With news making the rounds today that Mel Gibson is in the conversation to direct Suicide Squad 2, many questions have raised about his suitability for such a high-profile job, his own personal issues and the fact that he's been pretty vocal about his distaste for comic-book movies.
This - along with his offer of a starring role in a studio comedy sequel - is the major studios welcoming Gibson back into the fold, and that's fine. After all, Hollywood loves a comeback story, Gibson has owned up and admitted to his many, many problems and the Oscar-nominated Hacksaw Ridge proves that he hasn't forgotten how to direct a film. So, offering him a large budget and a chance to direct a comic-book blockbuster is just a part of the olive branch.
Leaving aside whatever people may think of him and the allegations that surround him, Suicide Squad 2 is a terrible choice for Mel Gibson and if his agents at CAA are smart, they'll warn him off this - but it's easy to see why he was offered it in the first place. Simply put, the DCCU - that's DC Cinematic Universe - is basically in a state of chaos at the moment. Unverified rumours have it that Wonder Woman's early cut isn't going well, Ben Affleck allegedly wants out of Batman entirely, and Justice League barely has any kind of early buzz riding behind it.
Warner Bros. needs a strong, experienced director to step into the DCCU and get a grip on the situation - because Zack Snyder clearly isn't the man for the job. More to the point, Mel Gibson is the man for the job. His films show that he has a clear vision for what they can be, he knows how to work with large budgets and he knows how to work within the studio system. Not only that, he's an experienced producer so even if he isn't behind the camera, he's still the right man to shepherd the whole thing out of the ditch it's currently in.
On paper, Gibson is absolutely the man for the job. Yet, he almost certainly isn't the man for the job.
In an interview with Variety in 2016, Gibson called Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice "a piece of shit." While that caught everyone's eye, the piece also illuminated exactly why Gibson has no interest in them and why Warner Bros. most likely wants him for the job. "It seems to me that you could do it for less... You’re spending outrageous amounts of money, $180 million or more, I don’t know how you make it back after the tax man gets you, and after you give half to the exhibitors." Suicide Squad had a production budget of $175 million and analysts have speculated that in order for Warner Bros. to break even on the film, it needed to make in and around $800 million. Suicide Squad's final figures from theatrical sales? $745,600,054.
To top it all off, Suicide Squad also received a critical pounding the likes of which hasn't been seen in a summer blockbuster in quite some time.
Gibson could walk right into Warner Bros. right now and write his own deal for Suicide Squad 2, giving him a large measure of artistic control, a healthy director's fee and probably some points on the back-end while he's at it. He could hire his own team, probably help out on the script if he wanted to, and basically whip the entire production into shape. After all, Suicide Squad was an absolute clusterf*ck of a production and it still managed to perform as well as it did - so the thinking for Warner Bros. is that these films will do well, once there's a semi-decent director behind the camera, so let's get one who can work a big budget and get in on time.
Yet, for all the logic involved, Gibson is the wrong choice for Suicide Squad and he's not the man to take on a superhero film. For one, he doesn't understand them and he certainly doesn't respect them. That's not to say that you have to have a director who has a deep and intimate understanding of the source material, either. It's likely that Christopher Nolan never read a comic book before he was selected for Batman Begins. However, it's clear that Gibson has disdain for them and that's different. That, purely from an artistic perspective, means he's the wrong choice. How can you approach something you've no respect for? While Warners may gave him a large berth to work in, there's no way they're going to let him kick the whole thing down and start over. He'll have to work within the confines of what Zack Snyder and Geoff Johns have laid out, and Gibson has shown time and time again that he just doesn't do that.
Look at his directorial efforts - Apocalypto, Hacksaw Ridge, Braveheart, Passion of the Christ - all have been boldly original and worked firmly against the prevailing trends in mainstream cinema. A film that featured a TV actor speaking a dead language? A World War II movie about American soliders with a largely non-American cast? Yet, all these films have been both critically and commercially successful and have marked Gibson out as fiercely independent. He doesn't need to take a studio job like Suicide Squad 2 because, well, he's Mel Gibson and his star is on the rise again.
Taking on Suicide Squad 2 would be taking a job for the money. Even when Gibson was at his most powerful and successful, he rarely took work simply for the paycheque. Hell, even Lethal Weapon 4 was probably done more because he liked working with Richard Donner and the cast than anything else. What Women Want was likely a chance for him to work with one of the sharpest female screenwriters of our generation, Nancy Meyers. As he begins to be offered more regular work, it's clear that Gibson is still working off his own compass. Dragged Across Concrete will see him work with Z. Craig Zahler, the brains behind critically-acclaimed indie horror western Bone Tomahawk. The currently-shooting Professor And The Madman sees him working with Farhad Safinia on his first feature-length directorial effort. Though he may be working his way back into the studio system, Gibson should be smart enough to realise that his process for choosing projects has rarely led him astray.
Why should he ignore it now?