"Birds of Prey," Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn movie, is our first DC Extended Universe movie of 2020. Is the movie as good as "Wonder Woman" or as disappointing as "Suicide Squad"? Here's what the reviews say.
The Movie Begins With Harley Quinn And The Joker Breaking Up
A sort-of sequel that soars far above "Suicide Squad," this fresh follow-up wisely puts the spotlight on Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) as she carves out (sometimes literally) a new life for herself in the aftermath of her breakup with the Joker. In discovering the power she's always had to stand on her own two feet, and in freeing herself from trying to please the dysfunctional man in her life, she even manages to make some new female friends along the way.
Robbie Shines As Harley Quinn, And Mary Elizabeth Winstead Steals The Show Among A Mostly Underutilized Cast
Harley outshone her hellion comrades before, and she does the same thing here — though Mary Elizabeth Winstead, as the crossbow-wielding Huntress, has a fierce, cool, sizing-you-up implacability that's potent enough to be spinoff-ready.
Huntress has the driest line delivery of all these women; she's always just a little behind the beat, like a jazz chanteuse with zero Fs to give. She's the best thing about Birds of Prey, and the movie feels somehow smarter and more subversive whenever she's onscreen. The rest of the time, it's stomping around on its figurative stilettos, spelling out its girl power message in loud and clear Morse code.
Birds of Prey has a lot of masters to serve between emancipating Harley, setting up her antagonists, and establishing the other women crammed into that very long title, and unfortunately, the Birds of Prey are the ones who get shortchanged by the ambitious scope of this tale.
The Plot Of The Movie Is, However, A Little Messy
It's hard to ascertain if some of the film's narrative missteps are the product of bad editing or shoddy writing — or perhaps both in one messy stew […] Even the film's conclusion — offering both sewn-up satisfaction and the inevitable open door for other franchise adventures — is marred by a weirdo break in logic that could have been fixed with some swapped pages or more coherent editing.
The film's plot, is slight at best, convoluted at worst, but Birds of Prey rips through its hardboiled neo-noir story with such gleeful abandon that you barely notice the tired Macguffin narrative — half of which seems cobbled together from the film's reshoots. It's aided by the wacky non-chronological nature of the film, told with an unreliable twinkle by Harley herself, who frequently rewinds and fast-forwards through the events that don't pertain to her.
But 'BOP' Is Full Of Kinetic Energy And Visual Aplomb
(Director Cathy) Yan, who colors her comic-book palette somewhere between the Crayola pop of Dick Tracy and the urban decay of Dark Knight, skips blithely from enhanced reality to full-on fantasy (most memorably, in a song-and-dance sequence with Robbie as a sort of punk-rock Marilyn Monroe). And she has a gift for kinetic fight scenes, though there are only so many creative-kill scenarios before the death toll becomes numbing.
Yan's use of light and color creates a refreshing and vivid look that is unlike any version of the usually gothic lens into the city we've seen on screens big and small so many times before. This Gotham delivers a visual pop that feels almost like cutting the world's most expensive music video compilation to match its bright and unpredictable star.
Robbie and Yan also deliver in the film's excellent and varied scope of action scenes from the get-go, from chase sequences to brutal fight scenes (reportedly assisted by John Wick director Chad Stahleski). These moments are rarely gory despite the R-rating, which is used primarily to punctuate its script with a delectable amount of cursing, something that feels casually empowering for its female cast.
It's frustrating, though, to see a movie so tight and entertaining in its action and so gangly in exposition. The result is a rambunctious female-driven revenge thriller, filled with tentpole moments of crackling verve that is knit together by flimsy exposition and voiceovers.
It May Not Be As Groundbreaking A Superhero Film As 'Deadpool,' But It's Still A Good Ride
Leaning more heavily into action than laughs, the pic largely delivers on that front. But those hoping for a Deadpool-like fusion of mayhem and wit should lower their expectations: Harley may be known for her unpredictability, but Birds plays by action-movie rules.
Much like its central character, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is a riot — an anarchic glitterbomb of lunacy that boasts some of the most inventive fight sequences ever seen in a comic book movie, even if it often has a tendency to undermine its momentum just when it's kicking into high gear. It doesn't reinvent the wheel - especially in the wake of the fourth-wall breaking Deadpool franchise and the swagger of Guardians of the Galaxy — but it's still a ballsy, biting blast that feels like a two-hour sugar high without the crash.
… And At The Very Least, It's Better Than 'Suicide Squad'
Harley Quinn's first adventure as a headliner is among the DC Extended Universe's finest movies so far, and didn't need the shadow of the Bat looming over it any more than it needed Joker. By the time Birds of Prey reaches its spectacular finale, Harley is well and truly emancipated.
Birds of Prey isn't perfect, but in moments it soars, bringing attitude and grace into a crowded superhero space. It sets a new high-water mark for DC movies, and shines in contrast to the clunky writing and forced "outrageousness" of Suicide Squad.
It's a girl-powered, earnestly feminist superhero movie with big, implausible action sequences and outsized personalities, and while it never quite reaches that potential, it does begin to map out a fresh path to the world-worn arena of superhero narratives. It may not be the promised total emancipation (at least not yet), but it is fantabulous in its own way.