For those who anticipate a golden age for that genre after the success of “Joker”, the disappointing debut of “Birds of Prey” is a bit of a wake-up call, if not a severe blow to the head.
The film, with Margot Robbie as the sadistic Joker aide Harley Quinn, only recorded $ 33 million in North America, well below expectations
. For those who think of Joaquin Phoenix’s one-two punch win an Oscar
Sunday and another grand opening would have knocked down the doors – especially at DC Entertainment, positioning it as a alternative with harder edges
Marvel – well, not so fast.
The recall of the rate for R-rated superheroes has always come with potential compromises.
The smash hit “Joker” – which made over $ 1 billion worldwide and earned an Oscar nomination for Best Picture – appears to have spurred those efforts. Like so many other things, however, reality appears more complicated and more difficult to predict.
Despite the strong “Joker” results, there have been recent high profile failures, including a “Hellboy” revival
which has fallen sadly flat. The same fate fell upon “Brightburn”, a horror-superhero mash-up, which essentially posed the provocative question what would have happened if that strange visitor to Krypton had become evil as he reached puberty?
Marvel, in particular, addresses its problems, with the Disney parent who absorbed 20th Century Fox’s entertainment activities, including the famous films “Deadpool” and X-Men, which gave rise to the R-rated “Logan”. . The studio has expressed openness to continue shooting those films in an equally irreverent way, but it seems in no hurry to incorporate them into its existing cinematic universe.
Obviously, the distinction between R-rated superheroes and the lesser PG-13 designation isn’t a huge gap, but says something about both creative and commercial aspirations – in the first case by sacrificing part of the younger audience that fueled Wonder.
For Disney, in particular, this is a demography that is not easily expendable, given that Marvel machines (and not by the way, “Star Wars”) feed an assortment of profitable revenue streams, including theme parks and merchandising such as toys and games.
Even Marvel wasn’t completely untouched, as evidenced by the spirited series – a la “Daredevil”, “Jessica Jones” and “Luke Cage” – that the company produced for Netflix, which surely appealed to a crowd of adults.
The main pitfall for R-class superheroes are the large budgets that many of these films entail, which makes closing a modest part of the audience a risky proposition.
Ultimately, the answer would seem to lie in treating the characters in the best way to serve the material, but also adjust budgets and expectations accordingly. The Punisher, for example, has always been seen as a worse product – and therefore not conducive to blockbuster mode – while another vigilante, Batman, can still reasonably aspire to a wider footprint.
Other than that, it’s worth noting that Harley Quinn has recently been turned into a bloody animated series
on the DC Universe streaming site, which reflects the various ways that studios can now cater for niche crowds via such services, as Warner Bros. actually did with its animated DC films. (Both DC and the studio that distributes its films, Warner Bros., are WarnerMedia units, such as CNN.)
All this seems clear: whatever the enthusiasm that “Birds of Prey” has aroused in the circles of fans, it has not translated beyond them in a way that would have produced a total of more “imaginative” box offices.
This does not mean that there is no request for multiple heroes classified as R. But for those who collect wish lists of aching titles for such treatment, nor does this alone answer the riddle that made Joker laugh until the bank.