Arts and Entertainment“Birds of Prey” soars past initial expectations

What looked to be a laughable successor to "Suicide Squad" becomes a vibrant film with its own identity.
Evan EngelhauptFebruary 13, 2020913 min
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Illustration by Andrea Nebhut

DC or Detective Comics has certainly had a rocky history when it comes to movies, but continuing to create entries in their expanded universe enough to keep themselves afloat. And as controversial as it may sound, I have come to respect and enjoy DC solo movies. “Man of Steel,” “Wonder Woman,” “Shazam” and even “Aquaman” have been successful both commercially and cinematically.

Perhaps they lack the depth or ongoing development of the Marvel heroes, but I really have yet to walk out of a DC solo movie thinking, “That was terrible!” Where DC does fail, I believe, is their team-up movies; “Suicide Squad” and “Justice League” were both borderline laughable.

And going into “Birds of Prey,” I expected the same trend to follow: too many characters stuffed into a single movie and thus ruining any level of character development in its effort to clutter together numerous plot lines.

But I must say, “Birds of Prey” strikes quite an enjoyable balance between the two, functioning as a solo movie for Harley Quinn, but allowing enough expansion to create interesting characters worth the screen time.

The best part about “Birds of Prey” is that it does not take itself too seriously, breaking the fourth wall through the use of dozens of freeze frames and littering itself with ridiculous stunts and situations.

It is quite literally a moving comic book, maintaining a similar vibe to the Deadpool movies.

The star of “Birds of Prey” is Harley Quinn, with Margot Robbie owning the role with the same energy that made “Suicide Squad” at least watchable. This time around its all about her, NOT the Joker (as the first 10 minutes make very clear), which is quite a clever theme to present in a character who was always the equivalent to a “backup singer” for the Joker. Not to mention the more socially empowering message the focus on Harley Quinn and her moving-on story implies.

“Birds of Prey” does have a total of eight main characters. For reference, that is more than “Justice League,” yet each Bird flies with the narrative, however silly that narrative may be. Characters that are not central to the plot get less screen time, and each one is introduced in a way that makes sense and doesn’t just scream fan service.

Furthermore, each character has a charm to them that manages to stay unique to them, whether it be the eccentricity of Ewan McGregor’s Roman Sionis, the serious cop attitude of Rosie Perez’s Renee Montoya, or the cold-blooded wittiness of Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Huntress, all of the actors and actresses soar above and beyond to create some momentum and chemistry with their costars.

On the more cinematographic side, “Birds of Prey” matches the energy of its stars with the energy of its set pieces. Director Cathy Yan delivers on all aspects, from the vibrant clown colors to the over the top set pieces, and some beautiful slow-motion moments in between. It’s that kind of embracing of the absurd that makes “Birds of Prey” enjoyable. If you came in hoping for a rich story with deep character arcs that tug with your emotions, “Birds of Prey” is probably not where you want to flock to this Friday night. But if you enjoy watching one of the DC extended universe’s best characters blasting away misogynistic men with confetti grenades and baseball bats, prepare for two hours of fun and laughs.

While “Birds of Prey” is all fun and games, there are some deeper themes that would fly over an inattentive viewer and some that flutter about throughout critical moments in the film. Concepts of independence and moving on from places where there is nothing to prove are all prevalent and play a role in each of the storylines of the main characters.

In for, “Birds of Prey” does not seem to want to be regarded as the next major social discussion starter nor the opposite side, the next “Deadpool.” Its goal appears to lie somewhere in between, presenting a spectacle full of colors and wackiness to allow the viewer to enjoy the experience rather than soak in a slew of metaphors and themes most movies try to create.

That being said, I would not say it is a must-see film, and maybe worth the wait for it to be on a streaming service for a quiet Saturday night.

But if a weekend night with friends turns lackluster, consider migrating over “Birds of Prey’s” vibrancy and wackiness that will hopefully instill further hope in the future of the DCEU.

Evan Engelhaupt

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