.[93] Storm Reid was cast as the daughter of Elba's character in July 2019,[106] with Flula Borg, Nathan Fillion, and Steve Agee joining the film in August.[107][108][109] Fillion and Agee both had roles in some of Gunn's previous films,[108][109] and Agee was initially believed to be portraying King Shark.[109] Also in August, Taika Waititi entered negotiations for a role.[110] Peter Capaldi joined the cast in early September, when Pete Davidson was in talks to make a cameo appearance during a break from his work on Saturday Night Live.[111]

A table read for the film with the full cast was held on September 11, ahead of the start of filming later that month.[110] Gunn later announced the film's full main cast and characters: Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man, Cena as Peacemaker, Courtney as Captain Boomerang, Joaquín Cosío as Mateo Suarez, Fillion as T.D.K., Kinnaman as Rick Flag, Mayling Ng as Mongal, Borg as Javelin, his brother Sean Gunn as Weasel, Juan Diego Botto as Silvio Luna, Reid as Tyla, Davidson as Blackguard, Waititi as the first Ratcatcher, Alice Braga as Sol Soria, Agee, Tinashe Kajese as Flo Crawley, Melchior as Ratcatcher 2, Capaldi as Thinker, Julio Ruiz as Milton, his girlfriend Jennifer Holland as Emilia Harcourt, Davis as Waller, Elba as Bloodsport, Robbie as Quinn, and his frequent collaborator Michael Rooker as Savant.[32][47][5][25][44][48][46] Agee was the on-set reference for King Shark,[19] and also portrays John Economos, the warden of the Belle Reve penitentiary.[45] Other characters considered for the film include Sportsmaster,[112] Dogwelder,[113] Bat-Mite,[25] Livewire, Punch and Jewelee, Black Spider, Deathstroke, Man-Bat, Plastique, Chemo, KGBeast, Solomon Grundy, Rainbow Creature, Gunhawk, Knockout, Killer Frost, Mr. Freeze,[114][115][116] and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II's Black Manta from Aquaman (2018), but Gunn felt that the characters he decided to use all worked the best for this film's plot.[117] He did not consider using the Joker because he felt Amanda Waller would not have any use for the character,[118] and chose not to use Kite Man because he felt the character was already a punchline in the comics and would not feel fresh for the film.[119] Gunn also avoided characters like Bronze Tiger and Katana since they are antiheroes rather than villains.[120] He chose Starro as one of the main antagonists because he found that character to be ridiculous yet "fucking terrifying", which reflected what he was trying to accomplish with the film.[7] DC allowed Gunn to kill off any of the film's characters,[86] and he had to ignore potential backlash from killing characters to prioritize natural story and character progression.[7] Gunn's first draft originally had Polka-Dot Man surviving and Ratcatcher 2 dying, but he ultimately reversed the decision because he felt Polka-Dot Man's arc was "complete" by the time of his death whereas Ratcatcher's was not.[121] The breakout scene for Harley Quinn was heavily inspired by Gunn's work on Lollipop Chainsaw, a game developed by Suda 51 and Grasshopper Manufacture, which was also distributed by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Gunn used the game as a visual reference to create the colorful yet gory "Harley-vision" for the sequence.[122]

Filming

Principal photography began on September 20, 2019, at Pinewood Atlanta Studios in Atlanta, Georgia.[111][123] Henry Braham served as cinematographer, after previously doing so for Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.[124] Production designer Beth Mickle said Gunn wanted the film to be "grey and drab and monotone" until the characters arrive in Corto Maltese, which he wanted to "explode with color" like Panama and Havana. Mickle took specific inspiration for the island's color palette from Colón, Panama.[29] Feige and Marvel Studios co-president Louis D'Esposito visited the set during filming.[125] Gunn took several precautions to try to avoid details about the film leaking, such as referring to Elba's character in the script and on set as "Vigilante" to prevent his actual role from being revealed, and also not giving some of the actors script pages from after their character's deaths.[126]

