Photo: ‘The Suicide Squad’
In 2016 the original ‘Suicide Squad’ was released in theaters worldwide to general distaste from almost everyone. The film was directed by David Ayer, famous for ‘End of Watch’, ‘Fury’, and ‘Training Day’. There is a resounding stylistic and thematic resonance to the vast majority of Ayer’s filmography – each entry is dark, gritty, based in reality, and hauntingly stark. One thing that is absolutely true about ‘Suicide Squad’ is that it would never be described as any of those adjectives.
Okay, maybe I’d call it dark but it’s a different kind of dark than ‘End of Watch’ where two police officers are struggling to survive in an LA shoot-out with AK-47 wielding gang members. It is certainly a different kind of dark than ‘Fury’ where a tank operator finds himself alone in Nazi Germany with only his tank to aid him. And ‘Suicide Squad’ is certainly no ‘Training Day’ where rookie narco Ethan Hawke is thrown headfirst into the crime underbelly by veteran detective Denzel Washington.
‘The Suicide Squad’ – Full Commentary & Behind the Scenes + Reactions
This is an extremely long-winded way of saying: David Ayer was miscast when he was hired to direct ‘Suicide Squad.’ The fallout that ensued was the fault of only the studio (Warner Bros, cue the fake shock reactions) and, likely, had they given Ayer free reign as they did for James Gunn, the film would’ve turned out much differently (And maybe better). Warner Bros. has a rather illustrious history of interfering to a destructive extent with a number of projects and directors, i.e. Zack Snyder and ‘Justice League’, the most recent ‘Fantastic Beasts’ franchise entry, and ‘Wonder Woman: 1984’. These circumstances paired with an already suspect choice in director made it nearly impossible for audiences to have received anything of value in 2016 when ‘Suicide Squad’ released and now the studio is left running to try and fix what they so badly botched the first time.
‘The Suicide Squad’ – Full Commentary and Behind the Scenes
The Build Up and the Let-Down
If we are to discuss the ramifications of rebooting a franchise then I feel absolutely obligated to discuss the inhuman and downright offensive treatment of the studio (Again, let’s all pretend to be shocked Warner Bros. mistreats its directors!) towards its films, first.
Let’s go back in time to 2013. Christopher Nolan has just concluded his three-part Batman series that nearly the entire planet loved. Marvel has just connected their five (keep this number in mind) stand-alone films under one title, ‘The Avengers’ and now DC is left clamoring to find not only a replacement for the massive void left behind in Nolan’s wake but also an answer to the vastly better planned Marvel cinematic universe. DC then taps Zack Snyder to take over the Superman franchise with a singular prequel-esque film meant to lay the groundwork for a Justice League title.
Essentially, DC expects Zack Snyder to do in a single film what took Marvel 4 years and five different movies to create.
Obviously, this doesn’t happen and Snyder needs at least another film before embarking on The Justice League. So now to create that massive ensemble answer to ‘The Avengers’ the DC and Warner creative chiefs think up the concept for ‘Suicide Squad’ and tap David Ayer to direct, write, and cast the film – but oh, I forgot to mention they only gave Ayer six weeks to do it. Most of the story was written with names like Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Gosling, and Tom Hardy in mind but, obviously, they all passed leaving Ayer to rewrite the script over and over. Somehow Ayer manages to get production done on time and, amazingly, with no problems or reshoots. But here comes Warner.
Ayer and the cast make a surprise visit to Comic-Con, the massive gathering of all things nerd and comic book, and release a sizzle reel of footage promising a dark, violent and gritty tone (Similar to all Ayer’s other work, one might add) but to Warner’s surprise, the footage gets leaked on the internet. The reaction was good, fans liked the cold, hard vibe and appreciated the thematic continuity of the universe, at large. But then the official trailer dropped. It was, as you probably remember, underscored by Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and highlighted a disproportionate amount of comedy rather than the austere imagery we had once known.
People were not pleased, it was clear what we were seeing was not Ayer’s initial vision and something had occurred to chop and screw the picture into some amalgamate, Frankenstein’s creature of a movie similar to the debacle that was the original Justice League. Warner then forced the production into a series of reshoots and hired freelance trailer editors to add a comedic flair to the film itself. Things were reaching a frenetic pace behind the scenes, never a good sign for a production.
