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Dana’s Film Review: Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey (2020)

960x0After 2016’s Suicide Squad, audiences had mixed reactions to the Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey trailer, (or should I say Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey now that the title’s changed). Some people loved it. Some people hated it. As for me, I decided to spring up two pigtails, spray them pink and blue, dot a heart onto my cheekbone, and head out like a giddy six-year-old, excited to see Margot Robbie bring one of my favorite crazy characters back to the screen. Boy, was I in for a surprise. But before I jump into that, here’s a quick film production recap.

Do you know what a harlequin is? A harlequin’s role is to serve. It’s nothing without a master. No one gives two shits who we are, beyond that.

Birds of Prey was initially announced in May 2016, ahead of the release of Suicide Squad, with Warner Bros stating that it was a spinoff film focusing on Harley Quinn and a couple of other female DC Comics heroes and villains, such as Batgirl and the Birds of Prey. Margot Robbie spent three years working on Birds of Prey and continued to present it to Warner Bros. until the studio felt the project was at the point it could be made. After a bunch of tugging and pulling and scrapping and editing, Warner Bros. and DC Films finalized a deal in April 2018, with Cathy Yan set to direct, making her the first female Asian director to direct a superhero film. Robbie was also confirmed to be producing the film under her LuckyChap Entertainment banner, as part of a first look deal she has with the studio. With all of that preproduction information out of the way, you may be wondering what Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey is about.

I’m the one they should be scared of! Not you, not Mr J! Because I’m Harley Fucking Quinn!”

Directed by Cathy Yan, Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey portrays the return of Harley Quinn,

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The squad.

(Margot Robbie), after her devastating breakup with the Joker. Upon the break-up, Harley is submerged in grief and struggles to move on with her life. However, the post-breakup blues are quickly subdued when Harley finds out that her breakup with the Joker places her as a red alert target for those she’s wronged during her time with Mr. J., especially narcissistic crime boss, Black Mask, (Ewan McGregor). And things only get more complicated when she crosses paths with pickpocketing kid, Cassandra Cain, (Ella Jay Basco), Huntress, (Mary-Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary, (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), and Renee Montoya, (Rosie Perez). Will Harley transcend this web of complications and prove to herself that she’s something more than just the Joker’s arm-candy? And does this cluster-bar of interesting characters coupled along with lessons learned from Suicide Squad guarantee this film being an A+ show? Dissection time!

“Here’s the deal, Quinn. You need me!”

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That iconic smile.  😀

When I replay the events of the film while typing this article, the first factor that appears in my mind is story. I have mixed feelings about the story. On one hand, it’s fun, entertaining, and an action-packed frenzy, much like our lovely leading lady. But on the other, it’s just that and nothing deeper. It follows a typical action movie formula with no improvisational ingredients added to our bland elixir. There aren’t any unexpected, gruesome obstacles that raise the stakes for our main characters and causes our hearts to pound along with the raising tension of the film. And there aren’t any moments that elicit any empathy from us or leave us in awe. It’s predictable and quite linear—very A-to-B. Yan could’ve created an unpredictable storyline to match Harley’s unpredictable, quirky personality, (aside from the visually pleasing manic colors painting the film). But maybe she wanted to play it safe after Suicide Squad? So I don’t blame her. Nevertheless, this may also be a good thing for someone who knows exactly what they want. If you want to just want to kick back, relax, and have the film serve as a spoonful of entertainment rather than a syringe of seriousness—by all means, go ahead. Heck, the characters also added onto that entertainment factor.

YOU KILLED MY SANDWICH!

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn: flawless. Robbie is back in portraying the lovable,

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Awaiting her breakfast sandwich.

makeup-caked psycho–and what a sweet goody bag treat it is. She completely satisfied my expectations in regards to how Harley would act in her own adventure, in real-life, etc. Robbie is perfect, and I hope she’ll return to whatever films Harley Quinn is needed in. Ewan McGregor as Blackface: entertaining and amusing. It was my first time seeing McGregor play a villain, and there wasn’t an awkward barrier that kept us from immersing ourselves into the film, like it sometimes happens with other actors. I’ve read from other reviews that some people considered McGregor to be too ‘cartoony,’ but I didn’t think that at all. Mary-Elizabeth Winstead was also fantabulous, (cute reference to the title. See what I did there? Har, har, har). But having said that, some of the characters could’ve still been improved. One big aspect of improvement that stuck out to me was the chemistry between the characters. Frankly, there could’ve been more of it. With Wonder Woman or Guardians of the Galaxy for example, (yes, I know I shouldn’t compare DC to Marvel), the characters were immensely entertaining by either being emotionally invested with each other and to the audience, bantering nonstop, etc. In Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey, Harley’s personality obviously shines through, but a majority of the characters are just kinda there in the movie with Harley. It would’ve been nice if they had been more animated or vivacious in their personalities, (aside from McGregor and Winstead). You only feel the chemistry between the characters towards the end of the movie, leaving the viewer feel a bit cheated. And because of that, the various characters’ background stories get swept under the rug as cliched, rather than fulfilling their potential of being engrossing and enchanted with personality. But having described the areas the film could’ve improved in, it’s not that bad, especially when compared to other bombing reviews.

“Get ready, ladies.”

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Move over, Lady and the Tramp. We’ve got a new pair of lovers.

I recall someone in IMDB’s reviews calling Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey “an Antifa film,” (I know—hilarious and dramatic). Another as being “a DC chick flick” and “Deadpool 2 knock-off.” But I completely disagree with those. Sure, it’s not what it could’ve been. But that doesn’t mean that it’s bad. I’m still glad that it was made. It’s fun, entertaining, and great for those looking for just that.

 

Genre: Action/Crime

Rating: R.

Time: 1 Hour, 49 minutes

Final Verdict: B

PS: In case y’all were curious as to how my  “giddy six-year-old”  Harley Quinn fangirl looked like the day I went–here ya go! Enjoy the goodies, haha.

 

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