With the Oscars in the rear-view mirror now, the first memorable release of 2020 is Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey.
What can be said, interpreted or imagined about the DC cinematic universe that hasn’t been done already? The marketing and general aesthetic of Yan’s new movie would make you falsely think it’s just as awful as David Ayer’s Suicide Squad (2016), but villainess Harley Quinn (played by 2020 Oscar nominee Margot Robbie) gets a redemption in more ways than one.
The former love interest of the Joker has her own, wacky character arc that includes a team of anti-heroines. They are Dinah Lance, AKA Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell); Helena Bertinelli, AKA Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead); Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco); and Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez). Dinah is a reluctant employee of the worst crime boss in Gotham City, Roman Sionis, known as Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). Renee is a recently demoted detective for Gotham’s police department. Chris Messina plays Sionis’ main lackey and Christina Hodson provides the film’s script.
Birds of Prey doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t. It’s campy, flamboyant and over-the-top, with a vibrant look and tone that are half music video and half video game. Both the creators and the characters treat the whole story as a big romp, and it works because ultimately these are comic book characters, and they should be flashy and fun.
Yan, Hodson and the actors are taking it seriously only as far as they want to and just want to remind everyone that it’s possible to create a decent, colorful R-rated action flick without any dark grittiness. This is what Suicide Squad should’ve been like, and because it was crap, most people unfortunately are already turned off to seeing Harley with her own movie. I’ll go as far as to say this is also what the Joel Schumacher Batman movies from the late 1990s could have been if they were a little more self-aware.
If you’re just not into superheroes or comic book movies any more, then Birds of Prey probably won’t keep your attention. But if you want to see some quality fight sequences with an entertaining performance by Robbie, this film will please.
Megan Bianco is a Southern California-based movie reviewer and content writer with a degree from California State University Northridge.