4 Stars out of 5
“My father loved me. I wish I could give that [love] to you.”
Tony Stark, Star Lord, Thor, Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne, Arthur Fleck … Bloodsport, Rat Catcher 2. You know their names and all of them have one thing in common. As the superhero genre reaches full maturity, one powerful theme emerges as the heart of what makes superheroes, and villains tick, father hunger.
James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad is not so much a remake of David Ayer’s poorly received Suicide Squad, as it is a redo. Gunn lets the previous alliteration do the heavy lifting, having already established the rules of the Suicide Squad world. Which gives Gunn his jumping-off point and the illustrious director to get right down to business. In this chapter, we are reintroduced to this band of criminal misfits who each have unique skills. They are recruited by the ruthless Amanda Waller (played again with cold cruelty by Viola Davis) to take out the world-conquering starfish, Starro. Yes, you read that right, a starfish, but if you have read the comic books, this will all make sense.
This new chapter is as rough and brutal as it is hilarious, earning every part of the mature rating it receives. Do not expect Guardians of the Galaxy, because this DC adventure contains more of Gunn’s sharper edges and will cause discomfort for many viewers. The Suicide Squad is hyper-violent, vulgar, hilarious, uncomfortable, but oddly heartfelt. Buried under the blood and expletives lies a story of how a father’s love, or lack thereof, can be the catalyst for a superhero or a convict’s formation. As our bizarre crew of heroes marches down the path to their inevitable confrontation with Starro, we are given heart-wrenching insights into how many of these convicts before they turned towards lives of crime. Gunn focuses his sights on Bloodsport (Idris Alba) and Rat-Catcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) during the heart of the middle act. Which makes room for both to share their background. The director gives us some convincing insights into the impact of father’s on their children.
What needs to be clear is that The Suicide Squad deserves a warning to all who are looking for DC's version of Guardians. Even though Gunn maintains his high writing and character development standards in this graphic novel excursion, there needs to be an emphasis on the 'graphic' element. Despite being an ode to fathers, this is not one that most would want to watch with their mother. With that caution squarely in place, know that this version does capture the true heart of this band of anti-heroes. Gunn's version will allow most of the fans of this squad to feel justified and satisfied with the result.
Reel Dialogue: “How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure…”
During the scene between Bloodsport and Ratcatcher 2, we find the heart of the film. Bloodsport resents fatherhood since he was traumatised by his own father’s cruelty. He puts the blame on this experience for the reason he wants nothing to do with his own daughter. This becomes evident as she hungers for his presence. She will do anything to reach her imprisoned father, even if it means entering into a life of crime herself. Rat-Catcher 2, on the other hand, cherishes her dad, who lost his battle with substance abuse. She looks back fondly on those formative moments they spent together. Even though they were poor, they were happy. Rat-Catcher 2 has love to give because love was given to her, by the most important person who could give to her was her father. In amongst the exploding heads and flying expletives, this turns into Gunn’s manifesto that a father’s love profoundly matters.
“Father hunger” pulses in the soul of every human being. It is not that a mother’s love does not matter (of course it does), but it is different. We hunger deep within our souls for love we know we cannot earn. People seek after a love that sees past our faults, failures, shortcomings, sins, insecurities. There is a yearning for a father who will give us a vision and a moral compass where he values us over all other earthly pursuits.
Most fathers do their best, but like Rat-Catcher 1, all human fathers have faults and shortcomings. There is only one Father who can love us perfectly, who can satisfy that “father hunger” that pulses unrelentingly in our souls. The Bible tells us the reason Jesus came was to make a way for us back to His Father. In so many ways, Jesus' life was the manifestation of Rat-Catcher 2’s wish for Bloodsport, “My Father loves me. I want to give that [love] to you.”
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! - 1 John 3:1