After garnering six Oscar nominations with his harrowing true-life war epic Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson is officially back from professional Gulag. The guy who won Oscar gold with Braveheart, then went on to create one of the all-time blockbusters with Passion of the Christ before drunkenly torpedoing his own career, has cleaned the slate and is quickly re-establishing himself as a bankable director and actor.
How do you follow up the success of Hacksaw Ridge? First you pursue a part in a comedy sequel starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. Next you line up a role alongside Vince Vaughn in a movie about corrupt cops. Then you get on the comic book bandwagon, evidently.
It was first reported Wednesday that Mel Gibson (of all people) was in talks with Warner Bros. to take over for David Ayer as director of Suicide Squad 2. Late Wednesday night, Gibson confirmed the news to an audience at a Q&A after a screening of Hacksaw Ridge (via Batman-News). The moderator asked Gibson how close he was to locking down a deal and Gibson said, “It’s kind of a first date”. Gibson reportedly has competition for the job, with Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland), Daniel Espinosa (Safe House) and Jonathan Levine (Warm Bodies) also being considered. Variety reporter Justin Kroll, who on Wednesday broke news about the directors in the running for Suicide Squad 2, offered some insight into what Gibson is thinking here. The presence of Will Smith in the cast appears to be a big selling point for Gibson:
@krolljvar while some might say he said he would never do a comic book movie, heard he is more intrigued by this cast then material— Justin Kroll (@krolljvar) February 16, 2017
Will and Mel actually wanted to do THE ACCOUNTANT years ago but old regime didn't want Mel but shows how much Mel want to work with Will— Justin Kroll (@krolljvar) February 16, 2017
Though critically reviled, Suicide Squad was a hit with worldwide audiences, raking in $756 million globally. In the months since the movie’s release, director David Ayer has expressed regret about some of the decisions that were made on the film, including the unfortunate move to cut out most of Jared Leto’s performance as The Joker rather than let Joker be the movie’s main villain.
One of the bright spots of Suicide Squad, even for people who didn’t much care for the movie overall, was the performance of Will Smith as Deadshot. Smith brought a much-needed note of soulfulness to the character, helping ground the somewhat confusing action in human feeling. Margot Robbie and Joel Kinnaman also gave good performances but for some people the actors were not given enough chance to shine through the frenzied action, disjointed storytelling and loud pop music soundtrack.
If it’s true that Gibson has long wanted to work with Smith, it makes sense that he would be eyeing Suicide Squad 2. It also makes sense from a financial standpoint, as Gibson would be well-compensated for his work. Artistically however, what would Gibson stand to gain from tackling a comic book movie? Perhaps for him it would just be the challenge of proving he can pull off that kind of movie (even though he has denigrated comic book movies in the past). Gibson proved himself a master of action with Braveheart and Hacksaw Ridge, so handling the big set pieces would be no problem for him. His feel with actors has always been good as well, so he could surely coax good performances out of his players. The question one has to ask is whether Gibson, a guy known for being a hot-head, is temperamentally suited to working closely with DC and Warner Bros. on a very big-budget movie. Gibson is used to having creative control on his movies, but on Suicide Squad 2 he would have to answer to the studio. This is a story to keep an eye on going forward.