BIRDS OF PREY (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) | FILM REVIEW

RELEASED: February 7th 2020
DISTRIBUTED BY: Warner Bros.
DIRECTED BY: Cathy Yan
WRITTEN BY: Christina Hodson
PRODUCED BY: Margot Robbie, Bryan Unkeless & Sue Kroll
MUSIC BY:  Daniel Pemberton
STARRING: Margot Robbie, Jurnee Smollet-Bell, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez, Ella Jay Basco, Chris Messina, Ali Wong & Ewan McGregor

I’ve never been a big Harley Quinn fan. I thought she was fine. Amusing, if a bit overrated. I didn’t buy into the Harley Quinn-mania that came about post-Suicide Squad, and I was a bit disappointed when I realised the Birds of Prey movie would really be a Harley Quinn movie with the Birds of Prey seemingly operating in the background.

Unsurprisingly, due to the fact that Margot Robbie is both starring in and producing this movie, I wasn’t wrong about that. What is surprising is how much this movie got me invested in the character of Harley Quinn from the get-go.

Written by Christina Hodson, this film is imbued with real emotion and relatable stakes, despite being about a bunch of women who dabble in vigilantism and superheroics. It’s fairly down to Earth, and yet fits well into the wider DC Universe. Not all the characters are one hundred per cent comic book accurate (Cassandra Cain in particular, from what I understand), but they are excellent interpretations who are very easy to fall in love with as characters.

The script here is matched by some quality performances, and I found that generally, though the highlights were the characters we spent the most time with, I had something that I appreciated about all the cast, indicating to me that each performance was excellent; just that some had more focus than others.

As such, Margot Robbie and Ewan McGregor really shine as Harley Quinn and Black Mask. Both are hugely entertaining and their back-and-forth really highlights how well constructed Black Mask is as a bad guy, in that he makes Quinn, a criminal herself, seem like a lovely person in contrast. Both are also consistently amusing in the way they present their characters, and along with little gags from Black Canary, Huntress (who truly made me laugh-out-loud), Cassandra Cain and Renee Montoya, Birds of Prey is also a very funny movie.

But it’s more than just a solidly written film with good performances and a refreshingly female voice.

This is also an extremely well-choreographed film. The action scenes are consistently brilliant, with each character having their own unique way of fighting that plays to the film’s strengths and makes them even more interesting. In fact, it occurred to me that I haven’t really seen many (or any, I really don’t know) action films with this level of fight choreography where the protagonists are exclusively female. It’s always male led movies. And that’s before we even get to the brutality of some of the scenes, which really elevate this film even more. It feels refreshing as the film is free to do what it wants to do.

The film is also beautiful. It’s clear that everyone behind the camera on this production is just as skilled as those in front, as the Director of Photography and the Visual Effects department bring Birds of Prey to life with a beautiful vibrancy. It’s colourful and quirky in all the best ways. Furthermore, the way it’s all edited together makes for some very enjoyable watching. It’s rare that I’ll watch a film and think (Woah, this is well-edited) because honestly, who thinks about that when they’re at the cinema, but this behind-the-scenes work really stands out in this movie.

Everyone is firing on all cylinders.

For the most part anyway. Of course, this film isn’t perfect. I have some grievances, although they are incredibly slight. Firstly, a lot of the great qualities of the film seem to take a back seat towards the end of the film. There’s less colourful, inventive imagery going on, and when the heroes fight together, there’s less focus on their unique fighting styles and more just kicking. But seeing them all fight together is in itself it’s own reward.

There should also be more Birds of Prey in this film. Huntress especially really is a background character for the majority of the runtime, and I would have loved to have seen more of the actual Birds of Prey themselves, regardless of how fantastic Margot Robbie was as Harley Quinn. Especially since Smollet-Bell, Winstead, Perez and Basco all give excellent turns as their characters too.

But I’m sure we’ll see more of them in a sequel/spin-off because in the words of Cassandra Cain “[Birds of Prey] is fucking dope”.

All-in-all, I give Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn:

This is easily one of the best DCEU/Worlds of DC films, and maybe one of my favourite DC films of all. Will watch again to confirm.

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