Features Film

Why the Editing of Suicide Squad Was Its True Failure

Huzzah! Wonder Woman as spectacular, and the first true success of the DCEU, both at financially and critically. Just about everyone knows the internet’s opinions of the three instalments of the film series, but Suicide Squad needs some further examination for why it was panned. Now, I still believe the film is fun, had some good acting, and even won an Academy Award (seriously, what the heck?). Like Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad appears to have been a victim of extreme, aggressive editing and behind-the-scenes shenanigans, and while the end product is better than the former, it still suffers from a lot of issues, but its worse aspect has to be the very choppy editing of the final product.

Suicide Squad
was a bit of a rush job. Director and screenwriter David Ayer was given six weeks to throw the script together before the film was thrown onto the assembly line. The shooting was described as being quite good, with Jared Leto clowning around on set as the Joker, etc. However, at least two cuts of the film were made, one at least done by Ayer. The first trailer had a similar tone to Batman v Superman, somewhat dramatic and bleak. I quite liked it. However, the unexpected failure of BvS rattled the Warner Bros. executives, and ordered a new recut of Suicide Squad with additional scenes shot. Some suggested it was to enforce more comedy, as indicated by the more wacky, colourful, upbeat trailers complete with catchy song choices like it is Guardians of the Galaxy.

It turned out after the first cut of the film was dismissed, the studio hired Trailer Park, who had edited the marketing, to make a new cut of the film. The end product feels like two movies rammed into one, creating a picture with a very contradicting and ever shifting tone, with the first forty odds minutes being quite the headache when it comes to poor editing, pacing, and storytelling. Now, it is not the worst edited film I’ve seen. That “honour” may belong to The Last Airbender. We’ll look at a few scenes and moments from Suicide Squad where the poor editing just screams “garbage”.

The actual opening scenes of the film, introducing for the first of numerous times to Deadshot and Harley Quinn. As soon as the trippy, psychedelic logos are over, the first shot of the film is a long distance sweeping shot of Belle Reve, the shot blurring in from the logo. A small, black-coloured title appears in the corner, welcoming us to the location. However, by the time we are done examining the opening shot and go to read the title, it blends in with the dark, swampy environment before the whole shot ends.

The second shot focuses on a slow zoom in of the Belle Reve logo on the prison wall. At this point, a viewer’s eyes are likely in the bottom right corner of the screen trying to read the establishing shot’s location, and now must drift back up to the centre. However, we are again unable to look at and read the Belle Reve logo because a large truck and two prison guards both walk by, diverting our attention from the cool artwork. And again, before we have time to adjust and try to read the logo, it cuts away to inside the black site. And this is all in the space of about thirty seconds. The third shot shows a security guard watching various video monitors. You assume we’d use a kind of point of view shot and zoom in on specific screens, but instead, the shot remains long distance, and we jump to Deadshot’s cell without any connection to the surveillance guy.

The film then jumps away to act almost like an alternate opening with the introduction of Amanda Waller. She spends the next twenty or so minutes acting as a narrator, introducing us one by one to the Suicide Squad members. It is during this sequence where we do get the admittedly cool trading card-esque introductions of the gang. Deadshot and Harley now get secondary introductions, with the former then getting another one, but then, the editors seem to have realised they were taking too long, and sped through the intros of Captain Boomerang, El Diablo (with Amanda effectively giving away his tragic backstory early on), Killer Croc, and then the Enchantress, in the most uninteresting way possible, likely contributing to her status as a boring villain.

The rush to get the plot going, despite repeated meanderings, leads to the very brief introductions for Slipknot (via one line), and Katana (a flashback with little context and a long-winded explanation by Rick Flag). It also completely deflates whatever impact Jared Leto might have made as the Joker, though what remained in the film was something to be desired. While the plot is simple, the editing doesn’t help make it interesting. The Enchantress is the most boring comic book movie villain since Malekith, and she even utilises the now warn out “destructive vortex in the sky” seen in recent action films. Her brother Incubus is even more paper thin, you could’ve replaced him with a cardboard cut-out of Kristen Stewart and there would be more of a presence.

And while the mood and tone swings back and forth, the random selection of music choices at the start of the film were likely added to make the film seem a little more zany. And, yes, it does feel like it is ripping off Guardians of the Galaxy. The major difference is that the song choices in Guardians of the Galaxy were intentional on a thematic narrative level. Suicide Squad instead opts to throw songs in because they vaguely relate to the characters for some sort of attempt at humour. For example, Harley’s introductory scenes are accompanied “Super Freak” and the weirdly ironic “You Don’t Own Me” considering her relationship with the Joker.

The film is in such a rush to get from post to post that it has little time to really focus on anything, attempting to make up for it with its gaudy trailer-esque editing and the occasional fight. When the film actually pauses to focus on its characters, mostly kept for the extended addition, it feels like there is a better movie under all of the chaos. Some scenes like the bar chat let you care for these characters, and it is still has more effort put into it than making two attempts trying to make Superman a compelling character.

I still enjoy Suicide Squad, and apart from the awful editing, it still has good acting, comedy, cinematography, etc. Hopefully with the unanimous success of Wonder Woman, Warner Bros. won’t be so jumpy and panic, forcing devastatingly shit editing and mandates on future films (though The Flash and The Batman may have already been hit with these), and can become the second successful cinematic universe in a year where the concept is becoming all-too commonplace and worn.

Do you think the editing is a major flaw in Suicide Squad and other DCEU movies? Leave a comment below or on our Twitter feed.

About the author

Mark Russell