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Just like with any adaptation of a preexisting work, comic book movies take creative liberties from the source material. Certain changes need to be made in order to deliver a story than can appeal to a wide variety of audiences. In the case of Birds of Prey, some of the changes included altering the starring characters from how they’re usually depicted on the printed page.
When recently asked if Birds of Prey was ever going to be a more traditional adaptation of the DC Comics property, or if the goal was just to take inspiration and put a different spin on it guided by writer Christina Hodson, director Cathy Yan and everyone else involved on the creative side of things, producer Sue Kroll responded:
I think everybody’s always concerned about being very respectful and mindful of the source material. Nobody wants to upset the fan base. The fans have very important, and their devotion and passion obviously, has propelled all these films. But I think that also the desire was to create characters that worked for the screen. This was, initially Christina Hodson’s vision and she was working very closely with Margot. And you want to be able to introduce aspects of the characters that are familiar that fans will love, but also create some kind of dimension around them. And tell the best version of the story that you can. And that was really the intention. It wasn’t deliberate in one way or the other, except that to tell the best possible version of the story for a movie experience.
It’s a fine line between saying as true to the source material as possible for the hardcore comic book fans, while still delivering something that can appeal to casual moviegoers. As Sue Kroll laid out while speaking to Slashfilm, ultimately it all boiled to telling the best story possible, resulting in certain aspects of Birds of Prey’s main characters being kept around, but also new elements being infused into them in order to make them more palatable for the kind of movie that was being delivered to the masses.
To be fair, some characters in Birds of Prey felt pretty similar to how they’ve been shown in past projects, such as Harley Quinn, with her story echoing the kind of shenanigans she’s gotten into in her solo books, and Huntress, who carried out the same mission of vengeance she has in the comics. Others, however, deviated from their traditional depictions, especially Cassandra Cain, who, as writer Gail Simone pointed out, doesn’t resemble her comic book counterpart whatsoever.
Even Black Mask, one of Batman’s more recognizable enemies, had a wildly different personality compared to how he’ usually shown, although considering how Ewan McGregor’s Roman Sionis performance has been praised, that ended up working for the better. Furthermore, Birds of Prey’s been doing pretty well for itself on the critical spectrum, ranking at 79% among critics and 80% among audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, so clearly plenty of folks were fans of these characters.
It’s too soon to tell if Birds of Prey will get a sequel or not, though the ending certainly laid the groundwork for these ladies to continue their adventures together. Margot Robbie is also already set to reprise Harley Quinn next year in The Suicide Squad, and the actress is interested in moving forward with the long-awaited Gotham City Sirens.