Years before there were whispers of a Snyder Cut or talks for James Gunn’s upcoming reboot of Task Force X, it was David Ayer who spoke out about studio meddlings with his original vision of Suicide Squad. Taking a page out of Snyder’s book, the writer-director has long been divulging details through social media about cut scenes, theories and ideas that didn’t make it into the final print of Suicide Squad. Added up, these changes could have resulted in an entirely different and possibly better film.
One of the biggest and widely known differences between the theatrical cut and Ayer’s vision was the treatment of Jared Leto’s widely disparaged take on the Joker. Though heavily featured throughout the film’s marketing campaign, Leto’s Joker has scraps of screen time in the final cut of the film, with his eccentric, gangster personality and unpleasant, heavily tattooed look rubbing audiences the wrong way.
Ayer has since then offered some insights into the polarizing portrayal of the Joker, such as claiming that the character’s infamous “Damaged” tattoo has an actual significance. According to Ayer, Ben Affleck’s more ruthless Batman vengefully ruined the Joker’s smile following Jason Todd’s demise, leading the Clown Prince to get that big, bold new tattoo to compensate. This could also explain the gold grill he dawns as well as the many smile tattooed on his arms and hands.
Ayer has also claimed there’s hours of unused footage of Leto’s Joker in the film’s archives, suggesting he would have played a much larger role in his cut of the film. With so much of the character left on the table, there very well may have been some redeeming qualities to Leto’s performance despite his unruly on-set behavior. This amount of footage alone should garner the demand for the Ayer Cut; however, that’s not the case.
Along with this footage, Ayer has also mentioned that the film’s scattered narrative would have belonged much more to Harley Quinn in his cut. On a lamentful Instagram reflection about his time working on Suicide Squad, Ayer writes, “In many ways, it was her movie, her escaping her relationship with Joker was the major emotional through line.” Later on Twitter, Ayer claims her story arc was “eviscerated” and that it “was her movie in many ways.”
As Ayer has been fairly cryptic on that front, it’s hard to tell if Harley really would have been emancipated four years before Birds of Prey. It’s difficult to judge if this would’ve been the direction he’d take with how sexualized she was in the final cut and how her alternate outfit seems to continue this problem; however Ayer has been open about learning with the times in light of these criticisms.
Perhaps the most interesting, notable tidbit Ayer has disclosed is his original motivation for the film’s villain, Enchantress. Rather than being penned as a generic destroyer of worlds, Ayer’s version of the character would have been under the influence of a Mother Box, and the big, sky-beaming machine the villain uses was originally envisioned as a Boom Tube attempting to connect to Apokolips. This would have made sense in setting up later films in the DC slate since prior to the events of this movie, Superman died, which would have left the Earth ripe for the taking by Darkseid, Steppenwolf and their army of parademons.
As indicated by the film’s dark and grungy aesthetic, Ayer’s cut of Suicide Squad likely would have stayed more in line with the rest of his harder, grittier filmography. Before surely dozens of other practical and creative edits made by the studio, Suicide Squad may have been more akin to Training Day, End of Watch and Fury than the pop song-infused music video it turned out to be, which could’ve been a response to fans’ disappointment at the tonal doom and gloom of Batman v Superman.
Additionally, unlike the web of conspiracy around the Snyder Cut, perhaps the story surrounding the Ayer Cut is as clear as can be. In an interview about his cut content with Collider, Ayer says, “We have a chunk; there’s definitely over 10 minutes of material on there, but this cut of the movie is my cut. There’s no sort of parallel universe version of the movie; the released movie is my cut.”
Suicide Squad did come packed with an extended cut when it released on Blu-ray, though its selection of deleted scenes ultimately didn’t change the many tonal and narrative problems prevalent throughout. Still, the film was a tremendous box office success back in 2016 and has garnered its fair share of fans, even resulting in an upcoming reboot from Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn.
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The Snyder Cut is one of fandom’s most hallowed objects of affection, but David Ayer’s proposed vision for Suicide Squad doesn't get the same love.