Sometimes a movie franchise just needs a bit of a feminine touch – and maybe that is what the DC Universe films released by Warner Brothers has been missing all along. Although we loved Shazam, with the exception of Wonder Woman, the movies that DC has been bringing to the screen have left audiences wanting more and ultimately don’t go over well.
But what made Wonder Woman so different? It had Patty Jenkins at the helm and the characters felt more developed, and more realistic for women in general. The character had a major back slide when Zack Snyder took over directing for Justice League – and when it comes to Harley Quinn, she was reduced to a side piece and character in the hands of James Gunn and David Ayer.
So with Birds of Prey: (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) in theaters now, fans are sitting on the fence – it could go the way of most DC films have so far or it could be great. But Birds of Prey seems to have the key to success, with it not only being directed by Cathy Yan but written by Christina Hodson. Both women not only take elements that were problematic with the previous direction of Harley Quinn and spin them around, but fully develop women characters that you want to not only want to see succeed but enjoy watching them fight for their place within the crazy place that is Gotham.
The Look of Harley Quinn
It took losing something I truly loved to notice the target on my back was closing in on meHarley
In Suicide Squad we first meet this version of Harley Quinn, or at least the version that Gunn and Ayers wanted to portray. Margot Robbie is shoved into a push up bra, mid-drift showing and wearing a shirt that says “Daddy’s Little Monster”. Her hair falls around her face and she’s more there for eye candy than to add to the story. She doesn’t seem to exist independently from Joker and that is about where her character development ended.
But in Birds of Prey – she’s in a post Joker story line. He’s mentioned, and their breakup is the catalyst for this part of her story. In Hodson’s hands, Harley’s outfits are less sexual and less revealing. She still has her two toned hair she wears in pigtails, but in a cathartic post break up moment she cuts them off. She is finding herself and her body isn’t what you focus on. Yes, you still see her tattoos and a lot of skin, but you aren’t going to see cleavage or other parts peaking out under the short shorts.
This same sensitivity is given to the other characters – their outfits, while may show more skin aren’t done sexually. Instead they fit the character and what they are dressing for – and the mad world that is Gotham around them. They aren’t scantly clad and pieces of eye candy just there to push a story along or to be enjoyed in the view.
Simple Touches That Only a Woman Would Think Of
I like this chick, she has rage issuesBlack Canary
Besides the outfits, there are other feminine touches throughout. With women supporting each other despite their differences (although a bit hopeful in their universe as well as our own), women stepping up and protecting others from being assaulted and even taking a stand for women they do not understand or even like. It’s the small moments of handing another woman a hair tie in the middle of a fight that will have women cheering in the theater.
But one that stuck out the most for us while we watched the movie goes back to the wardrobes of Harley Quinn and her iconic shirt in this version of the film. In a battle scene in a jail house with the sprinklers going, Harley is fighting in a white t-shirt. Usually women instantly will roll their eyes as they know this is going to be the equivalent of a wet t-shirt contest. But instead, Harley has a pink sports bra under it that makes sure that nothing is revealed. For once, the water fight scene was set up just for that – a fight scene, not a reason to see her nipples as she fights.
Rounding Out the Characters Without the Help of Others
If you want the boys to respect you blow something upHarley
There is no hiding the fact that Birds of Prey is a woman driven film. With the leads being Harley Quinn, Black Canary, Renee Montoya, The Huntress and Cassandra Cain. Each women’s story is told but their individual talents are their own and not a gift or the result of anyone else in the film. Some of their tragic back stories lead them to their current positions, but it doesn’t mean that’s all there is to them. The women aren’t flat, or just part of the crew – each one is rounded out and giving their own place within the story.
The men in the film – they have taken the back seat. And while some are downright terrible and do some horrible things, they pay for their crimes throughout the film. The conversations between the women are complex, and don’t revolve around guys to move the story along (yes, Birds of Prey absolutely passes the Bechdel Test). And with these complex characters we also see the complexity of female relationship portrayed. From women that hate each other one minute, drink together the next and compliment each other with a back handed jab – women will be able to relate to the friendships these women form.
Finding a Voice Without the Joker
A harlequin’s role is to serve a master or a crowd. We are nothing without a masterHarley
Harley Quinn has been tied to the Joker as long as we can remember. It was her love and obsession for him that turned her into the, slightly crazy, version she is now. And this is where spinning a movie off for this character is a risk for DC and Warner Brothers. She’s been depicted so many different ways through the comics and cartoons over the years – but hasn’t has as much time to be developed on her own.
Birds of Prey gives her that. Not only does the movie show her emotional breakdown after their break up, but shows her dealing with it in her own explosive way. It gives her that much needed push to find her own footing and to let Joker be the side note for once. Harley pushes through, blows things up, finds her own voice and sets Birds of Prey up beautifully for sequels.
Birds of Prey is now in theaters and will offer viewers not only a fun time but a fun house of battles and more.
About BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN):
You ever hear the one about the cop, the blonde, the psycho and the mafia princess? BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN) is a twisted tale told by Harley herself, as only Harley can tell it. When one of Gotham’s most sinister villains, Roman Sionis, and his sadistic right-hand, Zsasz, put a target on a young girl named Cass, the city’s wicked underbelly is turned upside down looking for her. Harley, Huntress, Canary and Renee Montoya’s paths collide and the unlikely foursome have no choice but to team up to take Roman down. Starring Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Ewan McGregor, Ella Jay Basco, Chris Messina. Directed by Cathy Yan. (WARNER BROS.)
This film is rated R.