Directed by: Cathy Yan
Premise: A spinoff of Suicide Squad. Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) splits from the Joker and joins with Black Canary, Huntress, and a police detective (Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Mary Elizabeth Winsted, and Rosie Perez) to protect a girl from an ambitious crime lord (Ewan McGreggor)
What Works: Sometimes when sequels or spinoffs focus on a supporting character we get too much of a good thing like Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) in the Pirates of the Caribbean series or Mater in Cars 2. As its subtitle implies, Birds of Prey And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn moves the character to the center of the action following Harley Quinn’s feature film debut as part of an ensemble in Suicide Squad. Margot Robbie returns to the role and she is interesting enough to support her own movie. This is a breakup story about a woman redefining herself after getting out of a poisonous relationship and as wacky as the movie is this scenario is relatable enough to make Harley Quinn an accessible character. Robbie’s performance is terrific; Harley Quinn is a murderer with a scattershot train of thought and the character could easily become obnoxious but Robbie makes the character likable, even childlike at times, and she is set against a villain, played by Ewan McGreggor, who is quite menacing. He’s introduced with a fairly gruesome scene of violence that establishes his villainous bona fides and the filmmakers smartly do that early on to set the stakes and then keep the rest of the movie quite light. Despite featuring a villain who intends to murder a child, Birds of Prey is very funny. The humor adds to the movie without devaluing the gravitas and Birds of Prey has a wacky energy. It is frantically edited, has a lively production design, and the set pieces are furious and occasionally brutal but the continuity of the action makes sense and the action scenes contain an element of physical comedy that livens them up.
What Doesn’t: The story of Birds of Prey is all over the place. The narrative unfolds in a nonlinear style which is sometimes confusing but the style of the storytelling suits the Harley Quinn character. Birds of Prey pairs Harley Quinn with several other super heroines. No one else is very well characterized and the women don’t team up until the end, undercutting the concept of a superhero squad.
Bottom Line: Birds of Prey And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is one of the better comic book films in recent years. It’s distinguished by a mix of hard action, a sense of humor, and a lead character who is a lot of fun to watch.
Episode: #791 (March 1, 2020)