Birds of Prey stars Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, and Rosie Perez and was directed by Cathy Yan. Following her break-up with the Joker, Harley Quinn faces citywide threats and teams up with a group of vigilantes to take on the evil crime lord, Black Mask. I really didn’t know what to think heading into this movie. Ahead of its announcement, I had never heard of the Birds of Prey before.
It turns out that I was aware of some of the characters (besides Harley), but there wasn’t all that much name recognition for me. And even though I thought Suicide Squad was okay ish, I really wasn’t much of a fan of this particular iteration of Harley Quinn. And when the trailer came out, I’ll admit that I was very intrigued, but I had a hard time getting a read on the tone of the film, so I wasn’t really all that hyped for it. And then came the very dichotomous responses to its release people either loved it or hated it and it got a fairly lackluster start at the box office. So everything about my pre-watch experience with this movie had been kind of conflicting, but I ended up enjoying it.
My biggest concern heading into the movie was that it was just gonna be the Harley Quinn show. Almost all of the marking was focused on her and I mean, just look at that mouthful of a subtitle for the film. Having a Harley Quinn movie wasn’t something that I opposed I just thought that a movie called Birds of Prey should focus on, you know, the Birds of Prey. And it does sorta.
It certainly directs much of its focus to Harley, but I was impressed by how much time was devoted to the other characters. I still think calling this Birds of Prey was a little disingenuous, but it does sorta work. Eventually. Now I already mentioned that I wasn’t a huge fan of the Suicide Squad incarnation of Harley, which could have made a Harley-centric film a bit tough to get through. Luckily, I think she’s much improved as a character here. A large part of that is likely the result of her independence in this film.
Without the Joker, we get to see her as her own character, rather than somebody just constantly and subserviently fawning over another character. Beyond the plot, I think the fact that this was directed by a woman also helped the character. Whereas in Suicide Squad, the camera always felt a little leering when it turned to her character, here she’s never shot in a way that feels like pure objectification. So, we’ve got a slightly improved Harley character and like I said, the movie definitely still focuses on her, but it’s not all about her. So, how does that work exactly? She serves as the narrator.
Sometimes in the literal sense, but more often as the character through which we view the events of the story. And not only is she the narrator, but she’s a bit of an unreliable one. Or at least a very scatterbrained one, which uniquely contributes to the structure of the film, especially during the first act. Basically, Harley’s all over the place in the way that she’s telling us the story and recounting past events.
The structure didn’t bother me, but it does jump around to different points in time and different character’s storylines quite a bit in the beginning as Harley has a series of ìOh, I should probably tell you about _____!î moments. After the first act though, that definitely settles down as the independent storylines begin to converge. Speaking of those storylines, that’s where the other Birds of Prey characters come into play. Each of them has a distinct and unique connection to the eventual converged plot, which is pretty interesting cause it gives them all their own (often conflicting) motivation for being involved in the situation they find themselves in.
We get a brief, but sufficient introduction to Renee Montoya, Black Canary, and Huntress and then spend the rest of the time watching their storylines converge and seeing the chaos and eventual teamwork that ensues. None of these other characters are particularly well-established and we’re basically given one defining character trait to jump off from for each, but it does end up working. I really liked all of the Birds of Prey characters (especially Huntress) and it got me interested in seeing more movies featuring them, which I guess was really the point.
Birds of Prey definitely has its own unique style. It plucks some things from a few other comic book movies like Suicide Squad, Deadpool, and even the 1989 Batman, but it’s very much its own stylistic beast. For one thing, it’s colorful. Costumes are bright and vibrant and then a whole myriad of explosive special effects fill the screen with color. New characters are introduced on screen with descriptive title cards, and everything just had this quirky weirdness to it, that manages to make a pet hyena and a tutu-wearing beaver seem, if not normal, at least perfectly plausible. And then we’ve got the highly stylized, but incredibly entertaining action sequences.
