Here We Are
Justice League. If it’s not a pop-culture meme already, it will become one in due time. The struggle behind the theatrically version of Justice League is now, more or less, common knowledge. But what about Suicide Squad? The subsequent call for Zack Snyders original vision has been united behind a single hashtag; #ReleaseTheSnyderCut (for the uninitiated, this is why it’s exciting).
However, within that same call, the same can be said for David Ayer’s Suicide Squad. The second film released in the now defunct ‘DC Universe’, Suicide Squad was marred with problems from the outset. With Film Slate already announced, Ayer was reportedly forced to complete the script within six weeks. If you’re unfamiliar with him, he’s known for creating gritty, action dramas. He had no prior experience with big-budget film franchises. But even with those odds, Ayer managed to shoot the movie he wanted.
What Really Happened
Batman v Superman was released on March 25th, 2016. And soon after, tragedy struck. Not in the way of personal tragedy, but in the form of biased critics reacting to that film. Critics flocked the Holy Land of Rotten Tomatoes to scourge their hatred for the film and make sure everybody knew. The only problem? Warner Bros. tucked tail on their next film already in production, which was meant to see a world without Superman.
But like any enterprise watching stock fall, Suicide Squad felt the sheer blunt force of corporate panic. Of course, hindsight is knowing what happened with Suicide Squad was roses compared to Justice League. But let it be clear, Suicide Squad was given additional photography to add more action, err at least that’s what Ayer said. But we now know it was to add more humor to possibly make it fall in-line with that other studio.
So Ayer presents his cut. At the same time, the company that edited second Suicide Squad trailer (Trailer Park) was given an opportunity. They were allowed to present a more colorful version of the film and both films were shown to a test audience. If you’re not familiar with whom the test screening preferred, David Ayer’s cut did not reportedly tested better.
But test audiences and screenings are not a concrete process. Shazam! director David F Sandberg has a fantastic video on the subject matter. But just because a film tested better, doesn’t make it a better film. However, Director Ayer wasn’t about to bite the hand that feeds. He said the film that was released in theaters was his film. Suicide Squad was critically panned but was a financial hit for Warner Bros. So successful, in fact, a spin off (Birds of Prey) and a sequel (James Gunn’s imaginatively titled THE Suicide Squad) will be released.
Anyone who watched the first Comic-Con trailer and the Extended Cut of Suicide Squad can attest that it’s a much better film. Director David Ayer, on Twitter, would later admit to the many changes being made which he wasn’t happy with. He envisioned a character drama more in-line with Reservoir Dogs than Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Most of Jared Leto’s Joker scenes were cut out.
Surprisingly, many Harley Quinn scenes were also cut which gave characters a more fleshed out story instead of exposition in dialogue. The movie was chopped and edited by so many editors that the final product became a mess. Recently, David Ayer posted a never-before-seen image of Joker on his Instagram and made a philosophical post. In the post, he commented on the entire ‘Movies By Committee’ stance versus ‘Movies By Directors’ process:
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Movies are fragile. They are like dreams, haunting moments that run from your vision. They have their own logic and truth. If you change the destination after the trip is complete is it still the same journey? The spine of Suicide Squad was Harley’s journey. In many ways it was her movie, her escaping her relationship with Joker was the major emotional through line. A director holds an invisible compass in their hands. It guides every shot, every performance. That compass points to the destination. If the desintation changes did the journey even happen? @margotrobbie @jaredleto #filmmaking #joker
Ayer’s filmography should give you an idea for his ability of creating unique characters. He can take grey characters and make them interact with each other in dark, sarcastic tones with the occasional and intense action scene in between. What he doesn’t excel at is a ‘Stop-The-Villain-With-The-Blue-Light-In-The-Sky’ kind of film. His movie was supposed to be more in tune with the adult oriented and mature tone set by Zack Snyder.
The injustice done to Snyder with Justice League had its precedent in Suicide Squad. The executives thought they had figured it out because the Box-Office showed the film was a success. But ask any fan wanting the Snyder cut from Warner Bros. what happens if they release it? Their immediate response is usually fighting for the Ayer cut of Suicide Squad. But its in that statement, that I feel the fans need to rethink their strategy.
