Back in 2016, DC officially announced its plan to make “Birds of Prey,” a movie starring several of the most intrepid superwomen in DC’s comic universe. The movie will be one of several female-focused films in DC’s upcoming movie lineup following the 2019 releases of “Batgirl” and “Wonder Woman 1984.”
Although the Birds originally appeared in a short-run TV show back in 2003, the movie will bring new characters, villains and plot lines to the big screen. Rumor has it that the general tone of the film will have an all-female “Suicide Squad” vibe, with Harley Quinn taking front and center of the group.
The Developing Plot
“Birds of Prey” is introducing both an untraditional character and villain lineup, leaving quite a bit of room to play around with the plot line. According to the synopsis on IMDB, “After splitting up with The Joker, Harley Quinn and three other female superheroes — Black Canary, Huntress and Renee Montoya — come together to save the life of a little girl (Cassandra Cain) from an evil crime lord.”
DC just recently revealed that the crime lord will be none other than Roman Sionis, The Black Mask. The notorious villain is usually associated with Batman, but several of the Birds have history with Gotham and crime lords, so it’s not a far stretch to have them all crossing violent paths. Additionally, The Black Mask has never been in a live-action movie before, so he’s a great choice for the movie’s original plot.
Margot Robbie’s Vision
Besides holding the starring role of Harley Quinn, Margot Robbie is doing a lot to help develop “Birds of Prey” during these early stages. She’s had a lot of influence on the film’s casting choices so far by specifically requesting a diverse cast of characters. In an interview with Yahoo!, Robbie stated that real life is diverse and that the screen should reflect that reality.
Recent reports have verified DC’s search for multiracial women to play the Birds, even ruling out some previous options for their lack of diversity. Additionally, Robbie originally pitched the idea for the movie to be R-rated instead of PG-13 like “Suicide Squad” and to be female-based.
“I pitched the idea of an R-rated girl gang film including Harley, because I was like, ‘Harley needs friends,’” Robbie shared with Collider. She added, “She’s got to be with other people, it should be a girl gang. I wasn’t seeing enough girl gangs on screen, especially in the action space. So that was always a big part of it.”
To drive home the elements of diversity and girl power, DC hired Cathy Yan to be the movie’s director, making her the first Asian woman to direct a superhero film.
The Booty-Kickin’ Beauties
“Birds of Prey” will feature a variety of new and traditional faces on the squad, but this isn’t necessarily new for a DC film. However, Batgirl, who is usually a staple member of the team, is conspicuously missing. It’s possible that Cassandra Cain (although only a child in the movie) will fulfill that role in a movie sequel because she carries the title of Batgirl for a period in her adult career. Plus, removing Batgirl from the “Birds of Prey” team leaves her timeline wide open for the upcoming “Batgirl” movie.
Regardless of the changes from the traditional crew, these superwomen will still present an intimidating force to any villain.
Harley Quinn: The maniacal mastermind behind this “Birds of Prey” team, Quinn is going through a big transition from her “Suicide Squad” character. Quinn has reportedly just broken off her abusive relationship with the Joker and is recovering. This plot element leaves plenty of room for Quinn to develop as a character alongside her new gal pals.
Margot Robbie will resume her role as Quinn for the film, and she’s promised that Quinn will have a fresh look, including new outfits for fans to look forward to.
Black Canary: Laurel Lance’s vigilante persona has some intimidating martial arts skills and a supersonic scream named the “canary cry.” Rumor has it that the directors are looking to fill Black Canary’s role with a musically talented, biracial actress. If this is the case, the storyline may follow a similar one to DC Comic’s Rebirth. According to Screenrant, “She is a former government agent who hides in plain sight by posing as the rock star ‘D.D.’ while fronting a band called Black Canary — the same code name she uses when fighting crime.”
Vanessa Kirby, Blake Lively and Jodie Comer were all reportedly considered for the role, but recent developments suggest that all three actresses were rejected for their lack of diversity. While the Black Canary is usually portrayed as light-skinned, her character can still be represented by someone with rich ethnic diversity as Juliana Harkavy (the Black Canary on “Arrow”) has shown.
Huntress: Helen Bertinelli is the daughter of one of Gotham’s mob bosses who turns vigilante after seeing her family murdered. While her storyline for “Birds of Prey” hasn’t yet been confirmed, Huntress has an established history with the crew in the comics, even standing in as the team’s leader at one point.
Rumor has it that Alexandra Daddario could play Huntress, but this hasn’t been confirmed yet. Warner Bros. was reportedly entering official discussions with the actress earlier this month regarding the role. If she declines, Francesca Ruscio has made several posts on her social media accounts regarding her interest in the role. Both actresses have Italian heritages, making them wonderful candidates for the part.
Renee Montoya: Montoya worked under Commissioner Jim Gordon for the Gotham City Police until she denounced the department for its corruption and took matters into her own hands. She eventually adopts the identity of Question, but it’s doubtful that this evolution will take place within the “Birds of Prey” film. It’s possible that her part in this plot will take place soon after her choice to become a vigilante.
Montoya’s addition to the team could serve a couple of purposes in diversity; while the character will add another ethnic element, it’s possible that Montoya was chosen for her sexual diversity as well. In the comics, Montoya is a confirmed lesbian; if DC follows this in “Birds of Prey,” she will be their first openly confirmed LGBT superhero on the big screen.
No solid leads have been released on a possible actress for Montoya, but a couple of audition videos for the part leaked over the weekend, and actress Jeanine Serralles seems to be very interested in the role.
Cassandra Cain: Cain is the daughter of two assassins who eventually becomes a skilled martial artist, though her role in the movie will be a young damsel in distress.
Because Cain is supposed to be at least partially Asian, her presence in the movie rounds out Robbie’s picture for diversity. There’s a strong rumor that 14-year-old Peyton Lee, a Disney channel star known for “Andi Mack,” might take the role.
Reaction to the R-Rating
DC did confirm that “Birds of Prey” would be rated R, causing a variety of responses from fans. While many people support the flexibility of the rating, others are hesitant to accept that the movie needs extra violence, sensuality or language to make it worth watching.
Although DCEU has released home versions of R-rated films in the past, this will be its first R-rated theatrical release. It’s possible that the decision was made in response to complaints about “Suicide Squad” being PG-13 when it was arguably an R film as well, but it could just be part of Margot Robbie’s vision for the piece. Either way, it’s a risky move considering the recent struggle that DC movies have had at the box offices because the rating automatically shrinks the audience to adults only.
Down to the Details
“Birds of Prey” is set to start filming at the beginning of 2019, which suggests an intended 2020 release, following the winter 2019 debut of “Wonder Woman 1984.”
According to DC, the movie will have a smaller budget compared to many of their films, but it has the potential to be pulled off well. Since none of the Birds aside from Black Canary have actual super powers, the costs for special effects and CGI will be significantly lower than they would be for most superhero films without sacrificing the fight-scene quality.
Regardless of the final reception, it appears that “Birds of Prey” will shatter the norm in several areas when the final product comes together. After DC presents such a diverse team of powerful women coming together, the traditional idea of vigilantes and “girl gang” movies may never be the same.