DC trying to catch up to Marvel’s universe, has been sad on a blockbuster scale. Some changes have steered things in a better direction, like Birds of Prey. Margot Robbie’s second outing as Harley Quinn has some rough edges that don’t slow its flashy personality around as it tops the rest in this poorly executed world of cape-wearing crime fighters and makeup obsessed criminals.
Harley Quinn has broken up with her scene, kid boyfriend Joker (Jared Leto, who is not seen at all, we will get to that later), so she must cope with heartbreak and do some searching to figure herself out. This leads to alcohol and violence and pissing off Obi-Wan – I mean Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) – who wants her, and others dead for a precious diamond. Eventually, it all boils down to him vs. Harley and other ladies who have either wronged or been wronged by Obi-Sionis in a fun breakup comic book adventure.
The ride of Harley’s post-breakup world has a few potholes that make for a bumpy journey. Most of it gets explained or commented on through her monologue, which helps people who haven’t seen Suicide Squad and adds to her bubbly yet deadly personality. It makes things choppy and tends to over-explain rather than letting the narrative breathe with its own pacing.
Robbie, like many talented folks, has been royally fucked by DC with movies like Suicide Squad. Her second chance shines as she inhabits the iconic clown villain, who tries to somewhat redeems herself morally with some failure and success. My experience with Arleen Sorkin as Joker’s twisted toy did give me conflicting feelings with Robbie as the character since I did not go on a suicide mission to watch her 2016 debut. She may not rise above performances by Sorkin across games and shows but a worthy casting choice to represent the character on the big screen.
Speaking of one of the worst received DCEU entries, Jared Leto is nowhere to be seen. Get a dude dressed as a Blood on the Dance Floor fan, then turn his back to the camera then boom, you have a replacement to fill in the introduction. I have no issues with the man, but that savage move of cutting him out is hilarious.
The birds – Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), Dinah Lance / Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), and Helena Bertinelli / The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) – get proper development to feel like fleshed-out characters despite this running shorter than the average superhero and villain flick. They get the love they rightfully deserve by being likable characters who kick so much ass with my personal favorite being The Huntress, I did not know this is the badass woman I needed in my life.
McGregor was handed a generic, greedy baddie, with that said, I enjoyed every second of his screentime. His performance takes control of each scene in a terrifyingly charismatic way, elevating an average antagonist to a level of quality that Roman does not deserve, good job Jedi Master McGregor.
The police officer who ties much of the girls together, Renee, is meant to be a cheesy one line deliverer with a thick New York accent, but it took me time to get adjusted to her. Her personality got laid on too thick at times, but by the end, I loved her like the rest of the cast.
The action floods itself through the streets of Gotham without taking time away from the story and the people that drive this vehicle. Stylish choreography with creative props to bolster the combat. I wish for more blood and gore, but the brutal sound effects, along with other methods, satisfy my thirst to see graphic violence.
The visuals start off so strong with neon colors in the environment and costumes along with comic booky choices to brighten up the scenery. Despite this beautiful beginning, the climax is at night with no lights for a classic DC environment full of bad guys wearing dark clothing. Dear future filmmakers who may read this, never do this as American films (DC especially) love setting up action sequences like this. Stick to your guns on artistic decisions.
Director Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs) and writer Christina Hodson (Bumblebee) crafted a film that does not radically change the genre but put in their own twist on familiar ingredients with kick-ass women. I do have questions on some odd decisions that took me out of the moment, but those were only a few brief issues I found. I do hope for more from Yan, and I am excited to see what Hodson cooks up for the Batgirl and The Flash movies.
While DC still cannot unlearn some qualities, Harley Quinn and her crew land in the top tier range of the universe. I do wish more time with the group united rather than a scattered narrative that links itself together by the end, despite being incredibly well executed. I may hate birds, but Birds of Prey knocks it out of the park with nonstop fun, and with a sequel, it can improve itself to sit next to some of the best comic book movies of all time.
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Images via Warner Bros. Pictures/DC