In recent years, it has been rare that a Margot Robbie film has let many fans or critics down. And Birds of Prey, directed by Chinese-American director Cathy Yan starring Robbie as Harley Quinn and an ensemble cast of other powerhouse female actors, is a film that lives true to that streak.
The movie is violent, funny and exciting with great characters. The premise of the film is one that follows Harley Quinn after her painful and rather dangerous break up with the Joker. The plot follows Harley’s attempts to stand on her two feet, now that the Joker is no longer there to protect her. And this journey that Harley embarks on is not one, as she finds, easy to tread. In her process of self-finding, Harley unites with other female villains namely Black Canary, Huntress, Detective Renee Montoya and Cassandra Cain. For most of the plot these characters are up against Black Mask – played by Ewan McGregor – and his henchman Victor Zsasz – played by Chris Messina. At the end, however, all the villains come together to confront a final conflict.
The movie is a fun one, with its scenes peppered with humor and eccentric fight sequences. The film does justice to Harley as a character, that Robbie truly was born to play, but it is still far from perfect. Technically speaking, the film’s fight scenes seem forced and rather impractical as a small group is able to take down dozens and dozens of armed opponents with essentially just their fists. Although this may be ‘spoilery’ the final scene of the film seems much like a wasted opportunity as it is played out to be like a big brawl with an advantageous location, clever defense techniques and booby traps set up to fight the enemy. Yet still, much credit can be given to the last confrontation between Harley Quinn and Black Mask, which was followed by a thrilling chase. This is in spite of the fact that it is a pity that the Joker did not play the main villain in the film instead of Black Mask, something that would have perhaps led to a more engaging plot.
However, putting criticisms of the plot aside, Birds of Prey excels in giving the audience engaging characters, much of them being the female villainous protagonist. And the oxymoron is much intended, because if there is one thing that this film deserves all praise for, it is the depiction of the female “superheroes” that are nuanced and imperfect. The film is not only a milestone from a production viewpoint, with the first ever comic film being directed by a female Asian American, but also noteworthy for the way the patriarchy is genuinely and cleverly put aside to showcase multi-dimensional complicated female characters. The women in this film serve as the centre of power, “without the burdens of being perfect, as is usually expected of woman” according to director Yan.
Ultimately, although this film is not Wonder Woman or Man of Steel, in its success as a DC live – action movie, it serves to be much better than a myriad of films in which DC disappointed comic-lovers and movie-goers alike. Birds of Prey is not the perfect comic adaptation, nor the best action film one will see. However, it is definitely not a failure, and in fact, in its own ways it is empowering to the girls who watch it, even if eccentrically so.