DCU fans are forming a protective circle around a semi-obscure baddie.
Reddit user R-R-Remedy took to the r/DC_Cinematic subreddit to share their observations about the main antagonist in Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey (2020), “Completely forgot Black Mask was a thing in the DCEU let alone that he was played by Ewan McGregor, very disappointing interpretation in my opinion.”
Black Mask first appeared in the Batman comics in 1985 as Roman Sionis, the childhood friend of Bruce Wayne. A painful relationship with his dysfunctional parents inflicted pervasive psychological wounds on Roman, causing him to develop a sadistic, highly aggressive disposition by the time he reached adulthood. Eventually, he became the kingpin of the False Face Family. After her breakup with The Joker, he cruelly exploits an emotionally vulnerable Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie).
Despite OP’s criticism, fans were impressed by McGregor’s portrayal of a very complex character. RubyVisor described McGregor’s Black Mask as “all he really needed to be.”
Redditor LikeAFoxStudios_ was so moved by McGregor’s ability to oscillate between humor and horror that they felt he should have played The Joker.
Wasteland_GZ lamented that Black Mask met his demise before facing off with his former childhood pal Batman. Of course, they didn’t pass up the opportunity to make a Batfleck reference, suggesting that Black Mask would have been easily vanquished.
Short-Service1248 thought that McGregor’s Black Mask was the defining aspect of the movie and was sad to see the character gone so soon. It was a sentiment that was echoed by many fans in the thread.
To OjamasOfTomorrow, McGregor’s iteration of Black Mask towered above every other DCEU villain.
To be sure, Ewan McGregor’s take on Black Mask is a departure from the comic book version of the character in many ways. He told Men’s Journal, around the time of the film’s release, that he saw the character as a fragile, attention-seeking narcissist and went to great lengths to capture the misleading allure and shocking mood swings that are typical of such an individual. The actor’s perception of the vulnerability at the heart of most bullies gave exquisite depth to Black Mask’s need to control Harley Quinn, Gotham, and everything else around him.
Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey is streaming on HBO Max.