Birds of Prey (and The Fabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) apparently underperformed at the box office last weekend–although, also kind of not, like, maybe we could wait half a second before pronouncing it DOA and throwing its corpse to the wolves, thanks? (ETA: Don’t even get me started on the rebranding. I’m flat out ignoring that nonsense.)
Since I did actually see Birds of Prey last Friday, though, let’s talk about the movie, shall we? Because it’s an awful lot of fun, and I really hope more people go out to see it. If Charlie’s Angels meets Deadpool with a side of, IDK, Smokin’ Aces sounds intriguing to you–or if you liked Margot Robbie and the cotton candy sparkle of Suicide Squad but hated the inconsistent tone, the incoherent storyline, the muddy action scenes, the Joker, and basically everything else about that film–well, this one might be worth checking out.
First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Other – Actual Goddamn Theater
Spoilers: Nope, unless you look at the Quotes Section. Mild spoilers there.
I don’t know if I have any deep, insightful commentary about Birds of Prey, inasmuch as I provide deep, insightful commentary about anything–my preferred level of analysis is roughly 5,000 words entirely dedicated to the subject of “WTF is your dumbass hero doing now?” But I also don’t have many major flaws to breakdown, either. My disappointments with the film were few and mild. For instance:
A. The timeline jumps back and forth a lot in the first half of the film, and while that mostly works for me–it’s not particularly difficult to follow, and the disordered narrative certainly feels IC with Harley as Narrator–I think it might jump one times too many. It’s the hop backwards at the police station that I’m struggling with; for some reason, that one feels more accidentally uneven, rather than purposefully and joyfully chaotic.
B. Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) essentially gets the Rogue treatment in this movie, although arguably, it’s even worse here; far as I can tell, Cassandra is different from her comics counterpart in basically every way imaginable. It doesn’t bother me much personally, partially because I really like this particular Cassandra–she’s a pickpocket/incorrigible little shit and makes for an outstanding sidekick–but mostly because I’m just not super familiar with the original character. (Yes, it’s true. I’m a terrible Batman fan. I’ve fooled everyone for years with my fake geek girl ways.) Still, I can definitely understand why Cassandra Cain stans would be very disappointed with this particular iteration. And while I can see why the creators might have shied away from throwing another assassin in the mix, like, maybe just create an OC, then? We can handle OCs, I promise: consider, Harley Quinn herself in Batman: The Animated Series.
C. Harley Quinn is definitely the focus of this film, which is something one might expect from every single bit of promotional material or, you know, the actual goddamn subtitle. And hey, this isn’t actually a bad thing: Robbie continues to shine as Harley, and it does make sense to use her story A) to introduce other badass female characters who aren’t as well known to mass audiences, and B) as a jumping off point for potential spinoffs. I was only a little disappointed while watching because I like the other ladies in this movie so much; it’s a bit of a bummer we don’t get to spend more time with them, that’s all.
Cause, like, can we talk about this lineup? Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) is just awesome, a reluctant heroine who’s charismatic and a powerhouse and could easily headline her own movie. I’ve enjoyed Black Canary in other comics and TV shows, but I definitely want to see more from this Dinah Lance immediately. I also just adore Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and her completely hilarious lack of people skills. I would happily pay, like, all the money to see Huntress narrate a Birds of Prey sequel, where she’s just confused by everyone around her. Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) might be my least favorite of the Birds, mostly because I wish she had a few more standout Win moments, but she’s still a fun, compelling character who’s Latina, canonically queer, and over 50. That’s fucking awesome, and I really want to see more from her.
So, really, this is all just to say that I don’t actually mind a Harley-focused film. It’ll only become a serious flaw for me if future sequels continue to center her this way, or if we don’t get any sequels/spinoffs at all.
Hopefully, however, that won’t be the case because Birds of Prey is such a good time, just colorful and cheerful and feminist and violent AF. There’s a ton of stuff I really enjoy, from the already infamous hair tie scene, to Harley’s love affair with the breakfast sandwich, to how each of these women have their own agenda and none of their conflict is based on stereotypical bullshit. There’s no “you stole my man” or any envious catfight nonsense. In fact, I love that, when these ladies eventually do come together, they enthusiastically support one another, like, I am so HERE for the compliments and squee.
