Joker & Harley Quinn are Gotham City‘s most infamous lovebirds. This past autumn, “JOKER” was released, followed by the winter release of “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn.)” Both films follow each character separately. “JOKER” is the prequel to Joker’s career as Batman’s nemesis, telling the story of how he came to be, before he even knew Harley. Meanwhile “Birds of Prey” is a fast-forward tale that tells the story of Harley Quinn’s life long after her career has been well-established, post-breakup with Joker. I thought it would be interesting to watch both films, one after another, and compare.
“Joker” is a rare film in which you empathize with the villain, because the villain is actually the hero — in a dark, twisted way.
The film follows the story of how the Joker became the infamous Joker. He wasn’t always evil, but an innocent human being just like the rest of us. He is a victim of poverty, living in a poor city. He is a victim of severe child abuse. He is a victim of a mental disorder that causes him to burst into extreme laughter when his emotions became so strong that he is unable to properly process them. He is a victim of a broken healthcare system that could not allow him to continue taking his medication. And yet, through everything, he genuinely wanted to spread joy and laughter — even as the world continued to beat him down.
Although it becomes a bit more difficult to be on his side, as he slowly loses his mind — going down a deep, dark tunnel of violent insanity. At first he’s on a high. He ambitiously takes notes from other successful comedians, determined to make it to the top. His standup lands him a spot on a popular late night show. Along with that, a beautiful woman who lives next door is attracted to him and they have amazing chemistry. From the audience’s point of view, we know that things are more disturbing than they seem, as he has already begun his murder streak on a subway after losing his job.
Surprisingly, yet not so surprisingly, all of this ends up to be a delusion — as the truth eventually reveals itself. His standup was terribly unsuccessful and his spot on the late night show is simply a chance to be mocked at by the world for their entertainment. His beautiful neighbor is scared to death after finding him in her apartment, and it hits him that none of it was real. (It’s too bad this lady wasn’t Harley Quinn, because most certainly it all would have been real.)
Finally, the famous scene where Joker is about to make his television debut, and requests to be introduced as “Joker.” This is when he plans to kill himself. However, things take a left turn when he instead ends up revealing that he was the true “killer clown on the lose” who killed those men on the subway. He then gets into a heated debate with the host about society, referring to Batman’s father’s quote about how men at the bottom are viewed as clowns to the people on top. And then instead of shooting himself, he goes ahead and shoots the host dead, right in the head… and one more time in the heart, you know, to make a statement.
Joker ends up causing a huge movement, gaining followers, as a riot outbreaks in the city. His message really spoke to people. Joker is a villain who murders without remorse… or perhaps he is more innocent and good-intended than he is made out to be. The significant difference is that Joker attempted to spread happiness but was forced into evilness due to negative circumstances beyond his control, meanwhile the people on top are privileged and consciously choose to step on those who they see as “lesser than.” Is one really worse than the other, or is it two sides of the same coin?
This may be the end of the film, but it is just the beginning of Joker’s story…
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
“Birds of Prey” is very similar to “Suicide Squad” which makes sense, considering the film is basically a spin-off. It’s light, fun, gimmicky, and has a comic book style. It has a lot of humor. But it also has plenty of action and violence.
Harley Quinn is the narrator, who gives us a brief synopsis of her background story (crazy kid, did well in school, got a P.H.D. in psychology, became Joker’s psychiatrist, fell in love with him and entered the dark side.) She quickly speeds us up to present day, where her and Joker officially break up. Harley Quinn gets her own place where she can do whatever she wants. She cuts off her hair and sheds her past.
While they were together, Harley was able to get away with anything, as everyone is terrified of Joker. However now that they have broken up, she is no longer untouchable, and will have to learn how to defend herself. Quickly, she finds out just how many enemies Joker has, who are now free to go after her. Turns out there’s A LOT!
Harley Quinn faces fellow villain Roman Sinosis/Black Mask. In order to save her own life, she offers to track down the diamond that he’s after. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend — wait, shouldn’t the guy be finding the diamond for the girl, not the other way around?
Cassandra Cane: A thirteen-year old who has swallowed the diamond everyone is after. She is the daughter of two very dangerous villians.
Renee Montoya: An openly gay character who starts out as a cop but ends up leaving as she resents the system due to problems with an ex-girlfriend who furthered her own career by diminishing Renee’s. Tends to say cheesy lines from an 80s crime movie.
Huntress: Daughter of a mob family who witnessed them getting murdered at a young age, determined to bring back vengeance and justice.
Black Canary: One of Gotham’s greatest female fighters.
Hyena: Let’s not forget about Harley Quinn’s new pet hyena! Hyenas are the most feminist animals to ever exist — did you know they have pseudo-penises? (Her hyena is ironically a male, his name is Bruce, and he wears a pink sparkly collar.)
Essentially every character is against each other and fighting one another. It’s not until towards the end, when Harley Quinn unites with other powerful women to form the Birds of Prey and take down the bad guys once and for all.
The movie ends on an extremely positive note. Harley Quinn drives off, awaiting her next big adventure.
“JOKER” and “Birds of Prey” are contrasting films. Watching them back-to-back, it’s hard to believe that these two characters not only share the same world, but end up being lovers somewhere in between these two points.
“JOKER” is unsettling because it’s dangerously close to reality, while “BOP” is feel-good because it seems more like a fantasy. The way Joker is portrayed in “Suicide Squad” is completely different than “Joker,” even different than the Batman movies. It would be really interesting to see Harley Quinn portrayed in a more serious/dark way, rather than just quirky and offbeat.
“JOKER” focuses of oppression of man, while “BOP” focuses on freedom of woman. “JOKER” reveals uncomfortable truths about society, while “BOP” inspires you to change society. “JOKER” explores loneliness, while “BOP” represents female empowerment.
Yet still, both characters are one in the same. These are both villains — people who battle against the leaders, people who don’t fit in with the crowd, people who have trouble being accepted, people with strong emotions, people who are misunderstood, people who love.