Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, by Cameron J. Czaja

When it comes to comic book films, I tend to favor and look forward to ones done by Marvel a lot more than DC Comics. That doesn’t mean, however, that I wasn’t looking forward to Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn as I was curious to see how they were going to do a movie with the character Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) as a lead. Right before I saw this I unintentionally noticed some reviews with critics saying that not only was it better than Suicide Squad, (to which Birds of Prey is a spin off of that film) but that it was a pretty good adaptation of the Birds of Prey comic series. Was a good as the critic said it was? As usual let’s find out.

In Birds of Prey we follow Harley Quinn, who just ended her relationship with the Joker. From there she starts making a life of her own, but once word gets out that her and the Joker aren’t a couple anymore things start to go south for her. Along the way she runs into different characters that have their own back stories. Those characters include Helena Bertinelli AKA The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winston), Dinah Drake AKA Black Canary (Jurnee Diana Smollett), Renee Maria Montoya (Rosie Perez), and Cassandra Caine (Ella Jay Basco). While all these women have their own agendas, the one thing they have in common is they all become a target for a Gotham mobster, Roman Sionis AKA Black Mask (Ewan McGregor), which means they now have to work together to save themselves and thus the Birds of Prey is (unintentionally) established.

So I’ve got good news and bad news about Birds of Pre: the good news is that it’s tremendously better than suicide squad; the bad news is that it’s not as great as it thinks it wants to be. Before I get to the bad let me explain why I somewhat agree with the critics.

Right off the bat I knew Birds of Prey was going to be an insane, yet vastly different interpretation from any other DC Comics films in recent years, which was something I was eagerly embracing. DC Comics films have a problem with having some of their films being a little too serious. However, this is anything but that and it’s all thanks to the film’s lead, Harley Quinn. If there’s any DC Comics character equivalent to the Marvel antihero, Deadpool is definitely the one, and the film uses Quinn to full advantage from the crazy narration to the cartoonish fight scenes that were both entertaining and hilarious. There were moments that it was going a little bit overboard and I started to root for Quinn less and less, but the film was able to turn it around during the third act. During the film she takes in Cassandra Cain as a quasi-apprentice and while she doesn’t set a great example for her, she unintentionally becomes a better character. There was even a moment in the film when Caine was at gunpoint and Quinn said “you make me want to be a better person,” and I’ve mentioned before that redemption is one of my favorite plot points when it comes to storytelling. I kind of wish there were more characters in the film that sought out that cause, but unfortunately we can’t have it all.

While I did enjoy Birds of Prey to a certain extent, I couldn’t help but start overthinking some of the story elements that did not make sense. For example, this movie takes place in Gotham City and yet Batman is nowhere to be found throughout the film. One could argue that he was busy with other cases, but there was a scene where Harley Quinn blows up a chemical factory, which was conveniently placed within the city, and yet the Caped Crusader was nowhere to be seen to investigate. I was going to also bring up the absence of the Joker, which his presence would’ve been logical in the context of the film, but after Suicide Squad I’m glad that he wasn’t in this. Another story element that didn’t make sense, to me at least, were certain action scenes. Towards the end of the film, the Birds of Prey are surrounded by Roman’s henchmen and for some reason they forgot they had guns and start fighting them via fisticuffs. I was able to let that slide for a little bit but the one thing that really bugged me was when someone started using a super power. While it did make sense for someone to have a superpower because this does the take place in a comic book universe, it felt like deus ex machina because I started asking myself “why didn’t she use her powers in the first place?” A bit frustrating if you ask me.

For what it’s worth, Birds of Prey is somewhat of a game changer as it’s a comic book film with female leads and is directed by a female director. But those two features alone do not merit it enough to be as great a film as this film could’ve been. I will say, however, that I will probably like this a lot more in about a week after I see Sonic the Hedgehog, which is something I’m not looking forward to. At least in the meantime I was able to enjoy this one.

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