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New Escapist Column! On the “Necessity” of the R-Rating for “Birds of Prey”…

I published an In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine last Friday, looking at the debate around the “R-rating” that Birds of Prey earned.

Following the film’s release, there’s been a lot of a debate around Birds of Prey, particularly in light of its box office performance. One of the more interesting arguments has been around the film’s age rating, with several pundits arguing that the film did not “need” to be rated R, that it could have been cut to a PG-13 movie without losing anything of value. This is an interesting argument, one that deserves a little interrogation. After all, the scenes which likely earned Birds of Prey its R-rating – certainly the scenes singled out as unnecessary by such critics – are essential to its identity. They make the film unique and distinct.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On the Narrativisation of the “Birds of Prey” Box Office…

I published an In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine last Friday, discussing the inevitable armchair quarterbacking of the Birds of Prey box office.

The film under-performed at the box office in its opening weekend, particularly relative to some of the more bullish predictions. It pulled in an opening weekend box office closer to similarly budgeted films like Kingsman: The Secret Service and Ford v. Ferrari than breakout smashes like Deadpool or 300. As a result, there’s a been a rush to account for those results, which often boils down to an attempt to narrativise the film’s failure – to argue that the causes for that result are easily discerned by outside observers. Of course, those analyses often handily fit various pre-determined narratives.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On “Birds of Prey” and Marginalised Characters…

I published an In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine last week, to mark the release of Birds of Prey.

One of the interesting aspects of Birds of Prey is the way in which it’s essentially a story about marginalised characters, characters who have historically been pushed to the edge of comic book narratives – erased and reinvented by the demands of universe-wide reboots, defined primarily in relationship to more popular male characters, and just generally subject to the whims of the shared universe. Part of what makes Birds of Prey so interesting is the way in which it builds that into the narrative, creating a story for its characters where the absence of Batman and the Joker is the entire point of the exercise.

It’s a very clever approach to the source material, and one which suggests a more fundamental understanding of the source material than many critics credit it. In some ways, it is a more faithful adaptation of the Suicide Squad concept than Suicide Squad, building itself around the flotsam and jetsam of DC continuity. It helps that Birds of Prey finds an emotional hook into this story and uses it to offer a feminist perspective on this familiar trope. After all, its notable that so many of these marginalised and erased characters are women.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Non-Review Review: Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is an immensely charming and high-energy romp, that is as unfocused as its central character and suffers more than a little bit from a non-linear narrative style that it never really justifies or employs effectively.

There is a lot to love in Birds of Prey, but perhaps the most charming aspect of it is the intimacy. Birds of Prey is bereft of the sort of city-, planet- or galactic-sized stakes that have come to define so much of modern superhero cinema, from Thor: The Dark World to Man of Steel to Avengers: Endgame. The bulk of Birds of Prey consists of a wrestling match over a diamond that happens to contain bank account details that point to an even larger payday. Its climax is on the scale of an eighties or nineties action movie, which means it involves anonymous henchmen rather than a literal army.

A cutting retort?

This consciously low-stakes approach allows Birds of Prey to simply enjoy itself, to revel in the charm of the cast and the relatively straightforward journeys of the central characters. Warner Brothers have been pushing their DC properties away from the MCU-emulating shared universe model that led to the spectacular disaster of Justice League, instead focusing on affording creators the freedom to do what they want to do. Joker rejected the modern superhero template to offer a throwback to films like Taxi Driver and King of Comedy. In contrast, Birds of Prey seems to hark back to The Long Kiss Goodnight.

Birds of Prey is perhaps a little too messy and unfocused in terms of narrative, which affects the movie’s pacing and rhythm. However, it also trusts its cast and its energy to carry it a long way, working best when it feels confident enough to play as a live action Looney Tunes cartoon.

Girl gang.

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