Movie Review: Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
If you go into Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) thinking it’s fanfic brought to life along with subpar cosplay costumes, cheesy dialogue, and gross misinterpretation of some of DC”s most iconic characters, then yes, the movie was good. If you go into the movie, thinking it should ONLY be called “The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn” or simply “Harley Quinn” instead of “Birds of Prey,” then yes, this was a good movie. If you are able to divorce the fact that you have been a fan of this particular comic series since 1998…if you are able to ignore the fact that there is no freakin’ Barbara Gordon as Oracle (you may remember her as the original pre-“New 52” Batgirl)…then yes, it was a good movie.
But let’s not call it “Birds of Prey”.
Sure, sure. I am aware of how they restructured the fan-favorite comic. I recall vaguely Harley Quinn is a member of the “New 52” version of the Suicide Squad. To be honest, I’m not sure how she ended up associated with Birds of Prey. Maybe when Poison Ivy, her bestie, joined the team? IDK. Even more reason for this movie to have its own title to focus solely on Harley Quinn. Because let’s face it: it was all about her emancipation and a motley crew of DC’s anti-heroines who were just along for the ride. And with all the said, I really enjoyed this movie more than I thought I would!
I don’t know what it was, but Margot Robbie seemed cooler as Harley Quinn than she did in Suicide Squad (which incidentally does not come anywhere close to how entertaining Birds of Prey was). She literally had me laughing out loud within the first few minutes especially when she was like “I’m telling the story the way I effin’ want to!” The more obvious attempts at humor like the Cheez Whiz and her getting super drunk or buying a hyena named Bruce was cute, but that didn’t tickle my funny bone. The more subtle humorous scenes made me bray like a donkey. Liiiike Harley jumping onto the driver’s legs, breaking them, then sitting on his lap and correcting him, telling him she has a Ph.D. (okay so maybe that was not meant to be subtle) or when she held the water with the huge cucumber in the bottle. But honestly, it was the egg sandwich with the possibly expired cheese that did it for me. Real tears. Y’all, she had real tears. And can I just say I literally exclaimed “yasss” EVERY TIME Harley was tearing up those kneecaps with aluminum baseball pats and sledgehammers? She was poetry in motion; violent gory poetry. And the lighter…! We got a chance to see her vulnerable side that finally sold me on Margot Robbie’s take on this hilarious epic character. The “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” scene had me hype. So well done.
The rest of the cast was a mixed bag of nuts. And not the good kind.
I’ll start off with this: I am NOT a fan of when they change the ethnicity of a particular character. Especially ones you’ve grown up knowing and loving. With that said, I was not a fan of Jurnee Smollett-Bell being cast as Dinah Lance a.k.a. Black effin’ Canary. But what can you do, right? Also, I was not a fan of the changed origin. But I will give credit where it is due. Jurnee did a good job and the way she kicked some ass was reminiscent of the Black Canary I know and love. I mean, who else can fight like that while wearing stylish tight as hell pants? And she really can sing!
“They call me…Ramona Flowers”. Let me stop, haha. Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Huntress gave me mixed feelings. On one hand, Helena Bertinelli has been a fave of my since my teens so seeing her on the screen was nice. It would have been nicer if she actually, I dunno, resembled her comic book counterpart? How are you going to go around assassinating people while wearing a Missy Elliot garbage bag poncho and no mask? She was like a lazy cosplayer. I’m sure the comic book version would have used the crossbow on the movie version. I must admit, she does redeem herself. Just a little too late.
Rosie Perez’s Renee Montoya actually surprised me. She was gritty, oddly funny, and true to character. She put me in the mind of Renee’s journey of redemption in 2006’s much-lauded “52” series. I actually sighed with relief when the movie touched on one major part of her character growth. And yes, that tied to the “52” book. I won’t say what it was. I won’t spoil. I’m not a savage. And may I add that Rosie Perez still looks amazing? She was certainly “fighting the power” in this movie. But there was no dancing like in Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing”.
And then there’s Cassandra Cain played by Ella Jay Basco. Cute kid. She was your average Forever 21 shopper specializing in early 90’s fashion. Like I said: cute kid. Only the Cassandra Cain we know used to run around in a featureless snitched Batgirl mask and kick some serious ass. We got none of that in this movie! She was a liability throughout the entire movie. If she was not so integral to the plot (stay with me) I would have dragged her by her arm cast to No Man’s Land myself.
Now for the “Big Bad”: Roman Sionis/Black Mask portrayed by the truly versatile Ewan McGregor. He was actually a delight to watch on screen. He was funnier than Jared Leto’s Joker without even trying. I loved his sense of style and his BDSM-esque art involving the black mask was appropriate. Also, I’m positive Chris Messina’s Victor Zsasz was secretly in love with him. He kept saying “eww” and “kay” which was hilarious. But honestly, McGregor has always had the singular talent of becoming whomever he played in a movie. This experience was no different. Birds of Prey is the better for it.
The film didn’t deserve the measly $33 million it grossed opening weekend. As stated before, I so thoroughly enjoyed the insane hijinks of this wildly unpredictable, satisfying, but fanfic-y take on Birds of Prey. I was prepared to go into this movie hating it, but it had the opposite effect. The non-linear storytelling, overall fun and engaging characters, and the fantastic fight scenes (especially when Harley was fighting solo) was something right up my alley. The camaraderie and sense of sisterhood and women empowerment was unmistakable and I’m totally here for that! I would love to see a sequel or spin-off movies. It’s deserving of that. Also, is there a post-credits scene? Yes and no. Go check it out. And let me know what you thought, puddin’.