The DC Extended Universe… what a weird trip it has been thus far. From the moody fumble that was Snyder’s start to the choppy messes that came from Justice League and Suicide Squad. Until finally it got some solid footing when Warner Bros. trusted the directors they hired. That’s a whole lot of growing pains in seven years. And we come to Birds of Prey: and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (or Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey now that a slight rebranding has occurred) an R rated romp cribbing from the Deadpool formula that proved to be successful.
“Being Joker’s girl gave me immunity.”
After the events of Suicide Squad, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and The Joker have split up leaving her without the privileges and protections she’s typically afforded. From here she and a ragtag group including beat cop Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), vigilante Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), club singer Dinah aka Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), and small time pick pocket Cassandra (Ella Jay Brasco) must team up to avoid death at the hands of gangster Black Mask (Ewan McGregor).
From that synopsis you can see Harley Quinn is at the forefront of the story. That’s probably why the new title puts her name before the Birds of Prey. For me this is a tad annoying. We’re watching a Birds of Prey film that doesn’t include key characters and shortchanges others in favor of making sure Harley Quinn gets as much screentime as possible. Huntress is definitely underutilized and Black Canary only gets to show off her powers once (maybe twice…ish) in the film. And the fact that Oracle doesn’t even get a mention is a tad frustrating.
“If you want boys to respect you, show them you’re serious. Shoot something, blow it up!”
Aside from the misnomer title the plot is pretty paint by numbers, but works for the story it’s telling: A group coming together in order to fight a common enemy and saving each other in the process. Nothing revolutionary and that’s fine. Unlike Suicide Squad the stakes for our characters feel more realistic than fighting a centuries old witch with mystical powers. I have to give the film credit for making re-calibrations to the setting and dropping the crap that did not previously work out. This includes only referencing The Joker and making sure we do not see Jared Leto’s divisive take of the character on- screen. It also allows Robbie to have more fun fleshing out Quinn and having more to do.
“You know what they say: behind every successful man is a badass broad.”
I already pointed out how Quinn takes up most of the screentime and it’s frustrating considering the talent in the cast. I personally loved the older jaded take on Montoya that Perez brought to the film. A. She’s a fantastic actress and B. Its new incarnation of a great character. Smollett-Bell, Winstead, and Brasco really got screwed over here. Sure they each get moments to shine, but this is Birds of Prey damn it! They’re the lifeblood of this team and yet since Quinn’s face sells more merchandise she’s all over the film. With the villains I appreciated the eccentric take on Black Mask, but Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina) just didn’t cut it for me (no pun intended). Zsasz is one of the most detestable bad guys in Gotham to the point where even Batman has said that out of the villains he’s fought Zsasz is one that he despises the most. That definitely doesn’t come through in this iteration.
While it probably sounds like I’m being super critical of the film that’s not fair. For what it is Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey is fun romp that has some fantastic fight sequences and is probably in a higher tier of the DCEU. Margot Robbie continues to have fun as Quinn and it shows. I would hope that if they come back to the Birds they focus more on them than Quinn. In the meantime we have to wait and see what will become of this cinematic universe.
Overall Score 3.5/5
The Shameless Plugs
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