Exciting news – I am now a contributing author for The Nerd Daily! As I mentioned in my introductory post, this year I’m trying to push my limits and get my writing out into the world, so in addition to my blog you’ll also find some of my content there. Take a look at my author page!
The Nerd Daily is a great site for all kinds of nerdy content, from book reviews to breakdowns of film trailers, recaps of your favourite TV shows to interviews with authors. They also do some fantastic giveaways, which you can enter via social media. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (or all three – then you can get more chances to win!).
The remainder of this post is a repost of my first piece for The Nerd Daily, a breakdown of the latest trailer for upcoming DCEU film Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). View the original here.
Can we all agree that Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was the best thing about 2016’s Suicide Squad? In a film where very little made sense and most of the characters faded into the background, Robbie was a shining star. Getting her away from the Joker to lead a film of her own seems like a good call, and so next month will see the release of the eighth film in the DC Extended Universe: Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn).
Despite its 2020 release, Birds of Prey has been in the works since before Suicide Squad even hit cinemas. Robbie pitched it to Warner Brothers in 2015 while Suicide Squad was filming and she even produces it as well as stars. It has a female writer, Christina Hodson (Bumblebee) and director, Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs), who is the first Asian-American woman to direct a superhero film. Compared to the primarily male team behind Suicide Squad, it’s refreshing to see some female energy in bringing what Robbie calls “an R-rated girl gang film” to the big screen.
The first full trailer dropped several months ago and made a few things very clear – Harley and the Joker have broken up, she’s found some new friends to play with, and female badassery is the name of the game. We got first looks at characters that might be familiar to fans of DC comics: Jurnee Smollett-Bell’s Black Canary, Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya, Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Huntress, and relative newcomer Ella Jay Basco as a young Cassandra Cain. Let’s take a closer look at the most recent trailer to see what else Birds of Prey has in store.
First up, a scene of Harley entering a police station. In a posh voice, she claims to be there “to report a terrible crime” – but of course seconds later she drops the façade, pulls out a weapon, and reverts to her usual Brooklyn drawl. As the weapon fires, a bell dings and the scene freezes. In a Deadpool-esque voiceover, Harley narrates, “Aw, shit. I told this all wrong. Quick history lesson.”
As the Warner Brothers and DC logos appear on screen, the musical accompaniment to the trailer starts up, Lucy Woodward’s version of “It’s Oh So Quiet”. Harley’s narration continues: “This all started when the Joker and I broke up. It was completely mutual.” Her words are at odds with the action in the trailer as she sends a truck crashing into Ace Chemicals, causing a huge, multicoloured explosion.
The location is significant as Ace Chemicals is where the Joker fell into a vat, bleaching his skin and turning him into the Clown Prince of Crime. From Suicide Squad, we know this is where he later took Harley to transform her as well. Harley destroys the place that symbolises their relationship and walks away smiling, “ready to embrace the fierce goddess within.”
Once again though we are met with an immediate visual contradiction, as in the next scene Harley mopes on her sofa in a pink onesie, pouring squirty cheese into her mouth as she sobs. Birds of Prey has to walk a fine line between reminding us who Harley is—a character originally defined almost entirely by her intense relationship with the Joker—while simultaneously emancipating her, emphasising her own identity.
Having Harley narrate the trailer is a nod in this direction, giving her control over her own story. Like the first trailer, this one is also pervaded by Harley’s signature colour scheme of pink and blue, as well as other neon shades that align with her garish aesthetic.
So far, it’s been all about Harley, but now we’ve established that she’s “cut ties with Mr. J”, it’s time to introduce some new faces. Harley walks down a street with a smaller figure, probably the young Cassandra Cain. We see our villains—serial killer Victor Zsasz, played by Chris Messina, and Ewan McGregor’s Roman Sionis, aka Black Mask. The latter is apparently at the top of the list of people who want Harley dead.
So where are our other powerful women, those who make up the rest of the titular all-female superhero team? Well, Harley tells us, “it turns out I wasn’t the only dame in Gotham looking for emancipation.” We get our first shot of the team all together in what looks like some sort of funhouse tunnel and find out why Sionis is their common enemy—Cassandra stole from him, Black Canary betrayed him, Huntress killed his BFF and Montoya is building a case against him. Harley explains her logic to the other women: “So, unless we all want to die very unpleasant deaths, we’re gonna have to work together.”
We don’t see much of Sionis wearing his iconic Black Mask, but we do get a glimpse of it along with a crowd of armed henchmen in varied, colourful masks of their own. A montage of action-packed moments is punctuated by the brass of the soundtrack—Harley being pulled along on roller-skates behind a motorbike, punching out goons in a moving car, the car flipping over. In a quiet moment, Harley tells Huntress, “Psychologically speaking, vengeance rarely brings the catharsis we hope for.” This is a nice little call-back to Harley’s origins as psychologist Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel.
The brass booms return—a shotgun shoots glitter, Harley cackles as a car explodes behind her and each of the women is briefly focused on and named in bright yellow text. Black Canary takes a drink, Renee Montoya runs through a crowded market, Cassandra Cain rails against a chain-link fence and Huntress pulls back her hood. Harley is last, gyrating manically on a pole.
As the music reaches its climax, the trailer continues to accelerate. There’s some combat, more explosions, gunfire, Harley backflipping onto the hood of a car and what looks like it might be Black Canary’s ‘canary cry’, a high-powered sonic scream. Harley breaks the fourth wall, looking directly into the camera over red, diamante edged glasses as the title card appears (note once again pink and blue in the background).
In the trailer’s final scene, Cassandra asks Harley, “Oh shit. Is that a hyena in a bathtub?” Yes, it certainly is, though apparently not either of Harley’s hyena duo from the animated series and comics. They were Bud and Lou, after the comedy pairing of Abbott and Costello, while her in-film hyena is named Bruce, “after that hunky Wayne guy.” The hyena chuckles.
Birds of Prey will be showing in cinemas worldwide from February 7th 2020.
Thanks for reading! Other posts for The Nerd Daily coming soon.
Until next time – so much to say, so much to do, somuchkat.