Coming off the huge disaster that was Suicide Squad, expectations for Birds of Prey couldn’t be lower.
The second trailer for Warner Bros’ Birds of Prey dropped this morning to unleash a bit of mayhem into your evening. While the first trailer for Cathy Ye and Christina Hodson’s take on Birds of Prey focused mostly on Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn giving pithy onelines intercut with various action sequences, this second trailer gives us a more in-depth look at Robbie’s co-stars as well as the film’s setup.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Jurnee Smollett-Bell take top billing alongside Robbie as Huntress and Black Canary respectively. As for the rest of the Birds of Prey, Rosie Perez is Renee Montoya and Ella Jay Basco is playing Cassandra Cain, otherwise known as Batgirl.
What we can tell about the plot so far includes Robbie’s Harley Quinn teaming up with the Canary, Huntress, Cassandra Cain, and Detective Renee Montoya to escape (and get some flashy revenge) on Ewan McGregor’s Black Mask. Chris Messina also makes an appearance in the film as another classic batvillain, Victor Zsasz.
The second trailer comes with several surprises, including a nice shot of McGregor in the actual black mask, confirming that this version of the character will wear his iconic headgear for at least part of the film. We also get to meet Bruce, a hyena in a dog collar named after that “handsome Wayne guy” as a nice nod to the broader Gotham environment. And while Huntress and Renee Montoya appear to be very similar to their comic book iterations, both Black Canary and Cassandra Cain seem to have murkier origins this time around.
Canary got herself in trouble with Black Mask by “betraying” him, which could mean this is a less upstanding version of Dinah Lance. As for Cassandra Cain, despite being known by comic fans as the second Batgirl, she is billed in the film by her given name. Which could mean this Cass hasn’t yet donned a cowl and is still under her father’s thumb, working as an assassin. However, considering the overall tone of Warner Bros’ DC films, it’s also possible this Cassandra will never become Batgirl. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Birds of Prey is slated to release on February 7, 2020.
Game of Thrones actor, Pedro Pascal has now signed on to play an important role in Wonder Woman 2.
I popped in the Blu-ray for Batman and Harley Quinn filled with giddy expectation and joyful nostalgia. As someone reared and raised on Batman: The Animated Series in the 90s, simply seeing the old Bruce Timm character designs filled me with joy. Knowing that the movie would revive the original Harley Quinn created for that show in an age when poor Harley has been sexualized and stylized to emo boner fantasies felt like exactly what I needed to get back into the character. As the opening scenes played out, I also realized that the plot involved my beloved Swamp Thing and that I’d even get to see a character who I adore so much in the classic Batman TAS aesthetic. It seemed like an animated feature that was meant for me and would help revive my love for good ol’ Batman in an era when the cinematic DCU has made me question my loyalty for the character.
Then the plot started and my heart sank lower and lower until the credits rolled.
A huge appeal of Batman and Harley Quinn is the fact that Bruce Timm was in charge and presumably bringing back the aesthetic and storytelling that he founded in the 90s and proved to be so popular that it spawned an entire DC universe for a generation of TV animation brats. He wrote this movie after all, and the guy was responsible for several of the finest episodes of the Batman Animated Series. However, even though he designed Harley Quinn, he didn’t write the character. That fell onto the great and underrated Paul Dini whose presence was sadly missed here. Dini has a sense of humour and a dedication to empathizing with broken characters that made Harley Quinn an icon. Timm simply liked the look of the character—and boy does that ever show here.
After a decent prologue establishing that Poison Ivy (Paget Brewster) has teamed up with Floronic Man (Kevin Michael Richardson) to steal Dr. Alec Holland/Swamp Thing’s formula to turn the world into living plants as revenge for the climate change destroying plant life perpetrated by humanity. Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Nightwing (Loren Lester) figure out the dastardly plot, but don’t know where to find the villains. So they decide to track down some of Poison Ivy’s old associates for help, which leads them to Harley Quinn (Melissa Rauch).
