Suicide Squad hasn’t even been out a week, and there’s already more controversies surrounding the release than there’s tattoos on Jared Leto’s Joker. Is the movie faithful to the comic books? Was the brutal takedown by the critics justified, maybe just a little? Did the marketing falsely advertise what the movie was all about?
As if to add to the confusion, director David Ayer has been dropping rather random comments here and there, from his provocative echo of a DC fan’s “F*ck Marvel” at the world premiere — which he later apologized for — to repeated statements that he was very proud of his movie, despite rejection by the majority of critics on the planet and weak word-of-mouth. Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter exposed the alleged bumps on the road of Suicide Squad‘s production, from million-dollar reshoots to more edits than you could fit on a triple DVD edition.
In an interview with Empire, Ayer delved deeper into the secrets behind the scenes of Suicide Squad. And while his description that “the film is really the journey of the soul” and an “anarchic punk rock art movie” could be enough to write a whole dissertation about the very high probability that Ayer and Leto have lost all grip on real life and are now living in an alternate dimension where all they do is eat neon cereal in front of drug lord documentaries — let’s expand instead on his revelation that he has “six or seven different versions of the film.” Could it be that Suicide Squad, caught between source material, studio requirements and new ideas, has simply never found its own soul?
Is Suicide Squad For The Fans Or For The Summer Crowds?
Whatever your opinion of Suicide Squad, it’s safe to say it’s a bit of a mess. Of course, ensemble casts are always tricky to handle, and with characters as powerful and complex as DC’s deranged villains, making all of their backstories clear while propelling the story forward was bound to be difficult.
But that’s where the movie’s first contradiction appears: In the face of the harsh reviews, Ayer and some of the cast members partly contributed to the perception that movie critics can’t understand comic book movies by claiming Suicide Squad was for the fans — implying that if you didn’t like the movie, you probably didn’t catch enough references.
Zapata quote is my way of saying I love the movie and believe in it. Made it for the fans. Best experience of my life.
— David Ayer (@DavidAyerMovies)
On the other hand, if it was “made for the fans,” why so many flashbacks to explain who the characters are? That’s a rhetorical question, because Warner know very well that however passionate the fans, their numbers won’t help carry a tentpole like this to the top of the box office. Which means Suicide Squad had to be watchable even by someone who doesn’t know that Batman was created in a comic book and not by Hollywood.
Suicide Squad Can’t Seem To Decide On Its Tone — Just Like The Entire DCEU
Just like it couldn’t seem to decide between being a nerdy comic book movie or a wild summer ride for all, Suicide Squad seems to echo WB’s struggle to pick the right tone for the DCEU. Tone was the main bone moviegoers had to pick with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice earlier this year, deeming it too grim especially for a hero like Superman.
As The Hollywood Reporter pointed out, Warner were bent on making sure this wouldn’t happen again, and ordered several cuts of Suicide Squad to test it with audiences:
A key concern for Warners executives was that Suicide Squad didn’t deliver on the fun, edgy tone promised in the strong teaser trailer for the film. So while Ayer pursued his original vision, Warners set about working on a different cut, with an assist from Trailer Park, the company that had made the teaser.
And what a fun, edgy tone it was! The marketing for Suicide Squad went far enough down the candy shop road to make a Skittles factory look dull, from playful lollipops and cereal bowls to neon colors, comic-style “booms” and speech bubbles, and bouncy trailers complete with popular hits and snappy one-liners.
Even Ayer seemed to have performed a 180 from his initial vision — remember the “anarchic punk rock movie” — and pitched it as a “fun summer movie with a good heart” on his Twitter.
Thank you thank you thank you! To the folks making a success this weekend. It’s just a fun Summer movie with a good heart.
— David Ayer (@DavidAyerMovies)
So what’s it going to be? Mad antiheroes all hyper from having spent so much time in a tiny cell lately, going on “wild rides” with their buddies, or a rain-drenched, glum outlook on a city filled with evil CGI soldiers? Sure, the movie could have been a bit of both, but its campaign has favored one tone so strongly that it feels like communication got lost somewhere down the road between the poster artist and the CGI artist who decided to envelop Enchantress in a cloud of dirty smoke.
Hesitating With The Tone Led To A Lot Of Confusing Edits
The main issue is that a lot of the edits seemingly happened after the trailers came out, since some scenes in the promotional material didn’t actually make it into the final cut. The Joker was the one whose presence disappointed the most, as snippets like the one below were nowhere to be seen in theaters:
Other changes actually cut out entire plot elements from the movie, such as Harley and Deadshot’s budding romance. In the end, even if Suicide Squad was enjoyable, its apparent attempt at being everything at the same time was highly counterproductive.
The fans would know what to tell Warner: Don’t listen to the critics on this one, and leave your directors to create the dark and gloomy vision they’d imagined. When you look at the trailers for Wonder Woman and Justice League, you’ve got cold, blue-ish colors, high stakes, violent battles and ominous music. Can we keep it that way? Maybe the DCEU simply shouldn’t try to make “fun summer movies” — and that’s OK.
Did you feel mislead by the marketing for Suicide Squad? Which tone do you think is most appropriate for the DCEU?