Gunn said the film featured the biggest sets ever built for a Warner Bros.' film,[29] with Mickle building a set the size of three football fields for the outside of Jotunheim where the final battle was filmed.[127] A "warehouse-sized jungle" set was also built, featuring a bamboo cage that was 8 feet (2.4 m) deep.[90] Gunn also said the film used more practical effects than any other blockbuster comic book film, with on-set special effects provided by Dan Sudick and prosthetics created by Legacy Effects.[128] Gunn highlighted a shot in the film where King Shark, who is created with visual effects, rips a person in half, which was done practically using special effects and prosthetics.[21] Stunt supervisor Guy Norris served as second unit director for one scene in the film. Gunn explained that he rarely uses second unit directors on his films and has never liked working with them, but he enjoyed the experience of working with Norris.[129] Filming in Atlanta was expected to last three months before moving to Panama for a month.[130] Filming also took place in Porto, Portugal.[131] Filming wrapped on February 28, 2020.[132]

Post-production

Fred Raskin and Christian Wagner served as editors on the film. Raskin previously worked alongside Gunn on Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.[133] Kelvin McIlwain was the visual effects supervisor for the film, with visual effects vendors including Framestore, Weta Digital, Trixter, Scanline VFX, and Cantina Creative.[134] By April 2020, Gunn was editing the film at his home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which he said had not affected post-production or the release schedule at that time.[135] He felt the film was too long initially, and removed some elements such as more of Harley Quinn's separate storyline that he felt were "pushing audiences away a little bit too much".[105] The film ultimately came in under budget and had no days of additional photography.[136]

In December 2020, Gunn said editing for the film's final cut had been completed and work on the remaining visual effects, sound, and score was continuing.[137] A month later, at the beginning of filming for the spin-off series Peacemaker in Vancouver, Canada, Gunn filmed a post-credits scene for The Suicide Squad that sets-up the series.[138] The film had been fully finished by early February 2021, and Gunn said Warner Bros. had not interfered with his vision for the film and had only given a few minor notes on it.[139] He added that The Suicide Squad was the most fun film he had made, which he attributed to prioritizing creativity over perfectionism, being in the best place mentally and emotionally of his career, having a "stupendous" cast and crew and supportive studio, and feeling that he was at the height of his directing abilities with the film.[140]

Music

Main article: The Suicide Squad (soundtrack)

In May 2020, John Murphy was set as the composer for the film.[141] Tyler Bates, who scored all of Gunn's previous films, was originally attached to compose the score for The Suicide Squad but eventually left the project. During pre-production, Bates wrote music for Gunn to use on set as he had previously done for Gunn on the Guardians of the Galaxy films.[142] The single "Rain" by grandson and Jessie Reyez from the film's soundtrack album was released on June 22, 2021, with the artists also expected to contribute songs individually to the album.[143] A single from Murphy's score, "So This Is The Famous Suicide Squad", was made available on July 8.[144]

Marketing

A behind-the-scenes featurette was released on August 22, 2020, during the virtual DC FanDome event.[145] A panel for the film was held during Comic Con Experience's digital event CCXP Worlds on December 6, with James Gunn and members of the cast in attendance. A design for Elba's costume as Bloodsport was revealed.[10]

The film's first trailer was released on March 26, 2021, with Alex McLevy of The A.V. Club praising its jokes and action. He felt everything about the trailer perfectly captured the Suicide Squad's inherent "outlandish fun" from the comics.[146] Anthony D'Alessandro at Deadline Hollywood felt the trailer had all the trademarks of Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy films, noting the use of a "retro hit single" in Steely Dan's "Dirty Work",[147] with The Verge's Jay Peters also getting "some serious Guardians of the Galaxy vibes" from the trailer.[18] D'Alessandro and Peters both compared it to the recently released DC film Zack Snyder's Justice League (2021) and noted how the trailer was much more colorful and humorous than that film.[147][18] McLevy, Jennifer Bisset and Sean Keane of CNET, and CinemaBlend's Sean O'Connell all highlighted King Shark and his R-rated scenes.[146][148][149] The trailer was viewed 150 million times within a week of its release, breaking the record for red band trailers that was previously held by the trailer for Mortal Kombat (2021).[150]

A green band trailer was released online on April Fool's Day, after debuting in front of theatrical screenings of Godzilla vs. Kong (2021). It features new footage, as Gunn did not just want to use a slightly edited version of the red band trailer as is usually done. Jennifer Ouellette at Ars Technica noted that the new trailer had a darker, more ominous tone than the red band version, without the jokes and King Shark scenes and with added character beats.[151] Another trailer was released on June 22 by the main cast of the film in a marketing stunt where they pretended that they were leaking the trailer early. Gunn and Warner Bros. also joked about the trailer's "early release".[152] The trailer features the song "Rain" by grandson and Jessie Reyez from the film's soundtrack album.[143]