They make frequent use of extreme slow-motion and absurdly convenient placement of items and people, but it’s undeniably cool. And brutal. In addition to the swearing, this movie utilizes its R rating nicely with some stylized gruesomeness. So many broken legs. But these broken legs are set to an energized soundtrack that includes Joan Jett, Heart, and The Ohio Players? So, it’s all fun broken legs. So, is Birds of Prey the best DCEU movie? No. Is it a good one? Yeah.
I really don’t understand the intense divisiveness with this one cause other than a few unique stylistic choices and its primarily female cast, this was still pretty typical for a comic book movie. It has its predictable moments and its moments that require a suspension of disbelief, but it’s entertaining and it’s fun and you should give it a shot. Alright let’s talk about the pros and cons. Pro number one has got to be the fight sequences.
It’s not like stylized slow-motion fighting is anything new at this point, but it’s just done so entertainingly well here. All of the Birds of Prey get in on the action throughout the film, but a few highlights would be Harley’s evidence room Black Betty fight, the hand circle section of the funhouse fight, and the motorcycle chase. We’ve seen the basic ideas done before, but the blend of humor and brutal action is certainly satisfying. The second pro is the unique style of the film.
There have been repeated calls for something new in the comic book genre and this certainly qualifies. It combines its neon aesthetic with irreverent humor, a hyena, duct tape, and a toilet to craft something we’ve never before seen in a comic book movies. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly my style, but at least the film owns its style. Pro number three is Huntress. The other members of the Birds of Prey were good and all, but it’s absurd how great of a character Huntress was. She was so cool and badass. That, combined with the film’s brand of humor and Huntress’ entertaining social awkwardness made for an excellent character that, to quote Harley, ìis so cool.
We definitely get a decent amount of her here, but I would’ve liked even more especially considering she had, arguably, the most compelling storyline and reason to be involved in the situation that arises. On the con side, the first issue I had was how one note the villain is. Don’t get me wrong, I thought Ewan McGregor did a pretty good job. He absolutely eats up the role of Roman Sionis and plays it very over-the-top for most of the movie, which fits the bright comic book style and makes his darker, more sadistic moments stand out as extra menacing.
It works, but does get a little played out after a while, especially when he’s in Black Mask mode, which makes him devolve into an incredibly generic villain hell-bent on killing Harley and the gang. The second con is a minor one, but it would’ve been nice to have some more of the Birds of Prey, especially Huntress. Although we grow to know them better over the course of the film, each of them comes off as pretty one-note in the beginning too with just a single defining trait driving them through the story until they team-up and discover that there’s more to life than whatever they’ve been facing.
Before I give you my rating and recommendations, I want to remind you that if you’re interested in buying Birds of Prey or any of the other films I’ve mentioned today, I do have affiliate links to all of them in the description below. I get a small commission from anything you buy using one of my links, so I’d really appreciate if you’d use them if you’re in the market for any of these movies.
I’m gonna give Birds of Prey 3.5 out of 5 paws. Despite having an air of familiarity, this was a fun movie that felt fairly fresh and unique within the genre. It had some good characters, some great action sequences, and an interesting blend of humor. I would recommend Birds of Prey to anybody who likes comic book movies, especially if you’re a fan of the DCEU’s most recent round of output. I know this one’s underperforming at the box office right now, but I think the fault mostly lies with the marketing.
This really has everything you’d expect from a comic book movie, and then a few things you’ve never seen before. If you liked Birds of Prey, I would recommend Deadpool 2. The irreverent humor and rare (here, at least) fourth wall breaks make the comparisons pretty easy, but I’d put Deadpool 2 over the first as a recommendation cause of the team aspect and also the not-so-great role model mentoring the troubled youth storyline. I’d also recommend Shazam, the most recent DCEU release before Birds of Prey.
It’s got some similar humor and a few surprisingly dark moments, just in a much more family-friendly package. And if you liked the female empowerment, break-up redemption storyline, but want to venture outside of the realm of superheroes, I’d recommend you check out Legally Blonde. Rather than becoming an independent mercenary for hire, this comedy focuses on a woman who decides to attend law school, following a particularly rough breakup. This one also features some bend and snaps, but fortunately legs aren’t the focus here.