“Suicide Squad” was the creative disaster it was because, according to reports on TheWrap and elsewhere, endless reshoots, rewrites and re-edits attempted to fundamentally alter the nature of the beast. It was too dark, so the tone needed to be lightened, and how Warner Bros. went about that resulted in an abomination of a movie.
It was so messed up, in fact, that I wrote a column describing how it doesn’t even really function as a movie.
In a vacuum, that fiasco doesn’t have anything to do with “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” None of the same corporate overlords are involved, nor any of the same key creatives. Plus, the trailers have been great, showing off what appears to be a new take on the film version of “Star Wars.”
On Thursday night during the Olympics, we got a new one — and it was spectacular.
But the fears I’ve had all year about the state of “Rogue One” were nonetheless amplified by what happened with “Suicide Squad.”
That’s because kind of rumors we’ve heard about “Rogue One” sound suspiciously similar to the stories we’ve heard about the DC Comics disaster. Stuff about extensive reshoots to lighten the tone is the big one — what happened with “Suicide Squad,” reportedly, was the studio wanted the movie to be more in line with a fun trailer they’d put out early this year, so they did a total overhaul.
With “Rogue One,” the idea floating around is that Disney wanted the tone lightened to match the Platonic ideal of what a “Star Wars” movie is supposed to be like. The term “four quadrant appeal” was thrown around in these reports — the quadrants being male, female, under 25 years old and over.
It’s impossible to know for sure what’s going on looking in from the outside right now, as the reports about what’s been going on with “Rogue One” have varied wildly and often conflicted with each other. Reshoots are not inherently concerning, also, since every big movie has to do some amount of pickups after the regular production. And it’s possible that even if they did reshoot half the movie, as Latino Review reported, it could still turn out to be good — and even if Gareth Edward’s unfettered vision is brought to the screen it could be bad.
But there’s a reason we breathlessly report on behind-the-scenes shenanigans like what went on with “Suicide Squad” — we’ve seen a lot of movies that had that sort of drama, and they tend to not be good movies. Some are worse than others, and “Suicide Squad” might be the historical nadir for that kind of thing. My takeaway from “Suicide Squad” was that I’d seen just how bad a movie can be when it’s messed with. I have a really hard time imagining LucasFilm boss Kathleen Kennedy is even capable of botching anything even remotely that hard.
But I’ve watched “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” six times, disliking it more and more each time around. That’s a chaotic movie, with all the hallmarks we’ve come to expect of a film that had been repeatedly retooled up to its release. It’s full of half-formed thoughts and incongruous events, and so many things we saw and heard in the trailers didn’t make it into the movie itself. I don’t know who to blame for it — the picture of what went on with “The Force Awakens” is even less clear than that of “Rogue One.” My takeaway from that was that the new Lucasfilm didn’t (yet) have a firm hand on the creative wheel, and so I feared those mistakes being repeated, at least in the near term as they figure out exactly what they want to do with the “Star Wars” franchise and feel confident in that vision.
That “The Force Awakens” was so shockingly successful at the box office didn’t help my concern, because Disney now has this incredibly high standard it’s going to feel obligated to chase moving forward. Nevermind that meeting that standard is practically impossible — “The Force Awakens” was a singular cultural event, and it’s unrealistic to expect yearly “Star Wars” movies to regularly pull in $2 billion theatrically. I fear that the expectation from on high is that it’s totally within the reach of “Rogue One” if only they can whip it into a certain mold-fitting shape.
As a professional skeptic who at times drifts into the realm of paranoia — and as someone for whom “Star Wars” was the hook that brought me into the nerd fold — I can’t help but feel extra suspicious about where this all is going. Being a “Star Wars” fan is tough, because you’re constantly, over decades, being burned by this thing you really care about. But we’re always drawn back in, eventually, because for nearly my entire life there’s always been some other “Star Wars” thing on the horizon. Our hopeful nature means there’s often a delayed response when we’re disappointed — it can be difficult to remember now, but each of the hated prequels were greeted, at worst, with generally positive responses when they were released.
That, in turn, makes it hurt each time we encounter a piece of “Star Wars” that we think sucks. “Rogue One” has the best cast ever assembled for a “Star Wars” film, and promises as a standalone spinoff from the saga to try new things stylistically. It’s an incredibly exciting prospect.
Consequently, the prospect that it might be retooled into oblivion is absolutely terrifying.
Let’s hope, then, that “Suicide Squad” serves as a warning for other studios as to just how badly a post-production salvage job can turn out. “Star Wars” is forever, and in the long term what matters is that the movie is good.
If it’s not, everybody will figure it out sooner or later.