The worlds of DC continues to expand. The DC Films (or DC Extended Universe) has had its ups and downs, but it continues to make a name for itself with recent releases such as Aquaman and Shazam. The latest film from the shared universe takes a step on the wild side by centering on the one and only Harley Quinn. Since her debut in Batman: The Animated Series, the supervillain has become a major player for DC by being part of numerous comics and making her cinematic debut in 2016’s Suicide Sqaud. Now the anti hero breaks away from the Joker and the Squad to star in her own movie: Birds of Prey (aka Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn or Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey). Directed by Cathy Yan, Birds of Prey is both a spin off to Suicide Squad as well as an introduction to DC’s team of superheroines. Despite the notoriety of its central character, this film looked to be a gamble in more ways than one. While it took me some time to see it, I ventured to experience the new superhero film and when it came right down to it: Birds of Prey was an enjoyable film.
The film centers on Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) who, after breaking up with the Joker, finds herself in a heap of trouble as both Gotham’s underworld and the authorities are after her. To save her skin, Harley takes a job for crime lord Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) which leads her to befriending the young Cassandra Cain(Ella Jay Basco) and making allies in both Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). The plot of Birds of Prey is a simple one with an outlandish sense of storytelling. Told from Harley’s perspective the plot was depicted a way that was reminiscent to a certain Merc with the Mouth and had a structure similar to a Quinten Tarrantino tale. This direction certainly left an impression but it also hindered the plot to some degree. While the storytelling was creative, its sporadic nature could be off putting and made certain elements (such as the Birds of Prey) feel like an afterthought in this zany tale. Yet despite this problem the story was still enjoyable and if the point was to establish both Harley and the Birds of Prey then it succeeded-well for the most part anyways.
Birds of Prey features a small cast, but it is an ensemble that relishes in quality. When it came to the film’s lead, Harley was as delightful as she was twisted and the bombastic performance from Margot Robbie proved yet again why she is a perfect fit to play the character. When it came to Harley’s cohorts in crime, the Birds of Prey were an enjoyable group to say the least. In the case of Black Canary and Huntress the two were good in their own right, but they did lack progression. This was certainly evident Huntress as her placement in the movie made it difficult for her to meld with the rest of the cast; though Mary Elizabeth Winstead made every moment count when she was on screen. However in the case of detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), her development was a little more defined which made her a solid addition to the cast. The same thing could be said about Cassandra Cain as she had a steady development as well as decent chemistry with Harley. However if there was one performance that stole the show for me, it would have to be Ewan McGregor as Black Mask. While Sionis may not have had the strongest development, his presence made all the difference as McGregor made every scene worthwhile and his chemistry with fellow psycho Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina) simply enriched the crime lord even more. If there was one element that made this cast stand out it was the importance of characterization as even most of the minor characters felt like a compelling addition to this extravagant ensemble.
When it came to the technical aspects, the film’s highlights (as expected) included the visuals and the action. The movie’s cinematography featured a gritty look that was fitting while its colorful effects amplified the movie’s surreal nature. The action was impressive to say the least with its stellar choreography and its inventive sequences which utilized the sets to near perfection. The music, on the other hand, was a bit lackluster. While the film’s soundtrack was handled well, the score by Daniel Pemberton was lacking with only one track standing out. These elements did much to enhance the movie’s tone which, although lighter than expected, was twisted enough to capture the grit behind Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey.
Birds of Prey is crazy in all the right ways. While its execution could be spontaneous, the movie makes up for it by having a sense of nuance in both its story and characters. Along with this was the movie’s keen presentation as its gritty tone was only complimented by its witty sense of humor. Birds of Prey may not have soared but, with its sense of style and enjoyment, this gritty superhero film is crazy enough to be a part of the DCEU and its respected genre.