I know I’m a bit late to the party when it comes to this Birds of Prey review. The movie has been out for basically a whole weekend and we already know it’s initial box office total (more on that in a bit). But let me tell you, if you’re NOT seeing this film? You’re missing out on a lot of fun, insanity, and some really epic fight scenes.
WARNING! Some spoilers ahead!
First and foremost, this is a Harley Quinn film. She even tells you that by giving you a hilarious opening into her life and how it started off “basic” and ended up being with the Joker…and then NOT being with Joker. Yes, Harley has broken up with The Joker, and it means a lot more than you might think.
Something I honestly didn’t expect from this film is the deep dive into what it meant to be Harley Quinn in Gotham. We got a tease of it in Suicide Squad, but here, we get more details. She wasn’t just his girlfriend, she was under his protection. And with him out of the picture, that meant anyone and EVERYONE who wanted a piece of her…was going to have the chance to get it.
Margot Robbie was born to be Harley Quinn. She plays Harleen so well it almost hurts (and in the case of the bad guys, it actually does hurt!). She plays her funny, insane, smart (she has a Ph.D. you know!), sweet and compassionate as well as cold and heartless. You also see her breaking the 4th wall a lot. Sure, it may not all be “original”, but you can’t help but love it.
“Wait a minute,” you say, “isn’t this film about the Birds of Prey?” Yeah, it is, but like any good team (in either comic book universe…) they don’t just start out together. Thanks to Harley, we get introduced to all the other members of BOP before they were BOP, and not all of them are what you expect them to be.
Dinah Lance, Black Canary, is a singer and driver for Black Mask (I’ll get to him). Rene Montoya is a cop who isn’t appreciated and keeps getting her credit taken from her. Cassandra Cain is a kid trying to survive by being a pickpocket, and Helena Bertinelli, (They call me…) Huntress, is a woman on a mission of vengeance.
Now yeah, on the surface this seems like your usual “random people forced into a team” setting like Suicide Squad, Guardians of the Galaxy, Justice League/Avengers kind of thing. But in a fun twist, they all have a big part of the story, and when they do come together, you completely understand why.
But what’s a team-up without a villain? And let me tell you, Ewan McGregor as Black Mask was NOTHING like I expected…and I loved every minute of him on screen. This isn’t the Roman Sionis of the comics. This version is flamboyant, hilarious, deranged, scary, funny, and a man who knows what he wants…even if he doesn’t realize it at the time. Seriously, McGregor KILLS it as Black Mask and might be in my Top 5 of comic book villains ever. He’s the perfect foil for the Birds of Prey and it made the movie all the sweeter.
I cannot write this Birds of Prey review though without talking about the fight scenes. They were so bonkers and awesome that I truly can’t describe them. It’s that good, and creative, and hilarious and fun. I seriously think that the script writers and fight choreographers looked at each other and went, “How crazy can we make this?” and if that’s the case, I love them all.
Seriously, from Harley raiding a police station, to the teased “funhouse” fight, to high speed chases, and more…they are not afraid to get clever, violent, and hilarious, and each lady gets their chance to shine. Speaking of which…
Mary Elizabeth-Winstead, Rosie Perez, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, and Ella Jay Basco all add their own elements to the film to make it rise above others. My only real complaint at times is that they don’t get more time to shine, especially Elizabeth-Windstead’s Huntress. But they make do with the time they got, and it shows.
From Huntress’ social awkwardness (“I don’t have rage issues!”) to Dinah fighting her family legacy and trying to survive, to Montoya trying to show her value and Cain learning from Harley, it’s all good stuff. In fact, I LOVED the “buddy movie” bits with Harley and Cassandra a lot because it was really well written and acted.
Could they have had more time together as a team? Sure, but that’s what sequels are for! And they do tease several sequels. Trust me.
Before I get to my negatives (yes, there are negatives…) I must give a shoutout to some of the people who made this movie possible from the comic world. If you’re a fan of Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, Gail Simone, Julie and Shawna Benson, Paul Dini and others who helped make the Birds of Prey and Harley Quinn comics, you’re going to see a LOT of references to them here.
I’m talking the classic Harley Quinn outfit, hyenas and beavers, the singing of Black Canary (as well as a tease to her lineage…), roller derby, and 4th wall breaking. It’s a cornucopia of references and Easter Eggs that you need to watch multiple times to enjoy them all. And you should enjoy it all. But…
I won’t lie, there are some things that do stick out. For example, because Harley is telling the story, we have a lot of jump cuts and timeline issues. If you’ve seen Season 1 of The Witcher, it’s that kind of thing. To be clear, The Witcher was MUCH worse with its timelines, but it’s the same idea.
Plus, as noted the Birds of Prey don’t really get together until the end of the film. While that’s okay in context, those wanting it to be more than the “Harley and Cassandra” show may be a little disappointed. Especially with the fun performances by Mary Elizabeth-Winstead, Rosie Perez, and Jurnee Smollett-Bell.
Which brings me to the big question, or should I say the “troll question” of: “Is this film showcasing a ‘feminist agenda’?” Seriously? Do I have to answer that? No, it’s not! Is it about women empowerment at points? Yeah. Despite what some people are saying, they don’t beat you over the head with it. Only Harley and Rene’s stories are honestly about getting out from the thumb of men who don’t appreciate them. Don’t go into this film thinking like the trolls, go into it to see a fun movie.
This leads to my final point, the box office results. Birds of Prey honestly hasn’t met its projections, and that makes me sad. It WILL make a profit, believe that. Will it make as much as other DC/Marvel movies? No, it won’t, but that doesn’t make it a failure.
This movie is a success for the sole reason that it got made! Margot Robbie and director Cathy Yan FOUGHT for this movie to be made! It’s here, and it’s fun, and those that ARE seeing it are loving it! I’ve seen all sorts of fans praising it on Twitter and Facebook, including people who don’t know the lore of Harley and the BOP like I do.
The bottom line is this. If you’re looking for a funny, action-packed, unapologetic romp of a film, then go see Birds of Prey!
Or don’t…and wait for Harley to come and find you, you’ve been warned.