Suicide Squad arrives in theaters this week, but Warner Bros.’ latest summer tentpole has already suffered from a lashing by critics. This came as a huge surprise for a lot of fans who had been eagerly anticipating the film, which has had notably great trailers and a strong marketing campaign.
A common criticism among many of the reviews – good and bad – is that the film doesn’t flow well and is a bit of a mess, which seems to be a result of some choppy editing. There was some disquiet earlier this year when it was reported that Suicide Squad was going into extensive reshoots,which some said was a response to the poor reception of Batman V Supernan: Dawn of Justice. Sadly, a new report suggests that the talk of studio meddling was not exaggerated.
Citing multiple sources close to the production, THR reports that Warner Bros. brought in multiple editors (uncredited in the final version of the film) to piece together a “lighter, studio-favored version” that was shown to test audiences alongside director David Ayer’s “more somber version.” It isn’t uncommon to show different versions of movies to test audiences, and THR‘s sources say that Ayer “agreed to and participated in the process.” In the wake of the first test screenings (in which “the studio-favored version with more characters introduced early in the film and jazzed-up graphics won”), Warner Bros. decided to invest millions of dollars in additional photography to try and find the right tone for the movie.
According to some sources, the struggle to find the right tone for Suicide Squad involved “a lot of panic and ego instead of calmly addressing the tonal issue,” and Ayer became very stressed by the process – not helped by the fact that Warner Bros. decided to pass on his follow-up film, Bright, two weeks before test screening. One source said that Ayer was under “a lot — a lot — of pressure” from the studio, and during reshoots and post-production was “exhausted and needed time to process conflicting ideas.”
One source said that the main credited editor for Suicide Squad, John Gilroy (Nightcrawler), had actually left by the end of the editing process, and that the final editor was Michael Tronick (The Green Hornet).
The report is uncomfortably reminiscent of 2015 superhero movie debacle Fantastic Four, whose production was rumored to be a battlefield between director Josh Trank and studio 20th Century Fox, with Trank reportedly shut out of the editing process entirely. There’s no guarantee, of course, that Suicide Squad would have turned out better if Ayer had been allowed to pursue his original vision. But if Warner Bros.’ goal was to make sure that the movie was a runaway hit, the studio isn’t off to a good start.
Suicide Squad is scheduled to arrive in theaters on August 5, 2016, followed by Wonder Woman on June 2, 2017; 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 and Batman solo movie are currently without release dates.