Go see Birds of Prey.
Go see it for various reasons, whether it’s:
• You want to watch a fun movie
• You’re curious about what the DC movie-verse is up to
• You like watching beautiful women kick all kinds of ass
• You’re a fan of the comic and you want to see how it translates to the big screen
• Or you’re just really into Ewan McGregor and need to know if it whips out a Kenobi-style, “HellO there!”
But, really, see this movie because it’s a step in the right direction for DC’s cinematic ventures, and, as someone who has been extremely vocal about his displeasure with most of what DC has done on the big screen this far, we’ve got to reward creative forces when they put in the work.
We’ll all undoubtedly go out and support the Sonic movie next weekend after the effects team was good enough to rework the design of the titular character, so let’s not punish the movie as a whole for the inadequate marketing job on this film, please and thank you.
On to the review …
I’ve heard various complaints about this movie, particularly about the production design and how Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn dominates the feature despite getting second billing on the title . The first complaint is perfectly valid. Most of the costumes in this movie are horrendous, particularly for Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Huntress. But! The good thing about this movie is that everyone involved clearly had so much fun making it that they embodied their characters and made you stop paying attention to their outfits. And you can always tell when actors and actresses aren’t having any fun. Look at the difference between Wesley Snipes in Blade 2 and Blade 3. Look at the difference between Henry Cavill in Batman v Superman and Mission Impossible: Fallout. It’s a huge contrast that overcomes the shortcomings, which all films are bound to have and the only people that use one mistake as an excuse to not watch a movie are those who still think that conducting themselves like a nihilist makes them appear intelligent or interesting (spoiler: it doesn’t).
Now, as for the second major complaint, I will reiterate here what I’ve said to others who tried to make this point: Harley is indeed the focus of the film, yes, but there’s a good reason why there was all sorts of shifts surrounding the title of this movie, and it’s simply because most people don’t even know what Birds of Prey is, much less who Black Canary, Huntress, Renee Montoya, Cassandra Cain, and Black Mask are. So, from a storytelling perspective, this movie faces the problem of introducing the general audience without bogging them down in the characters’ backstories and giving them all baggage to overcome in neat little character arcs. This has been accomplished by the likes of Guardians of the Galaxy and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, though I’m admittedly not as big of a fan as most critics of the latter (because the arcs are laid out and resolved too neatly and that is a big show-don’t-tell no-no in my book but I digress). DC has tried this before in Suicide Squad, and while the first half of the movie was a decent effort, the third act suffers the same fate as most DC films do (seriously, how many times is there going to be a 12 foot tall CGI monster with lightning blast powers, Warner Bros.?).
Therefore, instead of shotgunning these intros at the audience like Suicide Squad did, it frames the formation of the Birds of Prey around the predicament of Harley and utilizes her perspective as an unstable narrator. This works to great effect, as the movie gets going just as Joker and Harley split and everyone she’s ever wronged (it’s a lot) wants their pound of flesh. To make matters worse, McGregor’s menacing Black Mask is trying to locate the Bertinelli Diamond, a remnant of the Bertinelli Crime Family’s power that was 1) encoded with the bank accounts bursting with the funds necessary to claim a monopoly on Gotham’s crime network and 2) lost when the Bertinellis were gunned down 15 years ago, leaving behind a vengeful Helena Bertinelli aka Huntress. This diamond finds it’s way into the sticky fingers of orphaned pickpocket Cassandra Cain, played by Ella Jay Basco, who happens to be neighbors with Jurnee Smollet’s Dinah Lance, an underestimated employee of Black Mask’s. Harley crosses paths with disgruntled Gotham PD Detective Renee Montoya, portrayed by Rosie Perez, during standard cops and robbers faire, but DC diehards will be pleased to know there’s a good reason why Montoya comes knocking on Lance’s door. I won’t spoil it, but let’s just say the doors this connection opens very exciting for future of DC’s movie-verse.
Also, you can tell by my summations that this plot is more complicated than you’d expect and that’s what makes Harley necessary as a guide to navigate and lubricate these plot threads.
What’s more, everyone gets their share of big and small moments to shine.
No, Cassandra isn’t the mute killing machine from the comics. No, Oracle isn’t in this. No, Ben Affleck nor Leto shot new footage for this.
But as someone who’s thoroughly enjoyed Gail Simone’s run on Birds of Prey, this movie surprised me with how good it was, especially since it invested so much time and care into fleshing out Gotham in a way that we haven’t seen since Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. Speaking of Simone, she said she cried tears of joy after she watched this movie.
I have no doubt that meninists and comic book purists will unite to take a victory lap over the film’s poor box office debut, but, you know what? Fuck ‘em.
It’s a good movie. If anyone wants to fight someone about that, fight me. But you’ll be taking on someone who helped a stumped Mark Waid solve a snippet of DC trivia, so good luck!
Go stick it to the douchebags rooting for this movie to fail and have a great time at the movies.