Harley Quinn takes another swing at cinema success

Nick Alutto, Managing Editor of A&E

When Suicide Squad hit theatres in August of 2016 it continued Warner Bros. new DC Extended Universe’s streak
of critical misses. It was the third movie in a row to have a Rotten critic score on Rotten Tomatoes and was also the
third movie in Warner Bros. new comic book universe. Regardless of critical reception, the movie went on to make
nearly $750 million at the worldwide box office, becoming the 9th highest-grossing movie of the year.
Despite clear commercial success, Warner Bros. seemingly agreed with critics and opted to reboot the franchise
instead of making a sequel, with The Suicide Squad set to debut in 2021 directed by Guardians of the Galaxy
director James Gunn.
Since they are rebooting the franchise, it at first seemed strange that DC decided to move forward with a Harley
Quinn, played by Margot Robbie, spinoff from the original Suicide Squad movie called Birds of Prey. Especially
since some stars of the original Suicide Squad, most notably Will Smith’s Deadshot, have exited the franchise
entirely.
However, when Birds of Prey hit theatres it had an overwhelmingly positive 80% on Rotten Tomatoes; a total of a
53% increase from the 27% that Suicide Squad received. Which begs the question, what made Birds of Prey so
much better than Suicide Squad?
Blockbuster movies have constantly tried to raise the stakes of their plots and have been able to increase the size of
threats in movies thanks to larger budgets and an extreme increase in the power and realism of visual effects,
especially in the last 10 years. Superhero movies and franchises like The Avengers have given audiences an
oversaturation of world-ending threats that people have become desensitized to and care less about, especially if
they are written poorly.
Suicide Squad has a world-ending villain in Enchantress, played by Cara Delevingne. Her character is not built up
enough with a clear enough motive to create actual suspense or have the audience care enough. Broken down to a
basic level, this is why Suicide Squad doesn’t work. If you want to have a large threat facing your protagonists, then
you need to have sufficient character building and compelling motives to make the audience care. With audiences
being given an abundance of world-ending threats in films every year, for an audience to care, the specifics behind
the plot need to be unique and compelling.
The villain of Birds of Prey is “Black Mask,” played by Ewan McGregor. McGregor’s character doesn’t have
ambitions to take over the world but merely to have power in Gotham. This specific goal allows there to be more
build up in his motives which makes the audience care more about the plot. It makes sense why his character does
what he does, his actions help further the plot not the other way around.
Birds of Prey is also much more focused character-wise. Suicide Squad arguably had around five to seven main
characters, many of which were being introduced to general audiences for the first time. Birds of Prey lasers in on
Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. It also helps that Robbie produced the movie which gave her more control in the
process.
Having a more focused plot allows Birds of Prey to avoid being exposition heavy like Suicide Squad, which allows
people to enjoy the plot instead of being fed too much information for the movie to be enjoyable.
Birds of Prey marks what can go right in this current era of blockbuster cinema. Although it is based on a
pre-existing IP, Birds of Prey still has a feeling of originality to it. It manages to subvert expectations by containing

a very unique feeling and tone that will take viewers for a fun ride. Suicide Squad was too cookie-cutter, it lacked
originality and tried to be too complex and high-stakes which made it neither of those things.
In a time when successful movies are mostly remakes or based off of pre-existing franchises, it is only the ones who
use this format to create something wholly different that manage to stand out from the crowd and offer moviegoers a
taste of something fresh.