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Clearly, the film released and the critical and audience reactions were largely negative and David Ayer would then become the laughing stock of Hollywood. His creation was mocked even though most of what he created was a representation of someone else’s vision. I agree, Ayer played a huge role in the monstrosity that was ‘Suicide Squad’ but a lot of criticism was levied against him unfairly, and rebooting the IP so soon after its release is a slap in the face to the artist who worked tirelessly to bring it to life in the first place. What I find most perturbing about the entire situation is that a studio can exploit not only their property but their artists and throw them under the bus when it goes awry due to the constraints unfairly placed upon them only to totally recreate their vision a marginal amount of time later. The industry is (And I know, all’s fair in love and cinema) so disconnected from what makes audiences and artists alike love movies.
‘The Suicide Squad’ – It Lives… Again!
After the failure of Ayer’s vision, Warner looked for a director to right the ship. They courted a number of different directors ranging all the way from Jaume Collet-Serra to Mel Gibson. The tarnished reputation of the brand and the upcoming ‘Birds of Prey’ which features characters from ‘Suicide Squad’ and tells a similar story were making it nearly impossible to find a suitable leader.
Now enter James Gunn; DC wanted the director so they allowed him to pick any property he would like. He chose the Suicide Squad but with one caveat: He was to have absolute free range. Gunn’s request was granted and the studios allowed him total, unequivocal access to the decades worth of heroes to do with what he pleased. What we got this year was most certainly an improvement on the original but, again – who do we blame for that debacle?
Clearing the Ayer
David Ayer took to Twitter to affirm a few online sentiments and even voice his support for the upcoming project and its helmsman. He would pour a little gasoline into the fire when confirming the idea that the film was edited post-haste subsequent to his and his editors’ own conclusions and what was submitted to the world was most certainly not his creation. Ayer would say that he created a “soulful drama” that was posthumously “beaten into a comedy.” He would go on to say:
“My cut is [an] intricate and emotional journey with some “bad people” who are shit on and discarded (a theme that resonates in my soul). The studio cut is not my movie. Read that again. And my cut is not the 10-week director’s cut — it’s a fully mature edit by Lee Smith standing on the incredibly [sic] work by John Gilroy. It’s all Steven Price’s brilliant score, with not a single radio song in the whole thing. It has traditional character arcs, amazing performances, a solid 3rd Act resolution. A handful of people have seen it. If someone says they’ve seen it, they haven’t.”
In the end, Ayer took the high road. He spoke out only once audience pressure reached a boiling point and #ReleaseTheAyerCut had been trending internationally on Twitter for weeks. He thanked everyone for their support and wished his contemporaries well in their endeavor. He may have been treated unfairly but he decided to stand tall only once absolutely necessary.
In the weeks building up to the release of ‘The Suicide Squad’ #ReleaseTheAyerCut was trending on social media worldwide. It seems people, specifically comic book movie fans and cinemagoers alike, are tired of the studio meddling and poor treatment of directors. This is certainly a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t seem like we will be getting the Ayer cut anytime soon. The studio has made it abundantly clear they want to move forward with Gunn leading and pretend the David Ayer saga never happened, and that seems okay with Ayer, too.
As for the people, well, people are behind David Ayer about as equally as they are behind ‘The Suicide Squad.’ There is a support base for both movements, undoubtedly. Actors like John Cena who stars in the new iteration have backed the movement to release Ayer’s original vision. The Justice Leagues Ray Fisher weighed in, saying, “Here’s an Idea: #ReleaseTheAyerCut.” But for as many people who want to see the original film be what it was intended to be, there are probably twice as many who love the new one. ‘The Suicide Squad’ has had a great box office opening claiming $26.1 million first week but has struggled since. In its second week in theaters, it pulled on $5 million, an Olympic-level heave from the $900 million the original drew.
These are two vastly different films with two vastly different directors who had two vastly different experiences working for Warner and DC. The entire debacle reeks of poor planning and substandard working conditions which will most certainly leave a poor taste in the mouth of many. But at the end of the day, David Ayer’s name is attached to one of the worst comic book movies of all time and the production company responsible had no problem whitewashing him from the record books with the recent remake. It’s been a long journey for the Suicide Squad and I am sure it is not over yet.
So who is really to blame for the mess that was ‘Suicide Squad’? You tell me.
By Tyler Sear
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Tyler Sear is an athlete and writer with a philosophical perspective to film. With aspirations to direct feature length films, Tyler brings a critical eye and philosophic approach to film, striving to give unbiased opinions while campaigning for equality and impartiality in Hollywood, today. This sense of morality makes Tyler uniquely qualified to address timely issues and recent releases within film. By tackling interesting topics, Tyler aligns with Hollywood Insider’s intentional mission to ignore sensationalized rumor and strive to present factual and entertaining content.