James Gunn's The Suicide Squad feels like a very intriguing kind of hybrid movie. On a lot of levels, it feels like a comic book action showcase that stands on its own, ready for audiences who need nothing more than soda and a bucket of popcorn to enjoy it.
On other levels, though, the film is obviously a follow-up to David Ayer's original Suicide Squad release from 2016, and on still more levels it's a direct reaction to Ayer's film, a famous example of contention between director and studio. Joel Kinnaman is one of the stars who's been able to walk in both worlds, and he's willing to acknowledge a certain disconnect.
Speaking to the Just for Variety podcast to promote the upcoming Gunn film as well as things like For All Mankind and In Treatment, Kinnaman — who plays Squad field leader Rick Flag in both versions of the DC Comics antihero team — was willing to acknowledge the issues surrounding Ayer's version of the movie. Due to a combination of studio concern over tone, conflicting cuts of the film, and trailers that didn't seem to agree on what kind of movie they were promoting, Ayer's film arrived as a somewhat mixed bag in the summer of 2016, and in hindsight Kinnaman can definitely see that.
"I thought the first 40 minutes of the film was f***ing great, and then there were conflicting visions and it just didn’t end up being what we all hoped it was," Kinnaman said. "It didn’t feel like the movie that we hoped we were going to make, and this is something very different... It’s just a different universe. It’s a James Gunn universe. It’s a very hilarious and depraved place."
This, of course, isn't the first time someone involved with Suicide Squad has acknowleged the sense of "conflicting visions." Ayer himself has said as much, going on the record that he'd intended to make a "soulful drama" that ultimately made the studio skittish with its darker tone. In the wake of hits like Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool at other studios, Warner Bros. attempted to lighten the film somewhat, which created a certain disconnect at various points in the film. There were even reports of two different cuts of the film, one from Ayer and one from Warner Bros., assembled at various points, though hopes of an "Ayer Cut" of the original film have since been dashed.
Still, even with all that drama in mind, Kinnaman returned to play Flag for Gunn's film, and heralds The Suicide Squad as an entirely different experience. After screening the film for himself recently, this was Kinnaman's takeaway:
"It just takes it to another level. It’s an insane film. At the same time, it was very much the movie that I thought it was going to be because the vision was so clear from the beginning," he said. "While we were shooting it, it was so clear what we were doing. It’s so entertaining. I’m of course hopelessly biased, but I found it to be one of the most entertaining films I’ve ever seen."
It's worth noting here that at no point does Kinnaman blame Ayer for the "conflicting visions" problems in Suicide Squad. He simply notes that the conflict was there, something Ayer has been open about in the years since the film's release. Compare that to Gunn's experience making The Suicide Squad — which he's said was done without a single reshoot request from the studio — and there's a clear sense that Warner Bros. has learned at least some lessons from the first film. Getting out of Gunn's way seems to have paid off so far.
The Suicide Squad is in theaters and on HBO Max August 6.