“It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either. It had so much potential but it became a cliché. Hear me out”
Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn was probably the only reason why I saw Birds Of Prey because I had no idea what it was and who else was in it (disclaimer: I’m neither a DC nor Marvel fan, but I appreciate the heroes and their stories). Robbie was brilliant as Joker’s lover and her own madwoman in Suicide Squad that she became synonymous to her character. She was so committed to the movie that she produced it together with Bryan Unkeless and Sue Kroll. And that definitely set the bar higher when it came to this viewer’s expectations.
It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either. It had so much potential but it became a cliché. Hear me out:
Birds of Prey begins with Harley Quinn narrating her explosive breakup with Mister J. But announcing it to Gotham by blowing up their main spot was something she didn’t think through. Without his protection, it’s open season on Miss Quinn. Everyone, from street rats to crime lord Roman Sionis, wants her dead for a laundry list of reasons. Naturally, she can’t outrun all her enemies. Circumstance would lead to some form of assistance from three unlikely characters: Black Canary, Huntress and Detective Renee Montoya. The foursome find themselves working together to bring down Sionis or Black Mask mostly to save young orphan-cum-pickpocket Cassandra Cain.
Birds of Prey deviates a little from its origins (as was the case for characters, like Black Canary and Cass) and dabbles between Harley Quinn’s self-actualization that she is her own woman and a girl gang of anti-heroes. But “Harley freaking Quinn” is a strong enough character that maybe she could have thrived on her own. The plot is driven by her non-linear, hyperactive narration anyway. Instead of a story that helps viewers understand Miss Quinn and bears witness to her character development, we are served a mild cocktail of (very valid) female anger and semi-feminist solidarity against male entitlement. They took it there but barely touched the surface resulting in missed opportunities to uplift both Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey.
If the movie attempts to liberate DC from its dark and doomy space, it does so and makes it fun but still adult with a heady dose of clangy and obnoxious playfulness. The fight scenes, which feature hand-to-hand combat and martial arts, were impressive and a welcome respite from superpowers and general explosions. But they were just too good that it became a little far-fetched. (How could our band of anti-heroes come out unscathed from a showdown involving a legion of big guns and brawny guys?)
While I’m all for nihilistic fun and provocation, you can’t just arouse thoughts on misogyny or rape culture and respond with glitter bombs. Maybe just don’t touch it and let Harley Quinn or the Birds Of Prey be the delightfully violent and entertaining movie it wants to be. Here’s to hoping the next one isn’t another cliché.
Photos Warner Bros.
Art Mathew Fetalver