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(Credit: Gage Skidmore)

James Gunn discusses the politics of 'The Suicide Squad'

American filmmaker James Gunn is renowned for his work in the superhero genre but he has always been a skilled director, evident from his 2006 directorial debut Slither itself. After the universal success of the Guardians of the Galaxy films, Gunn’s latest project ventures into the DC universe and is a standalone sequel to the critically panned 2016 film Suicide Squad.

Starring the likes of Idris Elba, John Cena and Margot Robbie among others, Gunn’s film follows teams of inmates who are ordered to destroy a Nazi-era lab on a South American island. After the recent release of The Suicide Squad, Gunn was praised by critics as well as fans for his undeniable talent as a filmmaker. The general consensus has been that this has everything that the first film lacked.

In an interview with Variety, Gunn elaborated on the political commentary that forms the subtextual component of The Suicide Squad: “The stuff with Bloodsport and Peacemaker, I had a lot of reservations about. I loved the sequence,” he said. “It’s funny and it goes to the heart of what the movie is about, for me, in terms of Bloodsport’s journey of starting to learn that being a man and being a leader is not synonymous with being a toxic man, and that the path forward to true manhood is through vulnerability.”

Adding, “That [sequence] is a big part of that — just a big dick swinging contest between two people. But, man, even watching it the other night in the theatre, that’s the one place I go, holy shit, we pushed it far — like, it’s at the edge of where we could go with that. There were some Warner Bros. execs who brought up, ‘Is this the one place that we go too far?’ I think that’s when I added, you know, Amanda Waller explicitly tells them to go into the camp and kill everyone. So they are following her orders, and she is in a way the antagonist in the film.”

Peacemaker (played by John Cena) is used by Gunn as a representative of the covert American imperialism that has systematically destabilised regimes and committed atrocities in other parts of the world for decades. While discussing the character, Gunn also spoke about the relatively recent political event which audiences might associate with the political vision of the film – the infamous Capital riot that happened in January of this year.

Gunn said: “Those types of characters were pretty prominent when you’re me before the storming of the Capitol on January 6. But also, I think that, you know, Peacemaker is also a certain mindset, some of which is noxious and some of which makes logical sense, even if it doesn’t make ethical sense. Rick Flag is horrified by what the government has done, and Peacemaker is also actually horrified. But he says, ‘It’s not going to help the world to know the truth.’ It’s a sort of a philosophical conversation at that point that’s been going on as long as there’s been philosophy.”

Due to the complexity of Peacemaker, a spin-off television series is already being prepared which will revolve around the title character. It is set to premiere in 2022 on the streaming platform HBO Max.

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