We all know that very little positive stuff came out of 2016’s Suicide Squad. In fact, the only really memorable thing was Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Harley Quinn. She was exactly the character we needed and Robbie brought real heart to the Joker’s slightly mad paramour. Yes, she also gave basic white girls a new go-to sexy Halloween costume but hey ho. Who am I to judge? It was just great that Harley was getting the treatment she deserved. As a female comic book fan, I’m obviously a Harley fan. She’s been an interesting part of the Batman storylines, had some great team-ups with Ivy and co, and her own comic book is fantastic. She could easily have been ruined by the same people who allowed Zack fuckin Snyder to ruin Superman and almost ruin Batman. But she wasn’t and she was beloved enough to be given her own film… sort of. Female superheroes are slowly becoming more prominent so it’s refreshing to see a fully female comic book film that seems natural. You know, not like the embarrassing scene in Endgame that was awkward and smug. You may remember that this film was on my list of 2020 films I was looking forward to this year and it was finally time to see it.
What is absolutely clear from the outset of Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Well, if you hadn’t already guessed that from the title. If Bridesmaids finally showed the world that women could make the kind of gross-out comedy that Judd Apatow made super famous, then Birds of Prey will show them that women can make R rated superhero movies like Deadpool. Margot Robbie was the main driving force for getting this film off the ground and the whole thing has such an obviously feminine touch that I can see why men haven’t been so keen. They just don’t get it. Or, if you have a more cynical view of the world, won’t even try to get it.
Because Birds of Prey doesn’t necessarily fit with the idea of female comic book characters that most fans will be used to. They are given real identities and personalities. I’ve read something since watching where a man bemoaned the fact that a large part of the film was given over to Harley looking at a breakfast sandwich. For one thing, it could have been longer as far as I was concerned. Birds of Prey gives us the most realistic look at women in superhero movies that we’ve ever seen. It says a lot about the representation of women in these films that a simple line about a hair tie can cause women everywhere to rejoice. What Margot Robbie and the filmmakers have helped create, is a bunch of women who are flawed, funny, sweet, crazy, but brilliant. They’re exactly the kind of heroes we need and exactly the kind of women we’ve been waiting for.
Although, it’s not a flawless film. The first half or so sees Harley narrating her life following her break up with the Joker. She doesn’t handle it well and attempts to assert herself as an individual. Unfortunately, she soon realises that being alone makes her a target for all of the people that she wronged. One of those people is the super evil Roman Sionis. He’s trying to track down a diamond and makes a deal with Harley to get his hands on it The only problem is, a young pickpocket swallowed it and, it turns out, Harley isn’t the only one tracking the prize. Thankfully, when things start to go awry, a group of allies come to Harley’s aid. Can they put aside their differences to save the kid and stop Ronan?
After the godawful Joker last year, Birds of Prey is exactly what we needed from DC. A film that brings the fun into the crazy and gives us a leading character we can feel alright about championing. Harley has some great scenes early on with one particular standout being the scene where she shoots glitter and paint clouds throughout Gotham PD. She brings chaos, colour and fun wherever she goes. She has a motherfucking hyaena. I know that this film is basically the Harley show but, I have to say, her interactions with the other women are fantastic. It’s a shame that DC didn’t have the confidence to team up sooner because the final battle scene is perfect. There’s a real energy when the 5 women are together and I hope we see the Birds of Prey again. With or without Harley.
If only so they get more chance to introduce themselves. We get a brief glimpse of the new additions to the team but it’s not enough. We spend so long with Harley that the new cast seems a little thin. But there is definite potential there. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is an absolute standout as The Huntress. She’s funny, weird, and brilliant. Then Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary is perfect. A feisty but loveable singer who tries to hide her true powers. Rosie Perez brings power and tenacity to Renee Montoya that works with the humour of her 1980s cop movie dialogue. Really of the new cast are great besides Ewan McGregor. God knows what he was thinking but it’s the hammiest and most cringe-worthy performance of his career. For me, it is just a huge miss and I felt like watching the actor have a genuine breakdown before my eyes. It actually made me uncomfortable.
But I was mostly happy with this film. Yes, it’s messy and needed a bit more work. Yes, some of the action sequences get a bit too cartoony. Yes, the majority of the characters are thin and don’t get enough screen time. Yes, some of the dialogue is really bad. Yes, I absolutely hated the Marilyn Monroe moment. But, this film was a lot of fun. And, as a DC film, the being halfway to perfect is better than most of their films. This is a film that speaks to women in so many ways. It’s the superhero film for the #Metoo era. But that’s not to say that it doesn’t also offer something for men. There is plenty of good old fashioned comic book movie stuff here. It gives off vibes of classic 60s Batman and it isn’t afraid to take creative chances. It’s a film that knows and loves its central character and it just lets her run wild. Which, if you ask me, is what needed to happen.