Birds of Prey: And The Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn
Being a cynic is safe because you know things are going to be bad, then when it turns out good it’s a great surprise. That’s how it was for me on seeing Birds of Prey. To begin with, I’m not a fan of DC Comics movies because most of them have been dreary overhyped disappointments. Not that I’ve seen all of them. After suffering through Batman vs Superman and seeing the trailer for Justice League, I skipped the latter. Though I was afraid that the trailer for Birds of Prey might be a huge trap, I went anyway and am very happy to have done so.
The people who make the DC Comics movies might try and pay attention to the fact that their two best films in the last few years are origin stories created by women with women main characters, except for the part of Wonder Woman where Zack Snyder stuck his nose in and ruined an otherwise fun movie. He doesn’t appear to have gotten a hold of Birds of Prey, though there is an overlong, gratuitous massive fight scene at the end, because guys seem to really need an explosive end to a buildup. Can’t imagine why. The difference in Birds of Prey is that the Big Fight Scene At The End isn’t too long, isn’t a complete waste of time and plot, and doesn’t feature characters hitting each other repeatedly with buildings.
Though Harley Quinn did appear in the dismal Suicide Squad, she wasn’t the focus of the film as she is here. Early on she leaves the love of her life, The Joker, in a loud and crazy way as befits Harley Quinn. Because as she explains, “Behind every man is a badass woman,” and woe to the man who forgets it. I’ve read that there’s no good explanation for her actions but I don’t think I was watching the same movie as those people. In true comic book form, there’s a whole “panel” on her being pushed aside and her brilliant ideas and actions being usurped by him until she has had enough. Guys seem to have a really hard time understanding that women don’t like this. The Joker apparently didn’t.
That’s one of many “panels” or “frames” in the film that is, in my opinion, the best film ever that is designed to look like a comic book. Other films have had parts that looked very much like a comic, like From Hell or Avengers: Assemble, but here nearly every moment looks like it has been lifted directly from the pages of a graphic novel. Two shots really stand out in my mind. One is Black Canary sitting forlorn and alone at the bar, nursing a drink, when Harley’s face comes into frame – sideways. That’s exactly the kind of gravity-bending stunt a comics artist could and would employ to accentuate Harley’s style of movement and interpersonal style. Another is a big fight scene in which the overhead sprinklers rain down on Harley kicking butt and not bothering to take names. She jump kicks someone by essentially diving into the air and swirling over to nail him with first one foot than the other. As soon as she’s airborne, the motion goes super slow motion, so now it looks like a comics frame, including movement lines depicted by the curves of water flying off her feet and blood flying off the guy’s face. I almost clapped I was so impressed. Then I thought about the difference from Wonder Woman’s slow motion action and Harley Quinn’s. The former is a means of emphasizing the character’s and the actress’s physical prowess, but the latter is to showcase her comic book origin. Time and again the comics chiaroscuro created by director Cathy Yan reminded me this was a comic book I was watching, with bold and colorful captioning (color and language colorful) throughout, and it was wonderful.
Other pluses are the diversity on display in Birds of Prey. Beyond a main character and her posse being all female, you will find people of color in many roles. It’s in your face and totally matter of fact all at the same time. Also, roller derby. Even if only for a few moments, this makes the movie completely must see. In a ramped up Leverage scene, Harley moves through a crowded and chaotic bar, beautifully rendered in color and action, in what seems like one seamless take, except she pops up in one conversation after another without any apparent cuts. This shows hours of her interactions with the crowd in one long take like Robert Altman on steroids. Lastly, I think I speak for everyone when I say I WANT that egg sandwich.
I’ve read comments suggesting the story is over long and meanders, but what origin story doesn’t do just that? They probably loved The Irishman. Compared to others, I found the story to be entertaining and not horribly slowed down by having to get all the pertinent points in and introduce the many characters. The easter eggs are really deep, it seems. Go to the imdb page for trivia to see their depth.
My biggest complaint is, during the penultimate fight scene (with the fabulous line, “Hair tie?”) one of my favorite songs, Barracuda by Heart plays – until it is roughly remixed. I know it had to be shortened, but that was jarring. I loved everything else about the movie, including the colorful and fun end credits.
This movie comes with my highest recommendation. Despite my often dour remarks about films, I do love movies and I’ve seen a lot of them. This one instantly became one of my favorites and I can’t wait to see it again. Be aware, there is a lot of violence, though almost no gore, and there is a lot of cursing. If either one of those things is a no go for you then avoid it. Otherwise, please do go see Birds of Prey because it’s a really great movie.