Release

Theatrical and streaming

The Suicide Squad premiered theatrically in the United Kingdom on July 30, 2021.[153] It was scheduled to debut in the United States on August 6,[82] but was moved up a day to August 5, which is James Gunn's birthday, for early preview screenings.[154] The film was also made available on the streaming service HBO Max on August 5, for a one month premiere streaming window. This was done as part of Warner Bros.' joint theatrical and streaming release strategy for 2021 films that was announced in December 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.[155] Reflecting on this release strategy in January 2022, Gunn acknowledged suggestions that it negatively impacted on the film's box office performance and said the approach was not ideal for the film. He added that the film was widely pirated following its streaming debut,[156] with a high quality version of the film appearing on piracy websites almost immediately after it was released on HBO Max.[157] However, Gunn was grateful that people had been able to see the film online during the pandemic and that it had otherwise been well received.[156]

Home media

The film was made available for digital purchase and rental on September 17, 2021, after leaving its HBO Max same day premiere window. The Suicide Squad was then released on DVD, Blu-ray, and Ultra HD Blu-ray on October 26, with special features including a commentary by Gunn, deleted and extended scenes, a gag reel, three retro style trailers, breakdowns of key scenes from the film, and several making-of featurettes.[158] The film was the top-seller for home media sales in the United States for two weeks after its release, on both the NPD Videoscan First Alert chart (which tracks combined Blu-ray and DVD sales) and the dedicated Blu-ray sales chart.[159][160]

Reception

Box office

The Suicide Squad grossed $55.8 million in the United States and Canada, and $111.6 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $167.4 million.[4] It was made for a budget of $185 million.[2]

In the United States and Canada, the film made $12.2 million on its first day, including $4.1 million from Thursday night previews, which was the biggest first day for an R-rated film during the pandemic. That contributed to $26.2 million across the film's opening weekend, which was also the biggest for an R-rated film during the pandemic and included $2.6 million from IMAX screens and other large formats. Despite the pandemic-era records, the film fell short of Warner Bros. and industry projections of a $30 million opening, projections that themselves were considered low and were closer to the underperforming Birds of Prey than the successful first Suicide Squad.[161] The film then "plummeted" 70 percent in its second weekend, finishing fifth with just $7.75 million. This drop was similar to those seen in the second weekends of other films released simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max, such as Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021).[162] The Suicide Squad dropped another 54 percent in its third weekend, grossing 3.4 million,[163] before crossing $50 million total in its fourth weekend with an additional $2 million.[164]

The week prior to its domestic release, the film made $6.7 million from five countries, including $4.7 million in the United Kingdom and $1.6 million in France.[165][166] The Suicide Squad expanded to 69 countries, covering all major markets except Japan, in its second week of international release. It made $35 million, finishing first in Russia ($4.2 million), Mexico ($2 million), Brazil ($1.5 million), Spain ($1.3 million), and Italy ($1.1 million), and only dropped 25 percent in markets that it opened in the previous week. $2.45 million of the total was contributed by IMAX screens. Even when taking into account the pandemic limiting theaters in territories such as Italy, Australia, Mexico, and South East Asia, the weekend's total grosses were below expectations.[166] The film opened at number one in Japan the following week with $1.9 million, retained first position in Brazil, and moved to first in Australia as well. Overall the weekend total was $17 million, down 50 percent from the previous week and behind new release Free Guy in many markets.[167] The film added $8.7 million in its fourth international weekend,[168] before passing $100 million total internationally the next week with an additional $4.6 million.[169] The United Kingdom, Russia, France, Germany, and Mexico were the leading markets for the film outside of the U.S. and Canada.[168]

The film's box office underperformance was generally attributed to its release during the COVID-19 pandemic, the fact that it was also available for streaming on HBO Max at the same time as its theatrical release, piracy allowed by the streaming release, the R-rating which limited younger audiences, the poor reception to the first Suicide Squad, the lack of bankable stars such as Will Smith, and confusion from general audiences over its relationship to the first film caused by their similar titles.[161][166][170][171][172] Anthony D'Alessandro of Deadline Hollywood felt the HBO Max availability and feelings about the first film outweighed the impacts of the pandemic, and noted that other films had made significantly more money at the box office in recent weeks.[161] Writing for Forbes, Scott Mendelson especially highlighted the lack of stars, feeling that general audiences would not know of Gunn and his involvement and instead would see the film as a sequel without the main draws of the first film, such as Smith. Mendelson added that the film's $185 million budget was an "absurd amount to spend" on an R-rated film and was significantly more than what was spent on previous R-rated superhero films. He said the film required a "best-case-scenario box office" just to break even with that budget, and that did not turn out to be the case.[171]

