Warning! Mild spoilers for Birds of Prey.
The DCEU team-up film Birds of Prey features the fantabulous Harley Quinn partnering up with Gotham City detective Renee Montoya, Black Canary, Huntress, banding together to take down crime boss Black Mask. Huntress, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, has a long and complicated history in the comics, with a couple of different characters taking on the crossbow-wielding persona. How different is the film version of Huntress than the comics, and which Huntress is seen in the movie?
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In Birds of Prey, Helena Bertinelli is a woman with a dark vendetta as a result of her even darker past. The daughter of the wealthy and powerful Bertinelli crime family, Helena was essentially a princess. However, that all changed when Black Mask paid several hitmen to eliminate the entire Bertinelli family in a brutal massacre (Black Mask sought to get rid of his competition as well as to steal the massive Bertinelli fortune.) Helena survives and is taken to Italy to be raised by the thug who rescued her from the slaughter. She then is trained to be the ultimate assassin by the thug and his brothers and has now returned to Gotham to kill those who killed her family. Helena is determined to get her revenge, armed with a crossbow and a motorcycle. While she does have some social awkwardness with the other Birds initially, she finds her stride by the film’s end.
The comics’ origins for Huntress are a little more complex, as there is more than one Huntress to consider. The first Huntress was actually Helena Wayne, daughter of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, originating from the alternate Earth-2. After Crisis on Infinite Earths, her existence was erased from the DC continuity, alongside several other heroes. It wasn’t until after the start of the New 52 that Helena Wayne returned, working alongside Power Girl on Earth-2 until they both happen to end up on the main Earth.
While Helena Wayne is certainly an interesting character, Warner Bros. decided to go with the Helena Bertinelli version of Huntress. Her origin in the comics is the same as it is portrayed in the film. While this film explores Huntress’ initial return to Gotham, she does later end up as an extension of the Batman family. However, given that Huntress has no issues with killing, the relationship is distant and often strained. Alongside Black Canary, Huntress has been one of the most frequent and consistent members of the Birds of Prey team from the comics, more often than not serving as the team leader. While this may end up being the case in any future appearances of the film version of the team, Birds of Prey seems to let Harley take the initial lead, at least in the heat of their current conflict against Black Mask.
All in all, this film version of Huntress is very accurate, portraying a strong, determined, vengeance-seeking vigilante just as she’s depicted in the comics. It’s certainly a more honorable depiction than the CW’s Arrowverse version of Bertinelli, who definitely takes a darker, more villain-ish and isolated approach to her vendetta, rather than joining a team. Mary Elizabeth Winstead does a wonderful job portraying Helena, both in her action-heavy serious moments, as well as in the lighter times where she’s just interacting with the other Birds.
Birds of Prey is in theaters now.
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