If you told me 10 years ago that there would be a movie starring Harly Quinn I would have called you a crazy person. If you then said the film would include a half-hearted origin for Birds of Prey I would have probably punched you in the face. Ok, I didn’t mean that but the idea that this movie happened is still amazing when you think about it. The highly anticipated pseudo-sequel to Suicide Squad finally hit theaters but Is it FANTABULOUS? Or ABOMINABLE?
Birds of Prey is like an acid trip. Before you jump to conclusions, that wasn’t exactly a compliment. Depending on your connection with the characters featured throughout, Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (say that three times fast… go on, I dare you!) is either a bad acid trip or a good one. For all of its loud, adrenaline-filled action, it seemed to be missing a certain something that would leave you wanting more… or make you care if there is going to be a sequel.
Birds of Prey follows Margo Robbie’s Harley Quinn after her break-up with Joker. After causing havoc all over Gotham due to her immunity for being known as Joker’s main squeeze, Quinn lets the world know that she is single in the only way Quinn knows how. Quinn blows some shit up in spectacular fashion. Quinn’s impulsive act starts a cascading series of events that lead to her being in the crosshairs of every person she’s ever wronged. This including Ewan McGregor’s Roman Sionis (Black Mask). Sionis is on a mission to become the richest and most powerful crime boss in Gotham. Sionis’ pursuit of Quinn results in Quinn becoming entangled with Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), Helena Bertinelli / The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), and Dinah Lance / Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell).
The movie’s plot isn’t overly complicated. It focuses more on its insane action and over the top dialog than it does in giving you anything remotely close to character development or backstory for any of its main players, save for Quinn. And to a much lesser degree The Huntress. In the Huntress’ case, she isn’t given much to do at all but the film found time to give you at the least a visual recount of her backstory, albeit just to set up the climax of the film. It’s sad because Huntress delivers some of the most awkwardly funny moments in the film and it’s a shame we didn’t get more of Winstead’s charm.
The others were just given two or three lines worth of dialogue to fill in their backstories which again does the aforementioned “stars” of the movie a disservice. The most egregious case of this is Smollett-Bell’s Black Canary. Canary’s comic history is rich but that is largely ignored here. Instead of a badass legacy hero, we get a bullied lounge singer. On top of that, the impetus of her hero’s journey isn’t very noble or interesting; instead of donning a costume to honor her mother’s legacy, she does it because she got a kick out of fighting alongside Quinn and Co. The lack of any deep backstory exploration makes it extremely difficult to care about anyone in the film not named Harley Quinn.
Though the movie overly focuses on Quinn it worth noting that Robbie is still quite spectacular in the role. Robbie was able to pick up where she left off in Suicide Squad, chewing up every scene she is in. Robbie embodies chaos in a way that makes it seem like Lori Petty’s Tank Girl did the fusion dance with Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool.
It’s funny that with all that being said Birds of Prey is still a fun movie. In my mind, there is a clear difference between movies that are just mindless fun and what the world at large would consider a “good” movie. BoPATFEOOQ (bloody hell, even when you try to shorten it…) is the poster child for mindless fun. The over the top violence, hilarious dialogue (literally everything that comes out of Huntress’s mouth is funny), and interesting set pieces make the look and feel of the film both inviting and entertaining. The best part of Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (seriously, who thought of this title??) is its pulse-pounding action.
This film shines in the action department. It managed to deliver some of the best action/fight scenes so far this year. Quinn’s unique fighting style was specifically highlighted as she took on the Gotham City Police Department. Quinn managed to take out several of Gotham’s finest with glitter and what appeared to be condiment bombs. At this point, the only competent member of the GCPD seems to be Montoya who managed to not get embarrassed during the exchange… well not as embarrassed as everyone else. During the climax of the film, we get to see all of BoP in action in one hell of a brawl. The action was highlighted by Smollett-Bell (Canary), who is the MVP of the exchange. I won’t ruin the moment for you, it’s almost worth the price of admission on its own.
Check out our review of the premiere episode of Batwoman here!
Given the film’s runtime, it would be silly to expect each of the supposed main character’s equal billing. Even still, DC’s attempt to pass this off as anything less than a vehicle to further the Harley Quinn brand is laughable, to say the least. Originally this film was supposed to be focused on the Gotham City Sirens, which was a comic featuring all of the femme fatales residing in Gotham. The comic featured Quinn, Catwoman, and Poison Ivy. Coming off of her stint as an anti-hero in Suicide Squad, the transition to Gotham City Sirens instead of Birds of Prey would have made a hell of a lot more sense.
Going in this alternate direction cut out one of the more interesting parts of Quinn’s character in the comics: Quinn’s relationship with Poison Ivy. Considering the current climate having a full-on love story between two powerful women would have been 100% more interesting than what was presented in Birds of Prey. I can hear the buttholes of conservatives across the country simultaneously clinch at the thought of it. Could you imagine the outrage? Bah, what could have been…
The Final Word:
Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is worth seeing for the sheer spectacle of it all. Between the interesting character interplay, insane action, bright color scheme, and above-average villain (McGregor’s Black Mask) you’ll be highly entertained throughout. That said, the missteps of this film are too many to ignore if you are looking for interesting world-building or a reason to care about anyone but Quinn. DC did everyone involved in this film a disservice. This movie isn’t about Birds of Prey. It’s Deadpool starring Harley Quinn, which though fun, isn’t remotely close to what this film’s insanely long film title promises.