Movie Review: "Birds of Prey"
Birds of Prey
Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) has broken up with the Joker. While the two were together, Harley Quinn was untouchable. She could do whatever she wanted, to whoever she wanted, and no one would retaliate because of their fear for the Joker. Now the two have broken up, and everyone Harley Quinn has wronged knows it. She has a massive target on her back, and seemingly all the lowlifes and crime lords in Gotham are after her. None, however, are more dangerous than Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor).
Roman Sionis—also known as "Black Mask"—seems to own everyone in Gotham. He is unstable, immensely wealthy, and has used his wealth to by power—putting some sadistic criminals on his payroll, and paying corrupt government officials to look the other way. He is now after an extremely valuable diamond. In an effort to get on Roman Sionis’ good side, Harley Quinn hopes to retrieve the diamond for him, but its current whereabouts have resulted in some unforeseen complications. A young pickpocket named Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) has the diamond. Harley Quinn needs to find the girl or Black Mask will surely kill them both, but Harley Quinn is far from being the only one after the young pickpocket.
The Pros & Cons
Harley Quinn & R-Rating (+8pts)
Roman Sionis (+5pts)
Renee Montoya (-4pts)
Huntress & Dinah Lance (+5pts)
The Smack & Guns (-3pts)
Pro: Harley Quinn & R-Rating (+8pts)
Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn was the best thing about Suicide Squad, so I was excited when I learned that she would be the focal point of Birds of Prey. This character has such a unique, unpredictable personality, and Margot Robbie has done a great job of bringing this character to the screen. The character is crazy, she is violent, and Margot Robbie brought all of that to the screen while also giving her enough heart for you to care about her as a protagonist. This movie definitely did more justice to this character than Suicide Squad did, and I enjoyed every second that she was on screen—which was a lot. This character and her story definitely benefited from being rated-R. Now, I am not normally one that thinks movies need to be rated-R to feel violent. However, some characters' stories cannot be told properly without being rated-R.
For example, I think Venom worked as a PG-13 movie, but I do not think you can do a movie with Carnage without making it rated-R. Harley Quinn is more than just violent. She is also crude, crazy, has a love for drugs and alcohol, and she finds herself getting involved with some pretty bad people. This character definitely benefited from the R-rating. It let the filmmakers bring this character to the screen properly, and made for a number of great scenes—such as the cocaine scene—and a lot of violent action. In order to tell a story about Harley Quinn properly, you need to unleash the character by giving her story an R-rating. The filmmakers of this movie did that, and it definitely worked in their favor.
Con: Incoherent (-4pts)
This story—particularly in the beginning—suffered from some incoherent storytelling. The first act of the movie kept jumping back and forth in time, and I think the story would have been a lot more effective if the filmmakers just let it play out chronologically. The movie started in one spot, then skipped quite a bit ahead, then went back and showed what it had skipped over. There were a few time jumps that were pretty unnecessary, and made the story feel more complicated than it needed to be.
During all this, the filmmakers even worked in a few origins, which certainly did not help the problem, as it made for a pretty messy and incoherent start. After the first act—or so—the movie stopped doing this and the movie felt like it flowed a lot more naturally. If the filmmakers had a complex story to setup, I would understand doing what they did. However, their story was pretty straight forward, so having this unnecessarily complicated start did this movie no favors.
Pro: Roman Sionis (+5pts)
Roman Sionis—also known as the Black Mask—was the antagonist of this movie, and I thought he was a pretty great one. Sure, he was your stereotypical bad guy who was after wealth and power, and he already had plenty of each. He seemed to own all crime in Gorham, and had paid off enough government officials to make him seemingly untouchable by the law. He essentially owned Gotham, which worked really well for this movie because it forced the very different protagonists together.
The character worked well for this movie on paper, but Ewan McGregor did a great job of bringing him to life. He played this character’s instability in a way that made him feel dangerous and unpredictable. He was organized enough to make his criminal organization feel believable and efficient, but he had enough of a temper to make you believe that he could go off the rails at any moment, while making you believe that his loss of control would be bad news for anyone that crossed him. The character was as captivating as he was threatening, and he made for a great villain for this movie.
Con: Renee Montoya (-4pts)
I honestly do not have much to say about this character other than that I did not care about her or her story at all. The filmmakers spent too much of this movie’s runtime showing the current state of her career as well as explaining the struggles that she had faced as a female detective in Gotham. I unfortunately did not care about any of it, which made these scenes feel like pointless filler. The filmmakers could have used this time to better develop far more interesting characters like the Huntress, Dinah Lance, or Roman Sionis. Instead we got a bunch of pointless scenes with the detective, which felt like nothing more than a waste of screen-time.
Pro: Huntress & Dinah Lance (+5pts)
When I heard that they were making Birds of Prey, I was excited but also concerned. It is a story about a group of reluctant heroes—featuring Harley Quinn—coming together to face a common threat. We saw that with Suicide Squad and, while Harley Quinn was the best part about it, that movie was not good. The filmmakers struggled to properly balance the stories for their group of characters, and I was worried that Dinah Lance and the Huntress would suffer the same fate in Birds of Prey.
Fortunately, I liked both of these characters quite a bit. I thought the flashbacks to Huntress’ origin were a little annoying, but I liked the character's story and thought she had some awesome action moments. Then there was Dinah Lance, who definitely got more screen-time. I liked her involvement with Roman Sionis and Renee Montoya, and liked seeing her kick plenty of ass as well. The filmmakers introduced these characters by giving them plenty of action, and satisfying stories that got me interested in the characters while leaving the door open for more development in potential future movies.
Con: The Smack & Guns (-3pts)
This was an extremely minor issue because it came and went so quickly, but it was a ridiculous scene nonetheless. Harley Quinn got hit pretty hard at one point in this movie. When that happened, it was followed by a musical dance sequence that was incredibly unnecessary. I understand that Harley Quinn is crazy, but we already knew that. This scene was random, it was not funny or entertaining, and it added nothing to the story.
Then there were the fact that so few enemies drew guns. At one point, Harley Quinn walks straight into a police station and only one officer felt the need to draw his gun. This was also true during the first part of the final battle, where an onslaught of random bad guys come running in with either no weapon, or just blunt objects. These moments were pretty easy for me to get past, but the lack of guns was a pretty convenient plot device that was used throughout this movie.
Grade: B- (82pts)
I was skeptical of this movie because of how Suicide Squad turned out, but I was optimistic toward this movie because Harley Quinn was the best part of that movie. Birds of Prey featured a lot more Harley Quinn, and Margot Robbie was great in the role once again. The R-rating also really helped the character, as it allowed the filmmakers to really lean into what makes the character so great. The R-rating provided some decent comedic moments, and plenty of violent, Harley Quinn action.
I thought that Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) was an effective and captivating antagonist. I also thought that the filmmakers did a good job of incorporating Dinah Lance and the Huntress into this movie, by giving them interesting stories and letting them kick plenty of ass. Unfortunately, I thought the inclusion of Renee Montoya was a waste of screen-time, as the character contributed nothing to the story and was not entertaining or interesting in any way. The movie got of to a bit of a bumpy start, with repetitive time jumps that made the beginning of the movie feel incoherent, but the movie was able to move on from this. This movie had its issues, but it was a lot better than Suicide Squad, as I thought Birds of Prey actually ended up being a decent movie.