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Movie Review: Birds of Prey (2020) *Spoiler Section*

Birds of Prey (2020)
One of the better aspects of 2016's Suicide Squad movie was Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn. While the character does have a significant fan base, both Margot's interpretation and the various incarnations depicted in animation and the comics, I don't think mainstream audiences were particularly hungry for a Birds of Prey or Harley Quinn movie.

Despite that, Birds of Prey (2020) was always going to have an audience. Suicide Squad, while not a great critical success still did well enough to be getting a James Gunn directed sequel, and Margot's performance as Harley was widely praised... and then there are plenty of people like me.

I have no real interest in a Birds of Prey film but it features Harley Quinn, and it's a DCEU film so of course I'm going to go see it.

Plus it does play as a kind of sequel to Suicide Squad, that you could maybe interpret as a spin off film, since it directly references events from that movie.

I will say that as the trailers for Birds of Prey came out, they did increase my interest in the film.

The studio could have easily just used the movie's subtitle '[and] The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn' as the main title of the film. Or perhaps swapped the titles around, because the film itself is more Quinn focussed than Birds of Prey, despite serving as something of an origin story for that crime fighting team.

That's by no means a negative but it's obvious Harley Quinn is a bigger drawcard than the Birds of Prey with mainstream audiences... and this is very much her movie told from her point of view.

The premise is that Harley Quinn and the Joker have split up and, all of a sudden, she is no longer 'untouchable'. In the meantime an extremely valuable diamond goes missing with Harley using her talent for finding things to get herself out of a tight situation that may have involved her death via underworld kingpin wannabe, Roman Sionis (A.K.A. Black Mask).

Along the way her search crosses paths with the various future members of the Birds of Prey.

Overall I enjoyed this film, which tries to unfold it's story in a similar style to the first Deadpool movie through flashbacks woven between the current action. It doesn't quite do it as well as that film, feeling a little more disjointed and jumpy, but maybe that suits the person narrating the story, one Harley Quinn.

If you're looking for a deeper insight into who Harley Quinn is and how she even made a team like The Suicide Squad then this movie delivers in spades. In this film she shows off her personal life, PHD, and her skills with a baseball to great effect.

Many of Harley's fight sequences are some of the most creative and bad ass I've seen in any superhero film to date. You'll believe she is perfectly capable of taking on a room full of bad guys by herself with the way the fight scenes are put together.

The other members of the Birds of Prey all get enough of their backstory told to to show how they fit in with Harley's story as it unfolds. I particularly like the characterization of Huntress (Helena Bertinelli) which is a little different to the version in the Arrowverse.

Ewan McGregor as the main antagonist is a little under used in this film. He's perfectly fine and really sells his role as a somewhat entitled and brutal mob boss but, when you have Ewan McGregor playing a bad guy, you kind of wish he was playing a more widely known and more likely recurring character (Mr Freeze perhaps since he's after a diamond?). Black Mask is pretty generic as a character who's only point of difference appears to be the actual black mask. It's also questionable as to why he even wears it since he really does want people to know both his name and reputation.

For the most part this is a fun chapter in the Harley Quinn story. If Margot Robbie plans to make more of these (the film is made by her production company) I'd definitely turn up... especially if Mr J was the lead antagonist. Even more so if Jared Leto's Mr J was reprised because wouldn't you like to see Harley take down that version of the Joker?

There are a couple of minor issues I had with the film that I feel compelled to mention. They're not really a problem for the film overall but are things that kind of bug me in Superhero films in general that are present in Birds of Prey. They're a bit spoilery so read on only if you've seen the film or don't mind spoilers.

Spoiler Section

Throughout this movie there are a number of scenes where Harley completely dominates in a fight against rooms full of guys who are clearly stronger (visually based on size and muscle mass) and not exactly strangers to an all out brawl.

Harley's ability to fight, and the moves she pulls, is more than enough to allow me to suspend disbelief and say, yeah, she's probably that good. To the point where her brand of crazy has got to be largely an act. She can think very quick in a fight.

Then we get a scene that's a one on one Harley versus Detective Montoya (Rosie Perez) fist fight. I get that Montoya is probably good in a fight too but she's a cop not a super villain who was chosen specifically to be part of some sort of 'suicide squad' intended to go up against super powered threats.

How is any of her punches even landing on Harley after we just saw her take out a whole police station of cops followed by a whole prison cell wing of criminals all by herself?

This kind of thing happens a lot in Superhero movies and television. You see plenty of scenes where the hero (or villain) is capable of holding their own against multiple attackers, bigger than they are, and then, in a later scene, suddenly they're struggling against one person with no more ability than anyone they've already come up against.

It just bugs me that the writers aren't always consistent with their character's capabilities.

The other issue is at the end of this film there is a car chase sequence that sees Harley race along for what is several city blocks away from where she left her team. The speed they're traveling it has to be a considerable distance, and I'm pretty sure they're not circling back to where the chase started.

Yet, seconds after Harley and Cassandra (Ella Jay Basco) defeat Black Mask, the whole team is there to survey the damage. I know they probably weren't standing around waiting for Harley to come back, and they probably got rides of their own to follow her, but they were nowhere to be seen throughout the whole chase (except for Huntress who was part of the chase for most of it).

It's not a big problem, but again, it happens a lot in these kind of films. In this movie it's so we can have the kind of 'hero' shot of the whole team because after this moment it's clear there's no real reason for any of them to stick together... yet we get an 'oh yeah, these three are The Birds of Prey now' narration from Harley.

None of these things spoiled the film for me, it's just a little sloppy in the storytelling, and I only mention them because it's not unique to this film.

Birds of Prey is a solid anti-hero kind of movie. It kind of ties with what we saw in Suicide Squad in terms of the look and design, which is great. In many ways it's both a darker and lighter movie (a little more graphic with the violence and a lot more color and humor).

I'm definitely on board for a second in this series (I've heard this is actually one of three films planned for Harley and the Birds of Prey) and I really hope to see this iteration of her in a future Batman movie at some point.

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