After a few years has passed, I feel it’s pretty easy to say 2016’s Suicide Squad was one big disappointment since we all thought it would be this cool ensemble action movie filled with noticeable villains teaming up, and what we got was a gigantic mess. Potential wasted for a movie that a one letter grade away from hating. But even when the movie was well-liked by everybody, including me, one of the biggest praises to come out of it was Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Harley Quinn, one of the most popular female comic book characters ever. Now, we have a full movie focusing on her, along with some new friends to join in the crazy fun that is Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, which is definitely better than its predecessor.
What’s the Story: Harley Quinn (Robbie) has just broken up with the Joker. Now that she’s no longer with him, she’s able to do things on her own. That is until all the biggest criminals in Gotham City is coming after her after the word got out, especially crime lord Roman Sionis/ Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). At this point, she has to join forces with Dinah Lance/ Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Helena Bertinelli/ Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) to save Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) after stealing a precious diamond.
Being that this is the first big superhero movie of 2020, I had low expectations for Birds of Prey because I didn’t know how this would work, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t know the characters besides Harley. Robbie, who also produced this, pitched this idea to make this happen while still filming Suicide Squad and wanted to have a superhero movie with women. Even with this being the second DC film to be given an R-rating after Joker just a few months ago, a part of me worried that this would be lame. Yet, I had a ton of fun watching this, and I do not understand who wouldn’t. Birds of Prey is the second movie I’ve seen so far this year where I have eaten my own words.
If’s there is anything to start on a positive note, that would be the one and only Robbie reprising her role as the psychiatrist turned psychotic criminal. She was born to play this character, she’s front and center this time around, and she absolutely carried this film on her shoulders and her performance throughout is something to be loved. Robbie also keeps Harley’s personality intact that’s believable enough to understand her past and trying to be a better person in between everything. Harley also serves as the unreliable narrator to help serve the story right. She has become one of my favorite actresses over the past few years, and she nails this character that never became annoying. Her performance quickly proved that I will forever be in love with this actress.
As for the rest of the cast, the one I was very pleased with was Smollett-Bell as Black Canary, a songbird in Roman’s nightclub. Good actress, but she hasn’t been in anything his huge before, and she totally owned this character that will please fans. Then you also have Winstead as Huntress, a crossbow killer who takes revenge on those who murdered her family, Perez as Renee Monyota; the Gotham detective who has a case against Sionis; Basco as Cassandra Cain; the young pickpocket that Harley has to protect (great chemistry between her and Robbie btw), and Chris Messina as Victor Zsasz, Roman’s henchman. The dynamic with Robbie and the team itself benefited it from being uninteresting, even if all of them don’t have a scene with each other later on.
Black Mask is one of the few Batman villains I not familiar with, and I didn’t know how to react when McGregor was playing him. Not everybody will like his performance, but I love McGregor in this when this flamboyant and childlike baddie is a scene-stealer. This is that kind of over-the-top villain that fits into this film well-enough and he looked like he was having a blast playing this character. It was so weird to see him play the bad guy, but it felt almost refreshing and he should do it more often. He might be one of the better villains we have gotten in this universe since the others range from fine to disastrously awful.
Director Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs) has done nothing his huge a scale before, and she’s a name I didn’t know about when they announced her involvement. But her first time directing action was better than I expected when he understood the source material. Her visual style stayed true to what Suicide Squad brought, but its usage of color and production design made for a fast-paced movie that never dulls down. The point of filming a comic book movie like this is to be fun and not to be all serious. There are two things to consider: she’s the second female director to helm a DC film after Patty Jenkins, and she’s also the first Asian woman to direct a superhero movie in the country. Even for this having an R-rating, she doesn’t make it obvious with its F-bombs and bloody violence come into play.
Speaking of the action, this might be some of the coolest action sequences inside the DC Extended Universe. I’ve witnessed in a long time. Is it fair to stay it almost looks like the John Wick kind of style with the action? Kind of, but what kept me locked and never bored with them is that it was energetic at every minute it was happening on screen. The fight scenes had no bad camera work on display as a lot of them boldly kicked-ass with gorgeous cinematography by Matthew Libatique that we can see what’s happening. One sequence in particular that I will always remember is when Harley’s in a police station trying to break out Cassandra. That was an action scene that was able to be creative without feeling like it had a big-budget. Plus, the stunt work throughout the action was unbelievable.
Also, this got me to laugh frequently. Nothing was laughing on the floor hilarious, but I think I was the only person at my showing that actually laughed at the moments that were might be meant to be funny. Most of them just came from McGregor himself.
The soundtrack kind of has to be mentioned also because it’s full of female artists lending their voices. A few of the catchy tracks are “Diamonds” by Megan Thee Stallion and Normani, CYN’s “Lonely Gun,” Halsey’s “Experiment on Me,” and my personal favorite that I listened to at midnight, “Bad Memory” by K.Flay.
If there were any problems, I feel like the screenplay by Christina Hodson (Bumblebee) could’ve been a little better. As entertaining the film was, it can be predictable, and a part of me wished the characters had more screen time together since all of them are together near the third act. Yes, it’s clearly Harley’s movie, but I figured we’d see more of the team together since the film’s title suggests that. Out of all of them, I was hoping to see more of Winstead as Huntress. It also told in a non-linear narrative where Harley is narrating to the audience and it tells us about the other’s backgrounds. That was when the film felt like Deadpool, which isn’t something to complain about. There was a point of taking the narrative in that direction, but it can appear messy when it’s not following a straightforward story.
I’m one of those that have been critical of the DCEU when it offers little enjoyment with several of their films. This falls in line with the likes of Wonder Woman, Shazam!, and Man of Steel as the select few movies that are perfectly re-watchable. Unlike something like the recent Charlie’s Angels reboot, this is actually a worthy female-driven action movie everybody should check out. Every time we get a solid movie from Warner Bros. and the people behind these DC films, it just puts me in the right mood. Not only that, but this proves we can release good comic book movies in February.
To wrap things up, Birds of Prey was absolutely killer. This was pretty much that I wanted Suicide Squad to be. The vibrant action sequences were amazing, it was able to be different inside the DCEU, and it’s carried by a cool ensemble, including the fabulous Robbie. I feel like we’re heading in the right direction with this universe, as long as it doesn’t make any dumb moves and have the right ingredients to put forward a good movie like this. Who knows if the upcoming Gotham City Sirens is still being worked on, but it has to be somewhat similar to what Yan brought to this. Believe me when I say I can easily see a sequel.
Current DCEU Rankings:
- Wonder Woman
- Birds of Prey
- Man of Steel
- Justice League
- Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice
- Suicide Squad
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