So far, so good. The design is almost fetishistically true to the original Batman TAS (with the exception of Nightwing’s mullet, thank god). The plot held promise and it was a crossover between Batman and Swamp Thing that should have happened on the TV series decades ago. The tone was in line with Batman TAS at its goofiest. This thing could work. Then Nightwing finds Harley at a superhero Hooters restaurant where model waitresses dress up as heroes to be ogled. Harley is working there, but wearing one of the more excessively sexualized Harley outfits from recent years. It felt like a self-aware joke at first, and then it became clear the cartoon ogling was sadly sincere. Once Batman, Nightwing, and Harley Quinn teamed up the movie soon devolved into a series of crass sex jokes and even a handful of fart jokes.
The whole movie felt off. Like Timm was trying to make a funny Batman: TAS episode but forgot how so he resorted to frat house gags to fill the space. By the time the team stopped at a bar on the road and the movie paused for not one, but two consecutive karaoke numbers for the sake of quirky humour, I was out. Somehow Timm and co. blew the opportunity to revive the iconic version of Batman that they had once created. In its place wasn’t just a pale imitation, but an insult to fans. It has all of the bro humour and unnecessary violence that has dragged down recent DC animated movies. Only this was worse. Not only more crass and gratuitous than the DC animated movies that fans already complained about, but completely tone deaf and lazy (and this is coming from a guy who actually defended the loathed Killing Joke adaptation, which I maintain is very much worthwhile as long as you only watch the 45 minute faithful adaptation of the book and ignore all the crap surrounding it).
How bad is Batman and Harley Quinn? Bad enough that the movie barely even ends, it just fizzles out once the writers reach 70 minutes and give up. There’s a token Swamp Thing cameo that’s deeply disappointing and then the entire story turns out to be set up for yet another Harley fart joke—and not even a good one. It’s sad to see Batman and Nightwing in their TAS form and voiced by the original actors reduced to token wise-crackin’ sidekicks to Harley. It’s as if everyone involved barely even wanted to make a Batman and Harley movie. They just took the assignment because an animated movie had to be made and Harley has hit a level of popularity that made the studio insist she lead. It wouldn’t surprise me if the script was written the night before production started and loathed by everyone involved. Sure the animation is gorgeous and recaptures the original design, but to what purpose? A YouTube fan fiction Batman: TAS revival would have been executed with more respect and creativity. The fact that Bruce Timm steered this ship is just sad. The movie may have been made for fans of Batman: The Animated Series, but they are the last people who should actually watch it. They don’t need this pain. Trust me. I experienced it and it’s almost too much to bear.
The Blu-ray does look good though, as if that matters. The animation is gorgeous in that slanted and deceptively simple Batman: TAS way. The action scenes might be gratuitously long, but are beautifully executed by longtime DC animation veteran Sam Liu. Too bad the script didn’t deserve all the effort. There are also a handful of decent special features. There’s a nice 20-minute documentary about Harley Quinn featuring creators Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, and (oddly) a clinical psychologist talking about the subtext to Harley’s childish voice and abusive relationship with Joker. More than anything else, the doc proves just how crucial Dini was to creating Harley Quinn and how much she’s missed. Amusingly, Timm seems baffled by Harley’s popular appeal, which explains a few things about this movie and the psychologist remains silent when discussing the character’s appeal to young women, which speaks volumes in a sad way.
There’s also a nice ten-minute doc about Lorn Lester and his long career voicing Robin/Nightwing. Weirdly Kevin Conroy pops up, but the doc doesn’t get into his relationship to Batman, which is even more important. It’s a pleasant diversion, yet more than anything else just made me long for a full doc about the Batman: The Animated Series that will hopefully arrive some day. Finally, there is also a pair of Harley-centric episodes of the old series to remind fans how far off the mark this movie is as well as a preview of the upcoming Gotham by Gaslight adaptation. It looks gorgeous and the filmmakers say all the right things. Yet given the gross depths of Batman and Harley Quinn bro humour and grimdark posturing, I worry about how they’ll expand that classic Elseworlds tale. Especially given all the discussion of how dark the story is and the Jack the Ripper prostitute-murdering set pieces. They’d better not screw up that classic, even though it’s nice to hear that the team is interested in pursuing more Elseworlds tales for future animated DC features. It brings us all one step closer to the long rumoured Superman: Red Son flick. That could be something special and even if they screw it up, it should at least be better than Batman and Harley Quinn, which just might be the worst project that this team has made to date. Make sure to avoid it, especially if you love Batman: The Animated Series. Don’t spoil your memories of that beloved program on this gross and lazy cash in.
