Marvel’s Thunderbolts is set to be the major team-up film in Phase 5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it will attempt to improve upon the formula used by 2016’s Suicide Squad film. Set to premiere in the summer of 2024, Thunderbolts will introduce a team of antiheroes and former villains who unite to face a hitherto unrevealed threat. The film has a major challenge in establishing a brand-new team to the MCU but also possesses the chance to offer audiences a more successful take on its “band of misfits” team, just as The Suicide Squad did in 2021.
Suicide Squad united a team of misfits, antiheroes, and villains from DC Comics. David Ayer’s film, however, was met with nearly universal disapproval, earning a measly 26% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While James Gunn’s follow-up was hailed as one of the best DCEU movies of all time, the franchise’s future remains unclear following the recent shakeups at DC, leaving many of its characters and storylines in limbo as the cinematic universe’s future is planned out in detail. This gives Marvel’s upcoming Thunderbolts film a chance to improve on Suicide Squad‘s original vision and give the MCU its own, better version of the Suicide Squad team.
Suicide Squad‘s premise was very much in line with the then-recent first Guardians of the Galaxy film, uniting a group of misfits and outlaws together to do good despite their checkered pasts. Keeping in line with the DCU’s tone, which is generally darker than the MCU, Suicide Squad was meant to lead DC’s fans to view Taskforce X as being both tragic and morally flimsy. However, studio executives got cold feet after the mixed reception to Batman v. Superman and ordered reshoots that altered the film’s story and tone, turning Suicide Squad into an incredibly different movie than what had been planned by David Ayer and his team of writers.
Ultimately, Suicide Squad‘s theatrical cut proved to be a confounding mess of a film, with clashing tones, inconsistent characters, and Jared Leto’s controversial portrayal of the Joker earning the movie much of its criticism. And, although there have been calls on social media for Warner Brothers to finalize and release David Ayer’s cut of Suicide Squad, such an eventuality doesn’t seem very likely, despite the new DCU head, James Gunn, having a close connection to the franchise. 2016’s Suicide Squad seems destined to remain in the halls of superhero movie infamy, having failed to resonate with fans in the same way that other films of a similar caliber had.
While Suicide Squad attempted to be DC’s answer to Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel has, in turn, set up its own response to the formation of the Suicide Squad in the DCU in their upcoming Thunderbolts film. Their announced team, which consists of several established MCU characters as well as multiple new ones, has already proven that the Thunderbolts will be starkly different from the Avengers, comprised mostly of antiheroes, former villains, and heroes with troubled histories. Their lineup is eerily similar to that of the Suicide Squad’s initial team, offering up a group of misfits who could just as easily destroy the world as save it.
Thunderbolts has the benefit of hindsight in its favor, with its filmmakers being able to improve where Suicide Squad ultimately failed. The film must be able to find and stick to a tone that allows for humor and fun without compromising the tragedy associated with each team member. Furthermore, the team must differ from other MCU groups in order to stand out as a unique corner of a sprawling universe. However, the most important difference between Suicide Squad and Thunderbolts is certainly in its characters, who have been better established. Nevertheless, the true heights that Thunderbolts will reach remains to be seen until 2024.
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