I wanted to start this review with a few caveats: I haven’t seen many of the DC Animated Universe films, though the ones that have been seen are enjoyable, and I hated Suicide Squad. I hated it a lot. So, when the opportunity to review the newest DC Animated Universe film, Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay, came up, I really wanted to give it an opportunity. Thankfully, there was a lot to enjoy about this foray into the DC Universe.
Following Task Force X through a mission involving leaked intelligence, we see some familiar faces from the team, especially that of Deadshot. As things go awry, the team loses a few members, but under the guidance of Amanda Waller, a more recognizable team is assembled and given a new task: to retrieve a mysterious card that will allow its possessor to bypass Hell and go straight to Heaven when they pass, an object Waller desperately wants to have in her possession.
Without giving away too much, the film brings in faces that are well known and a few that casual fans might not know too well. Harley Quin, Deadshot, and Boomerang are all present, joined by Killer Frost, the modified snake-like Copperhead, and the brilliant martial artist Bronze Tiger. Together, they attempt to work off their prison sentences by completing black ops missions for Waller, given direct instructions to retrieve the card and get it back to her by any means necessary.
I want to get into the good of this film before I dole out a few criticisms. The story is well paced, giving each character their time to shine. Deadshot is the sullen and grumpy leader, Bronze Tiger gets his opportunity to show his moral compass in spite of his situation, and Harley gets a few laughs. This balance allows for a really interesting team dynamic that helps to push the story along. While not every beat is spot on, the overall result was a pretty enjoyable film.
I also think the surprisingly star-studded voice cast did an excellent job in representing their characters. Christian Slater does a terrific job stepping into the serious, but desperate, mind of Deadshot, Tara Strong continues to be basically the only choice (not named Margot Robbie) to be Harley Quinn, Vanessa Williams excels as Amanda Waller, and the entire cast feels at home in their roles within this universe.
Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay also does an excellent job of bringing these characters into the DC Universe as a whole. While they’re in their own world for this film, the tendrils that link them to the bigger names in DC are obviously there. All of the characters from the different franchises work well together here. Seeing Killer Frost and Professor Zoom, known as Flash villains, work with Batman staple Harley Quinn is a joy, as they all build off of one another in an interesting way.
That being said, there were a few things that I wanted to make known, especially since the animated films could be seen as an entry for children into the DC Universe to those who aren’t as familiar with these films as a whole. This is not a film for young viewers, as it has a fair amount of violence, cursing, and even a small amount of nudity, some of which felt warranted, but a good amount feeling slapped on to give it an edgier feel. Curious decisions were made, especially in these regards, as the treatment of gore and foul language mostly felt tacked on to give it a bit of sharpness for die-hard fans. It’s not too hard to forgive, as it’s not terribly frequent, but when the out-of-place moments happen, they are very noticeable.
Overall, this is a good film. It’s got a lot of entertaining action, beloved characters, and a story that will hold interest for fans of the DCU. Fans of the comics and some of the live-action films should be pleased, and even skeptics like myself are turned towards the DC Animated films for their quality. Unlike their live-action counterparts, this version of the Suicide Squad hits the mark, and for good reason.
Starring: Christian Slater, Vanessa Williams, Billy Brown, Tara Strong, C. Thomas Howell, Kristin Bauer Van Straten
Creative Team: Sam Liu (director), Alan Burnett (writer)
Publisher: DC Entertainment
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