Review: Birds of Prey
Sofia Fahrion loves Harley Quinn’s vibrant new adventure.
When it comes to current superhero films, it seems that DC is often lagging behind Marvel. Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey (previously Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)), directed by Cathy Yan and with cinematography by Matthew Libatique, is DC’s latest attempt to catch up with Marvel’s cinematic universe and this time it seems they might have a better chance of keeping up. Before I say anything about the film, let me say that you should watch it. It is good. It is fun and for the DCEU it is fresh. Unfortunately, despite the fact that the film is a genuinely good time and has received great audience and critic reviews alike, turnout has been poor. This likely has to do with its association with Suicide Squad, a hot and garish mess that did little to add repute to the DC canon. This is not Suicide Squad. Additionally, the film originally had a mouthful of a title that didn’t quite help its marketing. However, if you are a fan of Deadpool then give it a watch (the films have a couple of characteristic parallels), the performances are great, and the film deserves your attention.
Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey is the first live-action, female-led, anti-hero superhero film to come out in a long time (excluding the Razzie Award winning 2004 film Catwoman). The film itself is a comedic action-packed joyride, that seems to have taken Scorsese’s comparison of superhero films to amusement park rides in the best way possible, situating the final fight in an abandoned theme park. The idea of tearing down superhero films as ‘cinema’ is not something I agree with – it’s clear that this film’s primary objective is to give audience members an experience they will enjoy. The film is pure spectacle (a characteristic not uncommon in the superhero genre); kicking off with Harley blowing up ACE Chemicals (where she literally fell for the Joker), resulting in a firework show that announced to Gotham that the Joker and her were through. It even features a hallucinogenic cover of Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend, originally performed by Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, in which Harley wears a pantsuit version of the original dress.
Yes, it is funny, with well-choreographed fight scenes, killer costumes and a good soundtrack; but at its heart, it is an action-packed, female-squad film that gives each woman the space they need.
However, Harley Quinn is not just unhinged, a badass and morally questionable; this time she is also relatable. Now that she is done with the Joker, Harley can get back to being herself and focusing on what she actually loves most in the world; an egg and bacon sandwich. Seeing her look at that sandwich with more love than she ever directed at Jared Leto’s Joker was an early indicator that we were finally getting to know Harley Quinn as a character, unlike in Suicide Squad, in which her relationship with the Joker was a defining characteristic. This is one of the best elements of the film. Yes, it is funny, with well-choreographed fight scenes, killer costumes and a good soundtrack; but at its heart, it is an action-packed, female-squad film that gives each woman the space they need. Each character gets an introduction by Harley (who intermittingly narrates the film) and little scenes that help humanize them. One of these moments that particularly stands out is when Black Canary asks for a hair tie in the middle of a fight. Harley and her fellow Birds of Prey are fleshed-out people. It’s the little moments and quirks that are worked seamlessly into the script that are ultimately incredibly refreshing.
Another element of the film that has become a trend in recent female superhero films is the new way in which women are being framed and filmed. In the MCU, Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel comes to mind, along with the upcoming Black Widow solo film. In the DCEU, Wonder Woman and her fellow Amazons are now back with a female director and wearing appropriate armor – a stark contrast to their costumes in Justice League. Harley Quinn is no different. Now in a female-directed film (that is also noticeably produced by Margot Robbie herself), she is not introduced with a slow rising close-up that starts at her legs and slowly makes its way up to her face. The camera’s gaze is significantly less objectifying than the one wielded in Suicide Squad. Harley is now allowed to wear outfits that grant her mobility, without compromising on her signature flair, and aren’t just a pair of underwear. In closing, grab your favorite snack and a couple of friends and go and see Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey for a fantabulous time.