Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn 2020
It’s the start of a new year and I was able to see the first theatrical superhero release of the new decade. It’s also the first film in what may or may not come to be known the year of the woman. At least in theatrical superhero movies. After this Harley Quinn movie, there’s Wonder Woman, Black Widow, and an Angelina Jolie-led Eternals movie on the horizon before the year’s out. Harley Quinn has been one of my favorite DC characters for a long time ever since her debut in Batman: The Animated Series. Quick personal note, I’m planning on getting a Harley tattoo this year. Margot Robbie was one of the best things to come out of the Suicide Squad movie and it’s great to see her get a turn to herself, in a slightly Deadpool-esque way. It’s unfortunate that it didn’t get the box office bump that was expected, but there’s still a chance that it will have staying power. Personally, I loved the film. I loved the characters, the humor, and especially the fight scenes. And as this is a recent release, I will be discussing the film in full so here’s your spoiler warning.
One of the most impressive things about this film are the multiple fight scenes. It’s something that’s been very hit or miss with a lot of the big budget superhero films lately. There’s often plenty of special effects and/or quick cuts that hide a lot of the real action. This goes in the other direction and has very clear focus on the action in a very acrobatic and visually fantabulous way. There are touches of the Zack Snyder style of action scenes where it will transition into slow motion for a moment before going back to regular speed, but it’s really the stunts and athleticism of the characters on full display. There are a couple big scenes worth mentioning here. The first is Harley’s infiltration of the police station armed with a non-lethal 40mm riot gun and a bandolier filled with glitter, gas, and bean bag shells. The other is the big climactic fight at the fun house with the entire cast. They are both filled with color and some amazing stunt work. The fun house especially has some incredibly inventive ways they use the different props and scenery.
This film wouldn’t be a Harley Quinn film without a little craziness, and it does take a slight page from Deadpool while still being very much its own thing. Harley is the one narrating the story, but she doesn’t always tell it in a very linear manner. It goes back and forth in several different places, but it never feels like the stereotypical in medias res where you hear the record scratch and the narrator say “I bet you’re wondering how I found myself in this situation”. Instead, it feels much more typical of Harley Quinn where she gets to a point where she realizes that there’s something that she needs to explain that happened earlier. Then it flashes back to a part of a scene that we had seen before, but we get to see it in a slightly different light. It’s not overly reliant on this either, and pretty much gets it out of the way in the second half once things really start rushing toward the finish. But it’s fun and it’s light.
The characters are also what really help make this movie something special. Margot Robbie once again really nails Harley Quinn as a character. She’s flippant, crazy, but there’s also plenty of moments where she’s able to remind you that she’s often the smartest person in the room with a PhD in psychology. Mary Elizabeth Winstead returns to the comic book film to play the Crossbow Killer, err Huntress once she finally is able to tell someone her name who stays alive. It’s a smaller role, but she really nails a character that’s lived for revenge but doesn’t entirely have much in the way of social skills. Black Canary is an interesting take on the character as the only real metahuman in the entire movie though she only gets to use her powers once during the entire movie. Renee Montoya is great too as the detective that’s too good at her job, but there’s always someone there to take credit for her work. And Ewan McGregor really steals the show as Roman Sionas aka Black Mask. He really chews the scenery as an egotistical showman with a penchant for sadism and face peeling. That is the violent, bloody kind of face peeling in one of the most cringe-inducing moments of the film, not the spa treatment kind.
Birds of Prey is really an all around great film, there is humor throughout. The characters are all fantastic and entertaining, the action scenes are amazing. The only downside, and it’s very slight is that the girl power message can feel a little heavy handed at times, mainly as it applies to Renee Montoya and the police. It could have used a little bit of the Gotham City corruption to soften the blow a little rather than have it feel like typical misogyny where her accomplishments get short changed just because she’s a woman. The empowering message of Harley leaving the Joker works quite a bit better, especially because that has much more of a backstory. Both in the comics history as well as in the Suicide Squad movie before it. I had a blast with this film and I really do hope that it has legs as I want to see this version of Harley Quinn return in another movie within the DC Universe. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.