Streaming viewership

HBO Max reported that The Suicide Squad had the second-biggest opening weekend of all the films that premiered simultaneously on the streaming service and in theaters. The service did not provide further details or data,[170] but analytics company Samba TV, which gathers viewership data from certain Smart TVs and content providers, reported that 2.8 million U.S. households watched the film over its first four days of release on HBO Max, which placed it only behind Mortal Kombat (3.8 million) for simultaneous theater and streaming releases. Also according to Samba TV, The Suicide Squad had the biggest HBO Max debut for a DC film, ahead of both Wonder Woman 1984 (2.2 million) and Zack Snyder's Justice League (1.8 million).[173] While discussing Nielsen Media Research's streaming ratings—which HBO Max does not participate in—for the week of the film's release, Forbes' Scott Mendelson estimated that around 369 million minutes of the film had been viewed based on Samba TV's figures, which would have placed it third on Nielsen's list of top streaming films for the week behind Netflix's Vivo (493 million minutes) and Disney+'s Jungle Cruise (407 million minutes).[174] For its first 17 days of release, Samba TV reported that 4.7 million households had watched The Suicide Squad, which placed it third after Mortal Kombat (5.5 million) and Godzilla vs. Kong (5.1 million).[175] These rankings remained the same for Samba TV's 30 day figures, which reported 5.1 million households having viewed The Suicide Squad in that time.[176] According to Whip Media, who track viewership data for the 19 million worldwide users of their TV Time app, The Suicide Squad was the seventh-most-streamed-film of 2021 and the most-streamed-project of the year for HBO Max.[177]

Critical response

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, The Suicide Squad holds an approval rating of 90% based on 361 reviews, with an average rating of 7.5/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Enlivened by writer-director James Gunn's singularly skewed vision, The Suicide Squad marks a funny, fast-paced rebound that plays to the source material's violent, anarchic strengths."[178] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 72 out of 100, based on 55 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[179] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale, the same score that the first film and Birds of Prey received, while PostTrak reported that 83% of audience members gave it a positive score compared to 73% for the first film. 62% told PostTrak that they would definitely recommend the film.[161]

Reviewing for The A.V. Club, Katie Rife gave the film a "B+" grade and said, "Now that superhero movies have gone from disreputable entertainment for children to global events ushered in with awed reverence, it was time for someone to come along and pop the balloon. Pulpy and outrageous, irreverent and ultraviolent, The Suicide Squad does so with a smile."[180] Writing for Variety, Owen Gleiberman called the film what "the first Suicide Squad should have been" and said that "The Suicide Squad comes sizzlingly alive as all-cylinders comic-book moviemaking. There's a frowsy destructive joy to the staging."[181] Clarisse Loughrey of The Independent also praised the film and considered it an improvement over Suicide Squad, writing "Gunn’s distinct and self-assured vision, which he’s said was left untouched and unbothered by studio interference, puts The Suicide Squad alongside the very best of modern comic-book filmmaking. His film, which now comes with an all-important 'The' at the beginning of its title, functions both as a sequel and a fresh start."[182] Brian Truitt of USA Today gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4 and said "The Suicide Squad shifts superhero movies into a hilarious, gory and exceedingly bonkers new direction but writer/director James Gunn still makes time to show one goofy supervillain making sure another's buckled up for a plane ride headed for certain doom" and also said that the film "is a bloody marvel that blows up the superhero genre."[183] Justin Chang from Los Angeles Times stated: "After 2016's ugly, bludgeoning Suicide Squad, I couldn't imagine liking - and could barely stomach the idea of seeing - another movie called Suicide Squad. I'm delighted to be proven wrong", and called the film "redemption for James Gunn and DC".[184] Richard Trenholm of CNET gave the film a positive review and praised it for its themes, writing "This irreverent comic book movie takes shots at very big and serious themes, raging against Western imperialism, American foreign policy and government deception as it indicts interference in foreign countries. Representing this chilling bureaucratic evil, Amanda Waller emerges as perhaps the most hateful villain in the DC universe — certainly the coldest."[185]

