Late this afternoon, word broke that Warner Bros. was courting Mel Gibson to direct Suicide Squad 2, and of course the news was met with an immediate backlash. Mel Gibson? The known racist? The dude we all heard screaming at his wife on those horrific, indefensible recordings? The bold alcoholic who once called a cop "sugar tits" before claiming the Jews were responsible for all the wars in the world? That Mel Gibson?
Yup. That Mel Gibson.
There are two discussions to be had here. The first revolves around separating the art from the artist. The second revolves around whether or not Mel Gibson is a good fit for Suicide Squad 2. If you already know how things shake out for you on the first issue, well, everything that follows will be completely irrelevant. For some people, what Mel Gibson has done is unforgivable, and his standing - as a public figure, as a screen presence, as a director - is forever tarnished.
Let me be clear: these people are not wrong to feel the way they do. Whether or not you want to engage a Mel Gibson product is entirely up to you, a deeply personal choice, and you are right to feel the way you do. Some people take a harder stance on these situations than others: my wife refuses to watch Woody Allen films, and recently turned off The Ghost Writer, mid-viewing, when I casually mentioned Polanski had directed it. I'm that way with Victor Salva - I don't care if he did his time, I don't care if he's sorry. I won't be giving any of my money to him or his movies, full stop. And as it turns out, there's plenty of people who feel that way about Mel Gibson.
Again: they ain't wrong. Mel Gibson's a dick. I believe that to be true just as much as you do. I also believe that Mel Gibson's a great choice to direct Suicide Squad 2. This is entirely a matter of practicality: from the standpoint of a potential audience member, I feel like Mel Gibson's personal failures as a human being are unlikely to have any tangible impact on his ability to helm an entertaining Suicide Squad sequel.
And the fact of the matter is, Mel Gibson's a talented director. He's got several great films under his belt (Braveheart, The Passion Of The Christ, Apocalypto), he's won multiple Oscars (and is nominated for another one this year, for his work on Hacksaw Ridge), and he has legitimate vision ... which is more than one could say for some of the other journeyman directors whose names are being bandied about for the Suicide Squad 2 gig. Gibson can deliver a film on time, on budget, and has worked within the studio system for decades. On paper, he has more than proven himself capable.
But let's dig a little deeper. Mel Gibson, as you may have noticed, is also something of a lunatic. That undeniable vision of his? It's generally tied up in overt religious symbolism and cartoonishly over-the-top gore effects. He's obsessed with the ideas of sin, redemption and sacrifice. He relishes the chance to stage shockingly violent battle sequences, and often seems to love his villains just as much as he loves his heroes. He's also adept at navigating jarring tonal shifts, sometimes within the space of a single scene. Set aside everything you believe to be true about Gibson as a man, and what you're left with is a director who checks off every box on a list of things one might want from the person helming a Suicide Squad sequel.
All of that said: I find it highly unlikely Gibson will actually get the job.
For one thing, bringing Gibson onboard - whether he landed an Oscar nomination this year or not - immediately saddles the project with a metric shit-ton of unnecessary baggage. After the scathing response to the first Suicide Squad, one would think Warner Bros. would wanna do everything in its power to keep would-be audiences on their side. Maybe my perception's off, but it feels to me like the majority of people are not quite ready to welcome Mel Gibson back with open arms. He might not be on-screen in Suicide Squad 2, but that's still a big-ass name being attached to a big-ass property. People will know, and some of 'em will undoubtedly ignore the film on general principle.
For another thing: is this really something Mel Gibson has any interest in doing? Gibson famously slagged off Batman V Superman ("a piece of shit") in the wake of its release, and said this about superhero filmmaking in general:
"I look at them and scratch my head. I'm really baffled by it. I think there's a lot of waste but maybe if I did one of those things with the green screens I'd find out different. I don't know...
I’m not interested in the (superhero) stuff. Do you know what the difference between real superheroes and comic book superheroes is? Real superheroes didn’t wear spandex. So I don’t know. Spandex must cost a lot."
Does that sound like a dude who's jonesing to make a Suicide Squad sequel? I submit to you that it does not. Of course, it's possible that Gibson's had a change of heart in the five months or so since that particular interview was conducted, just as it's possible that a gigantic paycheck might smooth over any misgivings he might have about getting embroiled in the DCU. But given the films Gibson has chosen to make thus far, and given his on-the-record statements about the genre in general, I just don't see him wanting the job that badly. Maybe he'll feel differently after he "reads the comics".
The point I'm getting at, I suppose, is this: if you're upset at the idea of Mel Gibson directing Suicide Squad 2, a) you're not wrong for feeling that way, and b) you can probably rest easy, because it seems extremely unlikely that it'd ever happen. All's I'm trying to say is, if it were to happen - if Gibson were to have a change of heart about superhero filmmaking, if Warner Bros. were to decide that Gibson's damaged public profile were worth dealing with in order to get his take on the property, if somehow all the stars were to align and this were to somehow pan out - it wouldn't be that insane. It does, in fact, make a whole lot of sense, and could result in something truly special.
I mean, if nothing else - couldn't be worse than the last one, right?