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Extended SUICIDE SQUAD Blu-ray Fills in Many Gaps (Review)

Extended SUICIDE SQUAD Blu-ray Fills in Many Gaps (Review)

Warning: this review contains spoilers for Suicide Squad in both its old and new cuts. If you want to be surprised, watch it first and then come back here for analysis.

It ought to be apparent that, as things stand right now, there’s no way you were ever going to get a commentary track on Suicide Squad. Warner Bros. are still too nervous about their DC movie franchise to just allow a guy like director David Ayer to speak off the cuff in the way Marvel could allow the Russos to do on Captain America: Civil War. I don’t know how many of the rumors of trouble behind the scenes were true, and frankly I suspect (based on the fact that the film plays better than a lot of people say it does) they were exaggerated. But we’re not going to hear about that on any official release, nor, for that matter, is a PG-13 Blu-ray going to discuss Jared Leto giving used condoms to castmates. You have to go in knowing this stuff and understanding what you simply will not get from a protective, four-quadrant company. With that said, it is pleasing how much they do allow in the extras, which encompass basically one long behind-the-scenes feature cut into thematic, bite-sized chunks.

Yes, you see Jared Leto being crazy, and in the present day, kind of meekly acting bemused about how he didn’t expect to get so immersed in character. And yes, you see things you might have only heard about before: the cast giving each other tattoos of the word “SKWAD,” Margot Robbie learning trapeze work and to hold her breath for five minutes, Will Smith clearly so delighted by his character that he talks about him to camera at great length, and an explanation for the fact that the Joker has metal teeth because Batman knocked them all out in a rage. What remains utterly unmentioned is the appearance of Ben Affleck’s Batman in the film—I’m guessing publicity wasn’t in his contract and they’d have had to pay him extra for it.


Ayer proves his comic-book bona fides by expounding at length on the print history of the Suicide Squad, as he and Amanda Waller creator John Ostrander go into the backgrounds of many of the characters, delivering information hardcore fans will know but casual reviewers will not (like Slipknot’s sudden death being taken almost directly from the page). The unfortunate omissions here are the Enchantress and her brother, being the two onscreen characters whose backgrounds most need clarifying (and who most need toys to be made of, but that’s another issue). Her eyeball-headed henchmen, on the other hand, come from a dream Ayer had.

The director’s military background and teenaged life in South Central L.A. come into play in scenes of the actors getting real-deal training, the creation of Will Smith’s wrist guns as fully functional weapons that fired live rounds, and Ayer’s expressed desire that he really wanted to see a Mexican superhero onscreen, resulting in the modern incarnation of Diablo becoming a surprise favorite character of many viewers. You may have forgotten that Ayer was one of the writers on the original The Fast and the Furious, but if you ever found yourself realizing that the diverse ensemble of antiheroes borrowed heavily from that franchise, you now know that this director is more entitled than most to do such cribbing.

There’s also a too-short gag-reel and an in-universe breakdown of the Squad’s first battle with the eyeball guys, neither of which you’re likely to watch more than once (the behind-the-scenes stuff gives more and better details on the team’s weapons than the “kayfabe” version ever could). The biggest takeaway is that Smith has really loud sneezes, which means that yes, I actually do have at least one thing in common with the biggest movie star in the world.


And then there’s the 13-minute longer cut of the film. It’s clear from a technical perspective why the trims were made—all the cuts are character beats that slowed down the process of getting to the action quicker. It is equally clear that once they’re back in, the action means a lot more and the editing pace changes dramatically. Coverage has focused on whether or not the extra stuff would be more Joker and Harley, and some of it is, but it’s in the service of a much larger theme that carries across all the major characters. Fans of the movie could have extrapolated a lot of this simply as stuff we didn’t see, but those for whom it didn’t click will get a much better sense of what Ayer was going for: thematically, the entire film is about the conflict between love and loyalty/duty.

