The DCU era of superheroes have had some tepid results. Polarising fans of comic book movies, we’ve had some drab (Man of Steel,) dull (Batman vs Superman,) and sometimes dazzling (Wonder Woman.)
But one thing you can’t deny is that DCEU takes risk, much more than its Marvel counterparts. Though Suicide Squad may not have necessarily had the best reviews, it’s villainous ragtag team was unusual and different.
It also served a massive purpose in giving us the perfect Harley Quinn with Margot Robbie and helped launch Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), which is arguably one of the best DCU films to date.
Directed by Cathy Yan, Birds of Prey sees Harley Quinn split from Joker. In a midst of her break-up, she announces to the whole of Gotham that she is single. Unfortunately, without the protection of Joker, the whole criminal underworld is now hunting her down. This includes the rich and sadistic Roman Sionis aka The Black Mask, who is tracking down a diamond stolen by young girl Cassandra Cain. In order to save herself, Harley offers herself up as mercenary to hunt Cain down, but she isn’t the only one on the girl’s tail.
Alongside Robbie, the film stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, and Ella Jay Basco playing different anti-heroines of the DC Universe. The gang of actresses bringing different energies to their respective characters. Their solo arcs are perfectly fleshed out; Smollett-Bell’s Black Canary turned driver cares for her community and those around her to an extent she traps herself, Winstead’s Huntress has a backstory and rage issues but it isn’t a caricature, Perez is the 80s slang-talking cop who really wants justice against Sionis, and Jay Basco’s Cain is a lonely petty thief. Their different stories that moulds the bouncing story-line beyond the restrictions of “strong women who can fight.” It’s a wonderful and joyous watch. Especially because they feel like real women such as fussing over an egg sandwich, eating cereal for dinner, or drinking margaritas – they have enormous depth!
Also should note that Ewan McGregor’s Black Mask is a hilarious. McGregor is having the best time – monologue spewing, outfit-wearing, campy yet vicious. He rocks in this role, especially when paired with gruff knife-wielding Chris Messina.
Set to an impressive soundtrack which includes Heart’s Barracuda (a needle drop that made me applaud), a remix of Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend, and Pat Benatar’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Birds of Prey is a breath of fresh air. They are slick, bloody, and exciting to watch but also have elements of fun such as rollerskates or glitter guns. What’s so more, there are incredible feminine touches between the women as they fight including a hair tie being passed to help kicking-ass or a shoe change half-way through. What’s more, the impressive colour set design is not only uniquely bright and inventive, but utilised during the fight scenes brilliantly. Yan and her team have thought of every detail when fleshing out this bat-shit, bloody, and rambunctious world.
There’s also great care with costume design by Erin Benach. Phenomenal and personal touches to the character and female shape works. Quirky to stoic, there are fabulous details that are used to tell the story.
Birds of Prey struggles at the beginning, getting into the right gear halts the impending excitement and energy. Plus, the film is at its peak perfection when all five women are together. Though we need the storyline threads to bring them coherently in one place, it still takes a majority of the film before that happens. There are flabby moments but what fine enjoyable cuisine doesn’t have a little excess?
Cathy Yan has crafted a pulpy eccentric superhero film that invests in the trials, tribulations, and tenacity of its core team. Birds of Prey develops it’s leads characters beyond their special traits or powers and makes you care. By the final third, you are in a brilliant whirlwind of colour sequences and kick-ass heroines which
So yes, Suicide Squad was a disappointment but maybe it needed to happen so Margot’s Harley Quinn and the other Birds of Prey can fly.
Birds of Prey is out 7th February!