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Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey Review

Birds of Prey review – the most fun a competently made Suicide Squad movie can be.

First of all, it’s “Birds of Prey” + “and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn”

Updated on 12-02-2020 : Warner Brothers took my advice to heart. Movie title is now different so the first paragraph now makes no sense. See SEO Journal’s Update on the same. Skip the first section.

Birds of Prey is long enough. “Fantabulous” does not even look like a word, my text editor is throwing up squiggly lines. I do not like that unnecessary addition. It screams of desperation, aping on similarly titled movies like “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” or “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb“, even though this is nothing like those movies. I don’t think people are even aware of this useless addition. Every time I talk to friends about this movie, we simply refer to it as Birds of Prey.

Just like people call them “Birdman” and “Dr. Strangelove“.

No one calls it the Harley Quinn movie either. It’s not that I don’t get this movie. After sitting through the whole thing, this felt like it has was having another go at the Suicide Squad story line. This time, it’s an all women-show.

That always works out well.

Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey – Is it another Ghostbusters?

Surprisingly, Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey is not that terrible. The movie affected me in more ways than one. I’m still not sure whether I like it or not. As I kept watching and observing, I realized the obvious woman’s touch. But the mostly-women cast go out of their way to not make it seem like a man-hating caricature. You know those types, where secondary male characters are always an obstacle to the darling woman protagonist? This is not one of those.

Granted, there are some sequences aimed at pandering to this movie’s female demographic that portray men as predators. Yes, you will find instances strong women kicking ass when danger threatens the sisterhood. But the premise doesn’t get weighed down by this men-vs-women drama. Some female leads in this motion picture are the bad guys, and they get portrayed as such. After all, Suicide Squad went out of its way to always remind you how bad everyone is.

God, that was horrible.

But Birds of Prey? Just a competently made continuation.

Let’s talk about the actual movie

The direct sequel to the Oscar-winner-for-Best-Makeup picks up after the understandably divisive Jared Leto’s Joker is kicked off the DCEU. Birds of Prey’s entire premise is based on the foundation that once the criminal couple Joker and Harley break up, Harley loses Joker’s protection from all the bad things Gotham can throw at her.

Why?

This makes me hate the bad ol’ Suicide Squad even more, whose editing room drama DID NOT EXPLAIN THIS AT ALL. Don’t they know audiences need to spoon-fed every little detail?

I get it. This is a desperate move to bring this train on the tracks. So fine, Clown Prince left the EU, which means Harley must spend this movie doing what ex-girlfriends do – blowing up factories and telling herself and others that he meant nothing to her.

Chick-flick.

They brought back the stylized introductions. Great.

Honestly, the best part about them is that this time, they’re unobtrusive. You actually snicker at some of the creative writing that goes on in those horrendous, CGI-laden text and graphics. But just like last time, these are unnecessary.

I’m getting distracted.

Margot Robbie, how is she?

I don’t get her devotion to this character. Will Smith moved on from Deadshot. It’s not like playing Harley Quinn is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s not like she has a Deadpool-like fan following (I’m not talking about her reverence in comic circles, I’m not entering those threads). The woman who played Tonya Harding to perfection doesn’t need to keep coming back to this. Her portrayal as Harley Quinn, to me, never sat right. I’m not a fan of the character. At this point, this rendition of Harley Quinn, to me, is equivalent to an overstayed-his-welcome Jack Sparrow. The sad thing is, Margot only played Quinn twice. Johnny got five shots for some reason.

If she finds playing this character endearing, good for her. Harley Quinn does allow Robbie to experiment and have an iconic role on her resume. At some parts in the movie, you observe genuine emotion rather than a quips-on-the-fly, perfect-in-every-way trait. That’s rewarding, and everything’s all right in the world.

Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey – The plot?

Writer Christina Hodson and director Cathy Yan put a non-linear spin on what should have been a straightforward story line. It yields mixed results –

  • The accompanying Harley Quinn voice-over, exposition, character-introduction cards – they get annoying.
  • It allows them to get creative with the narration. Pieces fall in place when needed, instead of right away. Nothing gets exposed before its time.

If this movie’s sole aim was to be a better version of the Suicide Squad, it succeeds. The ensemble, the rest of the Birds bring unique powers and characterizations to the table. The problem is, the whole ensemble, when together, reeks of smugness and arrogance, the likes of which we’ve seen from the Now You See Me movies.

They might be having fun, kicking ass and taking names, but they lack sincerity. Whether they’re being quip or dropping truth bombs, you realize it’s just a bunch of cool people who have their shit together doing cool shit.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Huntress is the exemption.

But her role is minimal.

As it should be.

How’s Black Mask?

Why does he have a mask? That’s never explained.

Is it explained in the comic books? Don’t care.

Seems like I’m watching too much of Ewan McGregor these days, which must mean good things for the upcoming Kenobi series.

But how is he here?

Deliciously villainous.

The characterization feels tailor-made for someone who just wants to have fun being the bad guy. And Ewan does bring a lot of flamboyancy to the bad guy table. I was admiring his performance, right up until a harrowing scene towards the end where he harasses a woman just because he dislikes her laugh. And that pulled me out.

The fact that the sequence seemed so-out-of-character surprised me. Why did it need to be there? That was so unnecessary. This is one of those sequences that remind you that this is a movie made by a woman and this is how women see male predators.

I’m bummed out because of this scene’s needlessness, but understand why its needed.

To sum up…

Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey is the superior Suicide Squad.

Until James Gunn trumps this one with his Suicide Squad.

And the cycle continues…

My Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey rating

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

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