In the last week, there have been rumors that Suicide Squad will join the list of movie franchises that have committed one of the ultimate cinema sins — changing a character’s actor for a sequel. After playing Deadshot in the 2016 film, Will Smith is out, and apparently Idris Elba has been tapped to replace him.
The follow-up film is reportedly planning to feature just two main villains from the original — Deadshot and Harley Quinn — alongside a new team, which means that Margot Robbie will be the only familiar face. As for the reason for Smith’s departure from the project, The Hollywood Reporter cited scheduling conflicts. That’s not surprising, given that Smith is starring as Genie in Disney’s upcoming Aladdin remake. The man always seems to be working, and yet somehow looks just as young as he did on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
Many viewers found Suicide Squad a bit underwhelming, to say the least — it has a 60 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. However, it did well at the box office, and the popular soundtrack helped it grow. Unfortunately, the news that Smith is set to leave could hurt the sequel.
There is a suspension of disbelief when watching a film — you accept that the characters aren’t real and the people playing them are actors, but you buy into it for the sake of enjoying the movie. When franchises replace an actor for a sequel, they detract from the universe’s logic, and remind audiences that the film industry is a complicated and money-driven world.
In a way, it is insulting to the movie-goer’s intelligence. Do studios think we’re dumb? Do they think we’re not going to notice that the main character of this movie looks completely different?
When Maggie Gyllenhaal replaced Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes in The Dark Knight, it was hard to ignore. The love of Bruce Wayne’s life mysteriously altered her appearance and speaking voice entirely between the first and second movies. The only reason this replacement is considered passable is because The Dark Knight was a far better film than Batman Begins, a rarity among sequels.
The same cannot be said for Iron Man 2 when Don Cheadle replaced Terrence Howard. The sequel was disappointing, and I found myself missing Howard’s endearing lectures. Howard has said salary issues and not earning what he should have were reasons for his departure before the second film. It’s clear that for the studios, it’s all about profit, even if that means sacrificing one of the best parts of the film, such as Howard.
It’s still possible that Idris Elba will be a net positive for the Suicide Squad sequel. Smith’s off-camera charisma has made it harder to find him intimidating in roles, while Elba has an edge to him that could make him a formidable villain. Fans of BBC’s Luther will be familiar with Elba’s ability to play characters in anguish. If he can’t pull it off, he’ll still have Robbie there to frighten viewers.