— Birds of Prey (@birdsofpreywb) January 14, 2020
Looper recently wrote about the history of Birds of Prey as a comic, and how the film gets it wrong, or doesn’t resemble its source material.
Birds of Prey might be the girl gang story of Margot Robbie’s dreams, but its star is most definitely Harley Quinn. It’s her trauma, frustration, and search for emancipation that fuels the story, her presence that hooks in audience members unfamiliar with the likes of Cassandra Cain and Huntress, and her voice that announced, with the first trailer, that this is a movie for all who are “so freaking over clowns.” She is the Birds’ manic mistress, as much a den mother as she is a mallet-swinging warrior queen.
In the comics, however, Harley has pretty much nothing to do with the Birds of Prey. This is a striking enough fact on its own, but all the more so when the history of the Birds is taken into account. The Birds of Prey have, over the course of their history as a team, drawn so many characters into their orbit that it’s actually more notable to have somehow escaped membership as a DC female than it is to have spent time on the team. Though the Birds lean towards good guys, Harley’s moral murkiness isn’t an obstacle. Poison Ivy, Lady Shiva, and Catwoman have all been claimed affiliation at some point. By whatever winds of comic book chance, the Clown Princess of crime has never spent much time with DC’s premiere girl gang until they made the jump from the printed page to the silver screen.
There’s just one thing: Poison Ivy was not originally a member either, and only became one about a decade ago, and it wasn’t for long either: Black Canary, of all people, was depicted choosing her over the protestations of other members, and Dr. Pamela Isley tried to poison the BoP members too, when it was proven she had connections with murder and other violent crimes. It was a most decidedly worthless direction they took. And Lady Shiva? I know she was a guest star in one storyline written by Gail Simone circa 2004, but far from a regular. Though Huntress certainly became more of a co-star at that point, after just being a guest star in one of the early specials. This is where the article is only half-correct, proving they’re not sufficiently experts on comicdom.
And it’s annoying the movie uses HQ as a drawing card, instead of the studio promoting it based on merit. That’s got to be one of the leading mistakes along with the social justice ideology flooding up the whole production.
And then, where’s the lady with codename Oracle?
Barbara Gordon, however, is the exception to this mutability. Leader of the team from the very beginning, she’s the foundation the Birds have always been built upon, her computer skills the pillar of nearly every operation. Even Black Canary, the other half of the team’s very first two-person roster, has taken time away. Only Barbara has remained implacably in place. Birds of Prey takes many liberties in bringing the team to the screen, but none are so glaring as excising Barbara Gordon.
No argument there. If this had to be a HQ-starring vehicle, it shouldn’t have made use of the BoP title at all. But changing BC from white to black is just as noticeable a change from the original comics; another social justice/political correctness tactic that could’ve been avoided. It’s a wonder Marvel didn’t go the same route with Black Widow in the films so far, but for all we know, it’s entirely possible it could change. The article goes on to cite Renee Montoya:
Renee Montoya is, perhaps, the Birds’ unlikeliest member, being a seasoned police officer amidst the law-breaking likes of Harley Quinn and Huntress. She’s no innocent, however. Being a cop has made her as intimately familiar with the system’s failings as anyone can be, yet just as doggedly dedicated to doing good as the day she joined the force. Moreover, her personal history as a Dominican-American woman from a rough part of town and an out lesbian provides unique story opportunities, resulting in some of the best DC comics of the past few decades.
Surprisingly, though, all those riveting comics had nothing to do with the Birds of Prey. Renee Montoya began life as a character created for Batman: The Animated Series — a distinction she shares with Harley Quinn, who also made the jump from the cartoon to the comics. Gotham Central, an Eisner Award-winning police procedural centered around the Gotham’s Major Crimes Unit, made her into the character fans know and love, as it saw her confront disillusionment, corruption, romance, and the inherent strangeness of being a cop on the Batman beat. Later years saw her enter into a romance with Batwoman, take on the mantle of the Question, and operate out of a lighthouse on the North Carolina coast. Though the “Blackest Night” event drew her briefly into Oracle’s orbit, she’s never actually been part of the Birds. Luckily, she fits right in.
Oh, I don’t think so, and that’s where this article thuds most loudly. Most of those PC steps above were engineered by Greg Rucka, who’s since proven the perfect ally to SJWs. And since when does anybody truly “know” the Montoya character? It’s not like the Gotham Central series was a big thing – it ran less than 4 years (late 2002-early 2006), sold very low on the charts, and only lasted 40 issues. That’s hardly a success no matter how you view it, and considering how corrupted the Eisner awards became over the years, that this book would get any prize only figures.
The article notes the film’s take on Cassandra Cain is also far removed from her original role in the comics:
Beyond that, however, is the enormous change the movie has wrought in her personality. The Cassandra Cain of Birds of Prey is a jorts-sporting kid who asks Harley Quinn if she’s “that psycho chick,” while the Cassandra Cain of the comics … well, she’s not likely to say anything at all. Raised to be the perfect assassin, Cassandra was never taught to read or write, in the hopes that replacing these language skills with training in how to read the body language of others would make her an unstoppable martial artist. In some ways, this worked. Cassandra’s understanding of the human body is almost inhuman in its perfection. Yet this left her mute, illiterate, and utterly cut off from the world, a problem indeed when she escaped her mendacious home to become a hero in Gotham City. She does, eventually, learn to communicate, but she definitely never comes anywhere near the flippant, slang-slinging ragamuffin of the film.
Which make this another adaptation in name only. See, it’s just economy casting, from people who lack the ability to concoct new characters who could fill allegedly vital roles.
And maybe the worst aspect of the movie is that it’s a lot bloodier than the comics:
Birds of Prey has never been a series without darkness. Darkness has, in fact, always been a big part of the formula. Oracle’s journeys through cyberspace tend to reveal the insidious sort of crime the Birds set out to stop. Abuse, extortion, slavery — that’s all firmly within the Birds wheelhouse and has been from the beginning.
And yet one of the most striking differences between the comic and the movie is the latter’s grittier tone. Bones crunch, blood spatters, and noses break in Birds of Prey. When the Birds of the comics get into the various dens of depravity, they disrupt, do their job, and get out, while the Birds of the film revel in those spaces, appealing to an audience that wants theatrical revenge. The movie is a story about grit and grime, clubs and kingpins, blood and baseball bats. So too is it, like the comics, a story about women making the world a better place one fistfight at a time. The difference lies in the fistfights’ place in the story. One treats them as a means to an end, while the other glories in their up-close catharsis.
This is also the first seriously R-rated movie based on a DC comic I know of. But which doesn’t a good movie make, and who really knows what kind of audience this film is written for, other than a leftist and social justice advocating one? Let’s not forget what Ewan McGregor said about the villain he plays serving as a metaphor for the Trump era.
The overall premise sounds so far removed from the original comics by Chuck Dixon, and if any social justice themes plague the screenplay, that’s why I’d rather avoid this film. And again, I honestly hope Dixon and all his co-contributors distance themselves from the impending mess.
Originally published here.