Birds of Prey Review

photo courtesy of IMDb

Katie Golden, Co-Editor-In-Chief

Birds of Prey is the best movie DC has released since Wonder Woman

The movie follows Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) after her breakup with the Joker. Harley has done a lot of bad things to a lot of people in Gotham and, without protection from the Joker, they’ve decided to take their revenge. A young girl named Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) steals a diamond and puts Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) on her trail. Harley Quinn teams up with Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollet-Bell), and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) in order to protect her. 

The movie is very Deadpool-like with its R rating, narration, and jump-cuts back in time for exposition. Harley acts as an unreliable narrator, describing events in a way that twists them to put herself in the right. It is partially done for comedic value, but it gives the viewer a look into the mind of Harley Quinn. 

The censoring of disturbing or gruesome images was not done to keep a PG-13 rating — instead it shows Harley’s insanity. When she drives a truck into a chemical plant, colorful fireworks come streaming out, but when Renee Montoya examines it as a crime scene, it looks like there’s been an explosion and a fire, not a fun celebration. In a later scene, Harley Quinn walks into a police station and starts firing off a shotgun, but, instead of bullets, she shoots the officers with bean bags and glitter. There’s no way she could overpower a precinct of police officers like this and shows that she has a tough time distinguishing fantasy from reality, probably from jumping into a vat of chemicals.

Despite all the good, Birds of Prey still falls into the some of the problems of other DC movies like Suicide Squad and Aquaman. Almost half the runtime is spent introducing characters, mostly through narration, instead of giving screen time to that character to reveal their traits and personality. Part of this issue stems from DC trying to copy the success of Marvel. They want to release the big, fun team up movies without doing any of the hard work by introducing the audience to the characters beforehand.

While the soundtrack is significantly better than the aforementioned movies because the songs fit better with the mood of the scene, it still sounds like Warner Bros. picked a random Spotify playlist and stuck it in their movie. The pop music makes the action scenes feel more average; it doesn’t bring out the same emotion as the Avengers Theme or Wonder Woman’s Theme. 

Before the release, the most exciting news about the movie was that it would have a female director. Hiring a female director is not about token inclusivity, but the importance of how the director views the characters which consequently shapes how the audience views the characters. A female director will have a different experiences than a male director which change the direction of a scene. 

DC has been criticized for costume changes for the Amazonians in Wonder Woman. In the movie directed by Patty Jenkins, the armor worn by the Amazon warriors is Roman-inspired, and decently realistic, but in Justice League, directed by Zack Snyder, it is reduced to little more than boob plates and a skirt. It changes these characters from powerful warriors to bikini models. 

The reverse was done for Harley Quinn. Suicide Squad made her fight demonic entities in a crop top and heels while Birds of Prey gives her fun, crazy outfits and she has multiple costume changes in the movie. They gave her more bodily autonomy in her clothing choices and it adds to her flashy, provocative nature. 

The costume design for the other characters is also done very well. All of their outfits show off their distinct personalities without being overly distracting. Additionally, they all wear street clothes as opposed to superhero costumes which makes the whole movie feel more down-to-earth and small scale. 

While Jared Leto occupied most of the coverage of Suicide Squad, Margot Robbie trained for six months and did most of her own stunts. The fight choreography for the movie was phenomenal. The jump cuts between actor and stunt double were minimal and did not distract from the action. Each fight scene has a distinct vibe and you can tell the difference. They use their environment which makes the setting an important part of the movie rather than just a backdrop. The fighting was decently realistic but still overall fun. Women would fight using kicks, weapons, and other objects in the environment, rather than just a punch out. 

It’s refreshing to see a movie that focuses on women without ever patting itself on the back for doing so. Having the characters flat out say “girl power” instead of showing their achievements or teamwork can ruin a movie. 

Recently, there has been a push for grittier, more realistic stories with superheroes, but while this approach is a much-needed change of pace, it’s ignorant of the reason comic books are popular. The main example for this is Black Canary. In the original trailer, they alluded to her powers, but it was unclear if it would just be a fun hint for comic book fans or if they would fully embrace them. It’s nice to see them embrace their weird superhero origins and not water down their powers. 

This movie is well worth the watch, especially if you like superhero movies, but also if you don’t. It doesn’t require you to watch any other movies beforehand and does a good job explaining any needed information.