Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) Review

Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation Of One Harley Quinn) movie posterSynopsis
After Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) breaks up with the Joker, crime boss Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) hunts her down. To protect Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), a young pick-pocket whom Sionis is also after, Quinn enlists the help from several heroes.

Review
One of the few bright spots from Suicide Squad, DC’s attempt to create their own Guardians of the Galaxy, was Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. Hearing Robbie’s Quinn was getting her own film made me excited and I was eager to see it. That finally happened with the lengthily named Bird of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). Robbie proves that Harley don’t need no man to carry her own movie.

First off, the title is misleading. The actual Birds of Prey are more of an afterthought; Quinn is front and center. This film is just as scattered and off-the-wall as Quinn. Quinn is telling the story and continuously bounces back-and-forth between the present and flashbacks. At times this can be disorienting but that’s the point. The story is from Quinn’s point-of-view and she can be scatterbrained at times and the story telling reflects that. As for Robbie, there’s no actress that comes to mind who would fit the part as well as Robbie does. She is equal parts funny, athletic, crazy, and witty. Robbie has become synonymous with Harley Quinn, like Robert Downey Jr. with Tony Stark or Hugh Jackman with Wolverine.

As for the rest of the film, it does it’s best to keep up with the hectic Quinn. The ladies of the titular Birds of Prey are all well cast. One highlight in particular is Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the Huntress. Her awkwardness is a great contrast to Quinn’s eccentric-ness. On the other side of our main character (I don’t really want to call Quinn a hero or an anti-hero because, quite frankly, she isn’t either of those) is Roman Sionis, aka Black Mask, played by Owen McGregor. McGregor plays the character as over-the-top, constantly with an infectious smile on his face.

Since Birds of Prey is rated R, it goes all in on the violence and there is cursing galore. I’m so glad to see that studios aren’t afraid to give comic book movies a higher rating anymore. While not always necessary, it does allow the filmmakers more freedoms and it’s almost required to properly translate certain characters to the big screen (see Deadpool and Logan for examples). While I do believe this film could have gotten by with a PG-13 rating, the action was exciting and full of energy. I also found myself constantly laughing. Between Quinn’s antics and Sionis’ entitled rich boy attitude, there weren’t many scenes that weren’t full of laughs.

As entertaining as this film can be, it’s not without flaws. The jumping around makes for a very disjointed story. Quinn completely takes over the story and the Birds of Prey themselves only receive just as much characterization as needed for the story even though each of them have enough history to fill their own films. They pop up here and there, coming together in the final scenes. Sionis is not well developed. Again, we hear reason’s why he is the bad guy but not much beyond that. And there is a lot of exposition, so I hope you like hearing about rather than seeing the characters.

I thought Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) was GOOD 🙂 Margot Robbie has come to embody Harley Quinn and carries the movie on her back. The pace can be a bit jarring and chaotic but when it’s told from Quinn’s point-of-view what would you expect? The action, when it happens, is colorful and outrageous, and there is plenty of humor to go with Quinn’s clown motif. In typical comic book movie fashion, the villain only exists to give the main character an adversary and isn’t developed very much. The good news, though, is Ewan McGregor plays the part phenomenally. It’s too bad this movie wasn’t marketed well because there is a lot to like and deserves a better box office performance than what is has received.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Cathy Yan – Director
Christina Hodson – Writer
Daniel Pemberton – Composer

Margot Robbie – Harley Quinn
Rosie Perez – Renee Montoya
Jurnee Smollett-Bell – Dinah Lance / Black Canary
Mary Elizabeth Winstead – Helena Bertinelli / The Huntress
Ella Jay Basco – Cassandra Cain
Ewan McGregor – Roman Sionis / Black Mask
Chris Messina – Victor Zsasz
Steven Williams – Captain Patrick Erickson
Ali Wong – Ellen Yee

Suicide Squad Review

Suicide Squad movie posterSynopsis
Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), director of ARGUS, creates a team of super villains, designated Task Force X and led by Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), to complete covert missions. When an otherworldly entity attacks Midway City, Waller sends the team of criminals in to retrieve an important asset.