All I want to do right now is jump up and down and tell you to go see Birds of Prey NOW! I wish I could convey to you the joy this movie brings. Hubby and I want to see it again. He loved the colors and cinematography – “eye candy” for him. We both loved the characters. Hmm…. I think we are free this Tuesday….
I looked forward to seeing this for a long time. When I read that Margot Robbie was producing I was so happy. I felt she had to put up with a lot during Suicide Squad. She rocks out as the producer of this movie and the driving force to getting it off the ground and I love it.
I have lots of friends who say this is the only DC movie they will own. Trust me. My friends are hardcore Geeks and they LOVE this movie. Why? Because this is comic book movie from DC they have been waiting for. Full blown true to the comic book characters that own the screen and totally are THEMSELVES!
I’ve said this before and I will say it again: When we the fans go to see a movie like this, we don’t need just the special effects. We need our characters!! That makes us happy. This movie delivers. Everyone who I know who has seen it just shares the love
POINTS: All of it! This movie is a run through Harley Quinn’s brain, a day in the life, a life in the day, a full on anti-heroine running her own show. Margot Robbie wanted this movie to introduce other DC women to the screen so they could get their own movies. (How much do I love Ms. Robbie? 3000.) So we meet many other characters and they are all so cool and fun and unique and AHHHHHH Go see this movie.
PITFALLS: Ok, first: I can’t own this and watch it now – why do I have to wait?!?!? Second: The grilled egg, bacon, cheese, hot sauce, buttered bread sandwich that is the gastronomical love object for Harley Quinn in this movie STILL makes me hungry just thinking about it and I want one now.
Not too much, Sal. I wanna taste the cheese.
Third: Where’s my sequel?
FEMALE CHARACTER(S): Oh YES!!!!!!!!!!! I mean emmm-gah I LOVE THESE CHARACTERS!!!! Rosie Perez as Renee Montoya – the cop who talks like and 80s cop show. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is Helena Bertinelli / The Huntress – the stoic crossbow carrying killer. Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Dinah Lance / Black Canary – the high kicking singer with a deadly voice. BTW: Ms. Smollett-Bell also really SINGS in the movie. The person the Birds come together to protect besides themselves, Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra Cain – she with the amazing digestion that can handle diamonds. (Go Grrl). And finally, the one, the only, the recovering Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn – the mistress of DC mayhem.
There is even more to love in this cast. Men included. Such great over the top presented characters – all of them! Just like in comic books. All so perfect.
CULTURAL PITFALL(S): I get nervous when people of color, even if they are villainous henchmen, get beaten up. Then again, our Birds have many colors, ages, and sizes so I guess that is a balance. Oh and Fanboise – not to be mistaken for Fanboys – who show no love make me sad.
1.) Margot Robbie. I am going to be singing this woman’s praises for a very long time. This movie was her brainchild. She wanted to help other DC heroines get on the big screen. Thank you Margot. Words are failing me. You have not. May all of your dreams come true.
2.) Hair Tie. Ah, the hair tie moment in the big end fight scene. O.M.G. Anyone with long hair will relate to that on so many levels. Also anyone with long hair who watches super hero women with long hair and thinks “Whuh?! That’s gonna get in her face?!” will love that moment.
3.) To Those Who Supported Margot (Or Didn’t Completely Stand In Her Way). Thank you.
4.) Cathy Yan. Director. The first review I saw of this movie said you were a genius. They are correct. Love to you and all that you will do! Like a sequel.
5.) End of Credit Easter Egg. Just stay and listen. (And now I’m hungry for that sandwich again.)
6.) This article: Birds Of Prey: Is There A Box Office Double Standard? Zip it haters. Just zip it. Also pasted below under LINKS. It just made 200 mill and people are putting it down? Oh good grief.
BECHDEL TEST (Website): 3 of 3. Obviously.
RACIAL BECHDEL TEST (Website): 3 of 3. Hooray! In fact the Birds themselves are diverse. Squee!
OFFICIAL MOVIE WEBSITE: Birds of Prey | Official Site
DVD/BLU-RAY WORTHY: YES!!!!!!!!!! I’m buying one for Mildred too for her birthday.
LION PAW PRINTS: 4
- How the R-rated, women-powered Birds of Prey flips the bird — and the script — in high-flying style
- Birds of Prey: Harley Quinn approaches $200M at box office – NOTE: R Rated movies don’t make as much money ever so why the downer?
- Birds Of Prey: Is There A Box Office Double Standard? – NOTE: Read this and ZIP that double standard NOW!
- I Cannot Stop Thinking About Black Mask’s Outfits in Birds of Prey – NOTE: A salute to Ewan McGregor as the villains and his CLOTHES.
Birds of Prey Trailer