Video Game Review: Doom Eternal

I adore the 2016 reboot of Doom in all of its blood-soaked heavy metal glory. While Eternal falls short in some areas that its predecessor shined in, it is still a sequel that manages to go above and beyond on the core elements that made the previous entry so special.

Coming off the last title, the mission failed, and Hell rules most of Earth. The Doom Slayer must go through the hierarchy of Hell to stop the demonic army from destroying the last of humanity. It layers in thicker layers of lore and stronger storytelling, making for a much more engaging experience than last time.

The gameplay is so much more refined than Doom 2016. While the guns were great, some felt more tuning would have done them justice. Eternal evolves some familiar weaponry with introductions to brand new toys. Killing hellish monsters has never felt this good.

Glory kills on stunned enemies, and chainsawing through flesh highlights how much more gruesome things have gotten. The over-the-top violence never gets old, and I crave to get back in as soon as I can for more blood-soaked fun.

Mods return for each gun, two for almost everything except for the Super Shotgun and BFG. I felt I was switching between different firing modes more so this time around, mostly due to the new enemy types. It gave more meaning to what I had selected, making fighting that much more strategic and overall improved from four years ago.

Moving is fluid as ever, for the most part. Platforming is a nice touch when you aren’t massacring endless hordes of demons, sometimes getting woven into battles, but at times the Slayer did not grab onto things I was trying to climb. Swinging around, felt satisfying, but the climbable walls felt too stiff.

Puzzles act as a way to breathe in between fights. However, I found it to be lackluster and nothing too impressive. Mostly punch this thing in time to punch another to unlock a door. It was all elementary and not elaborate. Also, I found some to be not so clear on how to go about it despite the classic signals, but I can be dumb too.

Encounters and Slayer Gates are challenges that replace the rune trials from before. The upgrades rewarded make it worthwhile, especially since many of these can take some time as I did die on some a lot. Seriously, fuck Marauders.

Exploring gets deeper with more depth to the level design. It leans linear with nooks and crannies that have goodies to find. Upgrades, toys, vinyl records, and files to expand the lore make me want to go out a collect it all, which you bet I will after writing this review.

Also, if anyone works at id Software or Bethesda, please make these toys and albums, I will buy them all in a heartbeat.

Another cool collectible comes from the cheat codes. Bringing back the old days when games had god mode and infinite ammo. What makes it better, you can use them and not lose progress, making a 100 percent run-through less painful and more fun.

While trying to navigate these worlds, I still found the map to be awkward, like in the reboot. I got used to it, but I still think id Software could dial it in.

Everything can get upgraded from guns, your abilities, and the selection of three runes that have various attributes. It goes into an RPG realm, and while it is on the thinner side, it is a brilliant addition to powerup the most badass protagonist around.

Doom Eternal Screenshot 2020.03.20 -

Speaking of badass, I never felt more empowered in a video game in my life. Once I got the rhythm down of the combat and movement down, it made every kill that much more satisfying. That said, it is a must to go on a harder difficulty. I got put on my ass to keep my ego in check as it is insanely hard but fair at all times.

The bosses get depth with multiple phases and some more exciting move sets. I feel more games these days have lost the art of making an excellent baddie to face. Eternal matches up with FromSoftware when it comes to having an epic battle with a giant monster.

Bones are thrown to you with extra lives that can be found or knowing enemy weak points, a great new addition to get the leg up on these goddamn demons. Keeping up with that fairness, I just mentioned.

The demon variety is about doubled in size. Familiar faces, retro enemies return from the past, and new monsters all are coming after the Doom Slayer. To make it all better, enemy damage shows off armor and flesh getting blown off. It gives a signal to when you are about to kill off a pesty creature while looking so incredibly brutal.

A hub world has been placed with the most metal name imaginable, the Fortress of Doom. Unlock new upgrades, and cosmetic armors (which needed more than the three in there) will prepare you for the next mission, or get you diving into the battlefield in style. Plus, instead of looking at what I collected in a menu,  all of the collectibles with shelves full of toys or being able to play your vinyl collection as I got to relax in the Doom Slayer’s awesome man cave.

