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Birds of Prey movie review: Harley Quinn is in a glittery world of male toxicity

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn on drugs in Birds of Prey.
Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn on drugs in Birds of Prey. Pic credit: Warner Brothers

The DC Universe is in an interesting place right now with its properties. Since Warner Brothers made a regime change after numerous critical disasters, the studio has made some interesting creative choices such as Aquaman and the experimental standalone film Joker. Birds of Prey is a continuation of the studio trying something new rather than sticking to the familiar.

Throughout the promotion for Birds of Prey, it was repeatedly asked by pundits and fans, “Who is this film for?” Well, it will be fascinating to observe how the film does in the box-office.

Most of the audience seeing this movie this weekend will most likely be a male demographic when the movie itself is trying to be an action movie for women. And none of this was communicated well in the marketing.

But just like Joker, this latest effort by DC/WB is an experiment worth witnessing. It does not always succeed but it’s absolutely a blast to watch them swing for the fences.

Birds of Prey movie review: Is it worth watching?

In Birds of Prey, Margot Robbie returns as the famous Harley Quinn, who stole the show in Suicide Squad. Most of the first part of Birds of Prey is a reaction to the backlash of the Joker/Harley Quinn dynamic from the first film.

Their relationship has always been toxic/abusive in the animated series and comics but when placed in live-action, it becomes downright unsettling.

Here, Quinn sees herself in the midst of a terrible breakup with Mr. J., putting her in man-hating mode throughout the beginning. She does this by drinking, eating her sorrows away, and trying to find her own identity away from the shadow of her toxic ex-boyfriend.

Once the word gets out that Harley is no longer protected by Joker, all the enemies she made along the way try and come after her. And the problem is compounded once she sends a message to her ex by blowing up the chemical plant where he made her in his image.

One of these bad guys is Roman Siolis/Black Mask (Ewan McGregor), who cannot decide whether he wants to recruit Harley Quinn or kill Miss Quinzel out of aggravation.

Her confrontation with Siolis eventually leads her down a path of having to make new friends in order to survive, thus introducing Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and a teenage thief named Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco).

Unlike Suicide Squad, this sequel has a vastly different approach to its depiction of women. For example, Suicide Squad had Robbie wearing booty shorts and shot her in perverse ways in various moments of the film.

Here this is completely removed and does not make her an object of lust. In fact, some of the film has her in a pants suit. And this is largely thanks to Birds of Prey having a female director (Cathy Yan) and writer (Christina Hodson).

It’s also worth noting that this movie does not have a single redeemable male figure for the entire movie. The most respectable male character of the whole film is a cook who makes Harley Quinn her favorite egg and cheese sandwich–and that’s pretty much it.

Everyone else is either a sleazeball, a sociopath, corrupt, or a violent representation of male toxicity, which will surely settle well with the same group of “nerd bros” who wanted to sabotage Captain Marvel’s box-office.

But angry internet fanboys aside, the film will leave a strange taste in the mouth for some. Mainly because of the combination of cinematic influences used to achieve something different.

For one, Birds of Prey is unapologetically campy almost to a fault at times. All of the performances–especially Ewan Mcgregor–are dialed up to eleven and have a Saturday morning cartoon vibe.

The best comparison that comes to mind is Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin–minus all the Schwarzenegger “ice” jokes. Take that description and add the action of John Wick with a dash of Deadpool, cut it up into glittery confetti, blast it at a blank canvas, and somewhere the flavor of Birds of Prey will be found.

It’s unlike anything from the superhero genre thus far and because of this mixture, this movie will not be embraced right away by everyone.

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey
Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey. Pic credit: Warner Brothers

Birds of Prey overall thoughts

The uphill climb for Birds of Prey though will undoubtedly be its ability to find an audience. Margot Robbie wanted to prove that women love action movies too and successfully made one they can enjoy.

But none of this was communicated strongly in the marketing. This is surprising considering it’s the same studio that made Wonder Woman such a smash hit.

With it being Rated R, kids will not be its targeted audience plus given the climate, it’s not likely a male-bashing movie will be embraced by a segment of the comic culture.

That said, there’s a lot to admire about Birds of Prey. For a comic book film, it’s an unusual entry that rarely plays it safe, which should be refreshing for those who constantly complain about Marvel being too formulaic.

Not to mention the action scenes are some of the best from DC so far, with set pieces that have influences from such films like The Raid 2 and John Wick.

Is it the best film from the DCEU? Absolutely not. But it does showcase that Warner Brothers and DC can still accomplish things where Marvel cannot.

Birds of Prey is now in theaters.


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