Monday, Nov 28, 2022

Before James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad: Revisiting David Ayer’s 2016 film and what went wrong

While the excitement is palpable as the early reviews of Suicide Squad are praising James Gunn for being slick and satirical, here's remembering the first attempt at the film, directed by David Ayer.

Suicide SquadBefore James Gunn's The Suicide Squad, revisiting David Ayer's version.

As James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad, starring Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Pete Davidson, Sylvester Stallone and Nathan Fillion, releases to largely positive reviews, it promises to redeem David Ayer’s attempt back in 2016. While the excitement is palpable as critics are praising him for being slick and satirical, here’s remembering the first attempt at the film.

David Ayer had our attention when the trailer of his Suicide Squad (2016) released. An assemblage of our favourite villains sent on a deadly mission — it couldn’t get better. The narrative seemed straightforward, as it appeared to be a fresh comic-book spin on Dirty Dozen, where the bad guys came together. Well, unfortunately the result was a rather muddled and haphazard film with choppy editing, owing to perhaps studio interference or a tight schedule. Ayer fans steadfastly maintain that a lot was left on the editing table, and the film had more scope.

Suicide Squad unanimous received negative reviews with a 25 % aggregate on Rotten Tomatoes.

What really went wrong with David Ayer’s film?

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The tone

Harley Quinn (Photo: Warner Bros)

It did have a solid cast, including Will Smith as Deadshot, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Jay Hernandez as El Diablo and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Killer Croc who is reduced to just a cameo. Yet, despite having overpowering ideas and characters at his disposal, the film got lost in showing how-good-it-is-to-be-bad. It tried to move away from the darkness of Batman Vs Superman and adopt a lighter tone, and the final result was that it was neither funny or dark. The film hovers on a middle ground between a dark, grim comic book film and a wildly colourful tale about a bunch of criminals. There are flashes of this occasionally working, but that’s even more frustrating. There are good spots of humour in the film, mostly in the form of iconic dialogues delivered by Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, to be fair. But that’s about it.

Suicide Squad would have been far more coherent had it just stuck to one tone, rather then trying everything in one go.

The introduction of the characters

Suicide Squad (Photo: Warner Bros)

Understandably, the film had a large cast to introduce, something that the film insists on doing several times, almost a third of the film goes in this framing device.  Why did we have to see Deadshot being introduced three times? Katana appears with practically no introduction, and that is someone we would have liked to hear about.


After Amanda Waller brings forth her Task Force X idea, she introduces every character in one go with a long montage. There is hardly any room for character development as the film throws numerous bios around and doesn’t wait for us to chew over it. When executed well, this constant movement in time makes for a good story. Yet, in Suicide Squad this method throws a spanner in the narrative works. Occasionally, we learn a detail or two about the character’s history, for instance how Harley Quinn was being manipulated by the Joker, but that story arc remains void. It also makes the film more predictable.

The film crumbled under the weight of its own underdeveloped characters.

The real villain? 

Enchantress (Photo: Warner Bros)

Suicide Squad gave us a new Joker, in the form of Jared Leto. The Clown Prince is one of the most deliciously notorious villains of all time, and yet, ironically, he has no space in Suicide Squad. The film establishes Joker’s toxic relationship with Harley Quinn, but that’s about it and he peters out of the story in no time. So, without the Joker, we have the Enchantress as the main villain, except she has no personality or character in the film, and is just this ethereal being. Viola Davis was the star here, and perhaps, had the film focussed more on her, the film could have definitely made more sense.

The problem with the Joker

Jared Leto (Photo: Warner Bros)

For months prior to the release, the makers of Suicide Squad were determinedly driving it into our heads about how Jared Leto was sinking his teeth into the character. He got so wrapped up in the makeup of the Joker that Will Smith once claimed that he had never ‘met’ Jared Leto on set. So, forgive us for the expectations we had, because the only memorable thing about Leto’s performance is that he was entirely forgettable. There were those who worried whether he would match up to Heath Ledger’s masterclass performance in The Dark Knight, but sadly Leto did nothing to distinguish himself or at least make an attempt. However, Leto insists that a lot of his scenes got lost in editing, and fans raised the banner for ‘Release The Ayer Cut’ to see what he was actually capable of.

The final act

The final hour of the film is an exhausting, and drawn out. The heroes/villains spend an hour fighting the main villain, and it ends with the weapons being taken away, which makes you wonder why wasn’t this done to begin with. The last sequence is just so flat and generic, that you just wished the film to wrap up quickly

Let’s hope James Gunn’s reboot fixes these errors in judgement.

First published on: 05-08-2021 at 03:30:06 pm
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