If there’s one thing Hollywood loves, it’s a successful, profitable film with – say it with us now – “franchise potential.” While that used to mean an original or reimagined property that found critical and box office success would immediately be greenlit for a sequel, the rise of the shared universe means not just a follow-up adventure with the main cast, but spinoffs and solo missions for the most warmly received stars. And even before Suicide Squad hits theaters, the talk has already turned to the same.
With a marketing campaign based on some of the best-cut (and best-scored) trailers in recent memory making the underdog tale of supervillains forced to do good the most buzzed-about film this year, the reports of Will Smith and director David Ayer returning for a sequel were nothing new. But then came word of a Harley Quinn-led femme fatale movie starring DC’s most beloved women, not to mention a return of the Joker in Ben Affleck’s solo film. But according to Ayer, that’s just the kind of potential to be found in the DC Comics Universe – in his estimation, one of the most complex in all of fiction.
It’s a bold claim, but keep in mind: even Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), a villain once viewed as a laughing stock by casual comic fans has apparently impressed enough studio executives to be in the running for a solo appearance. Still, it’s probably best that fans not hold their breath, since Ayer isn’t in a rush to plumb the depths of the DCU (he’s got another film to make with Will Smith anyway).
As some skeptics claim that the comic book movie genre is rapidly running its course, Suicide Squad is just one of several recent and in-development entries challenging the status quo, and getting attention as a result. When we spoke to Ayer during our visit to the Suicide Squad set, we made sure to ask the question being posed to more and more directors each year: how do you begin to plan a single story in a shared universe of films that the studio is looking to build – and fast?
Ayer’s own cast made sure to praise the creative control given to their director by the studio, confirming that the “filmmaker-driven approach” being adhered to was more than just a marketing term. So even though the clock isn’t exactly ticking for a follow-up, Ayer added his voice to those who believe the DC Multiverse is ripe for as many spinoffs or crossovers as the characters can make worthwhile:
“Because of the nature of the comic book universe, and the DC Universe, it’s really a fractal. It’s really infinite anyway you could go. Especially the DC Universe, I think is one of the most complex fiction universes, I mean with the Crisis, and pre-Crisis, and the multidimensional nature and all the timelines and everything like that. And each one of these characters could be their own film, you know? The Suicide Squad could be a zillion films.”
“The backbone of this story is right out of canon, and it’s one comic book. I’m not going to say which one… eventually people might figure it out, but that’s just one out of a two foot stack. So the potential’s always there. But I think as a filmmaker you have to make the movie work and stand it up on its own two legs and be utterly complete as an experience. Otherwise you’re doing the movie injustice.”
Ayer’s belief that future projects should stay in the future, not dictate the present is one that a larger group of fans than ever before will agree with. For as much success as Marvel and Fox have found in their most reliable comic book properties, the criticism of weaker villains, or lack of a true ‘conclusion’ to the story is on the rise as a cohesive universe has rendered individual chapters less fulfilling. And in the case of Justice League’s many teases in Batman V Superman, we’re not sure it’s a problem to be solved, or a sad reality of the new studio model.
It’s clear David Ayer believes the former: that a movie shouldn’t rely on anything else to deliver an “utterly complete experience,” shared universe or no. But regardless of spinoff talk or solo adventures, if Suicide Squad is a hit, it’s the team’s next reunion that will be demanded above all else. Good news for fans: when we asked stars Margot Robbie and Jai Courtney how long they saw themselves in the role, they didn’t hesitate with their answers:
MR: Oh, I heard forever. I could play Harley for a long time. I don’t know how long. We’ve signed on… I think everyone is committed to a couple of films.
JC: We’re all around for a few more of these should they choose to make them. And I hope they do because I’m having way too much fun not to make another.
MR: And there is so much you can do. They’re the kind of characters that you can keep exploring and find so much more to do.
JC: I hope we’re kicking about with this stuff for a while.
MR: Until my body can’t do the stunts anymore. That’s probably when they will bring a new Harley in.
We doubt fans would have any problem with the Suicide Squad – possibly even as a banner more than a specific team – helping lay the foundation of the DC Extended Universe. And if that turns out to be the case… talk about a victory for the villains.
Suicide Squad is scheduled to arrive in theaters on August 5, 2016; Wonder Woman is slated for release on June 2, 2017; followed by Justice League on November 17, 2017; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; an untitled DC Film on October 5, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League 2 on June 14, 2019; an untitled DC film on November 1, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps on July 24, 2020. The Flash is currently without a release date.