The gritty superhero world of the DC Extended Universe is much brighter thanks to the (re)introduction of Harley Quinn and her girl gang in Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). The film, which premiered in theaters last weekend, follows Harley's emergence as a force to be reckoned with in the streets of Gotham — but executives are concerned that its fun title is turning audiences away.
Warner Bros. confirmed to Refinery29 that theater listings might now title the film Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey. Many suspect that the studio made the stealth move as a last-ditch attempt to improve its viewership. Since its opening weekend, the superhero flick hasn't exactly performed to the level that many expected; it's only brought in about $30 million domestically, almost $50 million short of the amount it took to make the movie.
What went wrong? The people that did file into theaters to see Birds of Prey can't stop raving about it — one review said that it was like John Wick but with glitter, and another called it a "welcome breath of hopeful air following last year’s well-acted but self-serious Joker" — and it even has a 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. So why aren't people falling over themselves to watch it?
If you ask Warner Bros., it's probably because audiences are confused about what (and who) the movie is actually about from reading the title. Could the message behind Harley Quinn and her signature double dipped blue and red pigtails be lost in the sauce of the film's very long name? Is cutting it is the only way to help people understand that this is her movie, not an origin story for the Birds of Prey?
Though a mouthful, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) perfectly captures the essence of the DC film. It describes Harley Quinn's journey to being her own woman outside of the influence of the Joker (the Jared Leto one, not the Joaquin Phoenix one), in part, supplemented by the formation of the Birds of Prey. The women in her squad — which, if the film follows canon, could someday include Batwoman, Catwoman, and Poison Ivy — support Harley in her rebirth while also taking down one of Gotham's most fearsome bad guys.
Shortening its title actually takes away from that self-realization instead of making it clear, watering down the importance of Harley's new mindset. It's important to know going into the theater that this isn't just another darkly-lit DC movie about a superhero; you're walking into a film about a woman who forges her own fantabulous path, guns blazing.
Only time will tell if the eighth DC Extended Universe film will be able to hold up to the box office success of its predecessors, but regardless of the numbers, one thing is for sure: Harley's story definitely added some necessary color to DC's drab and dreary repertoire.