One thing found in the basement of the Slayer’s lair is a practice arena called the Demon Prison or its other more brutal name, Ripatorium. I had no use for it as no reward came out of going into fighting down there. I feel honing in on skill is best playing the game normally.

Master Levels is a bonus mode to play specifically selected missions with an added difficulty. Enemies who may not spawn until later in the game will show themselves to you with more abundant spawns. It is not my jam like the Ripatorium, but it does add some additional replayability.

The environments are better than ever. More variety from Hell on Earth, new planets, and ancient cities flesh out this universe. Each new place kept things fresh.

Everything in this game is so devilishly, disgustingly beautiful. Higher-end textures and details pop, especially in the advanced lighting effects.

The online is devastatingly disappointing. While the reboot had an in-depth customization option and various game modes, this has one mode plus a small number of skins to unlock rather than making a character look like an individual. Battlemode is two v.s. one, two demons and one Slayer, to battle it out in three rounds. It is a ton of fun, but that being the only option is a huge letdown as I really enjoyed Doom 2016’s competitive multiplayer.

It is annoying that in Battlemode, you do have to do a tutorial to play the demons without a way to skip it. I wanted to play with my buddies on night one and had to go through a rather unhelpful mission to learn how to play.

Singleplayer missions, weekly challenges, and multiplayer give out experience to unlock more cosmetic skins for guns and playable characters. I wish there was more, and I have a feeling additions will be made, but it was a weak lineup. What was available did look awesome, if that makes up for the lackluster amount.

The shining star outside of the combat is the music. Mick Gordon reprises his role as the game’s composer and elevates this heavy metal soundscape. Outside of battles, an electric atmosphere keeps the vibes going while when the demons come out, so does the brutal tunes. As a lifelong metalhead, Gordon gets the seal of approval.

The elephant in the room is the technical difficulties. On the lighter side, enemies would occasionally freeze in place until I attacked, and a brief lost save made me go back a few checkpoints. The killer was the crashes, which got to a point the game was unplayable for a few days before miraculously fixing itself, even then I had two or three shutdowns while playing.

If Doom Eternal gets an award this year, then it is for the most intoxicating experience of the year as the brutal soundscape mixed with its ridiculous gameplay. It breaks my heart that I have to rate it lower than I want to, but the technical difficulties and online bring it down a peg. That said, the campaign alone with its storytelling, level design, and overall experience beats out Doom 2016, making this sequel more superior in the end.

Score: 8/10




Video Game Review: Bloodroots

Bloodroots offers cartoony action that lives to its name with bloodsoaked violence that is satisfying through every level. As my first new game of 2020, this is a strong start to the year.

Left for dead by his fellow criminals, Mister Wolf seeks out revenge upon the ones who betrayed him. The story has its twists and turns that make for a surprisingly well-written ride that guides me through the game. I did have points of not caring as it fell short with its cryptic storytelling that should have gotten to the point faster, but its quirky characters made up for some of its faults.

The platforming action indie mixes a style of combat that works as a puzzle. Observe the environment, see what weapons that only have one to three hits before breaking are available, and the enemies standing in the way. It delivers a challenge that did not usually meet infuriating peaks as respawning went to hyperspeed to get me back in action.

Okay, I did get pretty angry at some points.

The controls feel tight with the fast movement when navigating the world and its fighting mechanics. I did have issues of picking up weapons when they lay on top of one another, leaving me to juggle through guns and swords to get what I wanted. Another problem I found was sometimes I felt jumping or attacking was unresponsive, but it did not ruin my experience.

The variety of murderous utensils sprinkled through each level was an astonishing amount. Many of which had their own abilities with little crossover, or at least have a special quality to set one item from another. It could range from a silly killing tool like a giant boot or a Final Fantasy styled sword.

A little cherry on top when defeating the final foe delivers a quick execution that is unique for every weapon.

The enemies match the weaponry variety. Each new threat gets introduced slowly yet consistently to keep the gameplay fresh.

