After a long wait since the last theatrical DC release, The Suicide Squad hits theaters and HBO Max in just a few short weeks. James Gunn's highly-anticipated blockbuster has an interesting history behind it, serving as both a reboot and a sequel to David Ayer's Suicide Squad from 2016.
Some fan-favorite villains — including Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn and Jai Courtney's Captain Boomerang — are making their long-awaited return. However most of the cast is made up of A-list actors playing formerly D-list DC characters — such as John Cena's Peacemaker and Idris Elba's Superman-shooting Bloodsport.
Ever since the film's announcement, many were confused by the title as it is distinctly similar to its 2016 predecessor. As the release moves nearer, James Gunn has explained how the name came to be while revealing the film's original title.
THE SUICIDE SQUAD DIRECTOR REVEALS ORIGINAL TITLE
During a recent interview with Yahoo Entertainment's Kevin Polowy, The Suicide Squad director James Gunn has confirmed the film was originally called Dogs of War prior to its first draft.
Gunn revealed that at first he “didn't know what to call the movie” as he wanted to avoid using a “long awkward title,” but “it was called Dogs of War for a while:”
“I didn't know what to call the movie. I didn't want it to be something that was just this long awkward title. To be completely honest, it was called Dogs of War for a while.”
However, after finishing the first draft, the director submitted the script to Warner Bros. as The Suicide Squad because he “thought it was kind of funny.” To his surprise, the studio loved the title and said “let's do this:”
“But on my first draft when I gave it to the studio I just put The Suicide Squad on it, I thought it was kind of funny. And then they were like 'Yeah, we love this, this works, let's do this,' and I was like 'okay'”
A JOKE TAKEN TOO FAR
The Dogs of War is a notable war film released in 1980 starring Christopher Walken. Given that James Gunn has previously described 20th-century war films as a key influence on The Suicide Squad, perhaps the original title was the director's way of paying homage to a classic of the genre.
Historically, the expression itself originates from William Shakespeare's Julius Ceaser in which a key character says: “Cry Havoc and Let Slip the Dogs of War.” Originating from history's most renowned playwright, the phrase means to cause chaos and release the most brutal soldiers of warfare. In many ways, Shakespeare's 1599 quote perfectly encapsulates The Suicide Squad as the villainous group may likewise be the most ruthless fighters of them all.
While Gunn's original Dogs of War title is fitting, it totally disassociates itself from the Suicide Squad. The villainous team has developed great popularity in the years since Suicide Squad hit theaters, so utilizing their recognizable name in the title is smart from a marketing standpoint.
Had Warner Bros. opted to use a lengthy subtitle, many would've assumed The Suicide Squad to be a sequel to the divisive 2016 release. James Gunn's blockbuster isn't strictly a sequel to David Ayer's Suicide Squad, even if it does hold on to some of its lead characters, so it may be fitting to act as if the original film never happened.
Between James Gunn's The Suicide Squad and Matt Reeves' The Batman, somebody at Warner Bros. seems to be fond of the simplistic titling format.
Logically, it makes sense for established heroes and teams as it creates a distinction to past iterations while still keeping things simple. So it may not come as a shock if a film like The Justice League hits theaters in a few years.
In the Caped Crusader's case, there hasn't been a solo Batman film to include the hero's name in over 20 years, making the title choice clear enough. In the case of The Suicide Squad, this title arguably makes for a relatively confusing title for casual audiences as it is distinctly similar to the original Suicide Squad which is only five years old.
It remains to be seen how this title decision will affect fan response to the movie. The Suicide Squad hits theaters and HBO Max on August 6, 2021.