Birds of Prey: The Complete Series (2002)

Genre(s): Action / Adventure / Drama / Fantasy / Science Fiction
Warner Brothers || NR - 541 minutes - $39.98 || July 15, 2008
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2008-07-10


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: NA
Writer(s): NA
Cast: Ashley Scott, Dina Meyer, Rachel Skarsten, Shemar Moore, Ian Abercrombie, Mia Sara


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Bonus Unaired Pilot Episode
  • Gotham Girls: The Complete Series


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 4
  • Non-Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78)
  • English (Dolby Surround Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

With the success of “Smallville”, The WB (now CW) decided to dip into the DC Comics well with “Birds of Prey” about a trio of super heroines who fight crime in New Gotham City (apparently Old Gotham City succumbed to a major catastrophe a la the No Man’s Land storyline in the comic book). This world barely remembers a masked vigilante named The Batman and his pursuit of the murderous Joker (voiced in the pilot episode by Mark Hamill). The fight between Bats and The Joker resulted in a gunshot that paralyzed Barbara Gordon a.k.a. Batgirl. On that same night Selina Kyle is knifed on the streets in front of her daughter, Helena. Not only is Helena special because she’s the daughter of the notorious Catwoman, but her father is in fact Bruce Wayne! Yep, Batman and Catwoman had a kid. Across the country a telekinetic dreams about both of these events...

8 years later, Helena Kyle (Scott; Into the Blue), a.k.a. Huntress, prowls the night kicking ass with her mentor wheelchair bound Oracle (Meyer; Saw movies) back at HQ monitoring Gotham streets, from a clock tower, for special crimes. Meanwhile, a new arrival to New Gotham City is Dinah Lance (Skarsten), a clairvoyant who doesn’t know exactly who or why she was there but she needed to escape from her past life at an abusive foster house. She soon gets into trouble and is aided by Huntress and using her kinetic powers discovers the secret HQ... and the rest is short-lived history. The trio becomes known as The Birds of Prey working together to rid the streets of crime.

Aiding them in housekeeping and cooking, Alfred Pennyworth (Abercrombie; Star Wars: The Clone Wars) who, with the departure of Bruce Wayne after the death of Selina, has little to do back at Wayne Manor. Also helping is Detective Reese (Moore; TV’s “Criminal Minds”), an honest cop whose eyes are opened up to what is really happening in New Gotham.

“Birds of Prey” utilizes the Batman mythology but with a new Batman franchise in the works at the time (Batman Begins), Warner Brothers and DC Comics wanted to limit the character’s involvement on the show (ditto for The Joker), so outside of the pilot episode and the occasional mention of Bruce Wayne or The Batman, they stick with the crime fighting aspects and a season long story arch. This arch has Dr. Harleen Quinzel (Sara; Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) trying to take control and once again bring chaos into New Gotham City reminiscent of the days when her beloved did the same. What the good doctor doesn’t know is that in her day job as a therapist, she’s treating Helena Kyle!

The first few episodes seem to focus on Harleen’s plans but that’s soon put on the backburner for other stories such as a metahuman who can mimick other metahuman talents (there are many living in New Gotham) while another introduces Black Canary who is revealed to be Dinah’s real mother. There are also other characters from the DC Universe such as Lady Shiva and Clayface. The series finale, ‘Devil’s Eyes’ does wrap everything up in a nice bow so there are no loose ends and the whole story of Huntress being the daughter of Batman, comes to a nice conclusion. It is quite rushed but I’d rather everything wrapped up than left unresolved.

As for the series itself, it never really finds its groove. A good portion of the 13 episodes are unremarkable and the acting is, at best, average. I don’t know if a second season would’ve improved things (even a classic series like “Seinfeld” didn’t find itself until the 4th season) but I guess there was potential... if only they could come up with a better story arch. I love that they used Harley Quinn as the main baddie but at the same time, “Birds of Prey” would fall well, prey, to the same issues that plague Superman, bland secondary villains. Yes, Batman has an incredible rogue’s gallery and I’m sure some of the lesser-knowns could’ve been used, but the whole taking over the city is so old and tired.

The cast overall is pretty good and seem to work well with one another. Ashley Scott as the lead character, the tagline is “Batman’s little girl is all grown up” after all, handles it fairly well and is absolutely cute and hot as Huntress. Give her some better dialog and I think she could’ve shined more. She’s no Buffy, but who is? The others are alright. Dina Meyer, superficially at least, plays that mother hen part and seems to have the Oracle Barbara down while Rachel Skarsten as Dinah, as a new character, was still somewhat undeveloped (though they did rush her powers so she could help in the series finale).

“Birds of Prey” was only interesting to watch because of the Batman mythos the writers sprinkled in. We get to see Dina Meyer in the Batgirl suit fighting, Lori Loughlin as Black Canary and a Clayface-centered storyline. This isn’t a great show by any means and some of the dialogue gets pretty redundant (how many times do we need Detective Reese ask for Huntress’s real identity?) but there some good fun to be had. Anyways, my real issue with the show lies elsewhere (see Video).

By the way, I should note the back of the DVD states "Some music differs from original televised version", so be prepared for changes...



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

All four discs of “Birds of Prey” come housed in single-wide keep case with a glossy slip cover. I actually like the way all four discs are placed as it saves on shelf space and unlike digipacs, I don’t have to unroll it to get to the last disc...

There are no featurettes, commentary or anything related to “Birds of Prey” outside of the Bonus Unaired Pilot. Strangely, this is presented in anamorphic widescreen (again, see Video). I only wish this was accompanied with an introduction. The episode is little different from what aired. It has some extended scenes with Barbara in the lead-up to The Joker shooting her and that she and Wade had a relationship prior to the series start. But a big change was the person playing Dr. Quinzel. Here it is not Mia Sara but Sherilyn Fenn.

The set also includes the shrewdly animated Gotham Girls: The Complete Series that premiered on the web. There are 30 episodes and each only run about 4 or 5 minutes each. “Gotham Girls” focuses on the female heroes and villains in Gotham City.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

“Birds of Prey” debuts on DVD in non-anamorphic widescreen. Why? I have no idea, especially since that unaired pilot episode is anamorphic. There’s really no reason for any film/TV series to be non-anamorphic and it boggles my mind why they did here. So for that very fact, I have to knock off a star. But the picture itself looks OK, if not a bit soft at times. I’m not expecting any kind of major restoration, but it is functional. (Note: I have cropped the black bars out of the images appearing in this review)

The only audio option is a Dolby Surround Stereo that gets the job done, but at the cost of some below average sound effects and at times the dialog suddenly screeches. All in all, it’s a flat track but if they couldn’t give it an anamorphic transfer...



.::OVERALL::.

Setting aside the presentation (which is a good part as to my disappointment), “Birds of Prey” as a series has a couple of good moments and stories, but the season long story arch of Dr. Quinzel trying to take over New Gotham is so cliché and ho-hum. The other episodes deliver some of the goods for DC Comics and Batman fans, yet at the same time I was kind of indifferent after it was all said and done. Sure, it had some potential and it is great that fans can finally see it on DVD, but I have a hard time seeing where this could’ve gone in a second season and beyond.