Since her introduction in Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn has quickly grown in popularity with modern audiences. Possibly the clearest evidence is this movie, Birds of Prey, and how her character perfectly leads all aspects of the film in ways DC Films have struggled. What do I mean by this?
Well, Margot Robbie’s performance as Harley Quinn is akin to what Ryan Reynolds has accomplished with his Deadpool portrayal. It’s perfect casting and characterization. This proved a huge positive for the success of 2016’s Suicide Squad and yet again comes to shine in Birds of Prey. Don’t be surprised if DC Films fast-tracks a sequel before we ever receive a tease of Man of Steel 2.
Initially, I didn’t have high expectations for this adaptation of Birds of Prey. In the comics, a key member has always been Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl and her absence was awkward from the beginning of production. With the current DCEU featuring a rather absent Batman, it would make sense for someone to pick up the mantle like Batgirl. However, that’s not a negative towards the film just a personal opinion.
With the film’s characters, there are obvious similarities to the comics but for the most part Black Canary, Renee Montoya, Huntress, and Cassandra Cain are new takes. Regarding Cassandra Cain, I wish they would have delivered a more comics-accurate depiction. With the theme of emancipation, her pre-New 52 origins would have been a perfect fit and could have led to the DCEU’s take on Batgirl without a need for Barbara Gordon.
With Ewan McGregor’s performance of Black Mask, I found myself a bit confused at times. The character, very misogynistic and fully an asshole, sometimes was over-acted by McGregor with a habit of not being too serious in any given moment. However, that made the character come across less like Black Mask (based on prior exposure to the character) and more like a half-baked stand-in for The Joker.
I couldn’t help but wonder if a previous script or screenplay featured Jared Leto’s Joker as the villain before Warner Bros. decided they wanted Joaquin Phoenix to become their new Joker. Other leads outside of Harley Quinn could have benefitted from more attention which unfortunately is a natural tendency for ensemble cast superhero movies. Overall, each character had “their moment” which was well done by director Cathy Yan.
Yan did a fantastic job with the action sequences, rumored to have had assistance from the director of the John Wick movies. The chase and fight sequences were more violent than expected, justifying the R rating beside the excessive cursing. The presentation of Gotham City and the usage of strong colors worked well stylistically as well. The movie felt like it had a singular direction, a trend that hopefully continues for DC Films. I can’t stress enough how good this movie gets after the first act. The beginning is a bit slow and clunky before it accelerates into an engaging adventure similar in style to Deadpool.
Overall, Birds of Prey had a tough challenge with audiences. It had to make the best of Suicide Squad’s leftovers and defy the taboo of female-led superhero films held by some fans. It succeeds in both with flying colors thanks to great performances, beautiful visuals, and solid direction.
What did you think? Leave your thoughts on Birds of Prey below!