‘Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn’ is directed by Cathy Yan and stars Margot Robbie returning as Harley Quinn from the 2016 film ‘Suicide Squad’. Harley and The Joker have officially split up, and Harley is looking for her own independence. But with the Joker no longer protecting her, a myriad of assassins and mobsters are looking to kill or own her, including the gangster Roman Sionis (played by Ewan McGregor). Harley will have to use her brains and work with an unknown group of ladies all seeking to find their own independence to be truly free to live her own life.
This is a relatively steep departure from the comics and if purists are looking for the most comic-accurate form of these characters, they’ll be disappointed. Margot Robbie is clearly the spearhead of this film, also producing and reportedly having creative control over hiring director Cathy Yen. The film rests on the new take she has on the iconic character, as well as how she treats the ‘Birds of Prey’ which if you didn’t know who they were, are a crime-FIGHTING group, really having nothing to do with Harley Quinn in the comics. I wasn’t really going into this film looking for much, anything but what we got from Suicide Squad. The film achieves a higher mark than that hot mess of a music video montage disguised as a movie (that’s right, Imma take any chance to burn the Suicide Squad movie) but maybe won’t satisfy a lot of the die-hard fanbase of Harley Quinn or the Birds of Prey.
EDIT: Holy shit, they took my advice!
‘Birds Of Prey’ doesn’t mind burning its predecessor either, it’s overarching theme is based solely on shedding the dead weight of what didn’t work in the previous film, and emphasizing what did work. You won’t see any new Jared Leto Joker footage, they even go out of their way in the beginning montage to animate a completely generic version of Joker, no ‘damaged’ tattoo in sight. Harley begins her journey by obliterating Ace chemicals, where her fealty and transformation for the Joker happened. I really liked Margot Robbie’s performance as Harley Quinn. She owns this role and I would say is as integral to the character now that Hugh Jackman or Robert Downy Jr. are to their roles. I truly cannot see another person playing this Harley in live-action.
All of the acting in the film is strong. Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary is a lot more utilized in this than Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Huntress, however, they both light up the frame when they are involved. Winstead is really good in her role and even has some of the funnier bits in the film. I like the symbolism behind Smollett-Bell’s character and the role she plays in the film is really strong. Rosie Perez plays a detective also after Quinn and the film points out that she’s playing a generic cop, but she is still playing it super well. Ewan McGregor makes bold choices for Roman Sionis, also to Batman fans as ‘Black Mask’. There will be a lot of fans that consider Black Mask an A-list villain from the comics when in my opinion he’s more on the B-list but with McGregors performance, I honestly thought it was an improvement to the original character. You can tell McGregor is loving and chewing up every scene he’s in, and between him and Margot Robbie, they both were scene stealers.
The film is narrated by Quinn, in a way that can be compared to ‘Deadpool’, however, I tend to go for more of a ‘Ferris Bueller’ tone of fourth-wall breaking. The tone is very light-hearted about incredibly violent and insane moments and is able to put their R-rating to use. It’s not over the top gore and violence, but enough to justify itself and I enjoyed is mainly in the action. The action in this is really strong. ‘John Wick’ director Chad Stahelski reportedly came on board to assist with the action scenes and the big fights with Harley Quinn are the best points in the movie. I love the choreography and how Harley moves and uses bats and her own weirdness in the fighting. Where the film starts to lose me is in its editing and 3rd act.
The film is all over the place in its structure. I get that it’s trying to embody the zaniness and sporadic parts of Harley, going as far as to admit that Harley is telling the story her own way. But you’d have to be doused in cocaine and Adderall just to follow along with all of the back and forth the film does with its timeline. I like the idea but in practice, it’s tough to follow. Also Cassandra Cain in this film.. is not ‘Cassandra Cain’. I would say this character representing her comic counterpart is the same as if I brought in a small cherub child from the deep tribes of Africa and try to convince you he’s Tony Stark in the next Avengers.
Yes, there is a clear lack of respect for many of the character’s origins, and fans will likely be saddened by their treatment in the film and it’s tough to disagree with them. When the 3rd act finally arrives, the “team-up” moment feels very forced and not well brought together, but once they are together and fighting is back to a lot of fun to watch. These criticisms aside, I think there’s a lot of good in this film that can help you overlook its flaws, but at the end of the day, this should’ve been called ‘Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey’ and not the other way around.
I’m giving ‘Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn’ a 7/10
So everyone what did you think of the film? Leave a comment below and make sure to tag any spoilers! Thanks again for checking this out, and I’ll see you, at the next review!