Even if David Ayer eventually gets to complete his original vision of Suicide Squad, it won’t be enough to salvage Jared Leto’s take on the Joker. After the massive social media campaign to allow Zack Snyder to complete his version of Justice League proved to be a success, fans began a similar campaign for Ayer’s DC bad guy film.
Ayer has been candid about the fact the studio made several changes to Suicide Squad he didn’t agree with, like adding elements of humor to more closely resemble the wildly popular Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Suicide Squad took a drubbing from critics, but it made plenty of money at the box office. A second film, The Suicide Squad, is coming from Guardians Of The Galaxy writer/director James Gunn, and will reportedly have little to do with Ayer’s film beyond the inclusion of Harley Quinn and a few other returning characters.
Even if the fan campaign to let Ayer finish his version of Suicide Squad is successful, it likely won’t be enough to reconcile the film’s most polarizing aspect – Jared Leto’s version of the clown prince of crime, the Joker. Taking on the character after Heath Ledger’s legendary performance in The Dark Knight was never going to be easy, but the version in Suicide Squad dropped the ball in several different ways. Beyond what audiences already know about the character, Leto’s Joker never seemed to have a coherent motivation or story. His relationship with Batman is wholly absent from the film, concentrating instead on his twisted love affair with Harley.
Leto’s Joker had clearly been through a lot, what with his fake teeth and “damaged” head tattoo. But we never get that backstory as an audience, leading this Joker to come off as a weird, humorless bully rather than any kind of grand supervillain. Both Ledger’s and Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker were given room to breathe as characters and develop into truly scary, compelling antagonists. Suicide Squad was simply too crowded to give that sort of attention to the Joker, who is in no way central to the film’s plot. It’s a disservice both to the actor and the character that such a radically different Joker was introduced with almost no context for why he’s so different.
Leto’s Joker is set to return in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, a physically changed creature from the last time we saw him in Suicide Squad. This will be the first time Leto’s Joker comes face to face with Affleck’s Batman, which illustrates part of the problem with the Suicide Squad version. The relationship between Batman and Joker is crucial to understanding both characters, and the fact we never got to see them face off before Suicide Squad was a huge missed opportunity to explain and expand on such a radical reinvention of the classic villain.
It’s unclear if there’s any real chance for Ayer to finish his version of Suicide Squad. It’s a decidedly tinier fan campaign than the one that was undertaken for Snyder’s Justice League cut. But even if Ayer does get to realize his vision for the film, it’s unlikely his version of the Joker would be redeemed; there’s simply too much of what makes the character work that’s missing.