Before its release, early reviews for Suicide Squad hit the internet and while they ranged from lukewarm to outright negative, the general consensus was that one of the most anticipated superhero movies of the year was a disappointment.
Another common complaint cited that Suicide Squad felt like a weird mishmash of two different Suicide Squads, a rumor that was all but confirmed when THR got wind from an insider that Warner Brothers demanded two versions of Suicide Squad be tested before combining the best of both worlds into the theatrical cut slated for a summer release.
Here's a quick spoiler-free rundown of the strange behind the scenes production that went on in Suicide Squad.
When it was first announced, Suicide Squad was presented as a serious thriller with a dark and realistic superhero motif, as was expected from director David Ayer (Sabotage, Fury). Initial skepticism aside, people were curious to see more of the first major comic book movie to star super-villains.
A few months later, Suicide Squad had a sudden change of heart and decided to lighten up, complete with a rock and roll soundtrack replacing the opera and classical music. This anarchic punk aesthetic became the new face of Suicide Squad, one that quickly caught the interest and excitement of many viewers.
According to THR's source, this change was not accidental. Warner Brothers was badly rattled by audience's uninspiring response to Batman V Superman and the studio was more than desperate to win viewers back after their superhero crossover accidentally depressed people instead of entertaining them:
THR Insider: [Warner Chairman and CEO] Kevin Tsujihara was really pissed about damage to the brand.
Since Suicide Squad was still in production when Batman V Superman hit cinemas, Warner Brothers had more than enough time to exercise their authority on their second DC movie. Concerned that the first version of Suicide Squad didn't live up to the teaser trailer's promise of a fun yet edgy adventure, Warner Brothers set out to make their own cut of the film behind David Ayer's back. In May, two Suicide Squads were tested, the first being Ayer's more serious version and the other being Warner Brothers' audience-friendly cut:
THR 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.
Though the studio approved cut won and as mentioned earlier, the best elements of the two different versions were then listed down, analyzed and later combined into a single effort, resulting in the reshoots that had many people concerned:
THR Insider: Once feedback on the two versions was analyzed, it became clear it was possible to get to 'a very common-ground place.' Getting to that place of consensus, however, required millions of dollars worth of additional photography.
Worst Squad Goals Ever
Having seen the movie myself, I can say that Suicide Squad did feel like it was the product of hastily cramming two very different styles in one place, and the end result was a tonally confused movie that was anything but awesome.
A good way to illustrate the jarring nature of things is by looking at Suicide Squad's opening minutes, where it introduces audiences to Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) twice. Without giving away too much, Suicide Squad begins by showing the main characters' tough and depressing lives in the worst jail imaginable before cutting to a jovial montage of neon-colored title cards littered with self-aware humor seemingly inspired by Deadpool's (2016) opening credits scene, complete with choice music blasting in the background and a character's fetish for pink stuffed unicorns being highlighted.
For a studio that once proudly proclaimed that their superhero properties would be "filmmaker driven" where their chosen creators are given free reign, there seems to be too much interference and a general lack of confidence in their own creators on Warner Brothers' part. Add Warner's complete misunderstanding of the source materials at hand to the long list and these costly mistakes drowned out David Ayer's creative vision for Suicide Squad while doing even more heavy damage to the DCEU before it could even take off.
No matter how bad the fight for creative control of Suicide Squad really was, at the end of the day it's still DC's biggest fans who are the losers. Even if some fan reactions are totally uncalled for, the reason why so much flak is thrown at the DCEU is because audiences just want a good DC film and Warner Brothers can't seem to commit. It doesn't have to be as gritty as Zack Snyder's general outlook on superpowers nor does it have to be as family friendly as anything from the Marvel Cinematic Universe: all DC fans want is a movie that gives their childhood heroes justice.
And by the look of things, fans are going to have to wait a bit longer for that to happen.