The Suicide Squad Cut First
There are many reasons why fans who want the Snyder cut should focus the Ayer cut first. One being, there is absolutely no debate as to whether the Ayer cut is done or not. This is a sensitive issue regarding what stage of completion Snyder’s Justice League is in. While Snyder, and more recently, Jason Momoa have been cryptic about the state of its VFX, there is a certain section of the fandom who believes it’s in ready to release state.
Whatever be the case, there is still a legal mess involved in regards to the DGA, residual actor payments, etc. Add Snyder’s willingness to give whatever remaining finishing touches to the movie (and its marketing) and it gets thick-milky. We know he’s busy on Army of the Dead for Netflix till this time next year. Also, Warner Bros.’ ego in admitting its huge mistakes with Justice League clouds their judgement, as is their relationship with Snyder. There is a lot of reconciliation to be done there.
Release The Ayer Cut Of Suicide Squad
But with the Ayer, there is no issue. He was with the project and oversaw the additional photography and edits. The movie does not require any heavy VFX changes and/or musical score to be added. From what I have been told, other than some Joker/Harley scenes, the tone, and the order of the film, there aren’t many changes.
Now, Ayer’s relationship with Warner Bros. isn’t great. But they declined to finance his project, Bright, after Suicide Squad. They also kept his script for Gotham City Sirens on back burner. Still, it’s not as bad as the sabotage mess that happened with Snyder. So what relevance does the Ayer Cut hold for all the stakeholders involved?
FOR WARNER BROS
With the streaming wars heating up, the only remaining appeal is original/exclusive content. What better way for Warner Bros. to capitalize the opportunity than to throw in a director’s cut to draw in new subscribers for HBO Max? Bye-Bye distributing cost. The product is ready to go, minus Ayers approval. What more could they lose? Their experience with Joker and the Ultimate Edition of Batman v Superman should have taught them enough.
Director’s with a clear vision are accepted far better by the audiences than the ones with corporate meddling. They could literally do what no other streaming service has; Create a new series called ‘Director Showcase’. Put in a commentary tracks and behind-the-scenes videos just like a blu-ray release. Have the Ayer cut be one of the first ones available. Especially since Ann Sarnoff, Warner Bros. new CEO, has been known to take decisions appealing to niche audiences. This could be one of them.
Birds of Prey sees Harley Quinn breaking up with the Joker. The same Joker from Suicide Squad (they used a body double of Leto in some scenes). Harley Quinn is a popular character with general audiences. Releasing the Ayer cut could potentially add free marketing for Birds Of Prey while spiking the interest of the general audiences. Hell, they could also use it to build up to James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad if they really wanted to. Lastly, if Warner Bros. ever thought about releasing the Snyder cut in the future, this could be a good test-run to study market response.
For The Fans
For us fans, it means getting to see the original vision from David Ayer. It also means getting to see more of Leto’s Joker who was unfairly criticized by detractors for his minor performance. Also, we would have more Harley; more of fan favorite, Katana and hey… who knows maybe more of the ultimate fan favorite, Slipknot. (That’s a joke, Ayer has admitted he never filmed a origin story for him)
But most importantly, getting the Ayer cut is much easier. Warner Bros. has already released an extended cut of Suicide Squad. They haven’t even mentioned anything of the sort for Justice League. Surely the suits would recognize the potential for monetary gain if HBOMax saw there was a demand for it. The movie has just enough unseen material to cost Warner Bros. less and spike the general audience interest. They might even re-gain some fans trust; but let’s not get to hasty.
If the response is well-met, releasing the Ayer cut would finally show Warner Bros. that there is a market for director’s cuts. It would also show that creative integrity matters to the fans. The first rule of solving any problem is figuring out the easier stuff first. As the great Father Leone once said: “Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith, the trust part comes later.” Both Warner Bros., and the fans, need to take this leap before the trust of the Snyder cut can be established.