Review
It’s no secret that the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), DC’s response to Marvel’s cinematic universe, has been off to a rough start. Man of Steel has polarized fans of the character and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a convoluted mess to say the least. DC turned to David Ayer to try and turn their ship around and begin heading in the right direction to win back the fans. The end result is only somewhat successful.

I have to start out by addressing the two best things about this film: Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. Deadshot is front and center of the entire film, receiving both the most development and screen time of the villains. Smith himself is such a personality that his characters seem to embody him instead of the other way around. That’s not a bad thing because he is such a great actor, it’s just that his Deadshot ends up being very similar to many of his other film characters.

However, Margot Robbie completely transformed into Harley Quinn. Yes, her outfit was nowhere close to her iconic jester outfit (which does make an appearance, by the way) but let’s face it, that’s not the best outfit for this film. Besides, it does resemble her current costumes, which are more normal outfits anyway, so it works. Moving past her outfit, Robbie nails her character, being completely psychotic and mentally unhinged without a problem. It’s amazing how well she molded into the character.

Another character that many people had their eyes on was Jared Leto’s incarnation of the Joker. Now, I’m not going to compare Leto’s Joker to Heath Ledger’s or Jack Nickolson’s because, quite frankly, they are all different characters. Each actor who has taken up the mantle has focused on a different part of the Joker. Nickolson’s Joker was a gangster, Ledger’s was an anarchist, and Leto’s is a psychopath. I don’t think I can quite say how I feel about this version yet until I get to see him in another film.

And maybe that is an issue. The Joker’s role in Suicide Squad is not as large as the promotional material might have you think. He is a antagonist but not the antagonist. He has a lot of time in Harley Quinn’s flashbacks but only pops up every so often in current day to cause problems for the team, outside of the main baddie. As much as I like the Joker, having two disconnected antagonists in the film didn’t help the story too much.

It seems Ayer tried to learn a thing or two from MoS and BvS and tried to make this movie a more lighthearted affair. The character introductions alone have more color and pop than the two previous DCEU movies combined. I enjoyed this sequence because it gave fun, quick introductions to the main players. Each character also got their own unique song to go with their scene, in a very similar sounding soundtrack to Guardians of the Galaxy, that was just a blast to listen to.

Also throughout the film, it tries to lighten the mood and actually crack a joke or two. Much of the comedy comes from Smith, because why not, but it works for the most part. Other characters get their moments, like Boomerang (Jai Courtney) or Harley Quinn. Not every joke or obviously-meant-to-be-humorous moment hits their mark but it is good to see DC make a movie that is not super dark.

In ensemble films, it is inevitable that some characters will get more or less screen time than others. As I said in the beginning, a lot of the focus is on Deadshot and Harley, and to a lesser extent Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and the Joker. This left most of the cast poorly developed. Even the main villain was affected by this. They don’t have much motivation other than “I’m a bad guy.”

I thought Suicide Squad was GOOD :-). Much more of the titular team needed more development besides Deadshot and Harley Quinn, who ended up being the two best things about the movie. I’m interested to see Jared Leto’s Joker again because I really want to get a better feel for his version of the iconic character. Suicide Squad may not be perfect but damn it if I didn’t have fun.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
David Ayer – Director / Writer
Steven Price – Composer

Will Smith – Deadshot
Margot Robbie – Harley Quinn
Joel Kinnaman – Rick Flag
Cara Delevigne – June Moon / Enchantress
Jai Courtney – Boomerang
Jay Hernandez – Diablo
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje – Killer Croc
Karen Fukuhara – Katana
Adam Beach – Slipknot
Jared Leto – The Joker
Viola Davis – Amanda Waller
David Harbour – Dexter Tolliver
Ike Barinholtz – Griggs
Ted Whittall – Admiral Olsen
Shailyn Pierre-Dixon – Zoe