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‘Birds of Prey’ SPOILER Review

After letting dust collect on this site for weeks I am finally back! This past Friday we had the release of DC’s latest installment in their cinematic universe (is it still a universe?), Birds of Prey. Though this movie opened at number one this weekend it did so with a lower then expected box office of $33.3 Million. Yikes. Despite low turnout was it any good? Let’s get into the good and the bad.

THE GOOD

Black Canary: This has been brought up in just about every review I’ve encountered so far; Jurnee Smollett-Bell is excellent in this role. It should be mentioned that it is a small one, more on that below, but what she did get to do with it was phenomenal.

I would have liked to see her use the canary cry more than once though. I understand they wanted to build up to that single use to give it more weight in the scene, but come on. This is Black Canary. Yes, she’s a character that doesn’t need her power to win. If anything it’s just a  bonus on top of her fighting skills (portrayed pretty well in the film) but for a project meant to amp up lesser known DC characters it would have been great to see more of what she can do.

Black Mask-ish: I didn’t mind this portrayal of Roman Sionis. I think it was a creative choice instead of going with the obvious Italian mobster cliche. This character is very, very obviously queer, yet, once again, the film fails to just embrace it openly; another case of that “have our gays and delete it too” that we’re seeing in Hollywood’s attempt to deliver representation. 

Sionis was funny, he had presence, and he even managed to have some scenes that disturbed amidst his clownish and flamboyant theatrics. Speaking of clownish, there was something terribly ‘Leto’s Joker’ about this portrayal. Much of this movie felt like it was trying to redeem elements from Suicide Squad and this Black Mask really felt a part of that.

Action: The film doesn’t just have some brutal action sequences but they’re a ton of fun as well. Harley coked out fighting the goons in the police station was glorious. The birds taking out Sionis’ guys in the fun house was spectacular, and the car chase scene was a great moment for Harley as well.

Rather than create action sequences that felt light and too dance-like (something you see often with female fight sequences) there’s real weight to each punch and kick. It doesn’t just show the women take out the dudes, but rather shows them taking their fair share of blows while getting it done too. I hope its not something taken for granted by those that actually did go check this thing out.

Huntress: This movie REALLY managed to do an almost completely Harley focused story, introduce multiple supporting characters and villains, and still included the dope origin of Helena Bertinelli. It’s addition into the plot of the movie felt seamless and was one of my favorite successes of the project.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead did a fine job with what little she was given. I think she had incredible presence on screen and the humor elements they were able to add to the character were fantastic. She had some of the biggest laughs in the movie despite barely feeling like she was in it. I would love to see her appear in more projects down the line. However, I don’t think film is the place…

Thank You for Not F***** This Up: With the Harley hysteria I was very concerned that the movie would try to do whatever it took to shoehorn her into a perfectly clean heroic role. This did not do that. My gratitude knows no bounds.

Harley Quinn is not a hero. Harley Quinn is not an antihero. This character is a villain. She’s demented. She’s a killer. There’s a reason they put her on the suicide squad. Does she have an emotional side? Of course, just look at her obsession with the Joker. Yet, once again, SHE WAS OBSESSED WITH THE JOKER; the most psychotic villain in Batman’s rogue gallery. The person who dates that is not “gray area.”

This move did show Harley in a positive light regarding her connection with Cassandra Cain. Yes, it did have Montoya say she owed Harley an apology at the end of the film (that bugged me a bit), and it danced the line with the possibility of a friendship between herself and Dinah, but the film never crossed it.

It really felt like their coming together was more a result of circumstances instead of something that was intentionally being sought. I could accept that. The movie didn’t take any character out of their moral compass, and that was something that gave me the most anxiety leading up to this movie’s release.

Robbie seemed to really do her homework with the characters they brought to the screen and it showed.

THE BAD

IS THIS Birds of Prey?: All the character honoring aside, the title of this film is super misleading. The structure of it didn’t match with what it was allegedly intending to promote. This is NOT Birds of Prey. This is a Harley Quinn movie FEATURING the Birds of Prey to-be. 

Was the mission to give Robbie a solo film but take advantage of the slot to introduce lesser known DC characters? By bouncing off the Harley fame was it believed that these soft intros would serve as jumping-off points for a legit Birds of Prey film down the line? Whatever the case, this film should have been titled something different.

Harley Quinn is NO Birds of Prey and the movie makes that clear! Thank you! Yet, don’t make that the principal title since it gives the idea that the movie is intending to be something it clearly isn’t. While on that note…

The  Comic Bros Though…: Who was this movie for? I know, I know, it’s a movie it’s supposed to be for everyone. But still.

At first glance it didn’t look like a Birds of Prey movie (and it definitely wasn’t). That would have been Canary, Huntress, and Oracle. Counter argument here is that the casual movie-viewer don’t know what that is… Cool. Yet, regardless, no one really went to see this interpretation anyway! Birds of Prey is a popular comic book property  because of the actual elements that make it up; why try and alter/fix something that isn’t broken?

I am ALL FOR films that cater to the female gaze. This move did that 100%. However, there was very little here for the male gaze. I’m not saying we needed to see Robbie put on her gratuitous heels, pantie shorts, and extremely tight top from Suicide Squad. I’m saying this movie felt completely geared towards a very specific niche audience (through its wardrobe, editing, format, and humor) and didn’t seem to make a movie that appealed to general audiences.

Sure, the budget was around 90 million and it can make that back with its international income, but come on… We say we want unique film. We say we want kick-ass female lead movies. We say we want less gratuitous male-gaze focused female roles. Yet, when a film comes out that does that, where is everyone?

The lack of audience turn out isn’t a comment on the films quality. The movie succeeds beautifully at what it wants to be. However, it’s a project that felt it would have done better on HBOMax.

Cassandra Cain: That wasn’t her. That’s all. She did fine in the movie, and I see what they did there, but no. She’s so much more than that. It felt like they needed a fairly known comic name to fill the role of a MacGuffin (object that motivates the characters). It just didn’t work for me.

Overall I give Birds of Prey a 3 out of 5 potatoes. I REALLY want this version of Canary and Huntress to continue. I really enjoyed them. Currently we know  there are whispers of a Batgirl centered film in production. I’m hoping these characters can find themselves over there for another round.

As for Quinn? This should have been a Gotham City Sirens film from the get-go. Why the choice was made to do this? Not sure.

 

 

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