A highlight comes from the identifiable bosses. Each having a personable approach to dueling it out. While the first two had a balance of fun and challenge, the final battle felt cheap with it relying on luck more than skill in some phases.

Another way things never got boring was the level design. Constant new platforming obstacles rose up along with some light destructible environments to add to the chaotic nature of Bloodroots.

Random bonus levels would come in between the main missions. These time trials were fun with no reward and got in the way of the progress of the story.

One reward comes from hats, which are modifiers when replaying levels. It can enhance your chances of survival like a new ability or flips the controls for a greater challenge. I had no motive to go in to redo any level as the points and leaderboard aspects that heavily embedded itself into the end of each objective felt hollow.

The camera adds an extra depth to Paper Cults’ Western adventure. Going from a top-down perspective to a side scroller kept surprising me with its clever uses to give a different feel to various parts of my time killing endless hordes of people. Only once and a while, it did interfere with my vision, making certain spots unnecessarily tricky.

The Saturday morning cartoon style of the graphics brings me back to my childhood. Its nostalgic visuals lend to a show that would be great for adults as Mr. Wolf goes on massacre after massacre with each episode.

The music might be my favorite quality outside of the graphics. A wild amount of influence slides into the Western theme like electronic and rock music. It fits the tone and the high tempo gameplay.

Bloodroots is an endlessly fun adventure with amusing characters and thrilling gameplay. Though the humor falls flat and the story dips here and there, it has more to offer than just its platforming and bloodthirsty action. The price sits right when looking at its relatively short length, depending on how long it takes you to get through it compared to me, a guy who sucks at video games.

Score: 8/10

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Movie Review: The Invisible Man

Remaking horror classics is a hit or a miss, and often the latter. The Invisible Man takes a twist similar to Hollow Man, except this is actually good. It has familiar strides as other films in the modern era of the genre but executes those aspects in ways that only a master can do, so bravo to director/writer Leigh Whannell along with his cast and crew.

After living with her abusive boyfriend Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) in his fancy fortress on the water that I desperately want for myself, Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) escapes. Two weeks later, the news arrives that he died by apparent suicide, but things seem funky. Once she finds out, the survivor must figure out how her evil ex became invisible. It sounds absurd on paper and tiptoes into that realm, but this thriller full of spine-chilling breaths and a look at the terrifying truth about abuse packs a punch.

The plot does have its hiccups of convolution, while still keeping its footing without falling on its ass. What holds everything together comes from the core cast. The relationship Cecilia has with her friend James (Aldis Hodge), his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid), and her sister Emily (Harriet Dryer) feels as real as her connection to that invisible monster. Everyone is on their A-game, and it goes above those stellar levels when they work together on screen.

I do think everyone did an outstanding job, but Moss demolishes every scene, outshining anyone who shares a second of screentime with her. Her portrayal of experiencing that level of psychological and physical trauma radiates to making me choke up throughout these two hours of horror. Her paranoia and pain became mine, which the pacing accompanied by the writing and directing of Whannell compliments kindly.

Putting the pieces of the puzzle together

Cohen had little to do as he, or the stuntman, were invisible and trying not to give away this twisted attack on Cecilia. The little time he did have, he laid out the personality that I have seen before of these assholes who think they are on top of the world and can outsmart everyone. Great job on nailing the douchey performance to counter the lead’s lure to take her side.

What often kills the boogeymen hiding under the bed, or a smug genius wanting to torment a poor woman, comes from the pacing. I see it too many times where the story gets overly convoluted, or the climax falls apart. Whannell holds it together despite some wobbly moments that quickly get made up. The tension is held with spikes of action for an experience that kept me on the edge of my seat, unaware of what’s to come.

Having an invisible antagonist opens up many possibilities to torture characters and the audience or will leave the filmmakers falling over themselves, trying to scare people. The subtle use of Adrian’s manipulation of the world around kept me scanning the background and second-guessing my own sanity. It builds up anxiety while creating extra empathy towards Cecilia that is not even needed, as I already wanted to reach through the screen to protect her within seconds.

