Suicide Squad Movie Showdown: 2016 v 2021

It’s a summer of DC do-overs as James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad hits theaters and HBO Max!

After 2016’s Suicide Squad was met with the critics’ less than enthusiastic response, the franchise’s future seemed bleak. Director David Ayer admitted that the theatrical version was not faithful to his vision despite success at the box office. The film even won an Oscar for Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling, a first for a DCEU film (even beating the MCU). This prompted a campaign for a Director’s Cut. This is quite similar to Zack Snyder’s debacle with WB over 2017’s disaster, Justice League. Due to the world-altering pandemic and the launch of HBO Max, Snyder was finally allowed to finish his vision. When Zack Snyder’s Justice League was finally released, it received widespread acclaim.

Apparently, lightning strikes twice for Warner Bros.

As Marvel fans will remember, Marvel Studios fired James Gunn in 2018, freeing him up for other projects. Then, DC swooped in and hired him to direct a sequel/soft reboot of Suicide Squad. Gunn’s The Suicide Squad is vastly different from 2016’s original and any DC or MCU film. However, it does hold a few similarities with its predecessor:

Both films exist within the DCEU. Gunn’s Suicide Squad lacks any onscreen superhero cameos. In the 2016 film, we saw Ben Affleck’s Batman interact with Task Force X’s director Amanda Waller played by Viola Davis. We also saw Batman takedown Harley Quinn and her abusive boyfriend, The Joker (Jared Leto). The most we get in the new one is a mention of Superman as the reason Bloodsport is now in prison. This throwaway line is one of the very few ties the sequel holds to the greater DCEU. Another tie-in we get is Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn taking center stage once more, and again, Margot Robbie knocks it out of the park. She portrays Harley as brutal, sadistic, independent, but also vulnerable. Though references to the first film are sparse, I thought the platonic friendship between her and Rick Flag was a suitable development thanks to their history.

The original and the reboot both have great soundtracks.

2016’s Suicide Squad is a throwback to when big summer blockbusters like Godzilla, The Matrix, and even Batman Forever had kickass soundtracks. Heathens by Twenty One Pilots was the first single from David Ayer’s Suicide Squad and peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and saw three Grammy nominations. Being a James Gunn movie, the new film is scored with classic rock and alternative songs ranging from Johnny Cash to The Pixies.

The Suicide Squad is my favorite new comic book film in a long time. If it’s an indication of what we can expect from this fresh, course-corrected DCEU, then fans have a lot to look forward to. It’s out now in theaters and on HBO Max!

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Writer, native Texan, DBZ fanatic, and budding Oscars historian

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