A few more notes:
A. Ewan McGregor seems like he’s having a ball as this movie’s Big Bad. Roman Sionis, AKA, Black Mask, is a petty, insecure, misogynist motherfucker, and McGregor’s performance is consistently hilarious, snotty and over-the-top. He just somehow perfectly encapsulates “entitled little creeper.” I also enjoy Roman’s relationship with his right hand man/pet psycho assassin Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), although I couldn’t place Messina and spent literally the whole movie thinking, Goddamn it, who ARE you?
B. The Birds of Prey soundtrack is very on-the-nose, and it’s pretty constantly in your face, so, yeah, mileage is obviously gonna vary. For me, though, with a movie like this? I kinda loved it, started looking up songs immediately once I got home. And yes, I am absolutely listening to “Boss Bitch” for the third time right now, thanks for asking.
C. I will fully admit my whole concept of “sexy” considerably varies from many other people; however, to those dudes online whining the women in this movie aren’t sexy enough . . . just . . . first, what’s wrong with you, and also, what’s wrong with you?
D. I’m definitely excited to see more work by Cathy Yan. Dead Pigs, which she directed in 2018, looks delightfully weird, but unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the movie anywhere to rent or stream. Hopefully, that will change soon, and hopefully, we’ll continue to see more films from Yan in the future. And from many other women, too. Please take note, DC, that your best two live-action films in the past five years have both been directed by women. We want more. We demand more.
E. If you’re interested in checking out other female friendship and/or Harley Quinn stories, may I also recommend DC’s animated Harley Quinn series, which is currently airing on DC Network and has one of my favorite ladymances on TV right now? Kaley Cuoco and Lake Bell knock it out of the park as Harley and Poison Ivy, respectively, although the whole cast is really great: Alan Tudyk, Tony Hale, Ron Funches, J.B. Smoove, etc. (Also, a special shoutout to James Adomian, because his Bane–and yes, a clear Tom Hardy parody–cracks me up every time. Fair warning: minor episodic spoilers at the link.)
Man. I did not expect my DC Universe subscription to payoff nearly as much as it has. Between this, Doom Patrol, and Young Justice, I’m very happy with this network.
F. Please, DC, figure out your licensing whatever and let Oracle join the team next go-around. Please, please, PLEASE. I want this so badly. I’m already wondering who I should dreamcast.
G. I absolute cannot wait to see all the group cosplay this year.
Huntress: “It’s not a fucking bow and arrow. I’m not twelve.”
Harley: “Oh, hey, you’re that singer no one listens to.”
Dinah: “Oh, hey, you’re that asshole no one likes.”
Harley: “You killed my sandwich!”
Harley: “Psychologically speaking, vengeance rarely brings the catharsis we hope for.”
Roman: “Nobody kills people I own without my permission! You know that! ”
Zsasz: “I know it.”
Roman: “Why doesn’t the crossbow guy know it?”
Zsasz: “I don’t know.”
Roman: “Why don’t I own the crossbow guy?”
Zsasz: “You should own him.”
Roman: “I mean, I like crossbows!”
Harley: “So unless we all wanna die very unpleasant deaths and let Roman go fishing around in the kid’s intestinal track, we’re gonna have to work together.”
Renee: “. . . Okay.”
Dinah: “. . .Yeah.”
Huntress: “. . . Surrrre?”
Harley: “Isn’t this fun? It’s like a sleepover. We should order pizza, make cosmos.”
Dinah: “Harley, focus.”
Huntress: “They call me . . .”
Renee: “Helena Bertinelli.”
Huntress: “Fuck, seriously?”
Cassandra: “I stole your ring.”
Huntress: “I DON’T HAVE RAGE ISSUES!”
Just a lot of much-needed fun in these grim and depressing times.
You know, IDK. I’m kind of torn between Margot Robbie, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, and Ewan McGregor, honestly.
Ladies, work together and kick some whiny boy ass.