Alonso Duralde of the TheWrap wrote: "The Suicide Squad is by no means perfect, but like the Deadpool movies, it's a showcase for what can happen when a superhero movie is allowed to be sprightly, self-aware, and sardonic while also indulging in hard-R violence, gore, and language. Gunn's latest creation is not without moments that drag, but when it pops, it pops brilliantly."[186] Entertainment Weekly's Leah Greenblatt gave the film a C+ grade and wrote: "The script, accordingly, herks and jerks along with a sort of forced-festive glee, its mounting body count buffeted by goofball banter and pounding soundtrack cues. A good half of the jokes don't land, but unlike his predecessor's joyless slog, Gunn's version at least celebrates the nonsense."[187] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave the film 3 out of 5 stars, and called it "a long, loud, often enjoyable and amusing film that blitzes your eyeballs and eardrums and covers all the bases."[188]

Accolades

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Golden Trailer Awards July 22, 2021 Best Summer 2021 Blockbuster Trailer "No Problemo", Warner Bros. Nominated [189]
Best Summer 2021 Blockbuster Trailer "Rebellion", Warner Bros. Nominated
Hollywood Music in Media Awards November 17, 2021 Best Original Score in a Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film John Murphy Nominated [190]
People's Choice Awards December 7, 2021 The Female Movie Star of 2021 Margot Robbie Nominated [191]
Georgia Film Critics Association Awards January 14, 2022 Oglethorpe Award for Excellence in Georgia Cinema James Gunn Nominated [192]
Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards February 19, 2022 Best Contemporary Make-Up Heba Thorisdottir, Greg Funk, Sabrina Wilson, Jillian Erickson Pending [193]
Best Special Make-Up Effects Shane Mahan, Brian Sipe, Matt Sprunger, Greg Funk Pending
Best Contemporary Hair Styling Janine Rath-Thompson, Michelle Diamantides, Melizah Wheat, Kristen Saia Pending
Annie Awards February 26, 2022 Best Character Animation – Live Action Thomas Becker, Daniel Cavalcante, Philipp Winterstein, Victor Dinis and Thiago Martins Pending [194]
Hollywood Critics Association Awards February 28, 2022[195] Best Action Film The Suicide Squad Pending [196]
Best Animated or VSX Performance Sylvester Stallone Pending
Best Visual Effects Jonathan Fawkner, Kelvin McIlwain, Dan Sudick, and Guy Williams Pending
Visual Effects Society Awards March 8, 2022 Outstanding Created Environment in a Photoreal Feature Nick Cattell, Jason Desjarlais, Matt Fitzgerald, Jerome Moo (for Valle Del Marre) Pending [197]
Outstanding Model in a Photoreal or Animated Project Simon Dean Morley, Cedric Enriquez Canlas, Layne Howe, Alberto R. S. Hernandez (for Jotunheim) Pending
Outstanding Effects Simulations in a Photoreal Feature David R. Davies, Rogier Fransen, Sandy Sutherland, Brandon James Fleet (for Corto Maltese City Destruction) Pending
Satellite Awards March 18, 2022 Best Visual Effects Jonathan Fawkner, Kelvin McIlwain, Dan Sudick, and Guy Williams Pending [198]
Stunt Performance Award The Suicide Squad Won [199]

Future

Peacemaker

Main article: Peacemaker (TV series)

While completing work on The Suicide Squad during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gunn began writing a spin-off television series centered on Peacemaker.[200] In September 2020, HBO Max ordered Peacemaker straight-to-series, with Gunn writing all eight episodes and directing five of them. Cena stars as Peacemaker,[201] with Agee, Holland, and Davis also reprising their respective film roles.[45][46][202] Gunn and Safran executive produce the series,[201] which debuted in January 2022.[203]

Other

In January 2021, Gunn said he had ideas for more television spin-offs beyond Peacemaker.[204] That July, he said that he had ideas for a sequel film that would go in a different direction from just assembling a new Suicide Squad team.[32] DC Films president Walter Hamada said a month later that they had plans for more projects with Gunn,[136] and Gunn confirmed in January 2022 that he was developing a new television project for DC.[205] He said it was related to Peacemaker.[156] Also that month, Safran said there was potential for more spin-offs based on the Suicide Squad members such as Ratcatcher and Bloodsport if a filmmaker had a unique vision for them.[206]

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