Film Review: Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)

Also known as: Birds of Prey (unofficial title), Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey (re-branded title)
Release Date: January 25th, 2020 (Mexico City premiere)
Directed by: Cathy Yan
Written by: Christina Hodson
Based on: characters by DC Comics
Music by: Daniel Pemberton
Cast: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina, Ella Jay Basco, Ali Wong, Ewan McGregor, Steven Williams

Clubhouse Pictures, LuckyChap Entertainment, DC Entertainment, Kroll & Co. Entertainment, Warner Bros., 109 Minutes

Review:

“Here’s the thing, Romy baby: your protection is based on the fact that people are scared of you. Just like they’re scared of Mr. J. But I’m the one they should be scared of! Not you, not Mr.J! Because I’m Harley Fucking Quinn!” – Harley Quinn

This movie’s title was so bad that they actually changed it after it was in theaters for only a week, where it didn’t perform up to expectations. But I don’t think that the stupid, pretentious, cutesy pie title was the only problem with the movie.

To start, I’ve never seen a motion picture be so self unaware. It tries so hard to be edgy, cool and original all while being a poor attempt at making a Deadpool movie for girls. It’s pretty obvious how blatantly this is trying to channel the Deadpool mojo that it deflates anything good within the picture.

Additionally, while this is visually stunning, overly vivid with a giallo style color palate, the choppy editing and amateur shot framing makes this feel like a 109 minute music video. And like all big studio movies that are trying to be cool, the music isn’t even that good, as it recycles exactly the same type of tunes you’d expect from yesteryear while also sprinkling in awful modern covers of classic hits that don’t really work. In short, it’s predictable as fuck.

When it comes to the characters, other than Harley Quinn, this film doesn’t really understand any of them. Who the fuck wrote this? Have they read a comic about any of these characters? I’m supposed to believe that this Cassandra Cain will eventually become a Batgirl? Not to be an asshole but they made her look like Rose Tico cosplaying as Short Round. That’s not the actresses fault, just like it wasn’t Kelly Marie-Tran’s fault that Rose Tico looked like a frumpy baked potato with the dumbest, most unappealing haircut in Star Wars history.

But look at this film’s version of Roman Sionis a.k.a. Black Mask, a villain I have always loved. This is absolutely not who that character is. Granted, I enjoyed Ewan McGregor in this, as well as the character, but he didn’t need to be Black Mask, he could’ve just been an eccentric Gotham City mob boss. There is nothing about him that even resembles Black Mask, other than he puts on a Black Mask for about ten minutes before taking it off again.

Ewan McGregor was the best thing in this film, which is funny when you think about it, as this had a very clear agenda. But I’ll get to that further into this review.

On top of that, Victor Zsasz wasn’t Zsasv, Black Canary wasn’t Black Canary, Renee Montoya was only about halfway there and the Huntress was sort of accurate but completely unlikable and awkward.

Beyond that, this is a movie that doesn’t seem to know what it wants to say. Well, it is very clear that it wants to communicate that all men are pieces of shit, as every single man in this movie are portrayed as pieces of shit, even the fatherly old Asian guy that lets Harley live upstairs.

So the man hate is clear, which is odd because no matter how hard this movie tries to appeal to women, it’s audience was still mostly men. But this is typical of the agenda-driven Hollywood nowadays. But hey, maybe this COVID-19 shit will be a wake up call for studios to actually give a shit about what their audiences want. Probably not, though, as their heads are so far up their ass that they are on a steady diet of their own shit.

The part of the message that isn’t clear is that this can’t decide between whether or not women should stick together or fuck each other over and go solo. I guess teaming up is all fun when you’re sticking it to the patriarchy but once the men are out of the way, they just act like the men they were trying to beat. It’s childish, boring, predictable and lame.

And like all things in entertainment that have this sort of pro-feminist agenda, the story wants to preach self-confidence and self-reliance but then it constantly has its characters telling each other that they’re cool and how much they are all each other’s besties. Is this what women are? Not in my experience but what do I know, I have a penis.

Anyway, confident, self-sufficient and badass women don’t need constant reassurance that they’re cool and likable. That’s not what confident, self-sufficient and badass is. But that’s what this movie is teaching the young girls who may see this picture.

For the first third of this film, I was really happy with its pacing and thought that it was flying by. But then, once you get to the part where the story starts jumping around in the timeline (another way it was trying to be Deadpool), things just went off the rails and the film became sloppy. There was no reason to do this and frankly, it’s one of the things I didn’t like about Deadpool. After this whole section of the film, the pacing didn’t pick up or recover and everything became a slog to get through.

I think that a lot of the problem with this movie is that it hired an inexperienced director. This is something that had the potential to be a massive franchise, featuring a big star playing a character that is one of the most popular in all of pop culture. But the studio didn’t take this seriously enough, so why should any of us?

It also didn’t help that the director, before this came out, was bragging about the heroes not using guns (they do) and just kicking the patriarchy’s ass. She also admitted to not being a fan of comics.

Maybe it’s time for these companies to start hiring creatives that know the material, are passionate about it and thus, want to make the best representation of what these characters and stories should be.

And they wonder why box office numbers were already decreasing before COVID-19.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: the other lackluster DC Comics movies of recent memory.

2 thoughts on “Film Review: Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)

  1. Is it ironic that this film has a man-hate vibe to it when the main reason that men would bother watching this is Margot Robbie as Harley? Or perhaps that’s just me. Anyway, Suicide Squad was a load of “meh” in my opinion and all I got out of THAT film was that HQ was pretty damn hot in it, and it’s the only reason I had any vague interest Birds of Prey. Even so, after all the poor reviews, I don’t think I can actually be arsed to view it.

    • I weirdly liked it more than Suicide Squad, which I thought was pretty deplorable. They made a deliberate effort to try and de-sexualize Harley in this one. Plus, the Suicide Squad director actually apologized recently for sexualizing her to begin with. They just don’t get it, man. And they don’t understand who their audience is. If the creators have a problem with it, then maybe this isn’t the genre for them.