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RTF Original: BIRDS OF PREY Will Bring Some Swagger Back To DC on Film

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When Warner Bros. and DC officially announced plans to make Birds of Prey- a movie starring several superwomen in DC’s comic universe, fans were led to be believed that the movie was slated to be one of several female-focused films in DC’s upcoming movie lineup including the aforementioned Wonder Woman 1984.

Although Birds of Prey originally appeared in a short-run TV show from 2002-2003, the movie will bring new characters, villains and a new plot to the big screen.

If you do some digging around on YouTube, you’ll also find trailers for the Birds Of Prey TV series, which ran for just one season.

Don’t worry if you’re not ringing a bell on characters such as Huntress, Black Canary or Renee Montoya if you weren’t a fan of the original comics adaptation. Although for any CW-verse fans out there might recognize some of these names from DC TV shows such as Arrow and The Flash.

Birds of Prey is introducing both an untraditional character and villain lineup, leaving quite a bit of room to play around with the plot. Early reports suggest the synopsis to be:

“After splitting with the Joker, Harley Quinn joins superheroes Black Canary, Huntress and Renee Montoya to save a young girl from an evil crime lord, Black Mask in Gotham City.”

The villain of the first ever female-led girl gang movie is none other than Roman Sionis, aka Black Mask. The notorious villain is usually associated with Batman but several of the Birds characters have history with Gotham and crime lords so it’s not a far stretch to have them all crossing paths. Black Mask has never been in a live-action movie before. He was featured in the animated film- Batman: Under The Red Hood.

As if the movie couldn’t get any bigger, Ewan McGregor has been tasked with portraying the notorious crime boss on the big screen and early reports suggest Black Mask might be the first homosexual DC villain. On top of those reports are early reactions from private test screenings are deeming Black Mask “the best DCEU villain yet!”

What is rather surprising is the rating of the movie seemingly being rated-R. Margot Robbie, who is also a producer of the film had the following to say regarding the decision on the film’s rating:

“I pitched the idea of an R-rated girl gang film including Harley, because I was like, Harley needs friends. She’s got to be with other people, it should be a girl gang. I wasn’t seeing enough girl gangs on screen, especially in the action space. So that was always a big part of it.”

Not only has Margot Robbie claimed the rating of the film will be R, director Cathy Yan also backed up that confirmation, causing a very vocal response from fans on social media. While many people support the flexibility of the rating, others are hesitant to accept that the movie needs extra violence or additional profanity to make it worth watching. But this doesn’t seem to be your traditional superhero film either.

Interestingly enough Birds of Prey will be the DCEU’s first R-rated theatrical release! It’s possible that the decision was made in response to complaints about Suicide Squad being PG-13 when it was arguably marketed as an R-rated film. But it could just be part of Margot Robbie and director Cathy Yan’s vision for the movie. Either way, I think it’s a risky move considering the recent struggle that Warner Bros. and DC have had at the box office because the R-rating automatically shrinks the audience to adults only.

However, releasing the movie in February is the perfect opportunity to showcase a movie for women of all ages, who don’t particularly go see every superhero movie. Nonetheless, the February release date really is a genius marketing tactic by Warner Bros. to draw in viewers on a full on kick-ass girl-gang movie at a time when Hollywood is known to flood the market with sappy rom-coms to coincide with Valentine’s Day.

Birds of Prey will be some killer counter-programming.

To drive home the elements of diversity and girl-power, Warner Bros. went ahead and hired Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs) to be the film’s director, making her the first Asian woman to direct a superhero film. Good job, Warner Bros.!

Margot Robbie stated:

“Real life is diverse and the screen should reflect that reality.”

Birds of Prey will feature a variety of new and traditional faces on the team. Batgirl however, who is usually a staple member of the team, is conspicuously missing. This could just mean her timeline is wide open for her own solo outing and I highly doubt it will have any affect on the movie’s performance whatsoever considering the movie’s premise will not tie into the current continuity of the DCEU.

Regardless of the changes from the traditional crew, these super-women will still present an intimidating force to be reckon with for any villain.

Speaking of changes, Margot Robbie has promised that Harley Quinn will have a fresh look, including new outfits for fans to look forward to in Birds of Prey. Robbie had this to say regarding Harley Quinn’s new look: “it’s definitely less male gaze-y.” 

Another huge risk the movie is taking is the addition of Renee Montoya as she could serve a couple of purposes in diversity. While the character will add another ethnic element, it’s possible that Montoya was chosen for her sexual diversity as well. In comics, Montoya is confirmed to be a lesbian. If Warner Bros. and DC follow the source material in the movie, she will be their first openly confirmed LGBT superhero on the big screen!

According to reports, the movie has a budget around the $75-85 million range, which is relatively surprising compared to past DC films. But since none of the Birds characters aside from Black Canary have actual super powers, the costs for special effects and CGI were probably significantly lower than they would be for most superhero blockbusters without sacrificing the fight-scene quality.

This is notable, because it’ll mark the fourth consecutive film- following Aquaman, Shazam!, and Joker– that tackles DC on film’s most public issues from these last several years:

  1. The studio’s penchant for over-spending on these films, which lead to great box office numbers that don’t seem so great because of how costly the productions are
  2. Fan concern that DC directors have had their creative license stripped away for good, following reports that Zack Snyder, Ben Affleck, and David Ayer all had to compromise their visions to please a meddling studio

Clearly, with the reasonable price tag it carries, and its unique, risk-taking style, no one should be concerned about WB/DC repeating past missteps with Birds of Prey.

The film’s first-ever trailer hit the web yesterday, and has already garnered a ton of buzz with over 4 million views. So we’re off to the races!

Regardless of the final reception, it appears as though Birds of Prey will shatter the norm in several areas, and give the DCEU some of its swagger back.

I say that because, while Aquaman was a massive success and Shazam! performed admirably, detractors of those films have pointed out that they both felt a little safe- worrying fans who think DC is going to become a knockoff of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yet Birds of Prey (as well as this weekend’s Joker) seems like it’s going to be anything but the kind of paint-by-numbers “generic, big studio blockbuster” film some DC fans were worried they may have to tolerate from now on.

After Warner Bros. and DC presents such a diverse team of powerful women coming together, the traditional idea of vigilantes and girl gang movies may never be the same again and could open the doors wide open for similar movies to come.

Unlike the line-up of characters you would see in a Justice League movie, Birds Of Prey boasts a cast of heroes who are B-list at best, but has A-list talent portraying the roles. This could be the start of an exciting trend, as some of noted that WB/DC always seems to focus on the same characters (Batman and Superman) despite having an amazing roster of characters to choose from.

In my humble opinion, I hope Birds of Prey will be DC’s female version of Guardians of The Galaxy. The overall premise of a movie is a bunch of unknown, B-list heroes and villains the mainstream audience hasn’t heard of and can really be something special. A lot of people really don’t know who they are and that had to have been a benefit for the writers of the movie because it meant they had a blank canvas to create something entirely original- without any of the preconceived notions fans would bring to say, a Batman or Superman movie.

With major stars such as Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez, Ewan McGregor, Chris Messina, Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Margot Robbie stirring up trouble on the streets of Gotham City, I’d say this movie has everything it needs to be a tremendous success.

I cannot wait to see how the movie does with these characters. Margot Robbie has proven to be a hot commodity in Hollywood and I truly believe this will check another box for her and the movie will do wonders for not just DC, but the superhero genre as a whole.

Birds of Prey is set to hit theaters on February 7th, 2020.

Are you looking forward to Birds of Prey? Feel free to hit me up on Twitter!

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Nick Zednik

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