Movies & TV Shows

10 Lessons The MCU Movie Can Learn From James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad

Marvel Studios has confirmed that it’s working on a Thunderbolts movie to be directed by Jake Schreier for a theatrical release on July 26, 2024. With its team of reformed supervillains, Thunderbolts is essentially Marvel’s answer to DC’s Suicide Squad franchise. While David Ayer’s initial Suicide Squad movie was universally panned, James Gunn’s sequel/reboot The Suicide Squad was a resounding success (at least critically; commercially, it suffered from the lingering effects of the pandemic).

Gunn cracked the code for ensemble comic book antihero team-ups. Schreier’s Thunderbolts movie can learn a few valuable lessons from The Suicide Squad.


10 Jump Right Into The Action

With a beachfront massacre just a few minutes into its runtime, The Suicide Squad wastes no time getting into the action. Once the Task Force X B-team has arrived on the fictional South American island nation of Corto Maltese, The Suicide Squad is a nonstop thrill-ride.

Marvel should similarly get into its action nice and early. Set up the team roster and their mission succinctly in the opening minutes, then dive into the high-octane spectacle.

9 Find What Makes The Characters Sympathetic

The characters in The Suicide Squad are technically villains, but Gunn figured out ways to make them all sympathetic, like Harley Quinn’s broken heart and Polka-Dot Man’s tragic backstory with his mother. Marvel has yet to unveil its Thunderbolts line-up, but the team is expected to include characters like John Walker, Yelena Belova, Echo, Ghost, and the Abomination.

Screenwriter Eric Pearson needs to lean into what makes these characters sympathetic, like Walker’s quest for redemption after his regrettable shield smackdown and Yelena learning that the family unit she grew up in was a Soviet lie.

8 The Villains Have To Be Even Worse Than The Antiheroes

Starro the Conqueror might look silly, as a starfish-shaped kaiju, but he’s one of the deadliest villains in the DC catalogue, full of facehuggers turning unsuspecting civilians into loyal zombified minions. And the Thinker, played by Peter Capaldi, is even more despicable. He’s a mad scientist who’s been torturing Starro to conduct malicious experiments.

The murderers and mercenaries of Task Force X might be bad guys, but their enemies are even worse guys. The Thunderbolts need to take on a villain even more hateful than anyone in their ranks, like Red Hulk or Count Nefaria.

7 Take Cues From The Dirty Dozen

In bringing the Suicide Squad comics to the screen, Gunn didn’t just draw from DC’s source material; he also took influence from gritty guys-on-a-mission war movies like The Dirty Dozen and Where Eagles Dare.

The MCU famously explores a different genre framework with each movie: Ant-Man is a heist movie, Black Widow is a spy movie, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a martial arts movie. The Thunderbolts movie shouldn’t necessarily be a war film, but it should take cues from the quintessential ensemble antihero action of The Dirty Dozen.

6 The Darker The Humor Is, The Better

At the beginning of The Suicide Squad, an entire Task Force X squadron (minus Rick Flag and Harley Quinn) is gruesomely killed off for dark laughs. When dealing with a story like The Suicide Squad or Thunderbolts, the darker the humor is, the better.

The MCU’s movies are all full of comedic beats and quippy one-liners, but Thunderbolts in particular, with its villainous protagonists, deserves a more pitch-black comic sensibility.

5 Dig Into The Inherent Satirical Themes Of The Premise

The concept of the U.S. government sending a black-ops team of supervillains overseas to do its dirty work is ripe for satire. In The Suicide Squad, Gunn dug into the inherent themes of this premise with a hilariously heavy-handed critique of American foreign policy.

The MCU’s output is usually light on themes. But some Marvel movies have poignant subtext, from Black Panther’s criticism of colonialism to Thor: Ragnarok’s lampooning of whitewashing (the Grandmaster calls his slaves “prisoners with jobs”). With the Thunderbolts movie, the franchise can offer up its own satirical take on American imperialism.

4 The R Rating Is Delightfully Freeing

It’s unlikely that Marvel is aiming for an R rating with its Thunderbolts movie, but the freedom of the more lenient MPAA rating worked wonders for The Suicide Squad. Gunn filled his own supervillain team-up movie with profanity, gallows humor, and buckets of blood.

Marvel is going for an R rating with its upcoming third Deadpool movie, so it’s not out of the question for the studio to step outside its PG-13 comfort zone if it works for the material.

3 Fill The Soundtrack With Sumptuous Needle-Drops

Aside from a few exceptions, like Michael Giacchino’s Spider-Man scores, the MCU’s movies tend to have generic, forgettable music. Gunn rectified that with Peter Quill’s “Awesome Mix” playlists full of hit tracks from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies.

Gunn continued his needle-drop tradition in The Suicide Squad with songs by Johnny Cash, Louis Prima, and the Fratellis. Thunderbolts’ soundtrack will be more memorable if it has licensed needle-drops as opposed to a generic original score.

2 The Real Villain Is The Team’s Handler

The real villain in The Suicide Squad is Amanda Waller, the director of A.R.G.U.S. who runs the Task Force X program. Waller views the members of Task Force X as expendable footsoldiers, not human beings.

In the comics, the Thunderbolts are led by General Thaddeus Ross. Since actor William Hurt has passed away, the MCU’s Thunderbolts might instead be led by Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ dubious Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine.

1 Explore The Team Dynamic

What sets Gunn’s comic book team-up movies apart from most others is that, on top of rounding out the characters individually, he explores their relationships with one another. In The Suicide Squad, much like in his Guardians of the Galaxy movies, Gunn doesn’t just give the characters interchangeable quips.

The Thunderbolts movie should follow suit and figure out how the characters play off of each other. Will John Walker appreciate the Abomination’s abominable haikus? Will Yelena Belova and Baron Zemo bond over losing their families?

NEXT: 10 Comic Characters Who Could Join The MCU’s Thunderbolts

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