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Now that the summer of 2016 is coming to an end, we can look back and clearly see the winners and losers at the box office. The blockbuster season peaked early with Captain America: Civil War, but it never really managed to recapture that critical luster all the way through the release of Suicide Squad. Having said that, Civil War didn't necessarily succeed on every single front of the eternal comic book movie war. Upon reflection it's become increasingly obvious to me that Suicide Squad is a far more fun movie than the third Captain America solo adventure, and I'm fully ready to stand by that argument.
Before taking this topic any further, I need to make one distinction very clear: I'm not saying that Suicide Squad is a better movie than Captain America: Civil War. There's simply no way to back up a claim like that. From a pure filmmaking standpoint, Civil War still stands as one of the most expertly crafted superhero movies in recent memory, if not of all time. Having said that, I can still say with the utmost confidence that I had far more fun watching Suicide Squad than I ever did watching the recent Marvel adventure.
It all comes down to tone. Captain America: Civil War and Suicide Squad both deal with comic book characters trying to save the day in the face of a major threat, but David Ayer's work with Task Force X approaches its subject matter with a much more offbeat and approachable tone that fans and mainstream audiences can get behind. Civil War is a straight-up thriller teeming with tension and raw human emotions; Suicide Squad similarly maintains that sense of pathos, but seems to also enjoy itself in giving us laughs and thrills in equal measure. Civil War is powerful, but Suicide Squad is exhilarating.
Unlike Civil War, Suicide Squad takes each and every available opportunity to make itself feel like a comic book movie, and not just a movie based on comic book characters. After all, what other superhero movies feature an Australian who has a fetish for pink unicorns? That question was rhetorical. Take the Civil War scene in which Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) introduces himself to Peter Parker (Tom Holland) as another example. It's one of the few scenes in the film played almost exclusively for laughs, and it's a welcome reprieve from the darkness that precedes it. It's Stark returning to the charming character we know, love, and miss. By contrast, even in Suicide Squad's darkest moments, it still finds time to pepper in appropriate levels of laughs, often as a result of Harley Quinn's insanity.
Even Deadshot's heartwarming reunion with his daughter at the Suicide Squad's conclusion feels like a fun, yet emotional payoff for everything that the film has led up to, but Squad still allows itself to have fun by having Will Smith's marksman crack morbid jokes about firing a gun from the top of a building while they bond. Civil War centers on a team of stern heroes splintering down the middle, while Suicide Squad has the luxury of letting its psychopaths (and the actors who play said psychopaths) run wild on the screen.
Admittedly I have to point out that I am somewhat biased on this topic, and that can skew my views on the matter. I fully embrace my status as a longtime DC fanboy, and as such a even brief cameo from Ben Affleck's Batman in a Gotham City alleyway will get me far more exited than seeing all of The Avengers tussle on an airport runway. That being said, Suicide Squad still proved far more effective at getting me to "oooo" and "ahhhhh" like a kid picking up a comic book for the very first time.
At the end of the day, there's nothing inherently wrong with a comic book movie that takes itself seriously. With Civil War, the Russo Brothers proved their deft filmmaking hands, and a fun tone cannot necessarily forgive Suicide Squad's inherent storytelling flaws. However, if I take off the lenses of a critic and just watch Suicide Squad like a true fan, it far and away feels like a more fun movie than Civil War could ever hope to be.