When it come to the box office DC is really riding the roller coaster when it comes to whether a movie will turn in a good profit or whether it will be an underwhelming fan favorite that gets mixed reactions. Birds of Prey was expected to be a hit during its release for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that Harley Quinn was the star and the level of ‘girl power’ was taken to 11 since the starring cast consists of mostly women apart from Ewan McGregor, who plays Black Mask. Amanda Prahl of PopSugar can give you more on this. It’s not likely that this is one of the reasons that the movie didn’t do so well, at least not if you ask a few people that think an all-female cast, more or less, would be a good idea. The fact that it changed its name to Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey, now looks like a desperate attempt to get people back on board with the idea that this movie IS about Harley Quinn and her split from the Joker, which was, despite being morbid and definitely disturbing on many levels, a relationship that was somehow iconic in the DC universe since Harley has spent years under Joker’s thumb, taking whatever abuse and neglect he could dish out while always coming back to him. In the age of the empowered woman however, which has only been growing stronger for those paying attention to the movies, there is a line that exists not for the purpose of keeping women ‘in their place’ which is a ridiculous idea, but more or less from flooding their own movies with an idea that is kind of over the top and feels a little too preachy when it comes to depicting women as empowered, strong, confident, and altogether capable of handling their own business.
The title change is kind of amusing really since it’s the type of thing that one might have thought that the producer or the director would have wanted to change from the start considering the length of it and the fact that this movie is primarily a movie about Harley. But on top of that a lot of people tend to bring up the issue of the rating, as this movie was given a solid R thanks to profanity and other elements that took things well beyond the image that DC has been portraying for a while now. It’s kind of funny really but for all the nasty stuff that Joker has done throughout his different versions and as tough and capable as Harley is the R rating really wasn’t needed. Suicide Squad was rated PG-13 as Kevin Burwick from MovieWeb reminds us and despite being torn apart by fans and critics alike it didn’t really delve into any seriously controversial topics or behaviors. Apparently a lot of people didn’t feel that Harley needed to be drunk, drugged up, and using the F-bombs so liberally as it kind of detracted from the movie, but then again for those that love R-rated hero/villain movies it might have been a nice switch from the PG-13 feel that a lot of comic book stories tend to give. It’s easy to assume that these movies are looking to appeal to adults as much as children, but every now and again it’s nice to see something that’s more akin to the comics since it brings forth the idea that the characters are just as human as anyone else.
Another mark against the movie is that, as Rebecca Rubin of Variety puts it, Birds of Prey was a very niche comic that took a few well-known characters and a couple that weren’t so well-known and put them together in a way that might have made sense to a lot of fans but to those that don’t read the comics it might have been a little confusing. Birds of Prey is a fun story after all but without much of a lead-in there wasn’t a lot of back story for the more casual fans to go off of apart from Harley breaking up with the Joker. Comics such as Batman, Superman, and even Wonder Woman and Aquaman were well-known by a lot of people since they had core concepts that were shared among comic books fans and those that didn’t know much about the comics but still enjoyed the stories. For a lot of people several of the other characters in this story were unknowns or at the very least weren’t exactly pivotal characters that they knew about. Had anything been done to build the story up a bit and bridge the gap between the comics and the big screen it might have helped, but obviously the push to get things out and get them moving forward is sometimes a little too important. It does work on occasion and people might end up trying to discover on their own what the story is all about, but in this case the movie took a nose dive for several reasons. The lack of common knowledge provided to the audience was just one of them.