Birds of Prey and the fantabulous emancipation of Harley Quinn is noisy, crazy, unashamedly violent. This upbeat film makes all of the above seem par for the course. Were you expecting anything else expected in a movie featuring….HER? Who?
Well…. Duh… Harley Quinn. Yea that colourful. crazy (oops) human being? The one who is madly in love with her “puddin” and Mistah J (The Joker). Well, first things first, they have broken up. They had to write him out somehow right?
In ‘Birds of Prey’ Harley Quinn is our unreliable narrator. She says that it is her story and she will narrate it the way she wants. With alarming regularity, she reaches a point in the story but needs to rewind to get us up to speed with who is who. The non-linear narrative.. why do we have a definition for everything to normalize what someone does?
Getting back to the film.
Quinn decides to announce this to the world and prove that she can survive out there sans his protection. For anyone who knows batman lore… they would understand how tough that is. The very next day she learns that through her announcement she indirectly declared open season on herself. How stupid? No that’s just who Harley Quinn is.
Now, she has to dodge both the law and the bad guys. In doing so she gets intertwined in a series of events revolving around a cop, a pickpocket, a singer, an assassin and someone who wants a diamond. This is Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) who captures Quinn. He strikes a deal with her only to put a bounty on the diamond which Quinn needs to secure to trade and ensure her safety.
Why? Well, how else would they include badass ( is ‘ass’ permitted in the written format? They muted it out in the cinema hall) fight scenes having a limited number of ‘heroes’ pummel a plethora of hired guns. Also, he did it because he wants her gone too. For Harley Quinn however, she just cares about her sandwich.
Margot Robbie reprises her role as Harley Quinn. She gets much more time to explore the craziness of her character than she did 4 years ago in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad. Robbie seizes the opportunity and gleefully gives the audience that dose of ‘Crazy’ that they have come to expect from Quinn.
Writer Christina Hodson gives Quinn lines which show us how she is a smart criminal in addition to being, for lack of a different word ‘crazy.’
This film acknowledges the events of Suicide Squad. First in an animated sequence where Mr J appears and in flashbacks where we can see his arms and her acid-soaked body. THE FILMS ARE CONNECTED! Finally….. the DC universe is getting it right.
They do have the perfect reset button every time they bungle up.. but how often can The Flash reset the timeline? As often as he wants.
The important question is how often will the fans buy into it? Later in the film, Quinn says there is no one like her.
How could there be? Would anyone cackle whilst sliding away from a hired gun? Or would anyone choose to fire confetti and paint bullets whilst storming a police station? Well someone..yes but he made her who she is. They even show her signature baseball bat and a t-shirt which has sentimental value.
The supporting cast sees Black Canary and Huntress introduced. Their characters are given a backstory to make the audience have some sort of understanding about their actions. One spouts the usual line of how the good guys must team up as the threats aren’t done… yes that’s about it.. the good guys somehow find themselves together and trust someone they just met. Enemy of my enemy is my friend..type of thought process. That’s how the comic characters’ team-ups happen.
Despite fans having seen Black Canary in the TV Arrowverse, the makers give her a film origin story in terms of how she uses her power and a backstory.
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Okay, where does this film fall short? Designer Eric Benach’s costumes are a tad underwhelming. Given that Huntress and Black Canary are in their first outings and well first outing costumes are quite. Uhm .. remember Spiderman’s costume when he wrestled in the cage against Bone Saw in the 2002 film? But Harley Quinn’s outfits despite being bizarre and so reflective of herself could have done with more colour. Are we to get that Quinn’s outfits were so colourful only because of her relationship with The Joker? Also, do villains get their name printed on t-shirts with the f-word? Black Mask’s costume is the crowning disappointment.
There is an issue of continuity in one fight scene which caught my eye. Despite the filmmaker hoping that said blooper would go unnoticed as the audience is mesmerized by the acrobatically choreographed fight, well it was spotted. The stunts.. yes I loved the stunts. A term that came to mind whilst watching Harley Quinn in action was, ‘master of innovative offence.’
This is a quick film (109 minutes) with a simple story. Well, Harley is the narrator so… her version of events may seem simple. They balance craziness, action, some elements of the villain to make us understand that he is the villain. He isn’t focused on much, but this film is about the Birds of Prey and Harley Quinn’s emancipation. Black Mask is just someone who needs to be the fall guy to establish this all-female group.
Like most films from the DCEU, this film is dark and it is pleasing to see that it retains this element whilst incorporating just that slight sprinkling of light moments. (Mercifully this slight sprinkling wasn’t overdone like Suicide Squad and Justice League) It’s good to see that director Cathy Yan let adults have some mature content and not make us feel like we are watching a colourful kids movie. She got the balance right and we got a Harley Quinn akin to the one from the cartoons.
Birds of Prey doesn’t shy away from violence. We can see it and hear it in its entirety. Considering that they muted out some words it was really funny that it wasn’t blurred on a character’s t-shirt. To adapt the line.. the censor board shaved off the audio from the audio track for nothing. The audience is smart though and can fill in the blanks.
Quinn is delightful, we get our origin stories done well and the final fight scene isn’t too protracted.
To conclude. Harley Quinn’s journey to emancipation is chaotic, crazy and fun to watch.