Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)
Updated: Apr 26
Finally! A film where, mid-fight scene, a woman offers another woman a hairtie. This is something I have been waiting years for! It's a small gesture, but one of significant importance to me. I love it when women get action sequences in film; they can be empowering when done well. However, they can also lose all credibility for me, when the need to look attractive surpasses the need for practicality (e.g. when a woman outruns a tyrannosaurus in heels, when several years earlier, a jeep could barely win the same race...eugh...take off the heels Claire...take off the damn heels). So yes, my whole first paragraph, is dedicated to celebrating the gesture of a hairtie loan, because fighting someone with your hair down is sometimes impractical (and sweaty), and I'm in love with this film for addressing this fact.
There are lots of other reasons to love this film, though. First and foremost, it's fun. Really fun. It's filmed in the style of a comic book and in this sense is comparable to the likes of Deadpool or Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) narrates her own story. There are fourth wall breaks throughout the film, building rapport between Quinn and her audience. This is especially important, because it helps audience members to empathise with a character who isn't exactly a hero. The Harley narration is also interesting because it is clear that she is the QUINNtessential unreliable narrator (#sorrynotsorry). She is telling this story, from her viewpoint, and it is a reflection of her reality. An explosion, early on in the film, looks like a series of fireworks. It's a celebration of a fresh start for Harley and any astute viewer will know that this is Harley's reality, not actual reality. The film also uses a variety of fast paced zooms, pans and other camera movements to highlight the comic book vibes. Furthermore, the use of graphics and animation to introduce Harley's backstory and a variety of characters throughout the film, solidify this incredibly fun style of storytelling. Colour and set design are also used to amplify the comic book effect.
Thematically, this film addresses female empowerment. This should be no surprise as it's made evident in the posters promoting it. We of course have a whole host of male characters in prominent positions who assume Harley Quinn cannot get by without the protection of the Joker. Indeed, this sentiment is delivered verbatim through dialogue where Harley is described as, "a silly little girl with no-one around to protect her". Of course, not only can Harley take care of herself, but in this movie, five women fight against oppression in society and the workplace, by giving a bunch of bad guys some general butt-kicking. On that note, the fight choreography, is top notch. I was never bored during the fight scenes. These were delivered in a stylistic and heightened way at times, which made them all the more engaging and of course suited the overall look of the film. During one fight scene in particular, Cass (Ella Jay Basko), a teenaged girl with a bounty on her head, watches on as Harley fights the men who are attempting to kidnap Cass for the bounty. Nothing is said, but in one close-up shot it becomes evident that Cass is inspired by Harley and as an audience member you feel that inspiration and empowerment too.
This film of course is not just about Harley Quinn and Cass, we are also introduced to Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell). These women of course, are to become the "birds of prey". However, don't get too excited about this film revolving around the group of them. It takes the better part of the entire picture for them to eventually team up, but when it finally happens it's well worth the wait. I'm genuinely hoping for a sequel, and I truly hope I'm not alone in that regard.
There are definitely a few moments of convenience and stupidity in this film, however there isn't enough convenience and stupidity to stop me from loving it. The main moment of convenience I suppose, is when the villainous Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) has Harley exactly where he wants her, but allows her to be released to help chase down and capture Cass. It's the classic movie moment where the villain turns over the hourglass and arbitrarily gives the hero an hour to live, for no apparent reason. However, it is possible to believe that this character just finds chaos fun and wants to incite some by unleashing Harley, sending every baddie in the city after her, and (of course) worry about killing her later. In terms of stupidity, the Gotham Police are stupid. They put a teenaged foster girl in a cell across from a bunch of other really gnarly bad men in other cells. This seems like overkill (and just pretty darn unnecessary), even if it isn't her first arrest. Finally, just a general note on stupidity, and perhaps advice for anyone out there who is a police informant. For the love of God, turn off the screen previews of your messages OR put your phone in your pocket, so that no one can see the messages you're receiving. I'm just saying. Unless you want to get caught...then carry on as you were...
I really enjoyed this film. I'm considering seeing it again in 4D and am inspired to do everything in my power to track down Black Canary's blue jumpsuit from the end of the film, so that I can wear it every day for the rest of my life. I'm not sure however, that this film will impress everyone. When viewing it with my partner, he very astutely pointed out, that it's essentially Deadpool 2. This opinion has credence, I won't deny it. And for die hard Deadpool or Marvel fans, it may be hard to forget. I do enjoy Deadpool myself, however I still love Birds of Prey and will be buying it on blu-ray upon it's release. Like I said before, it is a lot of fun to watch.