The waters have been a bit rough for Warner Bros. since the world premiere of Suicide Squad in New York City earlier this week. The film doesn't officially get released until tomorrow night, but so far the reviews from top critics haven't been too pretty. While people are giving credit to the actors for their portrayals of the villains themselves, it appears that the story itself definitely needed some work. The general consensus among reviewers so far is that the film is just a "mess."
However, it is now being said by some outlets that things were initially very different for Suicide Squad and suggesting that reviews would have been a lot better if WB wouldn't have done one key thing. Word has it that similar to what the studio did with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — they stepped in and changed the final edit of Suicide Squad.
What Exactly Did Warner Bros. Change About Suicide Squad?
It's a bit difficult to say exactly what was changed about this movie. Unless we get a director's cut release (similar to the Batman v Superman Ultimate Edition) there is just no way of knowing. But when Suicide Squad was originally tested with audiences, it was evidently a much different film. Apparently, an alternate "director's cut" of the film was shown during test screenings this past Spring and the final theatrical release is an entirely different thing, with some scenes trimmed down or removed entirely. The reasoning? Well, if the stories are true, WB felt that Ayer's vision was too dark and that his cut didn't match the tone and humor set in the marketing. This all comes despite the stories that the feedback from the test screenings were quite positive.
Why Were These Changes Even Made?
I've seen David Ayer films and I've never really experienced the erratic editing that is being described with Suicide Squad. I listened to one review on YouTube that described the editing and pacing as "frenetic," especially during the first act of the film. The Hollywood Reporter (THR) has chimed in on the composition of the film's style by saying it's "becoming a staple of studio franchise filmmaking" and not so much the style of the director and editor.
Test screenings are a necessary evil in the film industry. Sometimes they're great while other times they reveal problems that desperately need to be fixed. With Suicide Squad, it seems like David Ayer and WB were at a crossroads as two different versions were screened — Ayer's version and a more viewer-friendly studio version. THR claims that the feedback on both versions of the film caused Ayer and the studio to come to a middle ground decision and combine elements from both cuts. Basically, they wanted to try and do an upbeat, funny comic book movie that's also somber and dark. This decision required some extra footage, which is why the re-shoots happened in the first place.
Re-shoots aren't uncommon and behind-the-scenes issues like these are not new; we have to remember this. However, I think with the excitement surrounding this film, and the negativity surrounding Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad was under more of a microscope and WB still is treading lightly as they move forward with the DC Extended Universe. WB is apparently treading so lightly that they are continuing to push this model of high-anxiety filmmaking and writing that ultimately allows little room for creative liberty from the director. We all saw what happened after Fox intervened with Josh Trank's Fantastic Four and look how that turned out. I hate to say it, but the evidence is all pointing to a similar situation between David Ayer and Warner Bros.
Why Do The Studios Keep Hiring Untested Directors?
We all love taking chances to some degree and the film industry is no different. Not to mention, they're less expensive and typically more eager to attempt the project. Fox did it by hiring Josh Trank, Marvel did it by hiring James Gunn, and WB seemingly took a stab at it by hiring David Ayer. However, there is one director out of the three examples that managed to get away with it, and his name is James Gunn. Gunn came in relatively unknown to a lot of mainstream viewers due to his history within the horror genre and more independent projects. With Guardians of the Galaxy, Gunn succeeded where Trank — and unfortunately Ayer — have not, and I believe a lot of it boils down to the trust and support from the studio.
Guardians of the Galaxy was just as much of an "out there" idea and it could even be said that Suicide Squad was supposed to be the DC version of Marvel's surprise success. The main difference is Marvel Studios backed their director. They trusted James Gunn and believed that he would deliver a great film that viewers would love. He did it so well that he's back to direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. I hate to go all "Marvel fangirl," but this is continued proof of how Marvel Studios has continued to succeed where WB and Fox haven't. It's getting to a point where you wonder why the studios hire these visionary directors at all if they ultimately won't support and trust their work.
It is true that some people were scratching their heads when David Ayer was hired for Suicide Squad as he didn't really have experience with big budget, effects-driven films, and that inexperience could be to blame. It could also be argued that Ayer was setup for failure from day one as he was only given six weeks to complete the script prior to filming. Add in pressure from the studio to change your vision and direction at the last minute and you have a basic recipe for failure.
Personally, I feel for David Ayer. I think he got caught up in the machine and is being spit back out at the expense of the studio. I don't think the failure is really his fault and I don't feel that the actors are at fault either. The cast has had nothing but positive things to say about him as a filmmaker and I think that's what we should be remembering as these reviews continue to spew out. This is a studio problem; it's not a problem with the directors or actors. If you want to read my full review of Suicide Squad, you can check it out here.
It also very well could be that Suicide Squad was simply the unfortunate victim of being the film to follow Batman v Superman. Given the negativity surrounding Zack Snyder's superhero battle, WB/DC doesn't have a great reputation right now. I think things are still in the process of changing and Suicide Squad was caught right in the middle. Could the film have done better if it was released a year or two from now? It's very possible. But I do believe these things will continue to happen until WB/DC can figure out what kind of movies they want to make. I just worry about how many more directors and actors will get chewed up and spit back out in the process.
In the meantime, can't we all just have a good laugh about it?
Did you enjoy 'Suicide Squad'?
[Source] The Hollywood Reporter