‘Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn‘ is released by Warner Media, directed by Cathy Yan, written by Christina Hodson, and starring Margot Robbie who also co-produced the film. It is very loosely based on the DC Comics series ‘Birds of Prey,’ created by Jordan B. Gorfinkel and Chuck Dixon.
Following her escape from Belle Reve prison, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is dumped by the Joker, who is not seen. This leads her to go on a crying spree where she behaves in a horrifying fashion, injuring victims along the way. This earns the ire of crimelord Roman Sionas (Ewan McGregor) aka Black Mask and his lackey Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina). When she very publically destroys Ace Chemicals, everyone knows Joker and Quinn are no longer an item and she is no longer under his protection. During this time, Gotham City Police Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) is trying to build a case against Roman with inside help from his driver Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell). Local pickpocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) steals a valuable diamond from Roman, who will stop at nothing to get it back, even as the “Crossbow Killer” (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is targeting his men.
It is no secret that I have been a sharp critic of the marketing campaign for BOP. The social media posts, the advertising, the posters, and the trailers have all earned my ire for their poor designs, lack of imagination, and the inability to actually showcase what the movie is about. And to be frank, it was a sign of things to come.
Where to begin? Perhaps I will start with how poorly the movie is edited. The movie moves along at breakneck speed without slowing down for a breath. At times, the movie focuses on Quinn and her attempt to “emancipate” herself from the Joker. Then it splits off with a voice-over transition to a different character and, at least four times, it goes backward with barely a warning. It takes you out of the narrative, creating confusion about what the flashback has to do with the story. The fight scenes are also poorly choreographed, rushed, and incredibly cringe-inducing, especially the climactic battle. At one point, as the protagonists take on their opponents, Heart’s fantastic song “Barracuda” starts playing and I literally rolled my eyes. It was so predictable. It lacked everything that made the Wonder Woman and Alita films so interesting.
To address the elephant in the room, yes, the movie hates men. Every man is portrayed as a jerk, a sellout, insensitive, rude, brutish, stupid, abusive, or downright evil. Not a single male character in the movie is given any depth and all, including Ewan McGregor’s character, are nothing but cliches found in a feminist pamphlet. It is poor writing, poor dialogue, and poor character development.
Whoever was the costume designer should be fired by Warner Bros. There was no thought to any of the outfits the characters wore. It seemed like they sent an intern out with one-hundred dollars and was told to pick whatever they could out of a thrift store’s bargain bin and then threw it together for each celebrity. Even Black Mask’s mask looked poorly conceived. Ali Wong has a small role as a Gotham ADA and her outfit was not professional. They could not even spring to make the assistant district attorney dress like she cares about her job?
As for the characters, it was sad to see these strong superhero women, some of whom have served in the Justice League, be reduced to Harley Quinn’s break-up buddies.
Black Mask and Zsasz are some of Batman’s most dangerous foes, but the way they are portrayed, The Tick could have stopped them. Black Mask is a powerful gangster in the source material. He is so fierce, at one point, he conquers all of the crime in Gotham City. In BOP, he is a nightclub owner who has daddy issues and a fetish for weird collector items. In the comics, Zsasz is a terrifying serial killer who uses tally marks on his body as a MO. Sure, he sometimes worked for Gotham’s mobsters to earn cash, but in BOP, he is portrayed as nothing more than a sadistic lackey. Even Tim Booth’s cameo as the character in Batman Begins has more depth.
In Suicide Squad, Harley Quinn had a charm to her character that made you appreciate her role. All of that charm is gone in BOP. She is a now a violent adrenaline junkie who has lost all likeability, other than her newfound pension for hyenas. Quinn co-creator Paul Dini supported the film and good for him, but had my creation been wasted like this, I would have been embarrassed. Instead of building off what they had done successfully, they changed her into a poor clone of Deadpool. It was lazy writing and lazy character development.
While I had hope for Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya, I was disappointed. Instead of a sharp detective and one of Gotham’s finest, she is a drunken police officer who lets people push her around and then blames everyone for how she is treated. It is sad to watch as one of the best characters of Batman: The Animated Series becomes a shadow of the character who one time arrested Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn single-handedly.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead tries as Huntress. She actually put thought into her role and her origin is most like the comic books. However, that is where the similarity ends. Gone is the cunning rulebreaker who at one time worked as Batgirl with the Batman Family. Huntress is now a mockable laughing stock who has “rage issues.” It is awful what they did to Huntress, though I will admit she is the most likable of the characters.
Black Canary is incredibly lame whose only good quality is she can sing. In the source material, she was a founding member of the Justice League, field leader of the Birds of Prey, a talented fighter, and one of the few superheroes who did not need to wear a mask. Now? She is reduced to a lounge singer for Black Mask who has the “power of her mother” and has the most distracting nose ring you will ever see. Seriously, what were they thinking?
The most heartbreaking change is done to Cassandra Cain. No longer is she the silent kick-butt ninja that Batman adopts after her criminal parents leave her behind. Instead, she is a whiny teenaged pickpocket who has no resemblance to the comic books. She is one of my favorite members of the Batman Family and it was cool to see her become Batgirl and later The Orphan. I cringed as I watched this strong female character be reduced to Harley Quinn’s cliched sidekick. It was disrespectful to how great the character is in the comic books.
Bottom line, Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey (its nickname) is just awful. Forget the politics. Forget its place in the DCEU. Forget the change to the characters. Outside of that, it is terribly edited, the action is lame, and the overall story is poorly conceived. It is a waste of time and I want my money and time back. Unfortunately, the theater would not comply.
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Strong gory violence, Strong foul language, Sexual themes
FAVORITE QUOTE: A harlequin is nothing without a master.
Check out the trailer below:
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