Birds of Prey

⭐⭐⭐ based on 1 review.

tl;dr: A weird but enjoyable movie with some amazing action sequences and a very alive Gotham; Quinn-tessentially Harley (I couldn't resist).


DC HeroesDC: Extended Universe


Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

I don't really know what I think about Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). I like the title (the full title, not the weird "it's not a rename, just a name change suggestion" re-title). I think Margot Robbie nails Harley Quinn (not a surprise). I actually quite liked the plot. The action sequences were excellently choreographed (and included some fantabulous diversification of the standard female-superhero takedowns). Overall, I enjoyed myself. I think.

It's a weird one because I didn't leave fist bumping or groaning, I just left. It didn't make no impression, but it also didn't make any of the impressions I was expecting. There were a few bits which felt a little too Suicide Squad (the beaver, mainly) and some other pieces which felt lifted from a Deadpool script, but none of it ever hit me as too weird or whacky or copycat. I'll also own up to not really knowing that much about Harley as a character; I remember her introduction in the animated Batman series and I've enjoyed her cameos in games and other media, but I've never read her own storylines or watched her TV shows. As a result, elements like fourth-wall breaking and cartoon sequences may be in-character and therefore fine, but they did feel a little stilted when unexpected.

That said, the one opinion I definitely have is that Birds of Prey is probably the best Harley Quinn film we're likely to ever get. That isn't a dig either, I think it's a great character piece and well crafted to showcase her as a holistic, semi-relatable, semi-sympathetic character in her own right, away from Batman, Joker etc. I think the same could be said of most of the supporting cast as well. Black Mask is easily one of the more enjoyable supervillains DC have done; Zsasz is great (though I spent a lot of his performance wishing a younger Johnny Lee Miller had been cast, somehow); Black Canary is a fun take on the character (and I'm glad they let her have her powers after hinting at them so much); and even Huntress, who probably gets the biggest makeover, comes out badass and with a thumbs up. Somehow, it makes Gotham feel more alive and alike the comics than any other DC film that came before it, even those outside the DC:EU.

I've also gotta shout out Cass, played by Ella Jay Basco. It's a bit weird that I "know" her through her YouTuber cousin, Trainer Tips, but for her first feature film I thought she was brilliant. Holding your own against the likes of Margot Robbie had to be pretty intimidating and she plays Cass excellently. I'm not too sure about where her character ends up, but it isn't a big issue. On the flipside you have Detective Montoya, who was well played by an absolute veteran in Rosie Perez, but never really clicked for me. Her character seemed mainly to be used for exposition, which felt like a waste; I'm also not too sure about the 80s cop running gag, but maybe it was funnier if you watched a lot of those shows.

Plot was better than expected as well and, despite myself, I quite enjoyed the non-linear narrative. As I say, this is about as Quinn as you can get, which made her feel like a genuine narrator, but it also allowed the film to space out character introductions. That helped you care a bit more about each person, which I think worked well overall. Plus, they really gave the character's room to breath a bit, without making the pacing slow or leaving out the aforementioned awesome action sequences. Yes, Huntress got a bit of a short stick as a result, but that ended up just fine, and having so much character time felt refreshing when compared to Marvel's fare, which rarely allows for long narration or dialogue pieces that don't either include a joke or some narrative-driving elements.

Though, at the same time, I think underneath all the Harley Quinn shenanigans is a much better film. That leaves you in a Catch-22 though: I want this to be a Quinn movie, but making it one kinda ruins some parts. What do I mean? Take the moment that Harley and Huntress first "meet": Huntress shoots a crossbow bolt seemingly at Harley, who ducks and it skewers the big dude about to kill her. Then a bunch of thugs turns up and Huntress smirks and leaves. I fully thought that the bolt had been meant for Harley, the film had already set Huntress up to be in Black Mask's employ, and it just made sense. Then during the big team-up reveal moment, you discover that Quinn was just in the way and the thug was her mark. It's a nice red herring/misdirection which is utterly lost by the weird timeline and Quinn-filled gags.

In fact, I would argue that Huntress being the reason why all the characters coalesce together would have been a better movie; have the Detective hunting her, Quinn just caught in the middle, Black Mask trying to work out WTH her motives are, Canary being tasked with Zsasz to bring her in etc. etc. The whole thing could have been filled with miscommunications, misunderstandings, and red herrings more like a Knives Out or Burn After Reading; in fact I could really see this as a Burn After Reading with superheroes and a lot of characters simply scratching their heads at the end when Huntress' real motives are revealed to be nothing to do with the diamond (even though it's technically hers). I think that film could have been really intelligent with some excellent punchlines and you wouldn't even need to change all that much, but it would have to be less Harley's film and that just... would suck.

So yeah, a Catch-22 through and through. Still, I like what we got, and I think it may even improve on rewatch. The only issue is that I don't have any particular desire to rewatch it. Nor do I need a sequel, because the best part about it was the team up and then they make it clear by the end of the movie that Harley's going her own way. Which is weird, because I've not been given enough to want a Huntress/Canary/Montoya movie, but I'd happily have a Birds of Prey part two. Annoyingly, though, given the opening weekend and poor performance in the US, I doubt we'll get anymore from any of them... and that's the biggest shame of all!

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