Director v Studio: Dawn of Edits – All The Drama Behind Suicide Squad

Okay, so the first wave of reviews for the highly anticipated Suicide Squad are out and they have been not very kind. As the Friday release is closing in, the negative reviews are increasing. At the time of writing this, the film holds a 32% on aggregator Rotten Tomatoes and 44 on Metacritic.

Critics all over are calling the film a hot mess, with the story and structure basically absent, bad editing, and tonally inconsistent. Now we may just know why. In the wee hours of the morning, THR in a new report claimed that everything was not as perfect as it seemed in behind the scenes of the film.

Multiple sources claimed that the supervillain teamup was under heavy pressure from the start. First of all writer-director David Ayer had only six weeks to write the scripts before production began. Then there were concerns that a director with not much experience in high profile blockbuster filmmaking and working with CGI wouldn’t be up to the task. Personally, I cannot understand this argument as Marvel seemed fine with letting small scale directors work with their high profile characters. Also, Warner Bros. darling Christopher Nolan himself was a such a director who landed his first blockbuster with Batman Begins.

Suicide Squad
Image via Warner Bros.

Another source confirmed that the execs were rattled especially after the poor critical and more so financial performance of their tentpole Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice featuring the studios’ biggest cash cow. What happened to Squad was a direct response to BvS’ underperformance. Warners basically called upon the services of Trailer Park, the company that helped make the first teaser for the film, help cut the film as more fun and edgy, suggesting why a more Guardians of the Galaxy approach was used (upbeat soundtrack, unknown team being the heroes, lot more humour). All of this while Ayer worked on his own, more somber cut. This why probably all those reshoots took place post BvS.

Later in May, there were test screenings pitting the two versions where the more colourful version, backed by the studio, won. Millions of dollars are now added to the cost and THR suggests a figure of $750 – $800M for the film to break even.

So far this was the only report that was addressing all the drama and no other reports have pooped up yet. However, there is another major problem at hand of studio interference. This is not something new. Studios have been interfering with their films for a pretty long time now. Some of the most recent examples include Joss Whedon when he worked on Avengers 2. Another highly publicized issue was that of Chronicle (2012) director Josh Trank‘s tussle with 20th Century Fox which completely ruined the Fantastic 4 reboot. And of course, there is this year’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice itself, where 30 minutes of the film were cut out for the theatrical release which did more harm than good to the final product. Even as we speak, there are reshoots going on for Rogue One as Disney got cold feet with the tone of the “WAR” film. Reshoots with films of such massive scale are not a big deal, but the problem is that how commonly these massive reshoots are taking place now a days.

Look, I get it that major studios need to make their money back with these projects, and that’s why they keep meddling with them. But Warners must learn to trust their directors for once now. DC Films is anyway pretty late to the Cinematic Universe game as Marvel has a big lead on them. Continuously interfering with their films is only harming them in the long run. They cannot claim to be a director driven studio when they compromise with the vision of their very own storytellers. This in turn is hurting the studio as well as the DC brand.

DCEU is down three for three. They can no longer handle to falter much after all three of their releases have underperformed. It is up to the studio execs to do some soul searching and come to a point where both them and the filmmakers are standing on a common ground for the film and have a solid  and focused vision for their DC properties.

As far as Suicide Squad is concerned, a final verdict can be delivered only after it opens this weekend and we get a good measure of the audience response. It is not common for the general audience and the critics to have an opposing view on major blockbusters (I mean look at Transformers 4!).


Kenneth Sequeira

A self confessed Nolanite, Batfan and a young cinephile.