I was predisposed to liking BIRDS OF PREY, the new female
adventure series on The WB. I was expecting something that would tie
the sensibilities of Buffy in with the mythos from the
Batman comics. And I was disappointed on both ends.
The set-up is that Barbara Gordon, the former Batgirl now planted
firmly in a wheelchair, acts as the brains of a superpower duo while
Helena Kyle, the love-child of Batman and Catwoman, handles the physical end of
crime-fighting. They are joined by a teenage lass with ill-defined
psychic powers, and together they fight crime in a highly stylized
version of “New Gotham”.
The dialog is stiff, lifeless, and inhuman. The visual style
uses a lot of photographic tricks that distract from the story
rather than enrich it (which, admittedly, copies the method of
some popular comics of a decade back). As for the links to the
Batman mythos, they rely on it in the worst ways. There are
things that get said which only make sense if you already know
some of the Batman material, and not just the stuff you see in
the movies. When Barbara explains that she had another name
before she was known as Oracle, that statement makes sense…
to those who have read the comics in which she is known as
Oracle. However, unless I missed it, that was the first time that
the Oracle name was mentioned in this show, and since Barbara
and Helena’s operation is secret, there doesn’t seem to be anyone
who would know Barbara as Oracle.
Meanwhile, the richness of the Batman mythos is wasted as
we have a Joker without insanity, a Harley Quinn without joy,
a Catwoman who cannot defend herself, and an apparently cowardly Batman.
What we end up with is a lifeless, humorless spectacle with
little sense of adventure.
About the only redeeming aspect of this is the very appropriate
casting of Dina Meyer as Barbara Gordon. She manage to convey the
sharpness and intelligence that comics writers John Ostrander and
Kim Yale had given Oracle when they established that identity
after Alan Moore had Batgirl crippled. Making Oracle seem intelligent
is no small achievement, given that the script actually conveyed
little if any of that intelligent. (Hey everyone: there’s a business
partnership in which three of the four partners have been killed.
Whose your main suspect? Anyone? Come on, someone out there must
have the answer…)
Still, that’s not enough to save the show. A shame, given the
effective (if often repetitive) reimagining of Superman that the
WB has given us in Smallville.