The sound design and editing are masterfully done. The department delivers uniquely interesting sound cues to heighten my senses for a scene. On the flip side, the use of deafening the volume would quickly change the atmosphere for me while everything seemed dandy for Cecilia.

Stefan Duscio is a monster with the cinematography by playing constant tricks. Panning the camera, one way to make me think where the invisible mad man was in the room to mess with Cecilia. Sometimes that nothingness was true, creating me insane like the heroine herself.

The score composed by Benjamin Wallfisch matches the amount of anxiety I was feeling. Ominous booms and shrill strings elevate every ounce of emotion I felt, from the pain to the heart-pounding intensity.

Using optic technology was a great way to modernize the film. Though the technology was hard to buy, I decided to roll my eyes and go with it as the film did too with its lack of explanation. Just have fun and ignore dumb fake science.

Whannell’s remake of The Invisible Man follows a similar formula as many but excels in nearly every element. It has its jump scares, but those are thrown in strategically and sparingly. The psychological warfare with the adrenaline-pumping action to beef up the unnerving tension makes for tough competition for any other horror remakes to outmatch this beast.

Score: 9/10

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Album Review: Intronaut – Fluid Existential Inversions

I had no prior experience with Intronaut outside of hearing about them from a buddy. Mear seconds into the progressive band’s latest album. Fluid Existential Inversions, I was sold by their complicated song structures and various influences. I may need more listens to gather every morsel of inspiration this group gathered to create this vast soundscape.

Setting the tone in less than a minute comes Procurement of the Victuals. It delivers itself as an appetizer to foreshadow the coming tracks, at least for the instrumentation with its progressive guitar tones and mix of styles.

Cubensis offers frantic pacing with every element. Flows well with variety in tempo and tones. It keeps me on my toes for what’s to come. Melding melody with grittiness with the rock and metal influences come together delightfully.

The Cull has more control over its speed while keeping with the variations. Harsher screams that touch into more hardcore and metal vibes. Bolder performance while keeping subdued moments for room to breathe in-between parts to take the time needed.

Going into more hard-driving and relentless territory while not tapping into screams and their metal influences as much come from Contrapasso. Gets more modern hard rock with its rhymic direction.

Time to settle down a bit with Speaking of Orbs. Its chill and funky behavior meld together with a stonery atmosphere. Transitions into a heavier underworld with gritty cleans, mid-range screams, and thrashy instrumentation. That aggression plays well with the relaxed rest stops.

Not as heavy as Cubensis, but Tripolar offers mid-tempo aggression with relentless instrumentation that strays from overwhelming. Picks up speed with a longer breakdown that dies off into an eerie bridge. Flows between various stages that fit together.

Besides the intro, Check Your Misfortune is the shortest track on the album. Heavily violent instrumentation that blends well with the screams. The subdued vocals sit awkwardly against the background of fast drums and cut-throat riffs. Switches weirdly for a funkier turn that was not properly executed but makes up for it in a melodic instrumental section where clean vocals work. It eventually caps off on a beautiful atmospheric note that makes amends for some of its flaws.

Pangloss starts off with an intimidating introduction with grittier styled cleans that weave together with the hardcore screams. Powerful vocal work matches the nearly thrashy soundscape. Slowly builds into a chaotic breakdown before knowing when to sit back for a chill break and reverting back to a destructive conclusion.

The finale, Sour Everythings, holds a steady start that slithers between hard rocky and groovy. It goes in for attacks with its riffs, meaty bass, and neverending percussive power. Right when it goes for too long, it dives back on defensive positions before going back in for heavier sections. A layered, intricate finale that highlights their instrumental skill.

A sweet bonus that has become a bit of a loss art comes from the band’s album cover. An artsy, stonery look that fits well with their image.

Fluid Existential Inversions holds surprises but nothing too big to keep its smaller scope. Some transitions fall flat between segments in songs, making it feel out of place between serene soundscapes and headbanging hellscapes. Strongest with its instrumentation and song structure while the vocals tend to sound inconsistent. Long songs with intricate song structures make up for the lack of amount of tracks throughout the record, proving less is better than more.

