Thursday, March 31, 2016

Lighten up, DC!: The Suicide Squad Reshoots

Earlier today, word got out that the highly anticipated film Suicide Squad was in the midst of some pricey reshoots and the reason is not necessarily quality of the content but rather the worry of a tonal disconnect between the hugely popular second trailer of the movie and what the finished product would actually be. Warner Bros. saw the buzz the film was building from the pretty terrific new look at these characters and became worried that all of the comedy in the film was right there in those two and a half minutes, and audiences would find themselves turned off when they finally sat down in the theater and left wondering why what they saw didn't match their expectations. 

The reactions I have come across to this news on Twitter have been just as polarizing as the reviews of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, ranging from thrilled excitement to angered disappointment. The optimism is from those that hope the suits behind the scenes got the message when it became clear that BvS was a critical failure and that some fun should be injected into the cinematic universe (although this has nothing to do with BvS, I will get to that in a bit). The concern comes from those that love the more dark and gritty take on caped heroes and would end up merely blending in with the slate of Marvel films rather than doing something to stand out. 

First, let's address one thing that is a common misconception: reshoots do not equal a failed film. Many times the knee jerk reaction to such an announcement is that obviously what the studio saw is a mess and thus we are seeing last minute panic to fix it, when it just isn't the case. Well, sometimes it is the case of course, but at least it isn't a guarantee. Many great pictures have had reshoots and rewrites and massive issues on the set that seemed to spell disaster, yet in the end what was seen by the masses became beloved. I'm not saying Suicide Squad belongs in this conversation, hell I don't know if it was ever going to be good, but do not give up hope or become pessimistic solely because of an awareness of reshoots. 

As for where I stand in the whole thing, I am actually pretty darn excited that Warner Bros. recognized something that could be a problem and acted on it. The only concern is that the changes may not be executed well and fail to fit into director David Ayer's overall vision, because if this decision wasn't made mutually and it causes tension between the filmmaker and the studio, trouble could be brewing. I always want to believe that what I am witnessing on the big screen was what the director wanted me to see, and it is a bummer when that isn't the case. If he found a way to go back to the drawing board and seamlessly integrate some more humorous character interactions and fun set pieces to give the audience a more enjoyable experience, then count me in.

As I referenced earlier, it's important to note that this decision to reshoot isn't actually tied to the critical response to Batman v Superman, although I am sure that only helped to reinforce the decision that was already made. Reshoots were actually ordered based only on the response to that second trailer and this is why I am optimistic. Let's face it, whether you want the DC movieverse to be dark and more tonally violent than other superhero fare is irrelevant because if Suicide Squad was meant to follow that path, then ironically the death knell for the film would have been that trailer. Why? Because the positive reaction means those who are enthused by it now have expectations, and if they aren't met the word of mouth would be really poor and I don't think WB studios could handle two big budget critical failures in the same year. I will be honest, I was very much a Suicide Squad pessimist based on the still images released last year. I believe I said that they looked more like a posed photograph at an Insane Clown Posse concert than a look at a superhero villain movie. The first trailer had me thinking maybe it could be pretty cool, but it was the second trailer that hooked me, and the little voice inside my head said "This looks like it will be a lot of fun!" Had it failed to live up to that come August, I would be one of those with not so hot things to say afterwards and if too many voices are negative, eventually the box office will suffer.

To be clear, I'm not even someone who took issue with the tone of Batman v Superman. I was fine with the brooding second chapter after the somewhat optimistic (although still pretty dark) Man of Steel. The thing is though, if all of the films within this universe feel exactly the same tonally, it just won't work. People like to complain about Marvel being silly, but it is a false generalization. It has been light and fun when it wants to be, and good on them because I have enjoyed much of that style in their films. Guardians of the Galaxy is my favorite MCU film because it was a total blast of fun yet within the colorful set pieces and clever comedy there was a real heart beating throughout the story and its characters. My second favorite of theirs is Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which takes on a very different tone, a picture that is essentially an intense and stylish spy thriller that just so happens to feature an Avenger in the lead role. Their universe works and flows so well because they have found a way to take different styles and levels of seriousness and make them all mesh cohesively. Granted, I continue to take issue with films like Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World because of their attempts at humor, but it isn't that they wanted to be funny that is the problem, it's that they failed so spectacularly at doing so. I would still rather have those that try to present a mixed bag and fail over film after film after film of one note storytelling.

