Birds of Prey: Film Review

Birds of Prey (and The Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn) was unexpected in the best way possible. I went into watching this film with mixed reviews as I was aware opening weekend wasn’t great for this film. I am not a huge comic book fan, nor do I watch the film adaptations too often, but I was absolutely blown away by this film in a way that I was not expecting from a DC film: It was just fun for the sake of being fun. 

This film was the true epitome of entertainment. It’s a kaleidoscope of grotesque color schemes, caricatured characters, and dark humor. It felt like a take what you can get film, something that doesn’t often happen in DC films. Most films about superheroes or villains tend to follow a certain quest or desire for revenge for the character, and there wasn’t exactly a linear format that followed this trope. With that being said, let’s get into the character of Harley Quinn.  

Margot Robbie is phenomenal in her portrayal of Harley Quinn. The film starts with a comical backstory of Harleen Quinzel and how she came to be Harley Quinn and recalls how she met the Joker (Mr. J). The events that transpire afterward are the aftermath of their breakup, and how she deals with it. Certain parts tend to be melodramatic, but they are intentional, if not satirical. It’s a commentary on how sad breakups can be initially and the changes we put ourselves through to convince ourselves we’re okay. I appreciated the initial portrayal of sadness because although the Joker and Harley’s relationship was abusive, she has the right to feel upset before finding her new sense of freedom and independence. Their breakup, however, calls for an open season on Harley Quinn, who was protected by the Joker as he was extremely feared. Anyone who had anything against Harley Quinn was now able to do something about it. 

Many articles state that the film lacks plot, but when watching it what lacks in the plot the film makes up for in characterization. The lack of plot, however, is intentional, and the main characters are caricatures. They are exaggerated in many ways to satirize the motives of people and play off the idea itself that it is a movie. Ewan McGregor’s character BlackMask, for example, is a caricature of most movie villains, constantly angry, on a power trip, not able to trust anyone. 

Harley Quinn differs from this trope because she’s not exactly a villain, instead she is herself, in the best and worst way possible. She unapologetically does what she wants throughout the film, (Partying, fighting people, roller derby, etc) and at one point even admits that she is a terrible person. This moment struck me because most movie villains feel justified in their actions or quest for revenge.  

This film’s lackluster plot implies how Harley is dealing with the motions, taking what she can out of life, and is not on any quest for revenge because she truly isn’t. She mainly gets caught up in things and tries to balance what’s good for herself while also maintaining that whatever she does is right. In essence, Harley Quinn was just living her life post-breakup, and indeed was sad about it and blew up the chemical plant where she proved her love for the Joker. However other than that, there was no seeking revenge on others or the Joker himself. It was open season on her, and she was trying to survive in the way she knew how. 

One line in the film that truly embodies its main point is when Harley speaks to The Huntress, on revenge. The Huntress is seeking vengeance on the men who killed her entire family and eventually crosses paths with Harley, who when they band together says, “You know psychologically speaking revenge is not cathartic as you might want it to be.” This line has stuck with me because it is intelligently said, and calls out the quest of revenge essentially. Harley’s background as a psychiatrist would make her understand that revenge will not do anything for her and she must stand on her own. 

Overall, this film was absolutely entertaining, and Margot Robbie is phenomenal in this role. The stunts were well performed, and the soundtrack is absolutely killer (pun intended). The simplicity of this film speaks for itself, and I was not expecting to be this entertained and provoked in thought about a DC film.