From Filmento’s YouTube description: Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn Birds of Prey movie is the first DC film of the new decade, and by the quality of it it seems DC is up to its old habits a’la Suicide Squad/Batman v Supeman/Justice League. But the interesting thing about Birds of Prey’s failure is that its pretty much a copy paste of other successful movies: Pirates of the Caribbean and Deadpool. The character of Harley Quinn is a straight ripoff of Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow, whereas the narrative and the wonky world of Birds of Prey is a straight ripoff of Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool. But despite copying cinematic greats, Birds of Prey still manages to fail, because it completely misses the point of what makes Pirates and Deadpool great. So, in today’s episode of Anatomy of a Failure, lets see how that happened and how DC/DCEU looks once again to be taking a backseat to Marvel/MCU.
Also known as: Birds of Prey (unofficial title), Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey (re-branded title) Release Date: January 25th, 2020 (Mexico City premiere) Directed by: Cathy Yan Written by: Christina Hodson Based on: characters by DC Comics Music by: Daniel Pemberton Cast: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina, Ella Jay Basco, Ali Wong, Ewan McGregor, Steven Williams
Clubhouse Pictures, LuckyChap Entertainment, DC Entertainment, Kroll & Co. Entertainment, Warner Bros., 109 Minutes
“Here’s the thing, Romy baby: your protection is based on the fact that people are scared of you. Just like they’re scared of Mr. J. But I’m the one they should be scared of! Not you, not Mr.J! Because I’m Harley Fucking Quinn!” – Harley Quinn
This movie’s title was so bad that they actually changed it after it was in theaters for only a week, where it didn’t perform up to expectations. But I don’t think that the stupid, pretentious, cutesy pie title was the only problem with the movie.
To start, I’ve never seen a motion picture be so self unaware. It tries so hard to be edgy, cool and original all while being a poor attempt at making a Deadpool movie for girls. It’s pretty obvious how blatantly this is trying to channel the Deadpool mojo that it deflates anything good within the picture.
Additionally, while this is visually stunning, overly vivid with a giallo style color palate, the choppy editing and amateur shot framing makes this feel like a 109 minute music video. And like all big studio movies that are trying to be cool, the music isn’t even that good, as it recycles exactly the same type of tunes you’d expect from yesteryear while also sprinkling in awful modern covers of classic hits that don’t really work. In short, it’s predictable as fuck.
When it comes to the characters, other than Harley Quinn, this film doesn’t really understand any of them. Who the fuck wrote this? Have they read a comic about any of these characters? I’m supposed to believe that this Cassandra Cain will eventually become a Batgirl? Not to be an asshole but they made her look like Rose Tico cosplaying as Short Round. That’s not the actresses fault, just like it wasn’t Kelly Marie-Tran’s fault that Rose Tico looked like a frumpy baked potato with the dumbest, most unappealing haircut in Star Wars history.
But look at this film’s version of Roman Sionis a.k.a. Black Mask, a villain I have always loved. This is absolutely not who that character is. Granted, I enjoyed Ewan McGregor in this, as well as the character, but he didn’t need to be Black Mask, he could’ve just been an eccentric Gotham City mob boss. There is nothing about him that even resembles Black Mask, other than he puts on a Black Mask for about ten minutes before taking it off again.
Ewan McGregor was the best thing in this film, which is funny when you think about it, as this had a very clear agenda. But I’ll get to that further into this review.
On top of that, Victor Zsasz wasn’t Zsasv, Black Canary wasn’t Black Canary, Renee Montoya was only about halfway there and the Huntress was sort of accurate but completely unlikable and awkward.
Beyond that, this is a movie that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to say. Well, it is very clear that it wants to communicate that all men are pieces of shit, as every single man in this movie are portrayed as pieces of shit, even the fatherly old Asian guy that lets Harley live upstairs.
So the man hate is clear, which is odd because no matter how hard this movie tries to appeal to women, it’s audience was still mostly men. But this is typical of the agenda-driven Hollywood nowadays. But hey, maybe this COVID-19 shit will be a wake up call for studios to actually give a shit about what their audiences want. Probably not, though, as their heads are so far up their ass that they are on a steady diet of their own shit.
The part of the message that isn’t clear is that this can’t decide between whether or not women should stick together or fuck each other over and go solo. I guess teaming up is all fun when you’re sticking it to the patriarchy but once the men are out of the way, they just act like the men they were trying to beat. It’s childish, boring, predictable and lame.
And like all things in entertainment that have this sort of pro-feminist agenda, the story wants to preach self-confidence and self-reliance but then it constantly has its characters telling each other that they’re cool and how much they are all each other’s besties. Is this what women are? Not in my experience but what do I know, I have a penis.
Anyway, confident, self-sufficient and badass women don’t need constant reassurance that they’re cool and likable. That’s not what confident, self-sufficient and badass is. But that’s what this movie is teaching the young girls who may see this picture.
