Birds of Prey was the best-selling movie during the first weekend of its release, so why are some are still calling the movie a failure?
Birds of Prey opened to $33 million dollars during its first weekend of release, making it the number one movie in America. However, that is quite a bit away from its initially forecasted $50 million dollar haul, making it one of the lowest opening weekend totals for the DC Extended Universe of films.
Often referred to as a “niche comic book movie,” Birds of Prey’s R rating may have prohibited younger audiences from paying to see it, but some experts are already labeling the film a failure after just a few days in theaters. The movie boasts stunning fight scenes that rival John Wick, solid performances, a boss soundtrack, non-stop action and comedy. So, what went wrong? Here are some factors.
While critics are right in stating that it is a “niche” movie, it isn’t anymore so than Deadpool. In fact, the DCEU is clearly trying to set Harley Quinn up as their equivalent of Marvel’s merc-with-a-mouth. The implication that a movie is niche simply because it has a predominantly female cast is insulting and degrading. The only thing that makes this different from a Steel Magnolias or Little Women is that these female characters are superheroes. With Marvel and DC tied for having solo female superhero movies, Birds of Prey is the first volley into an all-female team of them.
The name probably didn’t help, either. The film’s official title is Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), and seeing as how Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was clearly meant to be the star, especially from the extensive marketing campaign, the title really should’ve featured Harley’s name front and center. (Which is probably why Warner Brothers is looking to change it following its opening weekend performance.)
Personally, I’m not a huge Harley fan. Was she one of the better parts of Suicide Squad? Yes. Did enough people fall in love with her character for her to be able to support a solo movie? Not so much. I think the movie would’ve been done better if it had capitalized on what made it so different from other comic book films.
You have the first all-female team of heroes, with various ethnicities and sexual orientations, led by a female director behind the camera. Aside from Harley, the trailer featured very brief snippets of Black Canary, Huntress, and Renee Montoya, the characters who would make up this specific version of the Birds of Prey team. And Cathy Yan’s name didn’t appear anywhere except in the fine print of the log-line. While many people celebrated Jurnee Smollett-Bell’s performance as Black Canary, Mary Elizabeth Winstead almost feels wasted as Huntress, who maybe has ten lines in the whole movie.
Another thing that didn’t help is that the film strayed so far from the source material, that it possibly alienated its existing built-in fanbase. In the comic books, the original Birds of Prey lineup consists of Black Canary, Huntress and Barbara Gordon/Batgirl/Oracle. Why the studio swapped Batgirl for Harley, we may never know. Wouldn’t there have been room enough for both? Or even a cameo in a post-credits scene? Plus, let’s not even get started on the dude bros feeling like the women weren’t hot enough for them to pay to see the movie.
It is still early in the movie’s run, and Birds of Prey is still the number one movie in its opening weekend. The movie reportedly cost $82 million to make and made $81 million globally, so it’s not far off from being “profitable” in the eyes of the film industry. Hopefully, word of mouth will help make the movie not only a critical darling but also a financial success.