You thought Justice League was the end? Afraid not. Weeks after WarnerMedia announced Zack Snyder's Justice League for its new HBO Max streaming service, DC fans are now advocating for David Ayer to have his "Ayer Cut" of the 2016 movie Suicide Squad released in a similar fashion.
Here's everything you need to know about the "Ayer Cut," the circumstances of its existence, and what it might contain based on what David Ayer has publicly revealed.
What is the "Ayer Cut"?
The "Ayer Cut," as it's slowly becoming known, is the director's cut of Suicide Squad, the 2016 DC villain ensemble that debuted Margot Robbie's breakout version of Harley Quinn. Based on the DC Comics series, the film involves supervillains under custody who are recruited for a very dangerous mission. Upon completion, they'll be rewarded with reduced sentences.
The film also starred Will Smith, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Cara Delevigne, Joel Kinnaman, Jai Courtney, and more. David Harbour (Stranger Things) had a small role and Ben Affleck appeared in a surprise cameo.
Unlike Justice League, which saw a change in directors and a significant change in story and tone along with it, Suicide Squad is a little more straightforward. The movie was still directed by David Ayer all the way through, and the movie credits him as such. But in the editing room, the movie underwent a significant change in tone that Ayer was reportedly forced to adhere to.
Here's the general timeline: At San Diego Comic-Con in 2015, Warner Bros. premiered the trailer for Suicide Squad. The trailer wowed Hall H with an arresting, dark tone and an unusual approach to superhero movies that felt different even at that moment in time. "Promising as hell" is how Inverse described it when it premiered.
Set to a dark, eerie cover of "I Started a Joke" by ConfidentialMX and Becky Hanson, the movie promised a sort of "supervillain The Wild Bunch" with psychological underpinnings. It ends with Jared Leto as the Joker, in a portrayal that looked like the next evolution of the iconic character after the late Heath Ledger. (In the months to come, there would be additional, negative buzz over Leto's attempt at method acting, such as reports that he gifted his co-stars used condoms and, to Margot Robbie, a live rat.)
A few months later, in January 2016 prior to the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, a new trailer with a lighter tone and higher energy premiered during a DC television special on The CW. Set to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," the trailer felt more like a slick music video with total chaos packing every frame. In one instance, Will Smith boxes to the rhythm of machine guns.
When negative reviews for Batman v Superman in March 2016 harbored on the film's dark tone, and R-rated Deadpool from 20th Century Fox destroyed box office records, Warner Bros. pivoted the theatrical cut of Suicide Squad — scheduled for an August release — to better mimic the new trailer. This meant more comedy and more licensed music. Ayer himself confirmed on Twitter that this is what went down.
The film opened in August 2016 and received negative reviews. Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair wrote the film was "ugly and boring" with " highly fetishized violence doesn’t even have the exciting tingle of the wicked or the taboo." David Ehrlich of IndieWire described the film as "mundane, milquetoast, and often mind-bogglingly stupid."
How the "Ayer Cut" went online
The earliest evidence of an "Ayer Cut" came in 2017. In January that year, months after Suicide Squad came and went and Harley Quinn was everyone's Halloween costume, a fan on Twitter gave a shout out to Ayer for a "masterpiece." Moved by the fan, Ayer wrote a lengthy statement that revealed Suicide Squad wasn't all the way his vision. He also joked that there isn't a "secret edit" of the film despite more recent evidence of the contrary:
Thank you so much. I know it’s a controversial film, I really tried to make something different, with a look and a voice of its own. I took inspiration from the insanity of the original comics.
Making a movie is a journey, not a straight line. I learned so much. People want what they want, an everyone has a personal vision of how each character should look at walk and talk. If you set out to make a mass appeal movie, it’s easy to end up with vanilla. But I went for it. And I know Squad has its flaws, Hell the World knows it. Nothing hurts more than to pick up a newspaper and see a couple years of blood, sweat and tears ripped to shreds. The hate game is strong out there.
