James Gunn thrives with lesser-known comic book characters

HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 25: James Gunn attends the Los Angeles Global Premiere for Marvel Studios' "Ant-Man And The Wasp" at the El Capitan Theatre on June 25, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 25: James Gunn attends the Los Angeles Global Premiere for Marvel Studios' "Ant-Man And The Wasp" at the El Capitan Theatre on June 25, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney) /

James Gunn makes magic happen whenever he has a cast of lesser-known characters and The Suicide Squad is just the most recent example of that.

James Gunn is now known to be a maestro of the quirky colorful comic book film starring unlikely protagonists.

His success directing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 and Vol. 2  and now The Suicide Squad has made him a sought-after filmmaker. On paper, Gunn can handle almost anything given to him but he seems to favor the lesser-known characters who occupy the same space as the A-listers.

James Gunn turned the Guardians of the Galaxy into movie stars

Guardians of the Galaxy was not a guaranteed success, despite it being part of the already successful Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film had a personality and style unlike anything out there that starred D-list characters who became superstars overnight. The heroes in that film were all rejects that became a family bonding over their lowly place in the world. Yes, Guardians worked within the MCU/Feige system, but it can’t be overstated how impressive it is that a movie with a raccoon and talking tree worked.

In fact, Guardians’ impact started to be felt in the franchises that influenced it like Star Wars and Star Trek, as well as Marvel’s biggest competitor DC. In 2016, Suicide Squad starred flawed protagonists in a stylish film that had them teaming up and saving the world. While the characters in Suicide Squad are a lot more villainous, Guardians’ influence was undeniable. Its attempt at humor, camaraderie, and abundance of pop songs made it clear (maybe the Ayer cut was different).

Gunn was the right choice for The Suicide Squad

Even though the reception of Suicide Squad was lukewarm, the film was a financial success. A year later when Justice League bombed, the DC films brand was at an all-time low. During that time when DC needed something, they hired James Gunn after he reached a low point, and gave him whatever project he wanted. DC reportedly wanted him to tackle Superman, but he chose Suicide Squad, which makes perfect sense.

The Suicide Squad, James Gunn
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 02: (L-R) Walter Hamada, Daniela Melchior, James Gunn, John Cena, and CEO of Warner Bros. Ann Sarnoff attend the Warner Bros. premiere of “The Suicide Squad” at Regency Village Theatre on August 02, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images) /

Why would the guy who made his bones writing scripts, making low-budget films, and then directing two blockbusters starring flawed D-list characters want to make a Superman film? When watching The Suicide Squad, it’s clear he thrives with these lesser-known characters. The first film had legitimate star power with popular characters like Harley Quinn, Joker, Captain Boomerang, Rick Flagg, Will Smith as Deadshot, and a Batman cameo.

Only Harley Quinn and Rick Flag get retained in the lineup, with of course Viola Davis returning as their sinister boss Amanda Waller. And while those returning characters get their shine, the best material goes to the newcomers like Bloodsport, King Shark, Ratcatcher-2, Polka Dot Man, and of course Peacemaker representing the film Gunn wanted to make; a callback to the ’70s Suicide Squad runs with bottom-tier characters who go on suicide missions.

The Suicide Squad, DCEU, James Gunn
(L-r) JOEL KINNAMAN as Colonel Rich Flag, DAVID DASTMALCHIAN as Polka-Dot Man, JOHN CENA as Peacemaker, IDRIS ELBA as Bloodsport, DANIELA MELCHIOR as Ratcatcher 2 and ALICE BRAGA as Sol Soria in Warner Bros. Pictures’ superhero action adventure “THE SUICIDE SQUAD,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures/™ & © DC Comics. © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved. /

With unlimited freedom, Gunn brings the style he bought to the two Guardians films and mixed it with his grotesque roots seen in films like Slither and Super making The Suicide Squad one of the most out-there comic book films ever.

Could James Gunn make an interesting movie about Superman? Maybe, but he seems to have a lot more fun with the lesser-known characters to allow his style to shine through more. When it comes to Superman, Batman, and Iron Man there’s just a lot of expectations and limitations.

Who cared about Peacemaker before this? Well, he’s considered one of the highlights of the film, is now getting his own show, and will probably start popping up in more things. He did the same with Guardians of the Galaxy, and now fans are even more excited for the third one.

Hopefully, Gunn can play with both universes and bring more lesser-known characters out of the woodwork, so they can have a chance to shine and be as popular as the A-listers.

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Have you seen The Suicide Squad yet? If so, what did you think of the movie? Let us know in the comments below!