Score: 8/10

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Image via Metal Blade Records

Album Review: Reflections – Willow

Deathcore is a hard genre that has a stigma attached due to so many generic bands that saturate the scene. Reflections’ latest release, Willow, exemplifies this issue as it does nothing special with its positive aspects or its sins. It will make for good background music if you want something heavy without any musical substance.

Synthetics opens up the record with a spotlight on Jake Wolf’s vocals while having a distorted background. The vocals set the tone for what’s to come, but I thought throughout Willow, Wolf’s voice from his death metal-inspired screams to more metalcore sound mixes well and gives much-needed variety. The instrumentation comes in spurts with equal amounts of distortion and a load of nastiness, giving me a false positive impression before I get smacked with underwhelming followups.

Coming straight into my face with its unapologetic violence comes From Nothing. The instrumentation is more pronounced, making an even landscape between the other members and their vocalist. A prominent bass compliments the distorted guitars in the neverending breakdowns and changing tempos. The vocals continue to shine with terrifying screams and haunting moments of talking.

Things seem to keep going relatively strong with the pounding percussive power of Psychosis. Relentlessly shifts gears with its messy structure that is heard throughout. It kept me on my toes without delivering on too much depth, a running theme that’s to come.

Ominous start with quiet bass and drumming before everything jumps in for the attack. The intro goes on for a while before vocals come in with brutally low screams that initially match the bass in tone. The cord gets cut off for an eerie break for room to breath before an even heavier second act. That eeriness lurks in the background then goes back into the shadows only to come back in other parts, keeping an unpredictability to the predictability of Isolation.

Going into a more hard-driving mindset, Marionette has a nice presentation that soon runs short. The relentless speed quickly gets boring and goes dry as this track loses anything else to say.

Dismal is the official point I realized this review will be rough as I had the rest of this record to digest. Despite changes in tempo and demonic vocals, it blends together with the methods executed in all of the previous songs so far.

The highlight of the record, and arguably the only good song comes from Samsara. Distant clean vocals with guitar work looming even further along with beats that pop in and out. The cleans and screams weave together as the drums keep up, leaving the guitars and bass behind. The contrast I needed to give me a breath of fresh air I needed to take in. The melody adds beauty to the hellish landscape, along with additional emotion that started to flatten out in the last few songs.

Empathy does not keep up with that level of experimentation. Like a drug addict out of rehab, it goes straight back into the dumpster to find a dirty needle. Has some melody thrown in the backseat, gets drowned out by the rest of the generic breakdowns. This is beyond boring right here.

Seven Stages keeps together a rhythm to the breakdown that makes for a satisfying flow. The lead guitar takes ahold of the song by not following the path that has been paved across the eight other tracks. Not enough to keep my attention throughout.

Illusionist at first leaves plenty of space with breakdowns for pockets of oxygen in the suffocating environment. Gets to a point where no breathing room is left between neverending riffs that go impossibly fast or the relentless drummer.

Some more areas of emptiness between the heaviness come in with Help. It ends up going in the same direction as other tracks without any distinctive characteristics. At this point, please send me some help.

Matching its name, Ghost has an atmospheric eeriness that has the right mood for a concluding track. Goes into some of the heaviest breakdowns accompanied by gruesome vocal work. It does not transition well, but it is a much-needed turn as the introduction went on for too long. The finale slowly dies off with a beating drum replicating a heart that I want to stop to end this record.

The only positive takeaway comes from the vocals matching the emotion to the songs. Even then, a negative immediately comes due to the lack of care I have for anything here, eliminating the soul that could flourish and does not in the end.

When done right, progressive metal can have so much depth to offer with its sound and variety. Reflections do not deliver the subgenre justice as the stigma against both deathcore, metalcore, and djent all come together in this mess. Willow does not commit any crimes too severe but enough to warrant an arrest.

