Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey or (Birds of Prey (And The Fabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)) kicked off the superhero films of 2020 with a bang this past weekend. While some were disappointed with it’s box office, 33.3 million domestically, and 81.2 million worldwide (the film has made it’s budget back in a weekend, I don’t consider that disappointing), the film has been loved by many. Birds of Prey takes first place in the first all female superhero team up film, Marvel and DC included. Directed by Cathy Yan, the film stars Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Helen Bertinelli (Huntress), Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Dinah Lance (Black Canary), Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya, Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra Cain, Chris Messina as Victor Zsasz, and one Ewan McGregor as Roman Sionis (Black Mask).
Birds of Prey is a sequel to Suicide Squad, and a spinoff meant to allow for more films to come off of it. It focuses in on Harley Quinn after her break up with Joker, how she becomes her own woman, and joins with a new group of friends to save a young girl from the new top man in Gotham. Harley starts the beginning of the story with not believing in herself, that she will always be in service of someone. She ends believing fully in herself, even stepping up to mentor a compatriot in the end. That journey is not without some challenges, and those challenges were greatly appreciated.
Far too often it seems when a superhero finds a trial, they overcome it, with only some superhero involved problems. Birds of Prey does well incorporating both superhero problems, as well as regular human problems. Harley faces her breakup with alcohol and junk food like most of us. Renee faces her absolute wreck of a job with alcoholism. Helen faces her family massacre with revenge. Dinah faces her superhero legacy, with burying herself in her work.
It’s refreshing to see such realism. Most people don’t just roll out of bed in the morning and decide to go kick ass in the world after an intense break up. It takes time to recover, sometimes awhile, and that is absolutely ok. What’s important, is you come out of it, and that’s what each woman in Birds of Prey manages to do. There’s no world ending problems in Birds of Prey and it is glorious. That’s another thing with superhero films that can often drive one to madness, is the fact that 75% of the time there are world ending stakes in a film. Sometimes you just want to watch a movie for the fun of it and not have anything important involved. Birds of Prey is this film, with some sprinkling of realistic lessons in finding yourself.
Robbie stands out as Harley Quinn. I’ll echo what many others have said, in the fact that Robbie has grown to be synonymous with a comic book character, like Hugh Jackman and Wolverine are. This will be forever her live action character and it would be tough to replace her. Robbie pitched Birds of Prey before Suicide Squad ever was released, and she clearly has a great vision for Harley Quinn. I can’t wait to see her again in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. Smollett-Bell is the second stand out character of the group. She really stressed the anxiety her character feels in her conflict between her heritage, and who she works for. Winstead is phenomenal, but we didn’t see enough of her character for me to really get a great gauge on how she would work for the future of the DC Extended Universe.
McGregor is absolutely frightening as Black Mask and I. love. it. Him and Messina as a team are scary, and I loved their companionship. I could have honestly used more of him in the film, and that’s something I’ve consistently seen other people say as well. But having another alpha male be a part of Harley’s journey and have her tear him down and get rid of him with people she never thought she’d be working with absolutely made me so happy. It was the perfect way to convince Harley she was more than competent to go out on her own. She had thought that but you see her get frazzled, and doubt herself. In the end, there is absolutely no doubt.
Yan did an absolutely phenomenal job directing this film, and Hodson did a great job writing the film. To highlight key aspects of prominent questions in women in fighting movies, they did a great job. One I will forever appreciate is the hair tie scene. I, like many others can barely make it through a day in an office job without my hair tied back, so it has always astounded me that women would fight with their hair down, getting in their face. Other aspects that were great was the cinematography, fight choreography, all great. The action sequences are the best seen in the DC Extended Universe. Storywise, writing, I felt that it perfectly fit with Harley being the narrator. In what animated series I had seen Harley Quinn in, she absolutely spoke like that, telling stories in a similar way.
Overall, I highly recommend this film. It is the perfect Galentine’s movie, but also perfect for if you just want a fun superhero movie to watch without any stakes. Robbie, Smollett-Bell and McGregor are all highlights of the cast. But without a doubt, I loved seeing the main characters try combatting their issues with realistic vices. Strength does not come without cost, and the journey to empowerment is often filled with side journeys that were unexpected. Birds of Prey is just one of those side journeys that is truly enjoyable to the highest extent.