To say the DCEU had a rocky start would really be an understatement. Man of Steel got lackluster reviews, Batman v Superman divided fans and critics, and then came Suicide Squad, the movie which was slated to save the franchise — which got the worst reviews of any #DCEU feature yet. Before it was released, Suicide Squad looked awesome. With #DC's notorious villains and anti-heroes as a hook, the trailers set Suicide Squad up to be equal parts psychological thriller and neon-bright, insanity-infused fun. Instead, Suicide Squad turned out to be a bland, grim mess of a movie, both cringeworthy and narratively dull, its only saving grace the performances of Will Smith, Viola Davis, and #MargotRobbie.
Many an article has been written, trying to get to the bottom of why exactly Suicide Squad was such a mess of a film. After all, director David Ayer's previous movies were well received by critics. At #SDCC2017, Ayer has taken another pot-shot at his own film, citing a strict PG-13 rating as one of the reasons for its critical failure — saying Bright, his new #Netflix movie, benefits without those restrictions.
"['Bright'] is about LA, but a fucked up LA, but our world is fucked up. This isn't some bullshit, produced PG-13 shit movie, I was able to do my thing."
Many people recognized Ayer's comment as a reference to Suicide Squad, which Ayer felt suffered from the PG-13 rating. Although Task Force X are a comic book team, their books aren't necessarily aimed at children, and Ayer has previously stated on Twitter that he "took inspiration from the insanity of the original comics." However, he is quick to admit that Suicide Squad has its flaws — and all of this bodes very well for his next DC flick, Gotham City Sirens.
Can 'Sirens' Step Out From 'Suicide Squad's Shadow?
Thanks to #SuicideSquad's immense box office success — ranking third domestically under Batman v Superman, with Wonder Woman coming first — Warner Bros. soon greenlit both Suicide Squad 2 and the #HarleyQuinn focused spin-off, Gotham City Sirens. Drawing inspiration from the comic book of the same name, it is expected that the movie will feature Harley Quinn teaming up with fan-fave Catwoman, as well as Harley's current comic romantic partner, Poison Ivy. As Harley Quinn is one of the DC's biggest selling characters, we're all eagerly awaiting this female villain team-up. So can David Ayer step out from the shadow of Suicide Squad and live up to our high expectations?
Gotham City Sirens will be very tricky to get right. Along with screenwriter Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Ayer has to navigate a lot of potential pitfalls, from not over-sexualizing the characters, to handling Harley's abuse-survivor story.
The comic Gotham City Sirens saw Harley break free from the Joker, while setting up her future romance with Poison Ivy. Put that together with the fact that we haven't had a good Catwoman on the big screen since Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns, and Ayer's got a lot of responsibility to do all these characters justice in Gotham City Sirens. And an R-rating might be the best way to do this.
How 'Sirens' Could Benefit From An R-Rating
With Ayer's disparaging comments about Suicide Squad's PG-13 rating, we're left wondering if he'll push an R-rating for Gotham City Sirens. And it's likely he'll get the green light on that — after the success of R-rated superhero movies like Deadpool and Logan, Warner Bros. are already planning R flicks of their own. So how will this affect Sirens?
An R-rating opens the door to everything from violence to sex to cursing, and with Suicide Squad we know that Ayer would have used an R-rating to make the movie as gritty and dark as he wanted it to be. A dash of darkness would work well for the villainesses of Sirens, but Harley Quinn's popularity rests on her zany sense of humor as much as her psychopathic nature. If Deadpool and Kick-Ass proved nothing else, it's that humor and Tarantino-level violence go perfectly with each other, and we'd love to see that combination in Gotham City Sirens.
Of course, that's not to say this movie should be a comedy. The Sirens comic is popular because it explores of the psyche of Harley, Ivy, and Catwoman, as the women form fierce loyalties only to betray each other later.
In particular, Harley's trauma at the hands of the Joker is explored, along with her Stockholm Syndrome, as the final act sees the Clown Princess return to her roots — setting off to kill the Joker once and for all, Harley soon falls under his sway again. This leads to a thrilling and emotional battle with Poison Ivy, who traps the Joker in her vines, only to be defeated by six simple words from Harley:
"Is it because you love me?"
Ultimately though, the battle ends with Harley coming to her senses. Although she and Ivy part ways at the comic's conclusion, they're back together again as long-distance girlfriends in Harley's solo series.
Naturally, an R-rating would allow Ayer and Robertson-Dworet to dive deep into Harley's disturbed mind — not to mention doing justice to the level of violence that the Sirens unleash on Gotham City. But the best thing about an R-rating is that the filmmakers wouldn't be hampered by censorship — allowing them to explore Harley's romantic relationship with Ivy.
Although things are improving for #LGBT representation in cinema, there's no doubt that PG ratings are holding filmmakers back — which explains why all those characters directors claimed were queer, turned out to be buried in subtext (yes, Beauty & The Beast and Power Rangers, I'm looking at you). With a harder rating, Ayer and Robertson-Dworet don't have to worry about this, and they can finally give Harley and Ivy the villainous, yet caring, love story they deserve — as the women literally tear Gotham City apart.