Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)
I never had chance to see 'Birds of Prey' on opening weekend due to my schedule but I certainly didn’t go out of my way to make it any sort of priority either. I always intended to catch it during its cinema run but was prepared to wait for streaming if I needed to. The box office numbers which followed weren’t anymore encouraging to make the effort either. But always one to go against the grain, I wanted to see for myself whether they were justified or not.
Second weekend in, I got around to seeing it. Straight off the bat my first thoughts were that the name of this film was completely wrong. It makes no logical sense why they chose to brand this as ‘Birds of Prey’ when Harley Quinn is the draw here and it clearly plays as a ‘Harley Quinn’ film from start to finish.
This follows on from Suicide Squad in as much that Harley has now broken up with Joker, which was swiftly and appropriately explained by way of a cute little animated opening. I thought this opening reference would be the only mention of why Jared Leto’s Joker was no longer around - overlooking his less than successful take on the role. However I lost count of how many times this was actually mentioned during the film and it became more than a little wearing, as well as serving as the weak thread from which to hang this films plot. ‘Birds of Prey’ did have a story, though it's questionable if it transitioned and evolved any further than the original restaurant napkin it was shat onto.
Ewan McGreggor played the villain ‘Black Mask’ and turned in a strong performance as he always does, despite the poorly written and under developed two dimensional character he’d been burdened with. He bought a charm and flair to the screen but was criminally wasted.
Margot Robbie has embodied the character of ‘Harley Quinn’ completely, making it her own and is nothing short of 'fantabulous' in the role. Always engaging to watch, with some amusing moments, endearing quirks and the camera absolutely loves her! Harley’s outfits are every bit as colourful as her personality and you never bore of seeing her. The ‘fun gun’ she used was also a cute and amusing addition which played well.
Other characters (who I’m going to have to Google as they were so forgettable) are simply there to make up the numbers - with the exception of Jurnee Smollett-Bell as ‘Dinah Lance’ who had some very strong moments. I like Rosie Perez as an actress but here she just seemed totally out of place and unable to keep up. Playing a second rate character who felt unnecessarily shoehorned into the script for no other reason than... I actually still cant even think of a reason why?!
Ella Jay Basco who played ‘Cassandra Cain’ I never warmed to. I found her completely unlikable throughout - Maybe it's the sign of a good actress that I was so polarised by how I felt toward her? But ultimately I just didn’t care what did or didn’t happen to her character, which I will conclude was due more to the poor script than her weatherproofed wooden performance.
To my surprise I still left this film smiling and having had a good time. It’s not a great film by any standard but it had moments which made it a passable enough way to kill a couple of hours. I’d probably only catch it again on streaming if my legs were broken and I was unable to reach the remote. For me the big problem was that the constant mention of Joker left me feeling I could have been watching a better version of this film. By the end I was left just wanting him to make a grand entrance. Jared’s Joker, love him or hate him certainly had an interesting on screen chemistry with Margot’s Harley and a full on destructive break up movie between her and her ‘Pudding’ would have made for a far more interesting plot than we got - Likely securing more bums on seats too!
I’ve heard this labelled as a ‘woke’ movie given it’s all female Cast, Director and Writer. But whilst I'm likely in the minority here, I honestly never felt that whilst watching it. Though I did zone in and out of consciousness a few times so may have missed some evident references to this. ‘Captain Marvel’, ‘Ghostbsuters 2016’ and ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’, for me were all far more toxic examples of that forced agenda - and suffered for it accordingly. ‘Birds of Prey’ I feel stands away from that bitter crowd as it never feels like it takes itself too seriously.
I genuinely think it’s great the cast and crew here were female and inclusive, but it sadly doesn’t lessen the fact that this film still feels like a missed opportunity to have created something truly special. The quirkiness, costumes, fun and likability were all present. But sadly an engaging and coherent script was not and I believe that along with its misguided branding this is where ‘Birds of Prey’ was ultimately shot down.
As we know Margot Robbie is to reprise Harley again in James Gunn’s upcoming ‘The Suicide Squad’ which I do have high expectations for. With that said, ‘Birds of Prey’ makes for a pleasant enough couple of hours with a character (who has quickly become a pop culture icon), though I'm waiting to see if she finally gets the right environment to flourish when that reimagining arrives.