Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) had a difficult task at hand when it was serving as a follow up to Suicide Squad with its lead character. Although the Birds of Prey themselves, Canary, Huntress, and Renee Montoya, were not in 2016's Suicide Squad movie, Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn was established on the big screen for the first time in that first outing. The problem is that Suicide Squad was not well received when too many cooks got in the kitchen for its final cut, resulting in a lackluster reception. So, with Birds of Prey, writer Christina Hodson and director Cathy Yan had to maneuver carefully through the DCEU's story web, acting as its own story but not ignoring the previous film.
Birds of Prey handled its connections to Suicide Squad quite well. Moviegoers coming in seeking acknowledgement of ties to the larger DCEU or others hoping to be emancipated of ties to the lackluster previous film were both left satisfied, as could those who did not really care about either scenario.
Birds of Prey did not rely on any bit of the story from Suicide Squad to fuel its own. The most integral detail was knowledge of Harley Quinn having dated a gangster iteration of the Joker, a relationship which offered Robbie's character a sense of protection from threats in Gotham. Once she was cut free of that, the events of Birds of Prey and dangers she faced were able to exist, but the film delivered those details just fun. Sure, it was fun to picture Gotham's biggest and baddest gangsters wanting to go after Harley and being afraid to because of moments like the one where Common gets shot in the middle of a club in Suicide Squad, but not having a picture of Jared Leto's Joker certainly did not hinder an experience with Birds.
Beyond that, a nice nod to Suicide Squad came when Harley recapped the events of her transformation to Cassandra Cain. This might have been a little bit of a sub par effort to connect solely out of a feeling of obligation, where it would have been nice to see a full commitment to connecting one way or the other, but it's wholly forgivable because of how much more of a complete film Birds felt like in the end.
Late in the movie, those who saw Suicide Squad saw a few of Harley's props pop up, even being used in the final fight sequence against Roman Sionis' gang. Those who saw David Ayer's movie got a kick out of the familiar references but those who didn't saw the humor in the ridiculousness of the props and costumes items. Well played, Hodson and Yan.
As the DC movie landscape continues to focus less on being connected and more on delivering one good movie at a time, Birds of Prey showed how solitary these movies can be without causing continuity errors or acting as if previous films don't exist. It's similar to what we saw from Aquaman and Shazam!, both of which took place after the events of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Justice League. Only Aquaman had to use a character who had previously been in one of those movies and it did a bit more undoing of the work in those titles (see: no underwater speaking bubbles).
Going into Gotham City, it would have been easy to make a film which left moviegoers thirsting for an appearance by Batman or the Joker, especially considering they are known to exist in this world with Leto and Ben Affleck having played the respective roles. Instead, the film capitalized on genuinely interesting characters and building their respective worlds, preventing any longing for further ties to the extended universe.0comments
Birds of Prey is now playing in theaters.
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