The character of Harley Quinn made her first appearance in Batman: The Animated Series, originally as Joker’s henchwoman. Originally Harleen Quinzel, she was a psychiatrist for Arkham Asylum where she came across the Joker. She eventually fell in love with the Clown Prince himself and helped bail him out, becoming his girlfriend/henchwoman. Harley has become so popular that she was brought into the comics universe where she’s a major character. She made her cinematic debut in 2016’s Suicide Squad, where she was considered to be one of the few good elements of that film thanks to Margot Robbie’s performance. At some point, Margot Robbie convinced Warner Bros. to do a film centered on Harley Quinn, plus other female characters, and thus, we got today’s subject. This is Birds Of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn).
Harley Quinn has broken up with the Joker and is set to be her own woman. But she must team up with Huntress, Black Canary, and Renee Montoya to protect an orphan named Cassandra Cain from Gotham City crime lord Black Mask. In terms of story, this is where Birds Of Prey is the weakest. It’s a generic team up of unlikely characters involving a MacGuffin and they’re clearly taking cues from Deadpool in the way the story is told, with Harley Quinn doing a lot of narrating. I will say that I did like the animated sequence in the beginning of the film going over Harley’s origin story. I thought that was brilliant.
The star of this film is Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. She’s easily the best part of the film and you can tell Margot Robbie was having a blast with this role. This movie portrays Harley Quinn much better than Suicide Squad did. I enjoyed the rest of the characters, though I feel like they deserve more depth. I was skeptical of Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary because she didn’t look like what I pictured the character would look like, but she was great. Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Huntress didn’t have much screen-time as she’s depicted as a socially-inept assassin. Even though Renee Montoya is a typical determined cop who’s willing to break the rules to get to the bottom of the case, it’s nice to see Rosie Perez again. I’m not a fan of the changes they made to Cassandra Cain. Don’t get me wrong, the actress who plays her was good, but this is not Cassandra Cain from the comics, a badass mute ninja who was Batgirl for a period of time. Here, she’s a foul-mouthed, orphaned pickpocket who stole a diamond from the film’s villain. Speaking of villains, …
… Ewan McGregor as Black Mask is an entertaining over-the-top villain who’s chewing the scenery in many of the scenes he’s in. He’s able to be both funny and intimidating. There was one scene he was in that was completely unnecessary and it involved him forcing a woman to strip and dance. We get it, he’s an evil asshole. You don’t need to drill that in further. It’s implied that he and Victor Zsasz are lovers, though they don’t really state it. A shame that they were ultimately killed off in the end.
Despite the title, this is not a Birds Of Prey movie. This is a Harley Quinn movie featuring the Birds Of Prey (sans Batgirl). Most of the movie is focused on Harley and we barely see the Birds Of Prey become a thing until the final third of the movie. And even by the end, Harley doesn’t even become a member of the team, she runs off with Cassandra. Another criticism that I have for this movie is that it hasn’t earned its R rating. It only achieved that through numerous F-bombs and a few graphic scenes of gore and bones being broken. If it was gonna have the R rating, it should have gone further. While the humor is co-opting the Deadpool movies, it’s still pretty funny. Not every joke lands, but a good chunk of them do. The action scenes are all well-done. You can see what’s going on and there’s no shaky cam or quick edits. Finally, there’s the soundtrack. You know how in Suicide Squad, they just threw in a bunch of popular songs in the mix, but none of them fits the scenes they’re used in? Well Birds Of Prey avoids that pitfall as they actually used songs that fits the girl-power tone fo the film.
I give Birds Of Prey a 7/10. This is a fun movie with style, good performances, lots of laughs, engaging action, and a cool soundtrack, even if it sacrificed its story and some deeper characterization. In terms of the DCEU, it’s not as good as Shazam or Wonder Woman, but it’s definitely better than Justice League, Man Of Steel, BvS, and Suicide Squad. It’s on-par with Aquaman as good-but-not great. There was a bunch of missed opportunities that would make this film better, but they still managed to make something that was overall enjoyable. I think it’s worth checking out.