Suicide Squad has screened for critics, and most of them don't like it. The movie sits with a 35% rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes, which is slightly higher than Batman V Superman's 27%. And now reports are coming forward from respected sites such as The Hollywood Reporter that the movie is fairing poorly because of its rushed production, reshoots, and an extremely anxious studio who has been scrambling to course correct the DC Films ship ever since Dawn of Justice underperformed earlier in the year.
Despite this, Suicide Squad is on track to break the August box office record set by Guardians of the Galaxy back in 2014, with a predicted first weekend take of $140 million or higher. This would bring Warner Bros. its first major blockbuster hit since American Sniper earned $547.4 million after opening in December of 2014. The studio had hoped Batman V Superman would reach $1 billion, but it fell short at just $873 million, and is considered by most to be a failure in terms of what it set out to achieve. Warner Bros. is very hopefully that Suicide Squad will get their huge property back on the right track. But that apparently comes with quite a bit of behind-the-scene turmoil attached to it, and the fact that some are responding positively to the movie itself sounds like nothing short of a miracle.
The first problem cited by THR is that Suicide Squad was on an almost impossible schedule, and that it was engineered to meet a very ambitious release date. Though director David Ayer has made some critically acclaimed movies like Fury and End of Watch, this is his first big tentpole picture, and he's an unorthodox presence on set, to say the least. Warner Bros. studio executives are said to have been quite anxious throughout the entire duration of the shoot, and reportedly forced their hand often to 'protect a branded asset'.
Budget costs on the movie are said to have risen as high as $175 million as studio executives set about fixing what are being called 'perceived problems', most of which arose after Batman v Superman opened to less than stellar reviews and box office numbers. Despite that, David Ayer and Warner production president Greg Silverman released a joint statement, claiming that this is still the director's movie and his intended vision is in tact.
"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."
Suicide Squad was first announced way back in 2014 as part of DC and Warner Bros. ambitious 10 movie slate, which is set to run through 2020, and has already had two more films added to its line-up. Suicide Squad was always said to be the second movie in this schedule, and while executives believed there was more than enough time to get the movie completed by August 2016, one inside source claims it has been nothing but a breathless sprint to the finish line.
"[Ayer] wrote the script in like, six weeks, and they just went."
The general consensus is that David Ayer would have turned in a better movie had he just a little more time to work through the process. But it's stated that once the movie got its August 5, 2016 release date set in stone, there was no turning back, and that the movie had to hit that release date no matter what. There was no time for delays.
"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 tentpole date."
This new report goes onto claim that it is almost impossible to get a seasoned director to take on one of these rushed projects, because they demand more time to get it right. Which is why studios often gravitate to the less experienced filmmakers, who they have more control over. And can shape to their liking. Warner Bros. executives were nervous about Ayer from the start, but the high anxiety didn't set in until Dawn of Justice got such a weak response from most everyone across the board. Warner Bros. was worried about damaging the DC brand so early out of the gate with their planned Expanded Universe.
When it comes to Suicide Squad, Warner executives didn't feel that the finished movie was delivering on the "fun, edgy tone" being promises in the early trailers. Ayer was adamant about pursuing his original vision, but Warner Bros. demanded a different cut of the film. And they got assistance from Trailer Park, the company responsible for editing the teasers, to help shape the final cut of the movie. Which meant reshoots had to happen.
As Suicide Squad was locked down for final cut, a multitude of different editors is said to have been brought in to fine tune this theater-ready version of the movie. At this time, only John Gilroy is credited as the editor. He reportedly left by the end of this whole editing by committee process, and Michael Tronick took over as final editor. Says the unnamed studio source.
"When you have big tentpoles and time pressure, you pull in resources from every which way you can,. You can't do it the way it used to be, with one editor and one assistant editor."
Just four months before it was said to open, Warner Bros. reportedly had two very different versions of the movie assembled. One was David Ayer's much more somber vision. And then there was the lighter, funner, funnier version that Warner Bros. seemed to favor. Both versions of the movie were shown to test audiences. Says the source.
"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."
It is stated that David Ayer fully agreed to this process, and participated in bringing the two different cuts together. Feedback from early audiences helped the entire team reach 'common ground'. The studio cut is said to have won the argument, and it's the reason audiences will see the entire Task Force X team introduced in the first 20 minutes of the movie, and why there are more 'jazzed-up' graphics in place. It is said that getting this version indeed required millions of dollars in reshoots. While David Ayer is putting on a happy face in public, and the studio is reacting favorably at the moment, behind-the-scenes is said to have been nothing but extreme panic and clashing of ego. There was never a clam discussion about tone. At one point, director David Ayer even dropped his longtime agent, but later resigned.
There were other mounting tensions as well, with Warner Bros. refusing to fund Ayer's next project, a fantasy cop adventure titled Bright, which eventually went to Netflix instead, and will reunite the filmmaker with his Suicide Squad leading man Will Smith. After all this turmoil about competing cuts and reshoots, another cut was eventually shown to audiences, and the results are said to have been strong. This reportedly made all involved much more happier about the finish product.
But that was before it screened this week to critics, where it has been hit with some very harsh reviews. Some who have seen the movie claim the interference from the studio definitely shows on screen, and that there are some puzzling and confusing edits and cuts that don't quite add up. Most believe that the movie will still perform strong out of the gate, but as everyone saw with Batman V Superman, that doesn't mean the movie won't falter in the weeks ahead if fans aren't on board. Some believe the movie will have a huge opening, but no legs to stand on.
Warner Bros.' goal is to get the movie to at lead $750 million, and that it needs to do $800 million just to break even. If the studio gets close, they will consider it a win. With public knowledge of these competing cuts completely out in the open, it is unclear if David Ayer's darker director's cut will ever see the light of day, or be released to the public on home video. For now, Suicide Squad is what it has ultimately become. And now it's up to the ticket buying public whether or not it will be a substantial hit for Warner Bros. and if a franchise has been born. We all just have a few more days to wait and see. In the meantime, here are a few new photos and a new TV spot.