The Marvel Cinematic Universe has trained audiences to expect a certain amount of consistency between films, even if they’re different franchises. “Doctor Strange” might have a different coat of paint than “Ant-Man,” but the engine underneath is very much Marvel Studios. And while that’s part of the success of the films, the uniformity and quality control, the MCU does get criticized for feeling a bit same-same. For the director of “Birds of Prey,” Cathy Yan, it’s the way Warner Bros. allows for differences between films that makes what that studio is doing so much more interesting.
Speaking to Deadline, Yan talked about the different strategies between WB and Marvel Studios, where the former is seemingly more creatively free and less beholden to continuity than the latter.
“Definitely. I guess it’s a different strategy,” said Yan. “As a filmmaker, it’s definitely quite liberating to not feel so bound by every movie before and every movie after… it was great to create our own Gotham and create our version of these beloved characters. It was really nice to be able to do that.”
And when you see “Birds of Prey,” you’ll know exactly what Yan is talking about. The film, while featuring the same Harley Quinn from David Ayer’s “Suicide Squad” film from 2016, is a completely different beast altogether. Where Ayer went dark and gritty with a dash of fun, Yan has created a film that is fun with a dash of dark and gritty. But if you’ve seen the first film, you’ll know exactly what’s going on in ‘Birds.’ Then again, if you haven’t seen “Suicide Squad,’ one could argue that ‘Birds’ works even better.
This is a stark contrast to what Disney and Marvel Studios are doing, where the enjoyment of those films gets amplified by how invested you are in the films and TV shows that precede each one. But WB’s strategy marks a new take on the cinematic universe idea and is also emblematic of a new era of the superhero genre. An era where certain filmmakers are allowed to actually innovate and not try to replicate the success of what’s come before.
“You look at ‘Joker,’ too,” explained the filmmaker. “I thought it was great and I think, obviously, with all of the awards conversations it just proves that there’s more to these comic book movies than it seems. I think that it’s a good time right now to be continuously innovating that. It’s a good time to try to do different things. Again, like the Shakespeare thing, reinterpret these characters and put your own stamp on it as a filmmaker I think is quite liberating.”
“Birds of Prey” is in theaters now.