Meet Black Canary, Huntress, Cassandra Cain, and Renee Montoya — the women who will take the DC Extended Universe by storm.
Last year, Wonder Woman ensnared the world with the Lasso of Truth – that is, the fact that superpowered female protagonists deserve their tentpole movie extravaganzas. Brewing alongside her on the sidelines sits Harley Quinn, sowing the seeds of potential within the DC Extended Universe in her own way.
Granted, Harley’s introduction in the DCEU was rocky at best. Margot Robbie carries David Ayer’s Suicide Squad as expertly as she can. She perfectly embodies not only Harley’s effortless wit and artful ruthlessness but also throws in more than a hint of the internal conflict that makes the character so memorable. Unfortunately, that still wasn’t enough to create a congruent film.
Regardless, to later find out that Harley might be an integral part of not one, or two, or three, but four different DC cinematic projects – Birds of Prey, Gotham City Sirens, an untitled Harley/Joker vehicle, and Suicide Squad 2 – has been incredibly exhilarating. According to The Wrap, Birds of Prey is now shaping up further with an epic character list. Black Canary, Huntress, Cassandra Cain, and Renee Montoya are joining the eponymous girl gang alongside Harley. The film will also apparently feature an unnamed antagonist from the Batman comics universe who hasn’t yet made their big screen debut.
We need no further introduction when it comes to the deranged villainess who used to be Dr. Harleen Quinzel; Harley is one of the most recognizable DC characters ever. In terms of Robbie’s portrayal, she isn’t devoid of a backstory in Suicide Squad either, which is a mine of opportunity for Birds of Prey. Harley’s past exploits will be a particularly powerful anchor in the film due to the baggage she carries as a result of her on-again, off-again relationship with The Joker. As Robbie herself has stated time and time again, “Harley needs friends” and the women of Birds of Prey could be much healthier influences on her felonious side.
Black Canary is another iconic name in the DC slate, and The Wrap establishes that the Dinah Laurel Lance incarnation of the character will make her big screen debut. Black Canary comes from a family of crime fighters and has mastered various forms of hand-to-hand combat herself. Additionally, a definitively retconned version of her origin story later adds the Canary Cry to her list of abilities – that is, a superpower of sound manipulation that she inherits from a metagene. Black Canary is one of the originators of the Birds of Prey as a gang.
Huntress, another mainstay of the group in the comics, will also feature in Birds of Prey. The character, whose real name is Helena Bertinelli, is a skilled gymnast and hand-to-hand combatant operating as one of the many masked vigilantes in Gotham City. As a child, Huntress witnessed the murder of her entire family and later vowed to wreak bloody havoc on the people responsible. Her desire for vengeance is compounded by her personal and familial history within the worst of the mafias in Gotham.
Next in the Birds of Prey line-up is Cassandra Cain, the daughter of villainous assassins David Cain and Lady Shiva. Cassandra was deprived of speech by her father as she was raised to be nothing but the perfect killer. She eventually became one of the most gifted martial artists in the world. Nevertheless, Cassandra has since variably taken up the monikers of Batgirl, Blackbat, and, most recently, Orphan as an act of defiance against the torturous nature of her past.
Finally, there’s Renee Montoya, an ex-detective for the Gotham City Police Department. She quit the GCPD due to the corruption that runs deep within the institution of law enforcement in the city. Although she then succumbed to the bottle as a coping mechanism, Renee trained to become a costumed crusader of her own, taking over the identity of The Question from its predecessor – her mentor, Vic Sage.
Some of these characters have made appearances on the small screen in the past. Among live-action offerings alone, Black Canary and Huntress have appeared in multiple seasons of the DC TV adaptation Arrow. Cassandra Cain is slated to feature as her Orphan alias in the fifth and final season of Gotham, while Renee had a tenure on the show while Huntress has been mentioned in a cursory fashion as well.
Yet in the realm of cinema, the world of adaptation is Warner Bros.’ oyster, and Birds of Prey has selected an eclectic, diverse bunch to be part of the titular group. The film opens up a variety of inclusive opportunities; not only are the Birds of Prey all women, but Renee is an openly lesbian Latinx woman, and Cassandra is Asian. These characters will be driven by their inner conflicts and strong character arcs – a sense of humanity that will fantastically juxtapose Harley’s own questionable past. It’s easy to remain hopeful that these instances of representation could be three-dimensional and worthwhile.
There is a bit of an elephant in the room, though, with regards to the Birds of Prey continuity and the character Barbara Gordon. She undoubtedly plays an integral part in the Birds of Prey family, having co-founded the group in her post-Batgirl days with Black Canary. At this point, Barbara has adopted the Oracle identity in the comics, but we’re obviously also all too familiar with her iconic run as Batgirl.
The Batgirl standalone that’s currently in the works was initially said to be centered on Barbara based on her “New 52” storyline. Yet what’s curious about the film is that — along with bringing a new writer on board since its initial announcement — it will evidently come after Birds of Prey. According to Variety’s Justin Kroll, Batgirl’s role in Birds of Prey could mirror Wonder Woman’s in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (or the Marvel reference he includes in his tweet). It wouldn’t be a cameo, but she likely wouldn’t be the core focus of the movie either.
As for SUICIDE SQUAD 2, clearly moving out of 2018 shoot. The move to go with BOP not only had a lot to do with Hodson's script but also the idea of doing with BATGIRL what Marvel did with Black Panther in CIVIL WAR by introducing them into universe before giving them own film
— Justin Kroll (@krolljvar) April 17, 2018
This could place Barbara in a bit of a timeline conundrum. Of course, Barbara doesn’t necessarily need to be Batgirl in the standalone; not when Cassandra Cain is right there, tragic backstory and all. To me, Barbara’s role in the beginnings of the Birds of Prey gang makes it important for her to be a part of the team-up film. Passing on the Batgirl mantle to Cassandra would make for a happy medium.
And we can’t forget about this unknown villain with ties to the Batman universe. Decades of adaptations seem to point to a handful of recognizable names left in the roster who would make formidable foes for the gang. For my money, David Cain and Lady Shiva seem like the worthiest adversaries due to their direct connection to the existing story. These world-class assassins provide the muscle necessary to believably fight a crew of the world’s best vigilantes. But the emotional baggage of having Cassandra confront her parents would be riveting. It would make for compelling explorations in a follow-up Batgirl movie too.
From what we know about Birds of Prey so far, the film definitely piques fascination. Besides The Wrap’s latest announcement, the film is said to be an R-rated romp with the promise of some serious celebration of girl power. Robbie confirmed that filming for Birds of Prey is due to start shooting in January, too. These are the days in which the prospects of the DCEU feel a little more promising.