On the team, the fundamental difference between these two drives is embodied on the extremes by Katana and Captain Boomerang. The former, whose love is forever lost inside her sword, is unfailingly loyal to Rick Flag above all else, while Boomerang is pure indulgent id with no loyalty whatsoever. In the middle is Deadshot, whose love for his daughter drives his duty, and in the newly added scenes, leads him to cut a deal with Flag after first trying to organize a rebellion with Harley and Boomerang. His first impulse is to cut and run and get back to his daughter; his second is to see the mission through, and that loyalty pays off in the ability to regularly see and communicate with her rather than living life on the run.

For the purposes of the movie, it’s best to forget what you may know about Harley and Joker’s relationship in the comics, which is mostly depicted as abusive and one-sided. In the longer cut of the movie, she has more agency. Joker initially hates her for trying to analyze him, and so he punishes her with electro-shock—she then actively pursues him, and impresses him by being in some ways even more insane than he is. And it seems that he genuinely falls for her: when she takes a dive into the chemicals that made him an eternally bleached clown, you can sense the slight resentment inside that he feels strongly enough about her that he’s obliged to dive in after and save her from drowning.


As long as Joker is out there and trying to save her (it seems to bother some people most that Joker has the role of “motivating love interest,” usually reserved for women), Harley is actively playing mind games with the rest of the Squad, which is much more obvious in the newer scenes. But when the Joker seems to have died, and Deadshot still keeps his word to her, she dedicates herself more to team loyalty …and gets her lost love back in the end anyway. Leave the mission for love, Ayer seems to be saying, and you screw over everyone; see it through, and you get your love back in the end anyway.

It’s a dynamic that also plays out between June Moon and Rick Flag, the latter explaining his feelings much more in the new scenes, as he and Deadshot engage in bonding banter. Flag is bound by a promise to June to kill her if her dark alter ego can’t be stopped, and that is also his duty—but in the end he kills the alter ego and gets his love back, having not realized such a deal was possible.

In other characters, the dynamic doesn’t need an active love interest. Diablo, as made clearer in the newer cut, knows he’s on a suicide mission and takes it because he wants to die, feeling honor-bound to stop himself from doing more harm, but in the end, as his Catholic-themed tattoos might have tipped off, he realizes that a man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends. Killer Croc just learns to love himself a bit more–initially, he lives in the sewer like an animal and accepts the view of himself as a monster; later he tells the group he’s beautiful, and by the end his cell has more human creature comforts, among them a fully stocked bar and cable TV.


Enchantress notably offers false fulfillment of love without duty, even as she is motivated by her affection for her brother; her henchmen zero in on Flag at all times because she wants to destroy the desire that has actually been earned, which is ultimately her first weakness. Believing that Harley would take the easy way out if it meant worshiping someone other than Joker is her second; Harley is more manipulative than anyone realizes, and with more scenes of mind games on the others reinserted, her final con is a better payoff.

So yes, this is a better version—most of the criticisms about characters’ relationships to one another are answered, and even two brief moments of Katana speaking English expand her into something less stereotypical. There isn’t any more of Slipknot; Ayer’s prior explanation that it simply wastes valuable screen time to build him just to fake you out makes sense, but for a longer fan cut like this it probably wouldn’t have hurt.

There is a technical difference on Blu-ray, and I don’t think I’m crazy because another critic I spoke to noticed this too—on the small screen and without 3D, the image overall is less clear than it was writ large. It’s like every room has traces of chlorine gas in it and we’re looking through a green smoky haze. This leads to one key scene becoming open for interpretation: in the dream sequence where Harley imagines being married with kids (her possible pregnancy and miscarriage, incidentally, as hinted by the baby clothes in Joker’s hideout, remains subtext only), it’s not clear that Leto’s hair doesn’t have a green tint to it. Read into that as you will.

On the themes of love and loyalty, I confess I have loved Suicide Squad since seeing it twice in theaters, and my loyalty has brought an even better cut, though the theatrical is included on both a DVD and an extra Blu-ray disc. I would have liked even more extras, but understand that, unless and until DC movies become as unassailable a brand as Marvel, that kind of revisit may never be.

4 lovable, stalwart burritos out of 5:

4 burritos

Images: Warner Bros.

Luke Y. Thompson is a member of the L.A. Film Critics Association, and bummed that the Justice League vs. Suicide Squad idea teased mid-credits will almost certainly not happen. Commiserate with him on Twitter.

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