Zack Snyder’s cut of “Justice League” was a critical success, even if it’s unclear if it paid off financially for Warner Bros. Such is the case when you pour $70 million into a title for streaming, as rather than in the form of tidy box office revenue, your investment pays off in increased engagement and new subscribers. But regardless of how well it did fiscally, given how much it dominated public consciousness and how much attention it brought to HBO Max, I think that the Snyder cut was worth doing, and its success has prompted fans to demand the director’s cut of another DCEU critical bomb: David Ayer’s “Suicide Squad.”
I actually liked “Suicide Squad” when it came out, as I gave it a positive review for The Huffington Post at the time, but with hindsight, it’s clear that my opinion at the time was heavily warped by how bad “Batman v. Sperman: Dawn of Justice” was. “Suicide Squad” was dumb and simplistic, but at least on some level it made sense, and that’s all I needed at the time.
But for most people, it was a greatly disappointing film, with Jared Leto’s Joker feeling forced and painfully bad, the overall story amounting to stopping yet another evil laser in the sky, and everyone’s character arc just felt one-note and boring. In short, 2016’s “Suicide Squad” was pretty much all about its spectacle and aesthetic, with no substance, and this wasn’t Ayer’s fault. Like “Batman v. Superman” and “Justice League” Warner micromanaged the project, going so far as to discard Ayer’s original cut and hiring the company that cut the trailer to make the theatrical cut, wherein lies a lot of the film’s issues with missing character development scenes and its disjointed tone.
David Ayer recently released an image on twitter of Leto’s Joker, with the caption “Jared killed it. But no one knows it.” This prompted the question: Why not just release his cut on HBO Max?
With James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad” bombing at the box office, it’s not like the Ayer cut would compete with any future films in the franchise — it’s highly unlikely that a Suicide Squad 3 would happen any time soon. Ayer has even admitted that his cut wouldn’t be hard to complete, and there is no reason to suspect that it will need anywhere close to the $70 million Warner put into the Snyder cut. “David Ayer’s Suicide Squad” could be a low risk, high reward scenario for Warner and HBO Max that would draw more attention to the streaming platform, while making the film enjoyable to watch.
Especially if that cut is already close to completion, it makes no sense to have it sit around on a hard drive where no one can see it. Both “Suicide Squad” movies have run their course — the only thing that remains going forward from the franchise is Gunn and John Cena’s “Peacemaker” spinoff series. With the live-action theatrical franchise essentially dead, Ayer’s cut is the last thing they can cash in on related to this series.
Sure, like the Snyder cut, it might expose how the studio executives in charge of the production had no idea what they were doing, but it’s not like keeping Ayer’s cut in the vault is keeping that a secret; everyone already knows that the film went through production hell because of mistakes at the top. All releasing the cut will do is either redeem Ayer and everyone involved, or validate the studio for coming in and recutting his film.
I don’t see a way the studio can’t gain something from this. As long as they don’t put too much money into the cut, there isn’t a way for them to lose. Even if Ayer’s cut turns out to be terrible, it will serve as a curiosity and cautionary tale.