Mr. Warner (our nickname for Warner Bros.) has been having a bad week as Suicide Squad, the studio’s latest big DC Comics-based movie, is about to debut.
First, there were the reviews. Good news: Suicide Squad scored better than the 27 percent “fresh” rating of March’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Bad news: Not much better. As of Wednesday afternoon, Suicide Squad has a 32 percent “fresh” rating on the same website.
Now bad reviews by themselves don’t necessary translate to financial ruin. Batman v Superman had a global box office of almost $873 million. However, it didn’t match a number of Marvel Studios movies (including two Avengers films) that scored global ticket sales exceeding $1 billion. Also, Batman v Superman had a big opening but fell off quickly.
Until this week, there had been positive buzz about Suicide Squad, about a group of Batman villains forced to work for the government. Beyond the bad reviews, a story today by Kim Masters of The Hollywood Reporter suggests a lot of behind-the-scenes intrigue affected the film, including millions of dollars of reshoots. A sample:
Yet if the villain team-up ultimately works — and it has drawn some harsh early reviews — it will be in spite of the kind of behind-the-scenes drama that is becoming typical for giant franchise movies that now are the main focus of the studio business: a production schedule engineered to meet an ambitious release date; a director, David Ayer (Fury), untested in making tentpole movies; and studio executives, brimming with anxiety, who are ready to intercede forcefully as they attempt to protect a branded asset.
That’s probably not the kind of reading Mr. Warner was looking forward to just ahead of the film’s debut.
Now, as the Masters story notes, there are estimates that Suicide Squad could have an opening weekend of $140 million. Still, Mr. Warner has a lot riding on DC Comics-based films, as it tries to match rival Marvel Studios and its owner, Walt Disney Co. So Suicide Squad is going to get even more scrutiny than the average big-budget movie.
We’ll see how it turns out for Mr. Warner in short order. If that big Suicide Squad opening materializes — and Suicide Squad doesn’t fade as quickly as Batman v Superman did — the bad buzz will fade quickly.