Birds of Prey (2020) Review
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is a 2020 DC universe film starring Harley Quinn (played once again by Margot Robbie) and directed by Cathy Yan. It follows up 2016’s Suicide Squad which was met by less than stellar reviews from both critics and fans. I want to get ahead of it all right now and make it clear I enjoyed Suicide Squad. Don’t misunderstand that as me saying it was a good movie, just that I felt seeing some of these characters brought to the big screen (like Harley and Deadshot) was a very fun experience for a lifelong DC fan. I went and saw the film last evening with my fiance, who is a HUGE Harley fan. So… with the background out of the way, let’s dive into the review!
To start, a quick spoiler free synopsis. Most of this you get from the trailer, but I think it is best to at least make sure we are all on the same page. The movie is truly about her “permanent” break up from the Joker, and the mess she falls into after leaving him. Her story crosses paths with Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), the Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), GCPD detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) and child pickpocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) as they are all being harassed by Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) and his lackey Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina). And to avoid spoilers, that is all I am going to say about the plot. Now let’s talk pros!!
Margot Robbie proves why she was cast as Harley and delivers an amazing performance. Anyone who knows about the history of Harley (and this movie does a GREAT job at highlighting her history) is aware of the trama that Harley endures throughout her life. It isn’t just the Joker who emotionally and physically abused her, it is everyone she has ever let herself trust. Seeing this play out on the big screen, in a movie that is more action/comedy than it is drama by a long shot, was great and kept the audience grounded when Harley started to go crazy.
I thought that every casting choice was wonderful. Each actor and actress brought something special to these iconic roles and made them their own. In particular, I loved seeing Zsasz on the big screen being a complete creep. As a giant Batman fan myself, seeing one of his more disturbing villains appear was very cool.
Personally, I was a huge fan of the language and violence in this film. I am sure there are some that will not like the F bombs, leg snaps and bullet ridden bodies but to me I think it fit the tone of the film perfectly! It never felt over the top or there for shock value. I really think its execution, at least on that regard, was up there with Deadpool.
Christina Hodson, the screenwriter for this film, is obviously a well read fan of DC comics. There are so many subtle references to larger stories in the DC, and more specifically Batman, universe that I personally found myself in awe. And the best part was that none of it seemed hamfisted! From Bruce the Hyena to Amusement Mile being the location of the big confrontation to Cassie Cain being a main player in the movie (for those who don’t know, in the comics she is the superhero Orphan and sometimes moonlights as Batgirl!) She also deserves all of the credit for making a film that highlights “girl power” and not shoving it down the audiences throats. Endgame had that exhausting scene where all the female heroes lined up to rush Thanos and even the most die hard feminist rolled their eyes. This movie highlights the power of women in all of the right ways, and doesn’t need to crap all over men to do so.
This may change upon a rewatch, but this movie at times was out there with its storytelling. It wasn’t that it was bad per say, but it hops around a bunch and there are a few times where I felt they did it a little less than stellarly. On this same note, I think that some movie goers will not like this kind of storytelling.
I guarantee that this will just be a personal issue, but I was sad that we never saw Bruce Wayne/Batman. I know that this movie has nothing to do with him, but I feel like not having the Dark Knight pop up (other than in passing references) is a slight. Even if it was just something as small as what Todd Philips did in Joker, with a young Bruce popping up a few times. It barely affected my final review score for the film, but man I want to see the Great Detective in a film with Robbie’s Quinn.
I really feel that DC has corrected course and the expanded universe is on the right path. I think that James Gunn will make the next Suicide Squad an awesome movie and wash the other’s taste out of people’s mouths. I think that Robert Pattison is going to crush it as Batman. And I want to see them replace Leto’s Joker and give Margot a better person to play off of, giving us an ultimate Bonnie and Clyde kind of movie. But as for Birds of Prey, DC should take a solid victory lap!
Final Score: A