In Birds of Prey, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) moves on from the Joker and embarks on a crazy adventure in the city of Gotham with Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), and Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco).
The Beardict: 8.25 out of 10. Birds of Prey is loads and loads of fun so you should definitely see it. It’s a flashy, action-packed superhero film with a heart, where storytelling is not sacrificed for the sake of laughs and violence. Margot Robbie proves once again that she is perfect for the role of Harley Quinn. She’s so effective as the Clown Princess of Crime that I’d watch a movie with her just narrating and doing monologues. The all-female team was fleshed out quite well and did not come together just because they had to. Plus, it has a hyena named Bruce. What more can you ask for?
#1 Margot Freakin’ Robbie. Robbie first gained international stardom when she appeared alongside Leonardo Di Caprio in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). Since then, she’s been in a flurry of movies where she always shines. However, much like Hugh Jackman can be the only Wolverine, Robbie is so great at playing Dr. Harleen Quinzel that it’s hard to imagine anybody else in the role. She totally gets Harley’s voice, mannerisms, and emotions. Right now, I feel like going on a Margot Robbie marathon just because I can’t get enough of her.
#2 The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. Since I know some things about the Birds of Prey in the comic books, I was slightly concerned that the initial trailer for this movie seemed to focus too much on Harley and not on the core members of the group (Huntress, Black Canary). When I saw the Emancipation subtitle, things became clearer. I was quite happy that they did not dwell on the events after the Joker broke Harley out of prison at the end of Suicide Squad (2016). Let’s face it—Joker is a full-fledged psycho, and their time together is the epitome of a toxic relationship. Here, Harley gets some alone time, and she gets to reflect on the questionable decisions she’s made in the past because of love. She experiences a lot of character growth and is not on the screen just to be sexy and weird, which was unfortunately kind of the case in her appearance in Suicide Squad.
#3 Organic All-Female Team. One of the best things in Birds of Prey is how these awesome ladies (with different circumstances and motivations) came together naturally for a cause. This is a total opposite of what happened in Avengers: Endgame, where all the heroines like Captain Marvel, the Scarlet Witch, and Wasp just converged in one area of the battlefield randomly. Furthermore, Birds of Prey is a movie about girl power and female empowerment, and it does this without painting all men as evil. Some men are just extremely evil, like the Joker and Black Mask/Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor).
#4 Suicide Squad Recognition and a Grounded Gotham. Although Birds of Prey is leagues away from Suicide Squad in terms of quality, I am quite pleased that they did not pretend like it didn’t happen (even though it was lambasted by fans and critics alike). After all, that’s where Harley Quinn first appeared in the DCEU. In her GQ interview, Director Cathy Yan talks about the things she decided to retain from Suicide Squad, and how they helped her build the Birds of Prey world. In fact, there are references to the 2016 film: Harley talks about “saving the world” (although she doesn’t mention that it’s from a creepy, belly-dancing Cara Delevingne) and even finds a WANTED poster at the police station of Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney).
That being said, Yan’s Birds of Prey is definitely more grounded and leaves out (most of) the supernatural stuff, as she pits our heroines against mob bosses and goons who need to get their asses kicked. Her depiction of Gotham is also more lively, and is very far from how Todd Phillip’s portrayed it in Joker (2019) – a city in decay.
#5 Engaging Script. Harley Quinn narrating was a good move, as it helped the audience understand what was going on. It felt like your favorite friend was letting you in on the shenanigans she did the night before. Writer Christina Hodson gave each member of the Birds of Prey distinct personalities, which can be explored even more if ever we’re going to get a sequel (Trivia: Hodson is also in-charge of the screenplay for The Flash and Batgirl, which is probably why Barbara Gordon, a central Birds of Prey figure in the comic books, was not featured in this movie). Humor was relatable and did not seem forced, which was the vibe I got during some of the scenes from The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) and Thor: Ragnarok (2017).
#6 Non-Stop Action. Birds of Prey’s runtime is 109 minutes, and there’s never a dull moment. People get punched, shot at, and hit with a baseball bat (or hammer – I can still recall Harley’s faced filled with glee as she used it on her enemies) repeatedly. The fight scenes and choreography are top-notch. Because they went with the R-16 route, there is no shortage of blood at all—a bona fide festival of violence that can rival Deadpool’s.
#7 DCEU – Back in Business. It feels like the dark days of the DC Cinematic Universe are finally behind them (I’m talking to you, Martha!). Aquaman got a billion dollars in the box office and Shazam! pulled off a family-oriented superhero movie. Wonder Woman 1984, slated to be in theaters this June, seems to be very promising. Birds of Prey has a chaotic brilliance to it that was not seen in both Suicide Squad and Justice League (2017), and it opens up the stage for a plethora of Gotham characters. I’m particularly interested in the future dynamic between Robert Pattinson’s Batman and Robbie’s Harley Quinn. In the comic books, Harley eventually realizes that Batman is a waaay better person than the Joker, and has teamed up with him several times already. Indeed, the future is bright and the possibilities are endless.
I know forecasted U.S. weekend box office numbers are not that promising right now, but do give Birds of Prey a shot. Harley Quinn and the gals can surprise you in a very good way!
Photos courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures. Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), now showing in cinemas!