As one of the very few who never took much to the first Guardians of the Galaxy film, my relationship with James Gunn seemed quite uncomplicated. Whilst I did disagree with his firing from Marvel when it happened, I didn’t care for his work as a director enough to be too upset about it, but when he decided to flip sides and then try to reboot the Suicide Squad franchise after David Ayer’s 2016 train wreck (likely only a wreck due to Warner Bros control, but who is to say?) my interest came back somewhat.
Admittedly, I did only see The Suicide Squad because of the opportunity to essentially go for free as my low expectations were holding me back otherwise until I could buy a cheap DVD copy somewhere down the line, but I was very much impressed with how much I enjoyed this film as it called forth the better qualities of the 2016 film and was at least quite consistent with its gags. The soundtrack wasn’t overbearing as I found it had been in Guardians of the Galaxy, instead leaning more towards merging some very fun character work with completely insane action set-pieces which dial it up to 11 and visibly love doing so. Gunn has clearly grown somewhat as a director, and his love for working with groups of different ‘heroes’ who can bounce off of one another and have banter is so clear here, especially in the final act when the group really come together and the jokes stop being about the small divisions between them.
So, given that the film was even able to make something of a Gunn believer out of someone who had found the majority of his other work relatively intolerable (even if the brief cameo from Taika Waititi was enough to make me groan), the low box office is really quite surprising. On an estimated budget of $185 million (which traditionally would be doubled to include advertising), the film took only $160 million worldwide.
Of course, there are a few things that this could be put down to, and it probably lies more with a mix of these factors rather than being on the shoulders of only one of them. The first reason, of course, is the general disdain for the original film from 2016 – a film that has been endlessly mocked since its release – and the general dislike for non-Wonder Woman DC related films since the release of The Dark Knight Rises in 2012. The other clear blame can be placed on the film being one of the earlier releases asking people to return to cinemas as Covid restrictions allowed them to re-open. Given that the film boasts a hard R-rating and a 15 certificate in the UK, a large portion of the crowd for comic book films is also suddenly banned from actually seeing the film and contributing to its box office success. Then the small percentage of those who will boycott the film due to Gunn’s involvement ought to be counted too, as well as the piracy advantages of airing cinema releases simultaenously with home releases.
It’s quite unfortunate, but it seems like a case of ‘wrong place, wrong time’ to release a film like this one. It certainly has the necessary requirements to be a hit, and it likely will become one given some time, but for now it is considered a flop and once again James Gunn is most likely in bother with the producers. Maybe he’ll get ‘em next time.
The Suicide Squad is still showing in some cinemas. See the trailer on YouTube below: