Why Suicide Squad has us worried for DC's future

Oh, Suicide Squad. We had such high hopes. The DC Extended Universe, Warner Bros.' interconnected super-franchise of films based on DC Comics characters, was supposed to finally take flight in 2016. Instead, with Suicide Squad opening to poor reviews and Warner Bros. insiders spreading rumors of studio dissent, it might be time to start fretting about the DCEU's future. Here's why. 

Strike three

Suicide Squad is the third official entrant into the DCEU. And like its two predecessors, 2013's Man of Steel and 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the reviews aren't glowing: on Rotten Tomatoes, Man of Steel earned a 55 percent rating, while Batman v Superman was a complete critical dud, pulling in a measly 27 percent.

Reviews for Suicide Squad haven't been much kinder. They were harsh enough, in fact, that some misguided DC fans started and signed a Change.org petition to "shut down" Rotten Tomatoes, claiming its critics "always give the DC Extended Universe movies unjust bad reviews." Never mind the fact that Rotten Tomatoes simply aggregates scores from reviewers not affiliated with the site…and the fact that Warner Bros. used to actually own Rotten Tomatoes, and at the time of Suicide Squad's release still maintained a 30 percent stake in the site. But those are just inconvenient things called "facts." And we've gotten off topic.

Suicide Squad genuinely seemed like it might have lots of fun with its cast of misfit supervillains pressed into service by the government. Instead, critics complain that it felt more like two movies smooshed together. And if the reports surrounding the film's release are to be believed, that's exactly what it was.

A tale of two cuts

The Hollywood Reporter cited an anonymous insider who claimed that Warner Bros. executives were "blindsided and deeply rattled by the tepid response" that hit Batman v Superman months before Suicide Squad's premiere. The result? The studio hired another editing house—the one that assembled the teaser trailer—to create a different cut of the movie seemingly independent from writer/director David Ayer and his team. The new version would be less "somber" and "lighter," including "jazzed-up graphics."

The report claims both cuts were screened for audiences three months before the August debut, and Ayer reportedly worked with the studio (including helming some late reshoots) to blend them into a coherent whole. As the ongoing critical pile-on proves, those efforts were in vain.

Panic at the DCisco

Reshoots, editing, last-minute adjustments…none of this is uncommon for Hollywood blockbusters. But the studio's panicked reaction to bad reviews for Batman v Superman seems to have made things worse. Instead of fixing a movie that wasn't working, execs freaked out at some other movie's bad reviews and started monkeying with a different one entirely. Unless we someday see the original cut of Suicide Squad as Ayer intended it (and Ayer himself says the theatrical version "is my cut"), we'll never know if the studio's interference was even necessary. And after this debacle, will those executives also go to town on the next movies in production, Justice League and Wonder Woman?

Light doesn't make right

The studio's effort to make Suicide Squad wackier seems to have been an attempt to ape the more lighthearted tone in Marvel's movies, like Guardians of the Galaxy. But light-heartedness isn't what makes Marvel's movies good. That's certainly not what made Christopher Nolan's hugely successful trilogy of Batman movies so excellent. Even more telling: a humorous tone isn't what made 2011's crappy Green Lantern a flop. Movies succeed when studios support filmmakers—not undermine them with new, last-minute cuts and sudden tonal shifts. If Warner Bros. can't learn that lesson after Suicide Squad's failure, then it probably never will. And we may already be seeing the consequences…


The first trailer for Justice League that came out of San Diego Comic-Con 2016 looked like a tonal shift from the two Zack Snyder-helmed DCEU movies that came before it. It had wacky moments with Bruce Wayne talking to Wonder Woman, the Flash, and even ended on a sure-to-be legendary exchange with Aquaman, where he says, "I hear you can talk to fish." Cue laughs and applause, right?

Wait, that's not funny. It doesn't even make any sense with everything that comes before it in the trailer. It's just a figurative nudge from DC, a wink that says to fans, "Hey, this ain't your father's Aquaman! And also we're funny now. See how funny we are? Wait, where are you going?"

It's nice to see that director Zack Snyder and his team are course-correcting away from the weirdly grim adventures they've produced to this point. But it almost feels like your jerk of a boss showing up to work wearing a Hawaiian shirt. He's not actually any more fun or cool than before…and now he just seems like he's trying too hard.

Hope and Wonder

But while the Justice League trailer suffers from the DCEU's chronic case of try-hard, the first trailer for Wonder Woman looks pretty awesome. Like Justice League, it seems less dour than the movies that have come before. But where Justice League's ending zinger about Aquaman talking to fish sinks like a stone, Wonder Woman's parting shot is actually pretty good.

Wonder Woman also seems to take some of its cues from one of Marvel's more successful franchise-builders: 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger. Both feature a patriotic superhero fighting America's enemies during a World War. But this doesn't feel like a Cap ripoff. Instead, it looks like it'll tell a progressive, exciting story about an iconic character who has her origins deeply rooted in the past. Even better, it'll actually do what neither Man of Steel or Batman v Superman could: it'll establish the DC Extended Universe as an actual setting, not just a place filled with buildings that Superman and his bad guys knock down.

Zero Hour

Let's hope Warner Bros. finally learns there aren't any shortcuts to making a good movie. The years of blockbusters starring Batman and Superman are ample proof that audiences love these characters, and the healthy box office performances of the DCEU movies show that fans want these movies to be awesome. If Justice League and Wonder Woman can finally right the ship, Warner Bros. might be able to give Marvel Studios a run for its money. But if those movies continue to fall victim to bizarre decision-making and bad reviews, maybe it's time to hit that reset button one more time. After all, it seems to be working for Spider-Man