Original Title: Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn.
Universe: Worlds of DC (DC Extended Universe).
Director: Cathy Yan.
Screenplay: Christina Hodson.
Release Date: 2020.
Runtime: 109 min.
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Crime, Science-Fiction.
Cast: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ewan McGregor, and many more!
Opening Weekend USA: $33,010,017.
Gross USA: $72,529,015.
My Overall Rating:★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ (6/10).
No one should live constrained within an abusive and deranged relationship. Although it is easier said than done, these situations foster toxic habits and leave the victim in a perilous state where their health, sanity, and integrity is at risk. Even when you’re free of them, a passionate, violent, and cathartic trip is what you need to rebel and unleash your deepest desires. Directed by Cathy Yan, written by Cathy Yan, and co-produced by Margot Robbie, the latest more-or-less stand-alone movie in the World of DC line-up explores Harley Quinn’s rebirth through grim heroism. Despite excellent reviews from various sources and a stellar international box office performance, the R-rated sequel to Suicide Squads (2016) continues to garner severe criticism in its attempt to stand out from the rest of DC’s repertoire. Although its original peculiarly-awesome movie title, a poor box office performance in the United States brought Warner Bros to issue a name change to better capture the movie’s focus, now calling itself Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey. While adequate from a marketing perspective, the movie’s appeal all comes down to what viewers are looking forward to in this trip down Harley Quinn’s insane mind.
What is Birds of Prey about? Plunged in a frustrating depression after Jared Leto’s Joker breaks up with her, the deranged ex-Arkham-Asylum-psychologist Harley Quinn frivolously lives her life in the city of Gotham. Having accumulated countless enemies over the years, she quickly becomes everyone’s favourite target and has nothing to lose anymore until Ewan McGregor’s kingpin Roman Sionis a.k.a Black Mask enters the picture and prepares to put Harley under his well-known torture séance. Quick on her feet, Harley Quinn proposes to solve one of his greatest problems regarding a lost diamond, which will lead her to hunt down a young girl and thus begin her psychological transformation as she weighs her options and evaluates the best course of action in hopes of discovering a purpose to her life filled with zany and criminal behaviours.
Although the movie initially seemed to lean towards a brand-new street-level team-up movie featuring Harley Quinn as the key character to tie things together, it is better to dive into this feature-length film as a Harley Quinn movie that inconsequentially introduces the Birds of Prey to the Worlds of DC universe. In that regard, rest assured that Margot Robbie absolutely nails her iconic role as the Cupid of Crime. Every sequence featuring her character is a glorious ovation of her character’s brutal yet melodic approach at life. Recuperating from her incredibly damaging relationship with the Clown Prince of Gotham, she now exudes independence and pride like never before while also accentuating her comic traits in a truly fashionable and quirky manner. Her action choreography is also the most crucial and fabulous feature throughout the movie as she showcases some of the most astonishing and creative fighting skills since Ben Affleck’s warehouse sequence in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) while cinematographer Matthew Libatique does a phenomenal job through close-ups, slow-motion sequences, and clever camera angles to capture the colourful and hypnotic action scenes.
With Harley Quinn also serving as the narrator throughout the movie, sort like Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool, the movie also quickly establishes itself as a spontaneously eccentric story told through her perspective—this can be especially noted in the unnatural narrative structure that completely flips around the exposition and incorporates countless flashback sequences to introduce characters. Although it perfectly captures the character’s messy story-telling abilities, it still remains incredibly distressing in assuring any flow or momentum, putting a strain on the viewer’s own ability to be invested in the story. On top of the deficient structure, the plot holes are abundant and destructive to the overarching plot revolving around each of the key female character’s quest for emancipation. Although the feminist agenda was clear from the movie’s initial pitch as an all-female team-up—which it does much better than the last movie with such a political edge, the disastrous Captain Marvel (2019)—it still barely gives the rest of the squad apart from Harley Quinn, the chance to truly gel and deliver their own personal victorious moments.
Speaking of characters, there’s no denying that Margot Robbie was given the opportunity to further cement her role as Harley Quinn with this movie, but can it be said the same for the rest of the crew? For those who have a special place for shows and movies that respect the source material for any adaptation, this one might hurt a little. Then again, it is by steering away from the source material that some of the most genuine and creative pieces are created but Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey was close to falling into its own trap here by looking to tick off a list of popular social justice concepts that are omnipresent in our various sources of entertainment today. That being said, the movie has looked into embracing some major changes that will probably not bother many non-comic-book-readers. Besides excluding one key member of the Birds of Prey (Barbara Gordon), several of the members in this movie went through unwarranted transformations that either worked for or against the overall superhero partnership.
The one that truly hurt was Ella Jay Basco’s Cassandra Cain who was reduced to a young girl with pickpocketing abilities whereas the original character is a mute daughter of assassins who either became Batgirl or Orphan. Then we have the ethnic change of Dinah Lance/Black Canary which would’ve been considered unnecessary but Jurnee Smollett-Bell’s performance was truly admirable despite the little emphasis on her backstory to make this change fairly irrelevant. Rosie Perez’s Renee Montoya was also decent in the vein of portraying an older female character trying to prove her male colleagues of her value as a detective—although I had a harder time imagining her character taking on the potential role of the Question in the future. Furthermore, Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s The Huntress was a joke in itself as her mean and ridiculous demeanor delivered an unmemorable and cringe-worthy take on the hero. Finally, Ewan McGregor brilliantly displayed a very unusual and disgustingly-narcissist Black Mask that worked well for the story arc presented here, especially in the hopes of potentially having these women take him down by the end of the journey. To accentuate his unjustified gay attributes was Chris Messina’s psychotically desperate Victor Zsasz for whom it’s safe to say that he was a mere tool for women empowerment more than anything else.
Despite the flaws that pirouetted onto the viewers, the movie succeeded in its ambitiousness and remains entertaining from start to finish. It is also one of the better action-oriented films delivered by DC so far and gives fans hope that the Worlds of DC universe isn’t ready to die just yet.
Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey (2020) is an exquisitely stylish and kooky cinematic story delivering its carnivalesque tale of female empowerment albeit its less-than-stellar substance.
Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey (2020) is now out in theatres.
Have you read any Birds of Prey comics?
Have you seen Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey (2020)? Will you? What did you think about it?
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