The Suicide Squad, the sequel to Suicide Squad, opens in theaters this weekend (and airs on HBO Max), and reviews, so far, are very good, which is … different than the reception of the first film. In fact, there is a 70 point difference in their scores over on Rotten Tomatoes. The first film was directed by David Ayer (this David Ayer) and the second film was directed by James Gunn. Some actors from the first film return, and many do not.
One actor who was around for both films is Joel Kinnaman, who plays Rick Flag and who has quietly turned his role in The Killing into a solid career, despite the lack of “a smash hit” on his resume (I can’t recommend enough watching him in the fantastic Apple TV+ series, For All Mankind.) Having been in both films, Kinnaman is able to offer his perspective on both productions, which is exactly what he does while speaking with the always disarming Mike Ryan. I love Mike Ryan. He’s a colleague over on Uproxx, and though I have never met him, based on his history of celebrity interviews, I fear that if I did I would spill every bean in my body the moment I laid eyes on him.
In his interview with Kinnaman, Ryan got the actor to essentially contrast the two productions, and it’s very much a situation where Kinnaman trashes his old director without directly trashing his old director. Over the course of the interview, Kinnaman says that he would have been “devastated” had he not been able to appear in the second movie and redeem himself, and conceded that his character in the first movie was a “plot donkey.” He added that working on the second movie was “much more of a creative experience” and that he’d been able to do something he’d never had before, namely delivering “lines that are written to be funny,” as opposed to leaving it up to the actor to sell a line as funny (it’s worth noting that David Ayer and James Gunn also wrote their respective films).
As for why the first film failed, Kinnaman diplomatically chalked it up to “conflicting visions” that “sometimes happen on these big movies and it can get tricky.”
Ultimately, it seems, that the difference between working on the two films — and the reason one will succeed while the other did not — comes down to two things. First, the script. Kinnaman said that the first script he received was brilliant and funny, and that the movie ultimately ended up being “very, very” close to the first version of the script,” which, he said, “does not happen.” It certainly didn’t happen with Ayer, who — he said — “leaves a big part of the creative process to the shooting. He’s also figuring out the movie that he’s doing while he’s shooting it.”
In other words, David Ayer directed a $175 million movie on the fly and figured it out as went along. Meanwhile, James Gunn had “a clarity of vision on this film and everyone knew exactly what they were doing. Everyone knew exactly what film they were making and it just makes it for such an easy experience.”
Not that Ayer’s process doesn’t also work, sometimes, just maybe not on a production of this scale. “So it’s a different process and I think they’re suitable for different kinds of movies. But yeah, I’ll just do every James Gunn movie,” Kinnaman said, while later adding that he’d love to “just go back and do another movie with James right away, just because I think he’s so damn good.”
I think it’s safe to say that Joel Kinnaman has a clear preference.
Header Image Source: Warner Brothers