Score: 4/10

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Image via Reflections

Album Review: Suicide Silence – Become the Hunter

I have an unpopular opinion, I don’t care for Suicide Silence. Before you take your pitchforks, let me say that I highly respect what they have accomplished, and it takes great strength to continue to pursue a career in the same group when your lead vocalist dies. Sadly, Become the Hunter does not go too well as it jogs itself through each track with not much personality.

Meltdown, an instrumental introduction, slowly dips its feet in the water with an eerie beginning before diving in. Classic low tuned riffs with heavy breakdowns make for a good time to headbang. Even with that, it feels rather generic and does not set any recognizable tone for what’s to happen other than the fact that I am about to go through a lot of the same sounding riffs and breakdowns. Thankfully that ominous mood stays in the background for some flavor.

The short verses and choruses make Two Steps feel weird with its pacing on the vocal delivery, which is excellent from Eddie Hermida, who completely abandons his clean style that awkwardly occurred on the last release.  The instrumentation follows the same bland path as Meltdown with the addition of a few highlights. The bridge adds a much needed dark atmosphere while the solo that comes afterward delivers a whiny screech that gives some 80s metal vibes.

The intricacy of Feel Alive does bring this record alive to some degree. The members start to play with more complexity rather than beating me to death with overly simplified breakdowns. It mixes catchiness and brutality that has a drive, unlike the previous track.

I feel lead guitarist Mark Heylmun taking this in a different direction with Love Me to Death before everyone else jumps in to take the wheel to go back where I was in the first place. When I get back to that point, I realize that the deathcore veterans will drag me through an array of generic songs that I have heard from them before.

Some hints of rhythm creep into In Hiding, but as the shortest song next to the introduction, things quickly revert back into hammer a nail on the head without a single thought. Sprinkling in some variety from the instrumentation adds a little more depth that does not entirely save things here. Another whiny solo comes in to give me the oxygen I need to survive.

Death’s Anxiety grabs my attention with its youthful energy. Quickly I lose interest as it blends together with the last few songs. Everything is coming together more and more I get deeper into the band’s sixth release.

The screams stay while the mood changes with Skin Tight. I was shocked hearing the subtly guitar and light drum work to make for an intimate face to face with the vocalist in this weirdly intense song. It goes back and forth between heaviness and somber brutality to create the most dynamic piece across all 11 songs.

Although the members have not saved themselves yet, things start to move in a better direction as they bounce off onto The Scythe. An intense build-up with an unbelievably relentless tight riff with some percussive power booming in and out. The vocals coming in with some hardcore vibes make this song a standout hit as it dives into carnage. This is the deathcore that they should have delivered back on track one, not eight.

The acoustic introduction of Serence Obscene caught me off guard before getting smacked with a violent breakdown. The transition does go smoothly or make much sense in its context, it does weave mayhem and rhythm together in a fairly intriguing way. No clean vocals feature unlike the last record, but a monotoned monologue changes up the scenery before a melodic shift heads to the conclusion of this surprisingly good entry on the final section of the band’s latest release.

Disaster Valley plows through the walls while its punching with percussive power and slashes with its unremarkable riffs. It goes with the trend that has been set with everything else here, breakdown first, think later. After underutilizing the bass, some drops come in that make me actually happy, something I did not expect. Then the best solo comes in with intense melodies and its ear-piercing sound that top it all off.

Oh no, the title track ends up being one of the worst, and it is the closer, big yikes. It throws away all the progress the last few songs made with me by throwing in all the same generic sounds I heard before. To make it worse, the guitar solo is short and has no outstanding qualities.

Not even guest vocalist, Darius Tehrani of Spite could help save the finale to this bland album.

Become the Hunter is unseasoned, flavorless extreme music that shows the band has gone backward since its controversial self titled record. I don’t miss Eddie’s terrible clean vocals that weirdly tried to sound like Chino Moreno from Deftones, but I do wish they tried to fix those issues into something special. Going back to their roots shows how much they gave in into hateful fans rather than sticking to their guns for music that has substance, even if it still sucks.

Score: 4/10

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Image via Nuclear Blast Records

Movie Review: Birds of Prey

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.

Harley Quinn

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.

Score: 8/10

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Images via Warner Bros. Pictures/DC