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20 Jul, 2020 21:27

Battle between directors and Hollywood continues: After success of #ReleasetheSnyderCut, DC fans cry out #ReleasetheAyerCut

Battle between directors and Hollywood continues: After success of #ReleasetheSnyderCut, DC fans cry out #ReleasetheAyerCut

Emboldened by the announcement that Zack Snyder’s version of ‘Justice League’ will release through HBO Max, fans are now petitioning for a chance to see the allegedly radically different director’s cut of ‘Suicide Squad.’

Few likely expected the #ReleasetheSnyderCut movement to end the way it did. For months, Snyder would tease out hints at what his film was intended to be before he was replaced midstream with Joss Whedon, and fans would occasionally raise some money for suicide awareness charities (Snyder’s daughter’s death prompted him to leave the production), as well as endlessly theorize about what behind-the-scenes drama left us with the aggressively mediocre and poorly-stitched-together ‘Justice League.’

Somewhere along the way, those fans were actually listened to. Thousands upon thousands of tweets of support eventually led to Warner Bros. announcing that millions would be invested into completing the Snyder Cut, which will be released on the streaming service HBO Max next year.

Motivated by this chain of events, there is now a push to have Warner Bros. course-correct once again and #ReleasetheAyerCut.

July 20 was marked by fans on social media as Release the Ayer Cut Day, with many tweeting their support for ‘Suicide Squad’ to get the Snyder treatment.

Unlike ‘Justice League,’ Ayer was not replaced mid-production, but he has revealed over the last few months that his version of the movie (which was edited and finished before being cut down and reshot) is significantly different from the divisive, albeit financially successful, film unleashed upon the world in 2016.

Through various tweets, the director has teased the more “layered” and “complex” motion picture he’d intended to release, which was influenced by dark classics like ‘The Wild Bunch,’ a film that would make politically correct heads explode if it dropped in theaters today.

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Some of the differences between Ayer’s cut and the theatrical version?

Jared Leto’s Joker (who has about 10 minutes of screentime) was in the third act (instead of disappearing randomly and then popping up briefly at the end), and his twisted relationship with Harley Quinn was explored in much more detail. 

For instance, those who have seen the film will remember rapper Common popping up in a small role and being shot by the Joker after he is “teased” by Quinn. In the original cut, Joker tortures this character and convinces him to commit suicide. 

Despite now recognizing Joker as a cash cow thanks to 2019’s shockingly dark Joaquin Phoenix movie from last year, Warner Bros. felt at the time that the character was too evil and unrelatable, so they almost entirely cut him from the material.

The character of Quinn was also much deeper. There was even a romantic relationship with Will Smith’s Deadshot, which would explain a moment when the character refuses to kill Quinn and another where the two share a bizarre bit of dialogue about whether they have ever been “in love” with anyone. 

Other changes include cringe-worthy lines added to attempt to bring more humor into the movie, and shifts in arcs to make the characters more likable (despite all being literal murderers).

While the Snyder- and Ayer-cut movements may seem like conversations exclusive to a fictional universe Warner Bros. has all but abandoned in recent years, they speak to a larger issue at play in Hollywood: the struggle between filmmakers and studios.

Studios are becoming more directly affected by the small but vocal woke mobs on social media, as well as a need to appeal to worldwide audiences in an attempt to recoup rising production and advertising costs (‘Squad’ somehow cost a whopping $175 million just to make).

In a bid to mimic Disney’s “movies for everyone” style of filmmaking, studios like Warner Bros. have increasingly meddled in filmmakers’ work, fearful of anything that may offend a certain group and bring negative attention.

‘Squad’ is a perfect case study of this trend. It’s a film that demands a darker, more challenging approach considering the protagonists, but this can lead to potential complications in today’s world, where content is literally being buried in an effort to avoid being put on the politically incorrect firing line.

Harley Quinn, for instance, is a deeply troubling character. She is addicted to an abusive relationship and very obviously mentally ill. This is the heart of the character, but exploring such a relationship or behavior in a $175-million film gets studio heads nervous. There’s the potential of being deemed misogynistic or not progressive enough. So, in the case of ‘Squad,’ the relationship between Quinn and Joker, as well as the tryst with Deadshot, is cut back for the sake of mass appeal. What we are left with is a watered-down, one-dimensional character stuck in a movie that seemingly has no point. And look at ‘Birds of Prey.’ Warner Bros. doubled down on trying to make Quinn a friendly, powerful, not-at-all-crazy independent woman fighting for injustices against females everywhere, and the flick lost big time at the box office.

This is because when you try to appeal to everybody, you’ll often find yourself appealing to no one (or at least only appealing the small percentage of the world that weighs the effects of pop culture on Twitter).

Disney has managed to perfect the woke, movie-by-committee formula as their Marvel properties win big financially despite scripts that knock you over the head with their messaging and beg to be celebrated by social justice warriors – remember Captain Marvel, a bland, no flaws, all powerful WOMAN rolling her eyes at any male character who dared question her authority? That movie made over a billion dollars.

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But that trend can backfire too. Disney tried the woke formula with ‘Star Wars’ and is now left with a much-derided franchise from which the biggest success is a streaming series. ‘Solo,’ which made a point in its marketing to promote a social justice warrior robot character and a pansexual Lando Calrissian, lost millions for the company and put a halt on all future ‘Star Wars’ spinoff films. 

The movements behind these director-driven cuts say less about the specific films and more about a growing hunger in a good portion of the moviegoing public for the sort of dark, experimental work that used to define the very best of Hollywood, movies that are not specifically designed to appeal to everyone, but rather do what art is intended to do: challenge us, provoke us, inspire us. A commitment to the ever-changing standards of political correctness and an aggressive effort to appeal to absolutely everyone without offending anyone stand in the way of that. 

The world doesn’t need a film like 2016’s ‘Suicide Squad’ and maybe it doesn’t need whatever Ayer’s director’s cut actually is, but at least the latter is a vision from an actual filmmaker, and not a soulless, compromised product you forget about before the end credits are even done rolling.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.