Director David Ayer reveals that the critical pounding he received after Suicide Squad made him "gun shy" about directing Bright. The $90 million Bright, Netflix's first "blockbuster" movie, has itself received a lambasting at the hands of critics. Audiences however have embraced Bright, with 11 million people reportedly streaming the film in its first three days.
David Ayer first came to prominence as the writer of the Denzel Washington action drama Training Day. Ayer later directed his own gritty crime dramas Harsh Times, Street Kings and End of Watch. That led to a higher profile gig directing Brad Pitt in the World War II film Fury. Ayer truly hit the big time though when he won the job directing the DCEU film Suicide Squad. Unfortunately, production problems and studio meddling marred Suicide Squad, and critics bashed the film upon its release. Despite the negative reaction, the film still made $746 million at the global box office.
Speaking to EW, David Ayer talked about the harsh critical backlash against Suicide Squad and how that experience affected him going into Bright. Likening the Suicide Squad backlash to a throat slashing, Ayer says he became "gun shy" when it came time to direct Bright. Ayer then talked about how he used that bad experience to become a better director on Bright:
"It’s like going to the boxing ring and getting knocked out is how it felt. And I had to go into the ring again. And directing is a confidence game, because you’re selling everyone on something that only exists in your head. The actors have to feel that confidence to trust that you know what you’re doing, and so does your crew. As a director, you set the tone. Really, it’s coming off that movie, I understood the pitfalls, I understood the dangers, I knew where the alligators hide, you know? And so I made damn sure I didn’t repeat any mistakes.”
Ayer has spoken before about certain compromises he made during Suicide Squad and how he wishes he could have those decisions back. In particular, he's mentioned about how he regrets not making Jared Leto's Joker the main villain of the film. The messiness of Suicide Squad was perhaps a simple case of too many cooks in the kitchen. It sounds like, on Bright, Ayer resolved himself to be the only cook in the kitchen, assuring the film would have a more confident tone.
Though Bright appears to have caught on with audiences, critics have not been kind to the film. Many have singled out the movie's tone as a major problem, arguing the film's realistic elements simply don't blend with its fantasy elements. Others have gone farther, accusing the film of outright racism in its use of racialized fantasy characters. In this case, David Ayer doesn't have the cover of studio meddling to hide behind. Bright is Ayer's movie and he himself bears the brunt of the backlash.
The bad reviews for Bright clearly don't bother Netflix or David Ayer. The streaming service has already ordered up Bright 2 and David Ayer will return to direct. It seems Ayer has developed a thick skin after two straight movies that were panned by critics but largely embraced by audiences. Suicide Squad will also get a sequel, though Ayer has been replaced by Gavin O'Connor.
- Bright (2017) release date: Dec 22, 2017