Directed by: Cathy Yan
Written by: Christina Hodson
Starring: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina
Moments, when we must make it on our own, do not always arrive with proper notice. You may think the dependent relationship you have fostered will guide you for the foreseeable future, but its abrupt ending can come like the swing of a bat. Our lovely protagonist experiences this after a recent breakup, but she needed the right motivation to get back on the saddle and find her true purpose.
After having announced to the world the end of her relationship with the Joker, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) now has half of Gotham gunning for her. Concurrently, the young Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) steals an expensive diamond owned by the dangerous Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) who sends goons to retrieve it from her at all costs.
Even for those, like myself, who hated Suicide Squad, most could agree Margot Robbie shined as the character of Harley Quinn. A character mostly known for being the obsessive girlfriend of the Joker, Robbie transformed her into the star of the feature, thus becoming the only redeemable factor of that dreadful movie. Rightfully, when moving forward with any of the characters, Harley got her own story absent of any of the dead luggage and unsurprisingly it’s far superior. Focusing solely on this character and her shenanigans demonstrated what can be accomplished when a female filmmaker truly understands the character and her progression.
On a visual level, Birds of Prey oozes with style thanks to the great direction by Cathy Yan. Electricity fills the screen and all of the colors vibrate in such a sensational way, as all of the characters get a moment to shine. The gaping difference between this feature and Suicide Squad shows at every level because Yan actually understands these characters and what gives them the motivation to continue. From the costume choices and the soundtrack, everything feels more realized and genuine to the story and the characters. Every explosion has its own tinge to it because, in a way, we’re living in the mind of Harley Quinn and the scope in how she sees the world.
Joining Harley on her quest for emancipation is a crew of characters looking for their version of freedom. Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) suffered a traumatic childhood event and seeks revenge on the men who inflicted the pain. Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) realizes she cannot succeed in a police department suffering from corruption, and Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollet-Bell) hopes to no longer be under the thumb of the villainous Sionis. Their different paths converge when it comes to Cassandra Cain and how they all feel a sense of obligation to her. When they come together, it shows the power of this film and the messaging it wants to portray.
Superhero films have been dominated by male characters and male directors bringing them forward, which makes each feature have a strong look through the male gaze. Everything on screen serves the male eye and the experience they seek with this story. Birds of Prey unapologetically let this story be about the female experience and it shows in the overarching story but also the little details. It becomes clear during a fight sequence where Dinah fights off some goons and continually has her hair in the way to which Harley notices and tosses her a hair tie. How often in these superhero films do you see women in weirdly uncomfortable yet incredibly revealing costumes? It serves no purpose except for being pleasing to the male eye, but from every interaction and costume decision in this feature, everything feels genuine. Harley isn’t sporting a T-shirt and booty shorts, but rather outfits further drawing out her personality and what helps her in battle. It’s truly beautiful to see and helps demonstrate the importance of female directors in the superhero landscape.
The action in Birds of Prey gets incredibly violent and I commend the filmmakers for taking the R-rating and hammering home every bone-crunching blow. Some of it may be cartoonish, but all of it feels gruesome. It demonstrates the pure fighting ability of Quinn and the other characters because the sequences were shot in such a clear and distinctive manner. Every action sequence was laced by a track of this incredibly catchy soundtrack. I heard these songs before watching the film and each time one of them began to play it made complete sense with how it fits in with the narrative.
Every moment feels wildly creative and original in a sense, as we have not seen a superhero film like Birds of Prey. Incredibly violent but also so funny with moments where Harley reminds the audience she actually has a Ph.D. in Psychology. Every character has their quirks, even down to the boisterous duo of Roman Sionis and Victor Zsasz played by Ewan McGregor and Chris Messina respectively. This film offers so much to enjoy and becomes a non-stop thrill ride from the opening scene all the way through all of the fun action sequences. Thoroughly unique and instantly one of the better DC Comics movies, Birds of Prey bundles its zaniness with a strong story making for a truly enjoyable viewing experience.