For the first third of this film, I was really happy with its pacing and thought that it was flying by. But then, once you get to the part where the story starts jumping around in the timeline (another way it was trying to be Deadpool), things just went off the rails and the film became sloppy. There was no reason to do this and frankly, it’s one of the things I didn’t like about Deadpool. After this whole section of the film, the pacing didn’t pick up or recover and everything became a slog to get through.
I think that a lot of the problem with this movie is that it hired an inexperienced director. This is something that had the potential to be a massive franchise, featuring a big star playing a character that is one of the most popular in all of pop culture. But the studio didn’t take this seriously enough, so why should any of us?
It also didn’t help that the director, before this came out, was bragging about the heroes not using guns (they do) and just kicking the patriarchy’s ass. She also admitted to not being a fan of comics.
Maybe it’s time for these companies to start hiring creatives that know the material, are passionate about it and thus, want to make the best representation of what these characters and stories should be.
And they wonder why box office numbers were already decreasing before COVID-19.
Rating: 4.5/10 Pairs well with: the other lackluster DC Comics movies of recent memory.
Published: 2004-2005 Written by: various Art by: various
DC Comics, 628 Pages
While this does read better than the first volume in this two part epic series, it is still kind of a mess in that it jumps all over the place and doesn’t seem to follow any sort of logical narrative path. In short, it’s hard to follow and it’s not all that exciting to begin with.
I’m not sure why some people have made a big deal about the War Games epic. Sure, most of the art is solid and I mostly like the parts written by Ed Brubaker but this is such a mixed bag as a total package that the low points and drastically different art styles just pull you right out of the story.
This is overloaded with characters, which typically isn’t a bad thing for a large Batman story. However, this reads more like a massive DC mega event in that it’s so overloaded that there isn’t anything that one can fully connect to. Even if you’re interested in a certain plot thread, sometimes you get distracted for a really long period of time before coming back to it.
This was pretty poorly organized and executed.
Rating: 6.25/10 Pairs well with: other Batman stories of the late ’90s and early ’00s.
Published: 2004-2005 Written by: various Art by: various
DC Comics, 515 Pages
This is one of the giant Batman sagas I hadn’t yet read. So I was pretty stoked to pick it up but ultimately, I was left pretty disappointed, as it’s slow, dry and honestly, not that exciting.
Being that I am a fan of Stephanie Brown a.k.a. Spoiler, I did like her parts in this, as it is a major turning point for her character and because it helped to fill in some of the blanks I had with her character’s development. I really dug the hell out of her time as Batgirl before they took it away from her and gave the identity back to Barbara Gordon.
This collection doesn’t feel much like a large cohesive story. There are plot threads that stretch the duration of the book but it is mostly a few short arcs stuffed into a massive volume to collect the tales of the era.
I guess the main common thread is that this mostly focuses on combating Gotham City’s street level crime but this book sort of just sets the stage for what I assume will be a more action heavy second book.
For the most part, I liked the art but some of the stories felt like a waste of time. But I guess I’ll have to see how things play out in the second and final volume of this “saga” before being too harsh.
Rating: 6/10 Pairs well with: other Batman stories of the late ’90s and early ’00s.
Published: September 11th, 2018 Written by: James Tynion IV Art by: Alvaro Martinez
DC Comics, 151 Pages
After the previous volume, I was really hyped for this one, as it was the last of Tynion’s lengthy and mostly solid run on Detective Comics.
While this started off with a bang, it fizzled out about a third of the way through and kind of went out with a whimper, focusing on a new plot thread that I didn’t find interesting, especially when the larger arc of Tynion’s complete run didn’t feel like it was properly resolved.
It’s not that this was a bad story, I just felt like I was left holding my dick in the cold wind on top of a mountain. I climbed all the way to the summit and there was nothing there to greet me. No party, no fanfare, just cold wind, thin air and no sense of real reward.
Honestly, there’s not much else to say, really.
I wanted certain plot threads closed and followed up on and everything just sort of splintered off into different directions with no clear path to follow.
Rating: 6/10 Pairs well with: other collections of James Tynion IV’s run on Detective Comics.
Published: June 26th, 2018 Written by: James Tynion IV Art by: Eddy Barrows, Joe Bennett, Phil Briones, Miguel Mendonca, Jesus Merino
DC Comics, 163 Pages
Well, I don’t know how the volume after this one is but thus far, this is the peak of James Tynion’s Detective Comics run. This built off of all his stories before this one, tied them all together in a great way and delivered on a few major narrative promises established in earlier volumes.
In fact, this volume made the volumes before this one better. That’s a hard thing to do but Tynion proved to me, here, that he is a pretty worthy Batman writer.
As I’ve stated in just about every review of every volume in Tynion’s run, I don’t like large Bat-Family groups. But Tynion makes the most out of it here and this may be one of the best Bat-Family stories I’ve read in recent memory.
