David Ayer made a bad movie, and he knows it.
The Suicide Squad director wrote a heartfelt message on Twitter this weekend, acknowledging the superhero film’s awful reviews and admitting some missteps he made along the way. In particular, he wrote that if he could go back in time, he’d make the Joker more of a central villain and “engineer a more grounded story.” The film’s messy plot was one of the flaws cited most by critics.
Hype surrounded Suicide Squad from the moment it was announced. It seemed, at the time, like a potentially fresh spin on a tired genre. The film followed a ragtag team of DC comic book supervillains assembled by the US government. Will Smith, Margot Robbie, and Jared Leto signed on to star. Ayer, who had just made the critically acclaimed World War II film Fury, was hired by Warner Bros. to direct.
But then came rumors of reshoots, production troubles, and studio meddling. Ayer and the cast tried to squash them, but the final product spoke for itself. The film was panned.
Still, it made lots of money. It finished 2016 as the ninth-highest grossing film in the United States, ahead of two other mainstream superhero films, Doctor Strange and X-Men: Apocalypse—both from rival comic book maker Marvel.
In terms of critical success, Suicide Squad was a major box office outlier. All of the films above scored at least 70% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes—except Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman, which scored 26% and 27%, respectively. Both DC comic book films were nominated for multiple Razzie awards, which single out the year’s worst in film.
The majority of Razzie-nominated filmmakers, however, don’t admit their mistakes. Some management philosophies advocate for publicly admitting mistakes, to share their lessons. In Hollywood, it’s not completely unheard of for the director of a disappointing film to publicly admit error, but it’s rare.
Perhaps Ayer’s acknowledgement of where Suicide Squad went wrong helped convince Warner Bros. to bring him back to direct Gotham City Sirens, a spin-off about Robbie’s Harley Quinn. Or maybe it’s because, despite the critical failure, Suicide Squad was still a box office success.
Ayer’s track record is good enough that he deserves another go at the DC comic book universe, but this time fans will be watching closely to see whether he has learned from his mistakes.