When I published a short piece yesterday criticising the dramatic vacuousness of Hollywood’s big budget “superhero” movies I was unaware of an open letter published a few hours earlier on the culture website, Pajiba, by a former employee of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. (WB) savaging the studio’s management team for the dreadful quality of its recent cinematic releases. Using the presumed pseudonym of Gracie Law (the name of the main female character in the 1986 cult classic, “Big Trouble in Little China“) the author of the missive singled out the head of WB, Kevin Tsujihara, for the harshest criticism.
“When I left my screening of Suicide Squad last week, I was angry. I was annoyed and let down and frustrated as well, but mostly I was just angry.
Look, I’m a big dork. So of course I thought this trainwreck of a movie did a major disservice to the characters, concept, cast, and crew, but that wasn’t why I was mad. Yes, it is unfathomable to me that Warner Bros could mess up a movie starring Will Smith, Margot Robbie, and The Joker so completely. But that just had me flummoxed.
…we pursued the storytelling vision of Adam Sandler’s Blended and Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys. Failures. We pursued a potentially great summer movie like Edge of Tomorrow and completely botched its release. Same with Man From UNCLE. We dug in our heels and hoped The Hobbit Trilogy would somehow stop being a mediocre case of diminishing returns. Talented, loyal people packed their boxes and went home while your story tellers dropped the ball.
I wrote this letter last year. I actually started forming it in my head after Man of Steel was a box office failure…
I kept holding off on doing anything with it because of one title: Suicide Squad. Zack Snyder’s Dawn of Justice was a fiasco, but here comes this plucky little dark adventure about antiheroes. I love David Ayer. I love Harley Quinn. I love Will Smith. Put the letter in a drawer. The ship isn’t sinking anymore. Everything is fine. There’s no way this movie is bad.
And here we are. I got back from my screening and dusted this sucker off.
Zack Snyder is not delivering. Is he being punished? Assistants who were doing fantastic work certainly were. People in finance and in marketing and in IT. They had no say in a movie called Batman V Superman only having 8 minutes of Batman fighting Superman in it, that ends because their moms have the same name. Snyder is a producer on every DC movie. He is still directing Justice League. He is being rewarded with more opportunity to get more people laid off. …the biggest lesson about life one can learn: The top screws up and the bottom suffers. Peter Jackson phones it in and a marketing supervisor has to figure out a plan B for house payments.
…Maybe Wonder Woman wouldn’t be such a mess. Don’t try to hide behind the great trailer. People inside are already confirming it’s another mess.”
The writer concludes that the company’s future lies not just in making movies for fans or critics but about securing the livelihoods of its employees. However, when the theatrical releases of mainstream studios like Warner Bros and 20th Century Fox are indistinguishable from the direct-to-video productions of “mockbuster” competitors like The Asylum, except by reference to exorbitant budgets or special-effects, then there is very little hope of satisfying anyone.