Movie #32 2020: Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020)

Hoorah! The first 2020 release on TQR!

How I felt before seeing this movie: Oh God. What if this is an utter shower of shit? Everyone will say it’s because the lead character is a woman. For fuck’s sake, I can’t watch.

How I felt after seeing this movie: Oh THANK God. It was actually good.

Look, by no means have DC cracked the standalone movie in the same way that Marvel have. But this is their third new release that I’ve actually liked. (The others being Wonder Woman and Shazam). Nothing has blown me away quite like Black Panther or Captain Marvel or The Winter Soldier, but this was pretty decent nonetheless.

Quite a few critics have, well, criticised the timeline this movie adopts, but I actually think that’s one of the things that I enjoyed most about it. This is clearly director Cathy Yan‘s attempt at making this movie utterly and without a doubt Harley Quinn’s; it jumps back and forth in a – how else to put it? – crazy fashion. And that is just what Harley is. It’s almost as if you’re transported into her psyche for a couple of hours, and that in itself is interesting to say the least.

I haven’t actually seen Suicide Squad, but I feel as though I already know everything I need to know about it:

  1. It is an average to poor movie.
  2. Viola Davis deserved better.
  3. Jared Leto is a tosser.
  4. Margot Robbie is basically the only good thing about it.

The point I am making is that I’ve not actually seen Margot in this role before, and to start with during Birds of Prey, I wasn’t so sure about how well she was performing it. However, as the run time progressed, I found myself becoming more and more impressed with the way she portrayed such an iconic comic book character both effortlessly and with complexity. She is Harley Quinn just as much as Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark. Believe it.

A key new find for me here is Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Black Canary. Although apparently I have seen her previously (I watched True Blood in it’s entirety but don’t remember it at all), she was brilliant in this. She’s strong and sassy, much like the rest of the women in this movie, but on top of that, she can sing. She manages to command attention in every scene she’s a part of.

Saying “there is no plot” is just a shitty attempt by straight, white dudes to put this movie down. There absolutely is a plot; you just have to step into Harley’s shoes for a hot minute to figure out what it is. No, I’m not saying the plot is the most original I’ve ever seen, and yes, it does take quite a while for the Birds of Prey to actually come together as a team, but is the pay off worth it? 100%.

Actually, the entire backstory culminates in the girl squad joining forces to pull off one of the more interesting fight scenes I’ve seen in recent years. The sequence in question is set in a House of Fun and Harley casually wears roller skates to the event. Is that everything I’ve ever needed? Yep. It’s as wacky as it sounds, and that’s exactly what it’s supposed to be.

The one weakness in BoP was Ewan McGregor. He’s just so campy that it’s not believable. He plays it with almost too much gusto and it ends up coming across as false. It’s definitely not his finest hour.

But what can I say? Maybe women should learn to direct men better. Oh, wait…

TQR Category Ratings:

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