I’ll have my Suicide Squad review up later today, but I’ll say right now that reviews calling the film a “mess” are spot-on. Part of that comes from the atrocious editing that drops in scenes seemingly at random with no consideration of how the story flows or tonal consistency. Now we might know why the film is all over the place.
A new report from THR says that Suicide Squad was under immense pressure from the very beginning as it sprinted to meet its release date (Warner Bros. having learned nothing from the disaster that was Green Lantern), and so writer-director David Ayer only had six weeks to write the script before cameras got rolling.
Another issue is that the studio took a gamble on Ayer, who had never directed a big, effects-driven tentpole before. However, for all of Suicide Squad’s many issues, Ayer acquits himself well at the colorful, bombastic tone a summer blockbuster usually requires, and this isn’t a case of someone like Josh Trank being woefully unprepared for what a project requires of him.
However, Ayer and Trank may have some war stories to share when it comes to studio interference. While Ayer and Warners production president Greg Silverman did issue the following statement—”This was an amazing experience. We did a lot of experimentation and collaboration along the way. But we are both very proud of the result. This is a David Ayer film, and Warners is proud to present it.”—THR has a different story about the studio working on a competing cut of the film with the help of the trailer company, Trailer Park, who cut the movie’s teaser trailer.
Part of this hands-on approach was a result of the fallout from Batman v Superman receiving scathing reviews and coming up short at the box office. “[Chairman and CEO Kevin Tsujihara] was really pissed about damage to the brand,” says one executive close to the studio. A key concern for Warners executives was that Suicide Squad didn’t deliver on the fun, edgy tone promised in the strong teaser trailer for the film.”
But how did the film become such a jumble? It appears that in trying to compromise between Ayer’s somber version and the upbeat tone promised by the trailer, the studio tried to do both:
In May, Ayer’s more somber version and a lighter, studio-favored version were tested with audiences in Northern California. “If there are multiple opinions that aren’t in sync, you go down multiple tracks — two tracks at least,” says an insider. “That was the case here for a period of time, always trying to get to a place where you have consensus.” Those associated with the film insist Ayer agreed to and participated in the process. Once feedback on the two versions was analyzed, it became clear it was possible to get to “a very common-ground place.” (The studio-favored version with more characters introduced early in the film and jazzed-up graphics won.) Getting to that place of consensus, however, required millions of dollars worth of additional photography.
THR says the price tag for Suicide Squad was “at least $175 million” and that for the film to be a success, a studio veteran explains, “The movie’s got to do $750 million, $800 million to break even. If they get anywhere close to that, they’ll consider it a win.” That’s a lofty goal, and while the movie is tracking for a huge opening weekend, it will need to have legs to hit that mark.