Let’s Discuss is an ongoing segment where I talk about some recent notable shake ups that happened in the realm of Comics/Film/TV/Video Games.
Today? The Suicide Squad Woes
So Suicide Squad releases this week in theaters and boy oh boy is it getting panned. The film is currently sitting at 29% with 141 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and the score cold only drop from there. Full disclosure, I have yet to see the film yet but this write up isn’t really about the quality of the film oh no. This is about Warner Brothers and their incessant interference in hopes to catch up to rival studio Marvel in an artificial way as possible.
Let’s start with the inception. From the start WB was under pressure because Marvel already had a few billion dollar box office draws under their belt before even Man of Steel came out to middling reviews.
So what does WV/DC do? First they announce their slate of movies heading into 2020 including Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, Justice League, Flash etc. Where BvS and Suicide Squad were given hard dates. With big movies like these and hard release dates means the movie process gets kicked into over drive. One source spoke to THR:
“It’s not just that you’ve told the public the movie is coming, you’ve made huge deals around the world with huge branding partners, with merchandise partners. It’s a really big deal to move a tent pole date.”
With all this meant that even monumentally important things to a films creation like the script were fast tracked. Another source linked to the film said this:
“[Ayer] wrote the script in like, six weeks, and they just went,”
So with a script getting fast tracked the studio also needed a director willing to work under these fast paced conditions. A franchise producer spoke of the problems getting a seasoned director for these types of jobs:
“There are a lot of people who don’t want to direct those movies and that’s a huge problem.” […] A lot of the proven guys are back-to-back with their stuff, or they want to develop it for five years, and there’s a machine that has to be fed. And there’s the economics.”
Basically, a lot of your “name” directors won’t bother working on a project like this unless they have time to work on it and things like banging out a script in 6 weeks would be immediate deal breakers.
So DC ended up giving David Ayer the gig, which in itself wasn’t a terrible choice. The director is fairly well seasoned but he’s never done a huge tent pole film like this before. Also this isn’t a practice exclusive to Warner Brothers. Every major studio have these bad habits to some degree.
So let’s move past all the jargon of getting the movie made. For all intents and purposes, 2016 was going to be the main course of Batman v Superman and the dessert was Suicide Squad. BvS was screening well internally and WB/DC genuinely thought they had a billion dollar movie in the bag. Then of course it came out, people hated it and all hell broke loose.
The film was poorly received and with all the marketing done for the movie, Batman v Superman was rumored to need somewhere between 800 million to a billion dollars to break even or maybe turn a profit. The movie limped its way to the $800 million mark worldwide and that’s including a same day China release date, something fairly new to box office numbers.
So WB arguably lost money on BvS and definitely put out a movie that most critics and fans disliked. What this ended up doing was put an INTENSE amount of pressure on Suicide Squad, a movie already dealing with the woes of a fast tracked summer blockbuster.
The CEO of Warner Brothers Kevin Tsujihara was reportedly “Pissed about damage to the brand”. Around this time the non-SDCC Suicide Squad trailer released. You know the one, where Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody blasted throughout the trailer and fans ate it up. Now this is quite typical but still worth noting, David Ayer did not edit this trailer. Jobs like these are typically outsourced to companies who do this type of thing for a living, in this case it was the company Trailer Park.
So let’s pull back and take a look at this scenario shall we? You have a superhero film which is baseline a big deal movie. It is being rushed out in typical Hollywood blockbuster fashion. The movie that was supposed to do all the heavy lifting ended up under delivering which means now all eyes are on the smaller budget movie with lesser known characters. Now remember that Hollywood execs are mostly characterchures of human beings and are mainly ego driven monsters obsessed with a bottom line.
Priority one at WB was making sure that Suicide Squad is going to be a mega hit so what happens? It sure sounds like everyone had an idea and they thought their ideas were best which led to infighting, ego and panic.
Then to make sure the studio’s “version” is kept intact they enlisted the help of Trailer Park, the company who cut the trailer that America fell in love with. This is ALONGSIDE of David Ayer’s cut of the film. So we already have competing versions of the film. Officially John Gilroy is credited as the editor but sources say he left and Michael Tronick finished the job. There are rumors of additional editors as well.
So then WB screens two versions of the film, one with David Ayer’s darker cut and the studio’s lighter toned version. An industry inside broke it down:
“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.”
This led to director David Ayer and the studio finding some common ground which led to those reshoots back in May.
So while I have yet to see Suicide Squad personally a common thread among critics is that this movie feels like it was put in a blender editing wise, which Batman v Superman suffered from the same problems.
While there is little doubt that Suicide Squad is going to have a killer opening weekend, it’s unknown if the film will have legs to end up being profitable in the long run. Poor reviews and your typical week-to-week drop offs are murder to these movies, especially in the summer months.
Jared Leto has also confirmed that a lot of Joker footage ended up not making it into the movie, which means we had to hear about all that stupid stuff about Jared Leto being “weird” on set for pretty much no reason at all.
DC desperately needs a win here and Suicide Squad looks poised to disappoint. Their last hit came in the form of 2012’s the Dark Knight Rises which even then was seen as a huge drop in quality compared to The Dark Knight. Since Marvel started gearing up their shared universe with Iron Man in 2008, DC has struggled to get anything going outside of the Nolan Batman films and one can only wonder how much grief DC is willing to endure if Wonder Woman and Justice League don’t succeed before hitting the reset button.