Who will stand up to villains now that a heartbroken Dark Knight has mysteriously vanished? Never fear, New Gothamites, a trio of champions is ready to take wing – and Helena, the daughter of Batman and Catwoman, is among them. She calls herself Huntress and crime is her prey. Teenaged Dinah is the youngest of the group, learning as she goes and gifted in clairvoyance. And overseeing the awesome threesome’s high-tech nerve center is Batgirl. Left wheelchair-bound by The Joker, she has reinvented herself as Oracle, the team’s cyber expert. Huntress, Dinah, Oracle: They are the Birds of Prey. Fighting together. Living together. And soaring into adventure together in 13 breathtaking live-action episodes.
Read my review of the complete series DVD after the jump.
Birds of Prey: The Complete Series
Available To Own On (click to purchase): DVD.
Official Site Link:www.birdsofpreydvd.com
Release Date: July 15, 2008 (DVD)
The acting isn’t great, the special effects not too special, but it is entertaining. That pretty much sums of Birds of Prey, the short-lived Sci-Fi series that ran on the now defunct WB TV network from 2002-2003. That’s not such a bad thing though, I mean, what more do you want in your entertainment than to have an enjoyable experience?
Every episode begins with a prologue of about 1-minute in length that quickly, and effectively, explains the premise of the show: Batman and Batgirl battled it out against the Joker in an epic fight. The Joker is captured, but manages to briefly escape, managing to send out a hitman after Catwoman (Batman’s love interest) and to personally shoot Batman’s protégé, Batgirl, leaving her disabled. Unable to deal with the pain, Batman leaves the city and his role as its defender. Seven years later, a new group of superheroes, the Birds of Prey have taken up the mantle left by Batman (Helena Kyle/Huntress played by Ashley Scott, Barbara Gordon/Oracle, who was previously Batgirl, played by Dina Meyer and Dinah Lance played by Rachel Skarsten). The rest of the cast includes Det. Jesse Reese (Shemar Moore), Alfred Pennyworth (Ian Abercrombie) and Dr. Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn (Mia Sara).
Although not every episode is as good as the prior, thankfully there’s really only one clunker–“Dominatrix”. Oh how I hate these “let’s fight it out!” episodes that seem to be so prevalent in SF shows–throughout the 13 hours of programming. The main plot thread running through the series is the main villain Harley Quinn (Dr. Harleen Quinzel), who just happens to be treating one of the Birds of Prey (Helena Kyle/Huntress). Given the show’s focus on the female heroin, it makes natural sense to have the main villain be a woman as well. Quinn’s character is a solid piece of the show and the actress does a fine job portraying the psycho nature of her character (who is still linked to The Joker). By the way, the Joker is seen briefly in the series, via the prologue, and the inclusion of Mark Hamil’s brilliant voice work as the character is very welcomed.
My main issue with the series is that it just never manages to reach that higher tier of quality that a series must hit to get noticed, always straddling that middle line of average. Casting was so-so, with no one seeming out of place. You do get the feeling, however, that their performances could have improved had the writing been a bit better. Another thing that irritates me a bit is that the two up-front Birds, Huntress and Dinah, wear no mask. It’s appreciative that the subject is discussed within the series, but it just seems like a pointless affair that actually hinders some aspects of the show. For instance, when Huntress is secure enough in her relationship with police detective Reese to reveal her true identity, my reaction, and I assume the reaction of others, was a big shrug. She went to school in New Gotham, she doesn’t wear a mask, and he’s a police detective. Are we really supposed to believe that her identity wouldn’t easily be discovered?
Moving on to the special features. There really isn’t much here, actually, very little. Warner Bros. has included the show’s original unaired pilot on the fourth disc, and on discs 1-3 they’ve presented three seasons of the animated cartoon Gotham Girls.
The minimal special features are understandable, so instead I’ll just focus on what was included, beginning with the unaired pilot. This version of the pilot was several minutes longer than what originally aired on WB and differed somewhat in content. Nothing drastic but there were a few changes. First up, the character Harly Quinn is played by a different actress. I didn’t find anything wrong with her portrayal, so she was likely switched out because of something other than her ability. Another thing that was changed by the time the show aired on television was the opening prologue. The final broadcast version (which plays before every episode of the season) does a much better job explaining the purpose of the Birds of Prey. The unaired pilot also includes a little more story behind the events leading up to present day. And lastly, the romance between Barabara and Wade is shown to have already occured in this version of the pilot, while in final version, it’s played as it being the first time the two have been linked. Interestingly enough, there’s actually a scene in the unaired pilot between the two characters that doesn’t show up until later in the season and consequently when it aired in its original place it felt out of place. Now I know why. All in all though, nothing major was lost.
It would have been nice to have at least had one or two small features detailing the comic book characters, and a few commentary tracks, but again, considering the show’s limited audience, it’s understandable that not much was offered.
Overall, it’s safe to say that this DVD is a must-buy for fans, but the exclusion of any extensive set of special features makes it hard to recommend as a blind buy. It’s certainly worth at least a rental from sci-fi fans. So long as you’re willing to forgive some of its flaws, you should have a mostly experience with these 13 episodes. I rate this series and DVD a 3/5.
Birds of Prey: The Complete Series was released on Tuesday, July 15th. Click here to purchase it.
I’ve included some photos and a video clip from the series below.
PHOTOS (click to enlarge)