So if you’ve read my review and the countless others like it online, you would probably have heard that Suicide Squad is not the second (or is that now third?) coming that Warner Bros’ DC Comics line was looking for. This is an especially big blow seeing as how hyped fans were for this movie, and how it seemed like a surefire hit. So what went wrong?
THR has done a fair amount of digging and unearthed some serious behind-the-scenes drama for the film’s production which would more than likely explain how such a promising film ended up falling so short of the mark. And it seems the first problem with the film’s production actually started before the film even went into production, as Warner Bros had pegged out a release date for the film way before there was even a script. To be fair, the movie was announced two years in advance, which is normally plenty of time, but it appears that writer/director David Ayer still didn’t have all the time he needed to properly craft a screenplay. According to THR’s sources “[Ayer] wrote the script in like, six weeks, and they just went.”
And complicating matters was that WB had turned Suicide Squad, like with most franchise tentpole blockbusters, into a multi-brand cash cow, and so they needed to deliver on time. As one source puts it, “It’s not just that you’ve told the public the movie is coming, you’ve made huge deals around the world with huge branding partners, with merchandise partners. It’s a really big deal to move a tentpole date.”
Besides for needing more time, Ayer had also never directed a movie like this. Yes, he’s no newbie in the business, as he’s the guy who wrote Training Day and has directed five other films before this, including Brad Pitt’s brilliant WWII drama Fury, but all of those were low-to mid-budget R-rated gritty adult dramas. He’s never dabbled in bright comic book blockbusters before. And it showed as he essentially produced a movie that ended up being a surprisingly sombre affair.
Not that you would have known if you had seen the film’s first trailer, which was a zingy, briskly edited piece of popcorn fun that got fans all grinning in anticipation. Unfortunately, Warner Bros themselves weren’t smiling. At least not after the scathing reviews and below expectation box office returns started rolling in for Batman v Superman, which was supposed to be the billion dollar cornerstone of their new shared universe. Reportedly, [WB Head Kevin Tsujihara] was really pissed about damage to the brand,” and as a result the studio panicked.
Specifically, they panicked about the fact that the movie they were making didn’t actually look like that incredibly well received trailer they had just rolled out to the world. And so Warner Bros, completely forgetting the disaster that resulted from their studio mandated dabbling in Green Lantern, decided to try and fix things. Trailer Park, the company that had cut that edgy trailer, were brought on-board to help edit the entire film to give it a much lighter tone in accordance with their previous work. Ayer, who it’s reported was an informed and willing participant in this process, was left to keep creating his own, much more serious cut of the movie.
According to an insider, “If there are multiple opinions that aren’t in sync, you go down multiple tracks — two tracks at least. That was the case here for a period of time, always trying to get to a place where you have consensus.” That all sounds pretty amicable, but that’s what everybody is reporting as another of THR’s sources claim that WB execs showed “a lot of panic and ego instead of calmly addressing the tonal issue.”
And it appears that this took its toll on Ayer as well, who suddenly dropped his longtime agent CAA and jumped ship to Hollywood talent rival WME. CAA won back within a day, but it appears that the “exhausted” Ayer had been trying to make a break to get away from it all as “he was under a lot — a lot — of pressure.”
Whatever Ayer’s condition, in May, with both competing cuts in the can, WB held audience test screenings for both Ayer’s grim version and the studio-favoured more fun cut, which also introduced more characters earlier in the story. The latter apparently won out. But not willing to completely dismiss Ayer’s work, a middle ground was reached, and the brightly coloured titles, on-screen graphics, poppy soundtrack and character heavy aspects of the “fun” cut was superimposed upon Ayer’s more dramatic vision for Suicide Squad.
Of course, getting to that point is not just a matter of “CTRL+C, CTRL+V” though, as extensive reshoots needed to be done to get the two cuts to gel. But having seen the film, I can tell you that it really doesn’t. Not only is the tone all over the place, but the editing is often jarring as well, with scenes and narrative arcs not flowing smoothly from one to the next. And you can almost clearly see the cut lines where jokes were inserted into scenes to try and punch them up (many of which don’t work).
The most alarming result of these reshoots though is the cost. THR just states that “millions of dollars’ worth of additional photography” were needed without giving an exact figure. But with Suicide Squad already sitting with a price tag of “at least $175 million,” excluding the costs of the gigantic marketing campaign it had, the estimates are now that the movie needs to make in the region of $750 – $800 million to break even. Batman v Superman starred the two most well-known comic book superheroes on the planet in a movie that fans had been asking for for years, and even it just about made that mark. Can a movie starring B and C-List characters mostly unknown by the general public actually do the same?
The bottom line of all of this is that three movies into their new DC Comics movie franchise, and Warner Bros have apparently still not learned the lessons of the past – or learned from their most recent criticisms. Everything about Suicide Squad‘s behind-the-scenes drama is stuff that we’ve all heard before, and yet here we are again, with history just repeating itself. Zack Snyder and Ben Affleck have made a massive push, complete with WB hosting an extensive on-set show and tell for press, to explain that when it comes to Justice League, they have actually listened to the criticisms. Only time will tell whether that is the case or whether I’m going to be writing another article just like this one in 2017.
Last Updated: August 4, 2016
August 4, 2016 at 09:51
Maybe the expectation was just too high. And with the cool trailers, the hype train was just gathering steam.