So James Gunn takes the reigns of the weirdest part of the DC:EU and immediately provides a massive fake-out. I think, by the film's conclusion, I'd come around to the whole "diversion" aspect of the opening fight, but wow did it annoy me at the time. I knew most of the characters in the trailer were going to die, considering their almost complete lack of notoriety and this being, well, a Suicide Squad movie trying to make amends for the lack of deaths in the first outing, but I'd still have liked a little more time with some of them. When you tease the likes of Michael Rooker and Nathan Fillion, it seems a shame to kill them that quickly.
That said, I enjoyed both Savant and T.D.K's roles, wasn't exactly heartbroken to see Pete Davidson offed so early, and even if his momentary inclusion was brief, I did think Jai Courtney's return as Captain Boomerang was both enjoyable and infinitely better written/directed than the first film. Basically, whilst that initial inversion of expectations hurt a little, I thought it was well executed and set the tone nicely for the rest of the film. At least Capaldi got a more fleshed-out role. Still a little mad that this effectively ends any hope of Fillion as Green Lantern though 😒
As for the actual Squad, again I thought this was a generally good pick. I much preferred Elba over Smith as the leading man, though I wish we'd had at least some explanation for his magical Transformer guns; Polka-Dot Man and Ratcatcher were both enjoyable, believable characters (for super "villains") who were given the space to feel impactful; Flag and Harley were just as fun as prior outings; John Cena's Peacemaker was surprisingly enjoyable (Gunn once again showing that he can take ex-wrestlers and turn them into comedic action heroes really well); and Nanaue was surprisingly adorable and charming (definite R-rated Groot overtones). Best of all, the team as a whole just felt cohesive and vaguely well put together, even if they made a running joke about how the bureaucrats behind the operation really didn't give much of a damn about them.
Wrapped around that core was a plot that felt much more Suicide Squad-level: an American military experiment fallen into worrisome hands with world-ending consequences, that was also a bit ridiculous. I thought Starro was just the right level of creepy, wacky, and interesting to work well, whilst stakes were high enough to be impactful but low enough not to attract the Justice League. I also really enjoyed how much time we spent with the slapstick misadventures of everyone involved, from Harley's tragicomic romance to the accidental destruction of most of the pro-freedom rebellion in a virtual pissing match, the film kept the dark humour and humanisation of events running throughout.
Throw in some decent humour, a bunch of additional cameos, and fairly interesting character arcs (I mean, as interesting as something like a Suicide Squad movie needs), plus allowing the film to actually be R-rated, and it was pretty fun. I particularly enjoyed how anti-American (and specifically anti-military) it managed to be, another aspect of the source material that most of the DC franchises simply can't touch. Overall, I really enjoyed myself.