The news coverage had me worried I wouldn’t enjoy this, that Warner Bros. was wasting time on Harley Quinn, and that I’d even be wasting my time. If not mediocre, I’d feel it was simply “okay,” and just “okay.” That there was no there there.
Fortunately, I was excited enough about Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous you know what) to give it a chance and I’m glad I did. I discovered I could lose myself in it, first as a curiosity but then as something good to behold. I appreciate what it had to offer and spoilers didn’t ruin a thing.
Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) was dumped by her Puddin’ (whose body double makes no remarkable appearances) and, after drowning her sorrows, craves making her mark. Yes, as you may know, she blows up Ace Chemical – her and Mr. J’s Eiffel Tower – in a colorful boom, proclaiming her “emancipation” with a bang.
She sends the message she’s no longer Joker’s girl but unfortunately, the Gotham underworld interprets it wrongly and open season is declared on Quinn. Making matters worse, she is a pest unto Black Mask (Ewan McGregor), a germaphobe club owner and disowned heir who turned to crime.
He’s also in pursuit of a diamond swallowed by Cassandra Cain (Ella Basco). Thankfully, it doesn’t contain any nude photos and instead is coded with all the secrets Black Mask needs to tighten his grip on Gotham and rule the city.
Reddit spoilers didn’t spoil as much as I figured they would. Some stuff was true: the hyena’s name was Bruce, Cassandra Cain swallows a gem, Harley breaks the legs of Black Mask’s driver, and she lives above a Chinese take-out place.
The big climax takes place indeed in a funhouse but Redditors didn’t accurately predict everything. Prognostications like a right-off-the-page reenactment of Black Mask’s pivotal origin and Harley ditching the Birds because she is too cool for them were probably made up.
Black Mask and Zsasz (Chris Messina)? Yeah, they were gay, pretty much. It’s more flirtatious than anything. There is a weird balance between them. Any time Mask is verklempt or throwing a fit, Zsasz calms him down by promising to fix things, get the diamond, or kill this or that person.
Harley has nothing to do with the Birds of Prey and kinda copies Deadpool, but so what? Her wackiness carries the movie and Margot Robbie has the moxie to hold the banner for DC like Ryan Reynolds does for Marvel and X-Men. The sandbox is big and they’re all playing with the same sand anyway.
Birds of Prey is the Harley Quinn Show through and through yet that doesn’t mean the others don’t get to have fun. Jurnee Smollett-Bell plays an intriguing Black Canary more active as a character and more conflicted than other versions, especially those so-so interpretations played by Rachel Skarsten and Lori Loughlin on the BOP TV series.
Smollett-Bell is Dinah Lance and mention is made to a mother who died helping out Renee Montoya and the Gotham Police. They don’t give away her name or if she masqueraded as a vigilante, but there is at least continuity for Black Canary within the DC Extended Universe.
Rosie Perez turns in a promising Renee Montoya I wouldn’t mind seeing become The Question. When she runs a crime scene she shows signs of a sharp conspiracy type.
Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is more or less around. They take time to tell her origin and the gem everybody is after belonged to the Bertinelli crime family so she possesses a personal stake and dramatic weight. She just doesn’t do much with it.
— Birds of Prey (@birdsofpreywb) February 2, 2020
Sitting Room Only
Those stories and screenshots revealing rows and rows of empty seats paint a bleak picture with several grains of truth. I watched the movie in a huge surround-sound IMAX theater and had free rein of seating. Moreover, I was one of a handful of people there, whether we’re talking about the individual theater or the whole multiplex.
Attendance was dismal. The same happened at Black Christmas. I didn’t take any photos but if you’ve seen any circulating online, you can use your imagination.
— Lauren Chen (@TheLaurenChen) February 6, 2020
I know you’re all wondering how woke and feminist BOP is. It deals with those themes and at times the villains are blatantly spiteful toward the fairer sex (Black Mask is triggered by female laughter). However, the film tackles its themes in a measured and presentable way. It doesn’t reduce itself to the writing and execution of a bad high-school drama club production like Black Christmas or Charlie’s Angels did.
(Look, I know I gave those two pictures passing grades but, if you read my reviews carefully, I found flaws with their rhetoric and presentation too and said so, okay?)
Ewan McGregor may proudly cant about being in “a feminist film.” That doesn’t mean he is off base in awing over his work in the picture or the script. There are more reasons Birds of Prey impresses.
I don’t know how well Birds of Prey will do this weekend. I suspect it will flop but I’m not calling time of death. If these Birds get thrown out the nest with the bathwater, it’ll be an unnecessary blow to the streak Warner Bros. and DC Films have been on since Aquaman.
- Christina Hodson's script and set design that evokes Black Mask's first appearance and Batman: TAS
- Margot Robbie is wild at heart as Harley Quinn
- Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary
- Huntress was "meh"