In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad was my most anticipated film of the year. Seeing the original Suicide Squad desperately try (and fail) to be Guardians of the Galaxy was an abysmal experience, so seeing that Warner Bros. had actually hired the director of Guardians for the sequel had me very optimistic, and I am glad to say that this film exceeded all of my expectations.

The Suicide Squad serves as less of a sequel and more of a soft reboot of the “Suicide Squad” concept. A few of the characters from the first film return, but their personalities are somewhat altered in order to better suit this film’s narrative. Normally, I would criticize inconsistencies like this, especially when a studio is attempting to build a cinematic universe, but I feel that the changes made helped make the characters more memorable as people with their own well rounded ideologies and worldviews. A standout example for me is Rick Flag, played by Joel Kinnaman. In the original film, the character had very little to do aside from be the main antagonist’s boyfriend and deliver the iconically awful “this is Katana” monologue. In this film, however, he is a far more active player in the narrative and has a set of ideals that are well defined and place him in conflict with other members of the squad. The same can be said for Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, once again providing a flawless and iconic performance of the character despite that character’s characterization shifting drastically between each of their films.

The new members are all written and performed equally as well. Idris Elba is great as the british mercenary Bloodsport, John Cena is also good performing both the comedic and threatening aspects of his character, Daniela Melchior plays her part as one of the team members less inclined to villainy very well and David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man stands as a bizarrely tragic figure whose trauma walks the line between deeply sad and humorous at the same time.

While this film does not retcon the first, it doesn’t actively take much from it either, instead choosing to divorce itself from it and sort of do its own thing. By the same token, if you go into this film expecting something exactly like Guardians of the Galaxy, you will be sorely disappointed. Though this film does share some similar themes with the Guardians films, such as abusive fathers and the concept of the “underdog hero,” The Suicide Squad feels distinctly different, likely in part due to its R-rating. This film is incredibly violent, crass, and bloody. It has scenes and imagery that Marvel would not dream of putting in any of their major MCU releases. If you don’t like gore, sex jokes, or rats, this is not the film for you, and if you do, you’re going to have a really good time.

In spite of how gruesome this film can be at times, it still provides an intimate theme evocative of Bob Ross’s philosophy. The entire film revolves around the exploitation of disadvantaged people and the climax demonstrates that, no matter who you are, you have a purpose. Even if you have done bad things or are seen as expendable by others, you are still capable of doing good. From what I have seen of him, this was a large part of Ross’s philosophy. It brings to mind that one time he decided to do a painting in black and white because a colorblind fan wrote to him about how they didn’t think they were capable of following along with his tutorial. The whole point of The Joy of Painting was to show ordinary people that they were capable of more than they thought they were, and that same lesson is what the characters of The Suicide Squad learn.

I highly recommend seeing this film. It is no longer on HBO Max, but it is very likely to return relatively soon seeing as how the spinoff series is going to be released on that platform so if you’re interested in having a bloody good time, keep an eye out for its inevitable return.