“Birds of Prey is shot extremely well, keeps the pace fast, and goes in a different direction than any DC film before it.”
DC Comics and Warner Bros. have been putting their ears to the ground and listening to the calls for a less brooding and more energetic, fun-paced superhero universe for quite some time now. We saw a good bit of that change in the wonderful Shazam! film and now DC Comics has turned that volume up to eleven with the ultra-violent, over-the-top anti-hero team-up Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). Even the title suggests that they’re trying too hard, which is the ultimate flaw with this otherwise fun if not exhausting movie.
The characters in Birds of Prey are some of the lesser-known characters in the DC Universe, besides Harley Quinn (Joker’s main squeeze). If you follow the comics or even animated DC shows, you would know about Black Canary and Huntress to name a couple, and this film gives them their limited time to shine, because this film is all about Harley (played to perfection by Margot Robbie), and leaves most of the other characters on the back-burner in hopes that a franchise will be born to explore more territory.
Written by Christina Hodson (Bumblebee) and directed by an almost first-time filmmaker Cathy Yan, Birds of Prey is a wild ride from start to finish with barely anytime to get a breath in. With the team-up of Hodson and Yan, along with Robbie, you can tell that this DC franchise is in very capable hands and that they’re striving for something completely different than what has been seen on the big screen since Man of Steel. The issue is that everything feels extremely forced and heavy-handed with humor and violence. Nothing felt organic with the movie. Instead, each element was just elevated to its highest peak that every sequence and character seemed to be injected with a large dose of steroids with no real message or plot, other than to give a glimpse into the brilliant yet chaotic psyche of Harley Quinn.
The film has a fun and unique way of telling its story with Harley narrating throughout, stopping the picture frame and giving you a flashback, and even breaking the fourth wall with looking and speaking into the camera. This was a welcome addition to the DC world and it worked well. The scene is set just as Harley announces in a spectacular way that she and the Joker have called it quits, which has put most of Gotham out to kill her. One of the many people she has wronged is Roman Sionis or The Black Mask (Ewan McGregor in a fabulous flamboyant villain role), who puts out the John Wick-style bounty on her head to every assassin for hire.
From here, Harley crosses paths with various women, all with a distinct ability, including a young girl who has a penchant for stealing named Cassandra Cain, and a police detective straight out of an 80’s cop show (Rosie Perez). Along with Black Canary and The Huntress, these deadly women kill the bad guys, which all culminates to them teaming up against The Black Mask over some large rare diamond.
If there is a message or a point to convey at any time during the film, it’s so subtle and small that it might as well not be there. Still, if what you’re coming to Birds of Prey for is constant F-Bombs, brutal violence, and seeing Margot Robbie live her best life as Harley Quinn, then satisfaction will be at an all-time high. Birds of Prey is shot extremely well, keeps the pace fast, and goes in a different direction than any DC film before it. Sadly, it all felt unnatural and artificial.
Written by: Bryan Kluger