While Warner Bros. and DC’s Justice League is not hitting theatres until mid-November, one clear stand-out from the movie’s trailers has come from an unlikely source. One would think Batman, the Dark Knight himself, would emerge as the front-runner that everyone is clamouring to see.
But he hasn’t.
Or Wonder Woman; the Amazonian Princess, whose self-titled debut film has been the runaway hit of the summer.
But it’s not her either.
The Flash? It has to be the Flash. The hit CW television show (albeit with a different actor playing Barry Allen) would surely be enough to garner most of the attention.
The superhero everyone is apparently dying to see is the King of the Seven Seas himself: Aquaman. Strange when one considers that in the history of all the Justice League’s champions, he’s one of the most maligned, most made-fun-of, and laughable.
But not for long.
Zack Snyder, another individual much maligned by film critics and a sect of comic book movie fans, set this new Aquaman revolution into play when he decided upon an odd casting choice for the Marine Marvel in Justice League. Jason Momoa, the muscle-bound behemoth from HBO’s Game of Thrones, will be playing Arthur Curry aka Aquaman. When you look at Momoa, with his towering figure and long dark hair and beard, you never think Aquaman. The Aquaman DC fans are accustomed to is a clean cut, golden-haired Atlantean. Chiselled yes—but not a beast.
Momoa is truly a monster and is set to change the pop culture dialogue surrounding Aquaman forever.
Aquaman first appeared in More Fun Comics #73 in 1941. Slowly, but Aquaman gained enough momentum to be given his own self-titled comic series early in 1962. It wasn’t until the 1970s that Aquaman became a household name—for North American children anyway. ABC’s Saturday morning cartoon Super Friends was essentially the Justice League of America with a few bizarre sidekicks; and a full, card-carrying member of the JLA was Aquaman. From the cartoon, the Dweller of the Depths became well known for his recognizable orange top, dark green leotards and the famous echo sound he used to talk with sea creatures. While the blonde haired, blue-eyed Adonis of the Deep was likeable enough, he still was a second-tier superhero, placed well behind Superman, Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern.
However, Aquaman took a serious turn with the cartoon series Justice League in 2001. While not an everyday player, the Aquatic Ace showed up every once and a while, and he was far different than his representation in Super Friends. This Aquaman was brooding and angry—a far cry from his previous animated life hanging out with the Wonder Twins.
Aquaman took another major shift when Geoff Johns began writing him in DC’s The New 52 in 2011. In the rebooted series, Johns made Arthur Curry a tortured man, twisted internally between his two loves: his duty to Atlantis and his connection to surface dwellers. Aquaman, being born of an Atlantean and human, is of mixed race. It’s the classic story of a character that essentially feels he has no home and doesn’t feel like he belongs to either of his peoples.
The Aquaman in the Justice League movie we will see in a few short months appears to be bringing a whole new level of character revolution.
While the only evidence fans have thus far is a few images and a handful of movie trailers, it is clear that Aquaman has changed for the better. We are now potentially entering the era of Aquaman, dare I say, becoming cool. A year ago, that would have been a laughable statement, but this year’s San Diego Comic Con Justice League trailers have proved otherwise. Whether it’s Aquaman riding on the top of the Batmobile ready to leap and attack a pair of Parademons or surfing a Parademon through a five story building, then tossing his hair to the side like he’d just crushed a huge wave, Justice League could very well be Aquaman’s coming out party.
This Aquaman acts and looks more like a guy who just came from carving some heavy waves or playing lead guitar in a metal band. And speaking of guitars, when Momoa was introduced at this year’s San Diego Comic Con for a little Aquaman talk and teaser (all before the Justice League panel), he used his trident as his air-guitar, all done to blaring rock music.
Now that’s an Aquaman we can all get behind.
This Water Wraith is set to be the breakout star of Justice League, and with his solo movie, Aquaman, shooting right now and set for a December 2018 release, there may be no limits for the heights he can reach. James Wan, the director of horror films like Saw, The Conjuring, and Insidious, will be manning the steering the Aquaman ship, and bringing in someone like Wan will only further the new revolutionary mythos of Aquaman—a character once maligned, and now on the precipice of being Warner Bros. and DC’s newest break-through commodity.