Written by: Joe Lollo
The month of February is best known for movies that probably are a hit or miss depending on how good they delivered during the end of the winter season.
This year started out with some rather unsuccessful hits last month, yet Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of Harley Quinn) shines above the rest of them.
It might prove to be Harley Quinn’s redemption from her recent portrayal in the disaster that was Suicide Squad. The film, directed by Cathy Yen, centers around Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), who after splitting up with the Joker, must bring a priceless diamond to Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) from a thieving little girl, Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco). Her attempt to bring the diamond back involves a lethal assassin, a singer/driver, and a detective as they clash in their attempts to collect the fortune.
Though everyone in this film had stellar character performances, Margot Robbie really goes above and beyond in her performance as Harley. Harley Quinn’s character is a crazed antagonist-turned-funny but deadly protagonist, and never misses a beat as she pulls off a combination of comedy, action, and storytelling throughout the film. Ewan McGregor, in his role of the villain Black Mask, is perfectly cast as one of the most twisted yet mesmerizing DC creeps since Joker, and his fellow DCEU newbies Mary Elizabeth Winstead (as Harley’s crossbow-bearing friend Huntress) and Jurnee Smollett-Bell (as super-screamer Black Canary) complement Robbie well to round out a good cast.
Even though that Harley Quinn’s character was limited in Suicide Squad, this film took almost four years to perfect the character of Harley Quinn, from the way her dialogue turns from first to a third-person perspective to her interactions with every other character on screen.
In fact, I think Birds of Prey is the exact kind of film that womxn need right now. Yen’s dedication to her craft is basically a way of making female-led superhero movies not be the stereotyped sexy ones. She manages to make her characters look powerful or good-looking without oversexualizing their wardrobe, and she manages to make female characters complicated and empathetic, and lets them have standout qualities besides just looking good. She does all of this without sacrificing any of the fun, action, or story that the movie would possess, and ties in some important messages about being yourself throughout it, in the vein of the DC Extended Universe’s previous film Shazam.
The most satisfying part of Birds of Prey, however, is its action choreography. Harley Quinn’s graceful movements and solid weapon usage were on par with other action films from this past decade, if not better. Each action scene was uniquely paced, and each led to mixed feelings of both amusement and excitement. Each scene that featured a face-to-face confrontation revealed a perfectly-timed and well-executed action scene, still filled with great dialogue and great cinematography.
Overall, Cathy Yen did a very good job at directing a DC film, especially since DC Comics haven’t really had the best adaptation track records. Combining multiple genres, something slightly characteristic of Yen, pulled off surprisingly well, and gave us a great balance of comedy, action, and drama. The actors delivered superior performances, and, all in all, this film that blows David Ayer’s Suicide Squad out of the picture.
If Birds of Prey, coupled with DC’s last two films are any indicator, I’m excited to see what they put out next.