Suicide Squad should be fun. It just should, but when I say fun I don't mean it should be DC's Guardians of the Galaxy, which I know some have labeled it as already. That's a poor comparison and can only do harm to Suicide Squad by setting inappropriate expectations. Guardians of the Galaxy features a charismatic Chris Pratt in the lead, a tree that only says three words and a talking, smart ass raccoon. It was always meant to be a comedy heavy picture and director James Gunn nailed it from start to finish, but Suicide Squad could not and should not strive to match such an experience. A film centered on these villains should be highly entertaining and elicit laughs, but more those earned through dark behavior and intentions rather than anything breezy. I can only assume the characters featured in Suicide Squad will make more appearances in other DC films going forward, and they need to be able to make us smile but also demand that we take them seriously as representations of evil, and this is where I hope Ayer and the studio are able to find a balance with these reshoots. Too far in either direction could end in both critical and financial failure, but I hope not. Right now I am choosing to believe that this will end up being a terrific late summer slice of entertainment. Just don't panic over the reshoots, because something tells me in the end the decision will have been for the best.


  1. That's the biggest problem I have with this news. Guardians of the Galaxy. Marvel's dark horse, if you will. I'm really afraid that these reshoots, if they are going to bring more light hearted, will really clash with the overall tone, because if you look at Ayer's body of work it fits more in line with the DCEU, laughy time. I'm still perplexed how people can say the tone of BvS is destroying the DCEU, because everybody's favorite movie is called The Dark Knight and that movie has less laughs than BvS. Anywho, another aspect that really bugs me is that this is a film about villains. If it was for say Wonder Woman, or another stand alone film I wouldn't think much of it and probably be on the pro side, but I really don't want my villains to be too likable, and too funny, and too light hearted. From what I've seen in the trailers it looks like it'll be a blast, and one heck of a ride. I still love how we've seen all the going from point A to point B with some action shots and we still don't know what the plot of the film is. So yeah, I'm desperately hoping WB isn't thinking of severely changing their universe based off one film. Yes it was a big tent pole, but SS is different from those big badasses. IDK, I have mixed feelings on this.

    1. I'm completely with you on everything you said EXCEPT for one major factor, which is that the recent trailer of SS made it look like a funny, fun film. The entire tone of the trailer had people looking at people next to them after it was over saying "that looks fun!", which is great for initial box office but if the rumors are true that basically anything deemed "fun" was in that trailer and the last was rather dark and dour, you would get a lot of bad word of mouth walking out of the cinema and lord knows DC doesn't need that seeing as how BvS just had an epic drop in its second weekend. I am totally fine with the tone of BvS and I appreciate the grittier take on heroes and villains, but they sort of made their own bed by releasing a trailer that was selling everyone on fun with SS. They need to match those expectations now, at least somewhat.

      Trust me, I do have concerns about tonal issues and the studio overcompensating in response to BvS criticisms, but if they do a good job with these reshoots and some more fun character interactions find their way into the film and blend well, it will serve the entire universe well going forward. Two bad word of mouth efforts in one year would be a disaster for them going forward.

    2. I'll give you that, DC hasn't had the best marketing campaign for the last few months, probably because studios keep worrying over the most iconic characters! But I digress. Anyway, I don't think I made this point, but back when comic con was going on last summer both trailers to BvS (the really awesome one) and Suicide Squad were released (the really dark gritty one) and Suicide Squad had the most hits, surpassing BvS. If the tone of SS trailer really isn't what it is, then somebody is getting fired I think, but if not all they have to do is release that first trailer because people loved that first trailer even though it was icky dark.

    3. It will be interesting to see Cody. I actually read on Twitter today, someone who was on set for the reshoots was told "they made us do reshoots" which I hate to hear. Hopefully the studio has the best intentions and it does end up fixing issues with the film, but when corporate people get involved with telling a filmmaker what to fix, it doesn't sound very appealing.