If you are a Clayface fan, which I am, this story is pretty heartbreaking. I don’t want to spoil anything but if you’ve read some of the stuff before this, things come to a head and it’s pretty emotional. And there’s a lot to be said about that, as comics rarely make me emotional these days.
The Victim Syndicate return and we discover that they’ve had a bigger, darker plan all along. While I didn’t like this villain group when they debuted, they really start to gel here.
As should be expected with a comic book title of this caliber, the art is superb and every panel of this book looks great.
In an effort not to spoil more than I may already have, I’ll shut up now. This was a damn solid story with real consequences that the team can’t just walk away from. It’s got me excited to read the followup, which is Tynion’s final volume.
Rating: 8.5/10 Pairs well with: other collections of James Tynion IV’s run on Detective Comics.
Published: April 10th, 2018 Written by: James Tynion IV Art by: Eddy Barrows, Alvaro Martinez
DC Comics, 113 Pages
The few volumes before this story weren’t all that great. However, they existed in order to lead up to the return of Tim Drake a.k.a. Red Robin. And now that Drake has figuratively risen from the dead, most of those other stories paid off in providing us with this solid tale.
As I’ve stated before, I’m not a fan of Batman working with big teams. But this team worked well in this volume and it kind of made Drake’s return much more impactful.
This also deals with a future version of Tim Drake that has become his timeline’s Batman. He has come back in time to kill Batwoman, as it is said that she is on the verge of doing something terrible that destroys the timeline that future Batman comes from.
While future Batman is subdued, the story serves as a warning for something involving Batwoman after this volume. And frankly, the way it was presented and laid out here, has me intrigued for what’s next in this series.
Again, James Tynion IV does a good job writing. Plus, the art by Eddy Barrows and Alvaro Martinez is superb. This looks like what a top tier major comic book should look like in 2019 unlike the big slew of Marvel titles that look like amateur Tumblr art.
Rating: 7.75/10 Pairs well with: other collections of James Tynion IV’s run on Detective Comics.
Published: December 26th, 2017 Written by: James Tynion IV, Christopher Sebela Art by: Carmen Carnero, Raul Fernandez, Alvaro Martinez
DC Comics, 121 Pages
I mostly enjoy James Tynion’s writing. He does a pretty good job with this series, even if it isn’t wholly my cup of tea because I’m not a fan of large Bat-Family groups. I like Batman working solo or with one or two other close allies.
But I still like Tynion’s run on Detective Comics enough to keep reading it, so there’s that.
I think I am mostly drawn in to the Clayface stuff because I actually like seeing him trying to redeem himself and work on the right side of the law.
While Clayface isn’t the focal point here, though, we do get to dive deeper into Azrael’s world. Now he’s a character I have a love/hate relationship with. But in this series, so far, I mostly like him and this chapter wasn’t any different.
This also puts some focus on Zatanna, who I was happy to see pop up, even for one volume. More importantly, this gives us some good backstory to her and Batman’s relationship, going back to their teen years when Bruce was trying to train under her father.
Overall, this was a quick, energetic read that added some new things to the plot and also served to strengthen the bond between this team of characters.
Most importantly, this brought Stephanie Brown a.k.a. the Spoiler back while also dropping hints that Tim Drake a.k.a. Red Robin was possibly still alive.
In the end, I like where this volume went and it ended in a way that makes me want to see what happens next.
Rating: 6.5/10 Pairs well with: other collections of James Tynion IV’s run on Detective Comics.
Published: October 10th, 2017 Written by: James Tynion IV Art by: Fernando Blanco, Christian Duce, Marcio Takara
DC Comics, 165 Pages
This was a better volume in James Tynion’s Detective Comics run than the previous one. However, it’s really overcrowded with characters that mostly don’t connect for me.
I’m sorry but no matter how hard DC tries to push Orphan and Batwing, they’re just not that great. I don’t even really like Azrael that much, despite his popularity amongst many. And now that Spoiler is gone, I really only give a shit about Batman and Clayface.
In fact, Clayface is the most interesting character in these stories but he doesn’t get enough focus. I hope that changes, as I work my way towards the end of Tynion’s run.
This story is kind of a generic League of Shadows tale where Shiva is in charge and trying to screw with Gotham. Ra’s al Ghul does show up and his appearance severely effects Orphan but this all felt pretty forgettable.
I feel like this should’ve dealt more with the fallout after losing Spoiler and the death of Red Robin but it’s more focused on Oprhan’s mommy issues and Batwoman’s daddy issues.
All that being said, the art is f’n great!
Ultimately, I like Tynion but his Detective Comics run is pretty meh, if I’m being honest.
But I’m also a person that prefers Batman working alone or with just one or two people, preferably a Robin or Batgirl.
Rating: 6.25/10 Pairs well with: other collections of James Tynion IV’s run on Detective Comics.