The Snyder cut of Justice League will release on HBO Max, so is it possible that David Ayer’s director’s cut of Suicide Squad could receive similar treatment? Over the past few years, the drama surrounding Justice League has reached almost legendary proportions. Justice League suffered in an especially notable way thanks to a change in director, a series of major reshoots, and a now-infamous CGI mess involving Henry Cavill’s mustache. The movie that was supposed to be a crowning achievement for Warner Bros. and the DCEU quickly became a disappointment, opening to mediocre reviews and eventually grossing less than $660 million worldwide, a veritable disaster for a film with a reported budget of $300 million (a number that put it in the upper echelons of the most expensive films ever produced).
Nobody seemed particularly happy with the finished product of Justice League, an obvious slapdash attempt to change the franchise’s oft-maligned bleak tone and aesthetic at the last minute. Its failure seemed to signal the end of the Zack Snyder-dominated era of DC, with Ben Affleck stepping down from the role of Batman and the studio working to move their extremely expensive IP away from the Marvel-style formula, something they found immense success with when Joker, a one-off mid-budget experiment, grossed over $1 billion worldwide and received 11 Oscar nominations. Fans campaigned aggressively for close to three years for a director’s cut of Justice League, an online battle that garnered many headlines. After dropping hints for months and calls of support from the film’s cast, it was announced that Snyder’s cut of Justice League would release on the upcoming WarnerMedia streaming service HBO Max sometime in 2021.
Justice League is, of course, not the only DCEU movie that saw its director’s original vision fall apart thanks to studio meddling. Suicide Squad, directed by David Ayer, faced a similarly torrid production thanks to drastic reshoots, fights over editorial control, and desperate attempts to change the film’s entire tone via neon overlays. Premiering in the same year as the equally maligned Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad was slammed by critics but made a solid profit at the box office and even won an Oscar for its hair and make-up. Still, a mere four years later and time has not been kind to the movie. It essentially killed Jared Leto’s tenure as the Joker and DC are all but rebooting the film with James Gunn at the helm. David Ayer has discussed how Warner Bros. interventions greatly changed the movie and its production issues are well-documented, so why hasn’t there been as much outcry over the Ayer cut of Suicide Squad as there was for the Snyder cut of Justice League? Is it possible that HBO Max could also drop a similar product in the near future?
The first trailer for Suicide Squad is much more in line with the darker tone established by Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. Things changed dramatically with the second trailer, which added bursts of neon, a lot more comedy, and rather ingenious use of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ It was then reported that Warner Bros. had ordered extremely expensive reshoots (allegedly $22 million in costs, vastly more than the $6 – 10 million typically spent on such matters) to bring the movie in line with that trailer’s lighter tone.
As The Hollywood Reporter noted in their dissection of the behind-the-scenes drama of Suicide Squad, Ayer was “untested in making tentpole movies” and nervous Warner Bros. executives were “ready to intercede forcefully as they attempt to protect a branded asset.” Ayer had initially only been given six weeks to write the screenplay because the studio was dead set on that August 2016 release date. While Warner Bros. continues to insist that the finished product is definitively a David Ayer product, that didn’t stop them from pursuing their own editorial vision of the movie while Ayer worked on his in the editing room.
Warner Bros. brought onboard Trailer Park, the company that had made the lauded second trailer, to create their own cut. By the time the film was done, multiple editors had taken a shot at getting the film into some sort of cohesive whole. Multiple cuts were screened for test audiences, although none of them seemed to win over the crowds, so the final version of Suicide Squad that ended up in theaters is part Ayer, part Trailer Park, part Warner Bros. panic.
Suicide Squad is mired by its disjointed pacing and style, all of which feel like the obvious end result of harried reshoots and a distinct lack of direction from Warner Bros. As Ayer has made clear in the ensuing years since the film premiered, the final product is far from his original vision for the story. Ayer noted on Twitter that Harley Quinn and Diablo’s arcs had been vastly simplified in the final cut. Jared Leto’s Joker also had far more to do, and Leto was reportedly disappointed that so many of his scenes were removed from the movie.
Ayer’s cut would have been more in line with what fans saw in that first trailer: A bleak, Dirty Dozen-style anti-hero crime caper with a grimy aesthetic and no-holds-barred attitude. His previous films like fury offer a solid comparison for what we could have had and what Warner Bros. may have wanted in the first place before their uncertainty set in. At the very least, Ayer’s cut of Suicide Squad would have been cohesive, sticking to a tone and intent without the ugly neon overlay or the obvious reshoot mood changes. So many of Suicide Squad’s biggest issues are rooted in that post-production panic and the battle between director and studio.
There has never been the same level of fervor for an Ayer cut of Suicide Squad as there was for Snyder’s cut of Justice League. The latter came with years of loud and passionate campaigning and omnipresence in pop culture discourse. You couldn’t escape Snyder Cut talk, whereas that kind of excitement for an Ayer cut of Suicide Squad has never really existed. Thousands of people didn’t sign a petition for it, the actors involved never got involved in social media conversations around it, and Ayer wasn’t asked incessantly about it for the past four years. He has faced some questions and support but it’s not comparable to the Justice League situation.
So much of the devotion to the Snyder cut came from a combination of pre-established love of the director, who has been a big name in Hollywood for years now, and sympathy surrounding the messy and deeply personal circumstances that led to the film being as butchered as it was. Suicide Squad may have had its share of troubles but Justice League was on a whole other level. Moreover, Justice League never made its money back, while Suicide Squad did (or, at least, Warner Bros. said that it did). There was a greater sense of injustice, no pun intended, surrounding Justice League.
If Warner Bros. wished to put an Ayer cut of Suicide Squad on HBO Max, it would certainly be an interesting novelty but not an essential one. In order for that to happen, Ayer and his fans would need to drum up a suitably amount of interest, but it may also be dependent on how successful the Snyder cut of Justice League ends up being for HBO Max. It’s still questionable on a financial level to pump money into reshoots without guarantees of success, especially when the product in question already costs so much, to begin with. With James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad coming up soon and acting as a pseudo-reboot of the property, Warner Bros. may also be less enthused about reminding audiences that Ayer’s movie exists in the first place.