In a really fascinating profile published by Variety today, actor and occasional performance artist Shia LaBeouf addresses a few of the more controversial aspects of his career (his arrest, drinking problems, etc.) and discusses working with some of the biggest directors in Hollywood (Michael Bay, Steven Spielberg). But one of the most intriguing revelations from the article is that LaBeouf almost starred in Suicide Squad — until the studio (and some script changes) got in the way.
September has arrived and this notoriously slow month at the movies often spells instant death for new releases. It certainly meant on a dead-on-arrival start for The Light Between Oceans and it spelled total disaster for Morgan, which debuted at number 17 on the box office charts despite being released into more than 2,000 theaters. But this week isn’t all doom and gloom! This slow week gave some much-needed breathing room to a few August releases while allowing Don’t Breathe to have a strong second weekend at the box office.
There are two big stories to lead with in this edition of the Weekend Box Office Report and both of them are equally interesting in their own little ways. Let’s start with the positive: Sausage Party now inexplicably holds the record for biggest opening for an animated movie released in August. And now the negative: Suicide Squad dropped a staggering 67% in its second weekend, which…isn’t good.
Suicide Squad has only been in theaters for a week, but it’s already become a flashpoint for fan discussion. (And yes, that was a DC pun, thank you very much.) Does the movie’s plot make sense? Does it matter? How much of David Ayer’s original vision wound up in the theatrical cut? And maybe the most contentious debate of all: Is the movie better than Warner Bros.’ previous entry in the DC Extended Universe, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice?
Movie fans will recognize Ninja and Yolandi Visser — collectively known as the group Die Antwoord — as the human stars of Chappie, Neill Blomkamp’s RoboCop/Short Circuit hybrid about a dystopian future where a police robot gains sentience and starts talking like Sharlto Copley. According to Die Antwoord, though, movie fans should also recognize them as the people who inspired the look of Suicide Squad, currently the biggest movie in America, shattering box office records left and right, even though they didn’t get any kind of credit or compensation.
By all accounts, a lot of stuff got cut out of Suicide Squad. If you believe the recent press reports, there were two totally different versions of the film competing for release: A darker take from director David Ayer, and a jokier movie edited in consultation with the company that made the film’s popular, upbeat trailers.
The box-office records it demolished over the weekend aren’t the only broken parts of Suicide Squad. For all its admittedly impressive financial success, the movie’s story is shockingly incoherent, and that’s when the film has a story at all. Sure, Will Smith was great and Margot Robbie made an impressively committed Harley Quinn. But in much the same way the Suicide Squad is held hostage in Midway City by sinister bureaucrats, Smith, Robbie, and company are trapped in a movie that gives them very little play and makes even less sense.
Negative reviews of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice led some DC fans to theorize that film critics are being paid by Marvel to bash the competition, and that journalists are out to “get” DC. Similar reviews of Suicide Squad only served to embolden these particular fans, who believe the negative critical response validates this wacky conspiracy theory and proves that critics have already made up their minds to hate DC films sight unseen. And now they have a little support from an authority on the matter: Suicide Squad comic book writer John Ostrander.
Jared Leto is the second name on the poster for Suicide Squad. The only actor to get billed above him is Will Smith. Leto is listed ahead of actors like Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, and Viola Davis, who, unlike the Joker, are all actual members of the Suicide Squad. Despite Leto’s billing, though, and despite the large amount of publicity surrounding his unusual version of the character (not to mention his unusual preparations to play the role, which included sending disgusting “gifts” to his colleagues), Leto has very little screentime in the final film. He’s featured mostly in flashbacks about Robbie’s Harley Quinn and her time before she was captured by Batman. When he finally appears in the contemporary story, he shows up to “rescue” Harley, fails, and crashes in a helicopter. Then he doesn’t show up again until the very last scenes of the movie, when he tries to break her out of prison.