Title: Harley Quinn & The Birds of Prey aka Birds of Prey and The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
Starring: Margot Robbie, Mary-Elizabeth Winstead, Jussie Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Ella Jay Basco, Ewan McGregor
Run Time:1h 49m
Birds of Prey & The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn came out last February to mixed reviews. Personally, I liked the film until it hit the third act. Let me explain why.
The film is about Harley Quinn finally becoming her own woman like in her comic book series from DC’s New 52 and Rebirth. After years of abuse, she finally leaves the Joker’s abusive grasp.
Comic book geeks will be familiar with the Stockholm Syndrome that Harley Quinn suffers with The Joker. We’ve seen it since her creation in Batman The Animated Series in 1992.
In Birds of Prey, Harley is kicked out by The Joker. This forces Harley to stand up and become her own woman. By becoming her own woman, she realized that she doesn’t need Joker’s help to achieving success as a villain. She can do all of it by herself.
One of the loudest messages in this film is to kick patriarchal assholes down a notch. And boy we got that in huge servings. I loved how much more confident Harley is in this film. She no longer plays second fiddle to anyone.
An Entertaining Plot
I actually like the plot of Birds of Prey. Little Girl steals diamond and mercenaries are going to compete to get the diamond from the girl. That’s pretty much the summary of it all. Simple, right?
We get additional flavor to this egg sandwich with the help of Harley’s character development from Psychiatrist with Stockholm Syndrome to Independent Woman who doesn’t give a damn what people think of her actions.
Renee Montoya goes from uncredited Detective to becoming a badass vigilante helping others in the shadows. Huntress is pretty much her comic book origin. Little orphaned gangster heiress is trained by assassins and seeks revenge for her family’s killers and a dose of anger issues.
The story was good. The application was slightly disappointing.
Mixed Bag of Villains
Ewan McGregor was EXCELLENT as Roman Sionis aka Black Mask. I can’t really say anything negative on his portrayal of the character. My only wish was that we got to see more of the character. Instead, he gets blown into pieces at the climax of the movie.
Black Mask was a stand out character because he was such an unlikeable asshole and a master manipulator. The guy could have easily faced off with Batman at some point. Sadly, we will never get that since Affleck is no longer Batman. He was so damn good.
The one character that was unredeemable for me was Victor Szasz. Every time he kills a victim, he creates a scar on his body. I loved the GOTHAM TV Show version of the character. He was deadly and calculated with his kills. The movie version, on the other hand, is disappointing. He didn’t feel like a legitimate threat at any point in the film. The character was basically a right-hand man to Black Mask.
As for the “heroes” of this story, most of them had better character development with the exception of a few others.
Concentrating on One Character
My main concern with this film was the fact that this was more of a Harley Quinn film instead of being about the Birds of Prey.
The title actually became an issue during the film’s theatrical run. Let’s go into some technical jargon for a little bit. In the world of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) you want to use terms that are widely-used to reach as many users as possible.
In this case, the film called “Birds of Prey” won’t reach as many users as a term like “Harley Quinn” would. This title issue brings up a conundrum. Why would DC Comics use a term that brings up more about actual birds than the superhero?
The Verge reported on the issue last February and discussed how the change of the film’s title was a late effort to recoup the losses of the film’s supposed $250 Million budget just to break even.
Unusual Character Development
Critically, the film was alright. As a fan, I have to say that the movie was a mixed bag. The character of Black Canary wasn’t utilized to the fullest. We don’t even get to see her use her Canary powers more than once!
The only Birds of Prey who got any character development were Huntress and Renee Montoya.
As I mentioned earlier in the article, Helena Bertinelli goes from orphaned gangster heiress to badass lady with anger issue. If Batman would kill, you get Huntress.
Renee Montoya is a detective who was overlooked by many in the GCPD. She has worked hard, but she never got the recognition she deserved. I was disappointed to not see her interact with the like of Jim Gordon. If we compare Renee’s original cartoon version to her film version, we both get the overlooked cop. However, there are higher ups who acknowledge her in the cartoon.
Montoya decides to move out on her own in the film which is a nice twist. I only wish the film showed that there are still people who will support the underdog, despite being overlooked by a majority. It doesn’t have to antagonize the GCPD as a whole. The film felt like it was making fun of the Gotham Police Department even though they always try their best….well, some of them.
Black Canary was kind of just there. She never got to showcase her powers, but the powers are what make her so badass. I was disappointed to only see her use the power once. Dinah Lance only got to use her martial arts skills which were barely explained in the film. She just started kicking ass. We never got an explanation of how her superhero mom taught her those skills. The previous Black Canary is just gone. That’s it.
What I love about DC is the fact that they acknowledge the past. This film simply brushed her off as a hero that the GCPD failed to save. That’s it. Come on. Don’t diss the Black Canary legacy that way. Besides Cassandra Cain, Dinah Lance was the other disappointing part of the film.
Cassandra Cain wasn’t Cassandra Cain at all. Yes. Movies tend to deviate away from characters and their comic origins all the time I get that. However, Ella Jay Basco wasn’t Cassandra Cain in any manner. She could have easily been a completely original character for the movie and I would have been fine with that.
Visual Treat, Lean Meat
When it comes to the visuals of the film, it’s wonderful. The film is so much brighter than your usual DC Snyderverse-type film. I’m glad that DC chose to take this route of giving directors more control over their movies.
However, the same thing can’t be said for the plot. The pacing of Birds of Prey was all over the place. Harley does one thing and then we get a long, long, looooong explanation of everything that’s going on. We really should have just gotten to the explanation first. That way, we can concentrate on the rest of the story which Harley taking in “Cassandra Cain” so she can get the Bertinelli Diamond. We were jumping from one part to another. I felt like was watching a movie which had a hard time on concentrating to tell their story.
The pacing really took me away from the important points of the story. However, you get the hang of it within the first two acts. The third act was disappointing though. There’s not much to say. Birds of Prey team with Harley to defeat Black Mask’s goons and then, Cassandra blows up Black Mask. That’s it. I really feel like they wasted the potential of Ewan McGregor’s character by that point. He was just such a menacing, psychotic character.
That Darn Egg Sandwich
Look the movie was alright. I honestly think Birds of Prey could have been a better film. Is it worth buying on home video? Not really. I wouldn’t mind the film if it was on tv though. Harley Quinn & The Birds of Prey is still an entertaining movie as whole. The execution of the plot and the lack of character of development for some of our heroes and villains would be my main complaints.
One thing I couldn’t complain about was that gosh-darn egg sandwich near the start of the film.
From the moment I saw the creation of the sandwich, I was hooked. It’s an excellent-looking sandwich I can’t wait to recreate. Actor Bruno Oliver, who plays Sal in the film, recreated the sandwich for readers of Variety. Now if only I could learn how to face my fear of turning on the stove.
An Egg Sandwich worth Eating Ocassionally
Harley Quinn and The Birds of Prey was still an enjoyable movie, despite its flaws. Some characters could have used more personality development. Other characters should have been different characters completely.
The execution of the story could have been done better. Storytelling was all over the place. Give us the origin recap then proceed with the story instead of flip-flopping all over the place. Had the character origins been told in a sequential manner, I would have given Birds of Prey a 4 out of 5 Stars.
However, I really didn’t like how the storytelling went all over the place so I’m giving Harley Quinn and The Birds of Prey a 3 out of 5.
Steven Tan is a Data Encoder by Day & Podcaster/Blogger by Night for The Geeky Juans. He focuses on Comic Books & Puroresu stories. You can find him ranting about Terrace House or the latest comic book updates on his Twitter Account @steviesaidyup.