Birds of Prey Is the Campy and Chaotic Riot That Makes Us Expect Great Things From the DC Extended Universe
Goodbye to the doom and gloom of the stereotypical DC films?
(SPOT.ph) Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is an accurate depiction of a devastating breakup. After the Joker dumps her, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is bawling on the couch while stuffing her face with junk food. When she’s able to drag herself out of the house, Harley gets into new hobbies like roller derby. But like the rest of us, she also backslides into self-destructive tendencies and gets wild at a bar. (Who hasn’t been in a similar situation post-breakup?) Then, she blows up ACE Chemicals sky-high in a grand display of fireworks attracting the unwanted attention of Gotham’s criminals including nightclub owner Roman Sionis/Black Mask (Ewan McGregor).
To save her skin, Harley must find a pickpocket named Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco). Through Harley’s journey of figuring out her identity outside the Joker, she meets friends/foes along the way: lounge singer Dinah Lance/Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), former mob heiress and vengeful assassin Helen Bertinelli/Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and Gotham cop Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez).
The quippy Harley serves as the unreliable narrator of the whole story talking a mile-a-minute exaggerating certain claims, providing unrelated side commentary, breaking the fourth wall, and going back-and-forth in time. Whimsical visual imagery of floating letters and doodles accompany her frantic voiceover narration, similar to Scott Pilgrim vs. the World or one of those selfie filters containing obnoxious stickers.
The Cathy Yan film celebrates multi-faceted women of different ages, cultural ethnicity, physicality, sexuality, and personality. These women possess quirks that make them more endearing and relatable to the audience. Renee for instance, speaks mainly in '80s cop clichés, Huntress is a socially awkward assassin who wants to be taken seriously, and Canary is the super chill friend who tells it like it is. On the villain front, Black Mask makes for a hilarious nemesis despite his unnerving serial killer vibe and violent outbursts. As a fellow narcissist, he and Harley fight over the spotlight. Despite posing as a serious threat, his vanity just turns him into a joke.
The action sequences are intense and visceral with seamless choreography. Each character has a unique style suiting their personality whether it’s boxing, kickboxing, or MMA. Birds of Prey plays out like a Saturday morning cartoon with over-the-top animated violence in the style of Looney Tunes and Tom & Jerry. (Yes, the kind that we were surprisingly allowed to watch as children.) Harley’s acrobatic combat style, combined with her improbable use of weaponry for prop comedy, best represents this cartoon carnage.
The glaring problem that prevents the film from taking flight (because birds, get it?) is the disjointed plot that hops between being a Birds of Prey feature to the Harley freakin’ Quinn show. The film took longer than expected to get the ensemble cast together. Tightening the pace and fast-tracking the eventual team up would have allotted more time to explore interesting group dynamics. Although Margot Robbie meant for Birds of Prey to be a vehicle that brought more DC women along for the ride, Harley Quinn remained the standout star of the show. If the ladies of Birds of Prey were to branch out into their own solo feature, will they be able to stand on their own and make an impact in the absence of Harley and her zany antics? We sure hope so because we need more female-led action features in the DC Extended Universe.
True to its name, Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn sets itself free from the stereotypical doom and gloom of gritty DC films. Birds of Prey flips the script and flips several birds (pun always intended) toward superhero conventions. It’s the neon-colored, glitter-filled fevered daydream to shake up the status quo.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Spots.
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is now showing in cinemas.