The movie was wildly successful commercially. And the World got introduced into some very cool characters in the DC Universe. And that success is due exactly to the wonder and power of DC, of its characters. Would I do a lot of things different? Yep, for sure.
In his statement, Ayer revealed one regret, which was how Jared Leto's Joker felt less central to the movie:
Wish I had a time machine. I’d make Joker the main villain and engineer a more grounded story. I have to take the good and bad and learn from it. I love making movies and I love DC. I’m a High School dropout and used to paint houses for a living. I’m lucky to have the job I have. I have to give the characters the stories and plots they deserve next time. Real talk. (And no, there isn’t a secret edit of the film with a bunch of Joker scenes hidden in a salt mine somewhere.)
And that was that, for a time. Ayer moved on to direct Bright, the Netflix movie with Will Smith and Joel Edgerton that imagined fantasy creatures living alongside humans in a racially tense Los Angeles. But when the "Snyder Cut" of Justice League made noise and then later confirmed for HBO Max in 2020, fans started advocating for an "Ayer Cut" of Suicide Squad.
Ayer himself is now pushing for his director's cut of the film, mostly on social media. Since late May, Ayer tweeted several times about "my cut" of Suicide Squad.
What is in the "Ayer Cut"?
Based on what Ayer has tweeted, his cut of Suicide Squad is "methodical," "layered," and "complex, beautiful and sad."
He began talking about the movie around May 23, when a fan tweeted side-by-side photos of Leto's Joker in the trailer and Leto's Joker in the final version. Note that the lighting and color corrections are visibly different.
"This was reshot because the tone was 'too dark,'" Ayer responded. "My first act was a normally constructed film. I took my inspiration from Nolan. There were real scenes with incredible acting between Jared and Margot. Joker was terrifying. Harley was complex."
When another fan tweeted back on May 30, Ayer revealed how Batman v Superman reviews compelled Warner Bros. to alter Suicide Squad to be "beaten into" a comedy.
"This [Comic-Con] trailer nailed the tone and intention of the film I made. Methodical. Layered. Complex, beautiful and sad. After the BVS reviews shell shocked the leadership at the time, and the success of Deadpool - My soulful drama was beaten into a 'comedy.'"
On May 24, another fan brought up Jay Hernandez's Diablo, a villain who killed his own family. Ayer calls him "the only battle I won."
"It was the only battle I won. Decision makers were allergic to Diablo killing his family. Look at my films - death, guilt, redemption and emancipation from toxic relationships are themes I explore as a filmmaker. The human soul is beautiful and complex."
On May 31, a fan challenged Ayer over his Joker. Ayer responded:
I wrote a perfectly coherent script. And Joker was rich and dimensional. You have been lied to. It’s okay to be angry.
On the Joker, Ayer tweeted more recently on June 2 that "Jared was pretty mistreated during this. No one has seen his performance. It was ripped out of the movie."
What's next for the "Ayer Cut"?
With Warner Bros. investing an expensive $30 million (or more) to finalize the Snyder Cut of Justice League, all during a pandemic, it's unlikely that Suicide Squad will get similar treatment anytime soon. It may also confuse more casual moviegoers as the film is getting a sequel/reboot in the form of The Suicide Squad directed by James Gunn, with some of the cast reprising their roles and others recast. (Idris Elba has replaced Will Smith in the role of Deadshot.)
But stranger things happen all the time. If fans make a big enough stink about Suicide Squad and the cost to release a director's cut are manageable, perhaps there may be an Ayer Cut release.
"I don’t mind if my cut is seen in 5 years," Ayer told YouTuber Grace Randolph. " I simply want the best version of my work represented. Zack deserves this wonderful wonderful opportunity he’s been given by @hbomax and @ATT — It’s all love."
There is no release date for the "Ayer Cut" of Suicide Squad.