DC's live-action universe is a fascinating place, mostly because it's such a mystery. While Warner Bros. has announced countless projects for the shared universe, only a handful of movies have concrete release dates, or seem to actually be moving forward in a major way. Aquaman and Shazam! may be the next two blockbusters coming down the pipe, but there's also two more exciting movies focused on Gotham City: Joker and Birds of Prey.
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn) is moving forward rapidly, as director Cathy Yan accrues her production team and cast. The upcoming blockbuster is currently shooting for an R-rating, and will focus on a group femme fatales as they come to blows with Gotham mob boss Black Mask. But now there's another villain included as well: Victor Zsasz.
Victor Zsasz is a Batman rogue with an especially dark backstory. Rather than a superpowered villain, he's more of a traditional serial killer. What's more, his murder is connected with his own self-mutilation. Because for every soul Zsasz takes, he carves a tallymark somewhere on his scarred body. The character is absolutely covered in these cuts, showing just how many people the supervillain has murdered with his own two hands.
In the comics, Victor Zsasz's story is largely unremarkable, and shows how one man can just snap one day mentally. He was once a successful business man in Gotham, before he gambled everything away and lost to The Penguin. While attempting to throw himself off a bridge, he's attacked by a homeless man and murders the man out of self defense. This inspires him to kill as many people as possible; Zsasz believes that human life is meaningless. Like I said, dark stuff.
The inclusion of Zsasz in Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn) shows that the movie will still be plenty dark, despite Harley Quinn's inclusion and the long and humorous subtitle. Gotham City is a dangerous place with a thriving criminal underworld, and it'll be great to get a deep dive into that world with Birds of Prey. Black Mask may be largely a typical Mob Boss, but Victor Zsasz provides a psychological threat, as well as physical.
Given the character's backstory in the comics, DC fans are no doubt wondering if Penguin might be showing up in Birds of Prey as well. The early rumors for the project indicated Penguin might be the big bad of the movie, but that's a role being occupied by Ewan McGregor's Black Mask. Perhaps Zsasz's backstory will simply pivot the focus on Black Mask, and make him the reason for the serial killer's financial problems and psychotic break.
While actors like Josh Gad have thrown their names into the conversation to play Penguin, Warner Bros might not want to make the beloved Batman villain into a supporting role. As such, it seems unlikely that he'll pop up in Birds of Prey. Still, having to take down both Black Mask and Victor Zsasz should be enough for the titular team of female characters to focus on.
Birds of Prey has actually already found its Victor Zsasz, as Deadline reports he'll be played by 44 year old actor Chris Messina. Messina is a film and TV actor, and has been in a variety of high profile projects over his career in the public eye. On TV, he's perhaps best known for playing Danny in a whopping 90 episodes of The Mindy Project. He also recently had a major role in HBO miniseries Sharp Objects, and recurring roles in Damages and The Newsroom.
Movie fans will likely recognize Chris Messina's face from a variety of supporting roles throughout his career. Notable movies include Live By Night, Julie & Julia, Away We Go, and Vicky Christina Barcelona. Now he'll get the chance to be bonafide villain, and bring a new darkness to the DC live-action universe.
Victor Zsasz's inclusion in Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn) will surely excite Batman fans, although it further makes the film's tone and rating a mystery. Before the cast and crew was assembled, it was revealed that director Cathy Yan was aiming for an R rating. And considering Huntress' violent history in the comics and the focus on a mob boss, it seemed like the blockbuster was going to be ultra serious.
But Harley Quinn is also a main character, and the villain is a character rooted in her inherent comedy and offbeat personality. The long subtitle of Birds of Prey hints that there is going to be some offbeat humor involved. Furthermore, Margot Robbie maintained the female focused blockbuster isn't a super serious movie. So how much drama and comedy will the project balance?
Still, anticipation for Birds of Prey has been steadily building. While news of a female-focused superhero ensemble film is exciting enough, DC is actually moving forward with the movie's development, and it even has an official release date. Director Cathy Yan has a script assembled, and has been bringing together an impressive cast-- most of which are women.
Considering how many casting a movie announcements have been made by DC that never came to fruition, moviegoers are thrilled that Birds of Prey is actually moving forward, and heading to theaters in 2020. Warner Bros. is known for making tons of announcements regarding DC's future, without actually releasing a schedule. As such, it seems that no DC blockbuster is really happening until production begins.
But Birds of Prey will bring Gotham City back to the silver screen, something that DC fans are eager to see. Batman is one of the most popular comic book characters of all time, so all of his rogues, allies, and locations are iconic. And with Ben Affleck's future in the DCEU unknown, Birds of Prey is the way that DC fans can go to the Bat's hometown, and see how hard it truly is to keep crime off the streets of Gotham.
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn) will arrive in theaters on February 7th, 2020. In the meantime, check out our 2019 release list to plan your trips to the movies in the New Year.
Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his famous actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.
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