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7 Reasons ‘Birds of Prey’ Belly Flopped at the Box Office

“Suicide Squad” remains a fascinating test case for our super-sized movie obsession -- heroes in tights.

The Joker-led romp earned withering reviews and the enmity of movie fans nationwide. Yet look at its box office haul -- $325 domestic and $421 international.

Studios would kill to have “flops” like that.

The film’s success paints “Birds of Prey’s” calamitous weekend in an unflattering light.

BIRDS OF PREY - Official Trailer 1

Margot Robbie’s latest will earn roughly $33 million when all the receipts are tallied tomorrow.

That’s a tragic number for multiple reasons.

  • “Birds of Prey” had the weekend all to itself in an already soft marketplace
  • Superhero films, from the best to the worst, crush it at the box office
  • The early projections were in the $50 million range, and that seemed a conservative number

What went wrong? These seven reasons rush to mind.

Get Woke, Go …

The actual film isn’t the Lecture-Palooza some, including this critic, feared. Still, the framing of the film’s release couldn’t be woker. Co-star Ewan McGregor praised the film’s feminist roots, saying it’s a blow against the “patriarchy.” The film’s stars extolled how many women were working in front of and behind the camera.

Gender progress is wonderful, but we’ve seen these woke campaigns crash and burn before.

Plus, nearly every male character in the film is a heel, a cad or much worse. McGregor’s Black Mask is an overt villain, but even minor male characters, some of whom are painted as kindly at first, turn on our heroines.

Where’s the Joker?

Sure, he’s part of the supervillain patriarchy, but his ties to Harley Quinn’s “emancipation” makes his absence unforgivable. He didn’t need to steal the show, but letting him interact with Robbie’s character would have added some necessary depth.

Suicide Squad (2016) - A Visit From The Joker Scene (2/8) | Movieclips

As is, “Birds of Prey” is lighter than a feather, and modern superhero films soar higher with some storytelling gravitas.

That ‘Ghostbusters’ Campaign 2.0

“Wonder Woman” crushed the box office without the benefit of a woke cultural push. The same is true, so far, of the “Black Widow” standalone film coming in May. The box office forecasts are predictably robust for the “Avengers” spinoff project.

These films didn’t critique potential fans. They let the movies speak for themselves.

By contract, those Lady “Ghostbusters” went on the offense against potential fans four years ago. The media, in turn, served as the film’s de facto PR arm. The Washington Post directly attacked male fans who dared critique the film’s gender swap element.

It’s happening again with “Birds of Prey.” That approach suggests to ticket buyers that the movie needs a boost. It’s not solid enough to stand on its own.

An Indifferent Trailer

Say what you will about 2016’s “Suicide Squad,” the team behind the movie created killer trailers to gin up our interest. That made watching the actual film all the more dispiriting, but those teasers got us hooked.

BIRDS OF PREY – Official Trailer 2

The “Birds of Prey” trailers weren’t “Ghostbustes”-level bad. They didn’t make the case for the film like a great trailer should, either.

Male Gaze, Shmale Gaze

Journalism, Inc.’s reaction to “Birds of Prey” proved predictable. Reviews that overstated the film’s content -- just take a gander at that gaudy Rotten Tomatoes score. Plus, film journalists cheered on the production’s female-heavy nature and, of course, how the movie deconstructed the “male gaze.” 

If your eyes don’t roll over that woke phrase you’re doing it wrong.

Villains? Heroes? Who Knows?

Superhero movies are … complicated in the 21st century. Movies like “Venom” and the upcoming “Morbius” blur the lines between the good and bad guys. The aforementioned “Squad” features supervillains teaming up to do the right thing.

Up is down. Right is wrong. We’re growing used to those shades of gray.

So what do we make of these “Birds?” Harley Quinn feels like a villain to the core. She’s uber-selfish, destructive and breaks any law that crosses her path. Young Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) is an unrepentant pick pocket.

Their “Prey” pals don’t fit that mold. Rosie Perez plays a cop, for example. Junee Smollett-Bell’s Black Canary is good as gold with a voice to match. That mixed messaging didn’t help at the box office.

The ‘Suicide Squad’ Hangover

Yes, some audiences enjoyed this 2016 romp despite the critical attacks. Chances are the film’s limited charms are best enjoyed on the big screen.

Bigger! Louder! Did we say, “Bigger?”

Now, with the movie living on cable and home video platforms those perks shrink in size. That leaves the underwhelming story and darkly lit set pieces to state its case.

See the problem?

That doesn’t help “Birds of Prey.” Sure, it’s not a direct sequel to “Squad,” but the film’s standout character -- Harley Quinn -- is the main attraction in “Prey.”

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7 Comments

  1. Everything today has to have a Marxist message. All major awards from the Oscars to the Nobel prizes are nothing more than Marxist Beauty contests.

  2. ‘Fly over’ country has spoken! Our 2 local theaters never bothered to screen this stupid commie flick.

  3. The only men who would go to this movie are dedicated comic fans. Soy men proving their feminine feelings won’t have to go, because feminists don’t go to super hero films, even ones written by women.

    So there is half the audience and frankly, men watched it more than women. Continue making this crap at your leisure and I will continue to avoid it.

  4. Nobody actually objects to strong female characters. Mattie Ross, Ripley, Sara Connor, etc. I know there aren’t as many as men but there’s enough to prove that they can be successful as characters without playing the gender card much (I think Sara Connor gets all “You men ruin everything!” a little bit in T2 but it’s not a theme).

    I would love it if these people would actually write good, brave, strong, honorable, rational female characters. People would love them. I mean, normal people would. Lefties, not so much.

  5. Harley Quinn was eye candy and comic relief in suicide squad. She stole the show but was not the main attraction. Aggressive feminists seem unable to comprehend that outside the bubble in which their delusions dwell they simply occur as silly.

    Neither “the patriarchy” nor any other of their fantasized evil oppressors (Trump, Republicans, housewives, etc.) will be brought down by a movie featuring a bunch of women prancing around pretending to be superheroes.

    Besides, we now know that woman is just a social construct.

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