A Fin-Tastic First Trip Back To The Movies

Last week, Mark and I went out to see a James Gunn film that is the sequel to a comic book movie, deals with themes of traumatic parent/child relationships, and features Michael Rooker and Sean Gunn. No, it was not Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. But if your second guess was The Suicide Squad, then you would be correct.

This was an extra special movie-going experience because it was our first dinner-and-a-movie date night since the start of the pandemic. Mark and I used to go to the movies about once or twice a month before COVID, so returning was a surreal, yet familiar, experience. But we have been behaving responsibly during the pandemic, we are both fully vaccinated, and this was one film we HAD to see on the big screen. And apart from a mild panic attack on the bus ride over there, I was happy to be back at the Cineplex VIP Cinema in our area.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t there for the food. Yes, the movie is the important part, but I was ready to eat. And I’m not talking about our dinner in the VIP lounge. I cannot even begin to describe how much I have missed the taste of movie theatre popcorn since the start of the pandemic. I shoveled so much popcorn into my face that I forgot I was mask-less in a room of strangers, and even ended up with a stomach ache. Totally worth it.

In terms of those other mask-less strangers, everything went fairly well. The cinema did a good job of setting up COVID safety measures, including social distancing. However, not everything was enforced. In each theatre, movie goers are asked to stay in their reserved seats, and whole rows have been blocked off for good measure (unfortunately, not physically). But since no staff members came by to ensure that everyone was sitting where they were supposed to, the people sitting closest to us moved seats before the film started and sat in a row that was supposed to be unavailable – which is why I think some sort of physical blockade might have been useful. Luckily, they kept far enough away from us that we didn’t have to worry too much.

(Note: we sat in the DBox seats for this one and it was barely worth it. A 3D showing would have been better.)

But even if this had been a bad pandemic-related experience, nothing would have kept me from going to see The Suicide Squad in person. Is it because I enjoyed Suicide Squad (2016) that much? No. Actually, I still haven’t even seen that film (but Mark assured me that it’s terrible and wouldn’t impact my viewing of the sequel). If you know anything about me – or even if you’ve read my blog posts – you’ll know there are two reasons why I needed to see this film: Peter Capali (The Thinker), and King Shark (Sylvester Stalone). Yes, my main reasons for going were to see the actor who played my favourite Doctor, and to see a shark. Shocking, I know. (And obviously, I cried when King Shark was on screen). However, I have confirmation from my husband that, despite my bias, King Shark did steal the show. If you’re on the fence about whether to watch this one or not, just watch it for King Shark.

As far as rest of the film, everything was incredible. Mark found the opening was weaker than the rest of the film, and I though that the opening fight scene was harder to watch because it was so messy I didn’t know where to focus, but the rest of the film was smooth sailing from there. At times, The Suicide Squad felt like it was on the same wavelength as Guardians of the Galaxy (only bloodier), but I think that just comes down to James Gunn’s directorial style. Besides, he’s directed some box office hits as far as comic book movies go, so that’s proof he’s good at giving the people what they want and keeping up with market trends. I can’t fault him for that.

I also enjoyed the treatment of the female characters in the film. Coming off of Birds of Prey, I was hoping that Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) wouldn’t lose any progress in terms of character development. And, most importantly, I hoped she wouldn’t be overly sexualized. I may not have seen the first Suicide Squad, but I saw her costumes. Thankfully, between Quinn, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchoir), and more, there were plenty of strong female characters who were not sexualized or turned into props. And even in one scene when Harley Quinn was positioned as a sex object, she still had agency and she still had control of the situation.

If you’ve seen any of the chatter online, no doubt you’ve read about the fact that horrible things happen to a lot of birds. (Worse things happen to even more people, but that’s not important). But there’s one group you won’t see harmed at all in this film, and that’s kids. As I mentioned before, traumatic parent/child relationships are a key theme in this film – something that Gunn has pulled off well before in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. And as someone who has experienced my own traumatic parent child relationships, I appreciate that this made it into the film. As we’ve all heard countless times before, representation matters. For me, it helps to see these kinds of relationships in the media that show that it’s okay not to have a “perfect” relationship with your parent. And yes, this aspect of the film made me tear up too.

Spoiler: But even though kids (and grown adults) in this film suffer emotional hurt at the hands of their parents, one thing that’s made abundantly clear in this movie is that you do not hurt kids. Even though the anti-heroes in the main cast are all criminals, they all agree that the worst thing possible is hurting a kid. All of the villains of the film have either harmed children, or have threatened to do so, and they all get their comeuppance as a result. And given how many times the characters repeat that you do not hurt kids, viewers know that no matter how many horrible things you see, no matter how much blood and guts appear on screen, no matter how many people are tortured or killed, you will never see harm come to a child.

No children were harmed in the making of this film.

Everyone else was fair game.

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