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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

CineHawk Review: “Birds of Prey”


The eighth installment in the hit or miss “DC Extended Universe (DCEU),” “Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn” brings back the titular “Suicide Squad” character in her very own movie, one that also happens to feature the long awaited DC team. The film stars Margot Robbie, as Harley Quinn.

Directed by Cathy Yan from a script by Christina Hodson, the film is set in Gotham City and follows Harley Quinn after her breakup from her mad lover, the Joker. Lacking the protection afforded by being the paramour of Gotham’s top crime boss, Harley quickly finds herself the target of all the people she wronged in the past, namely half the criminals in the city.

Captured by the villain Black Mask, played by Ewan McGregor, Harley’s only hope is to retrieve a priceless diamond for the sadistic crime lord, sending her on a direct collision course with a collection of female anti-heroes soon to be known as the Birds of Prey.

The film’s direction is stellar and creative, with the rich visuals and a popping color palette that perfectly match the insane, off-the- wall energy and charisma of Harley Quinn. Yan, with the help of second unit director Chad Stahelski of the “John Wick” franchise, crafted truly jaw-dropping fight scenes and action sequences that rank among the best DC has ever put out and take full advantage of the movie’s R-rating. Special mention goes to Harley’s destruction of Ace Chemicals in the film’s opening, which is an outstanding spectacle that beautifully symbolizes Harley’s newfound “emancipation” from the Joker.

“Birds of Prey” also impresses with its inspired casting. Robbie is a perpetual scene stealer as Harley Quinn, embodying the character in the same way that Robert Downey Jr. did with Tony Stark or Ryan Reynolds with Deadpool. Mary Elizabeth Winstead brings a layered nuance to Helena Berteneli a.k.a The Huntress, portraying a stoic, intimidating badass who is simultaneously an awkward dork who practices her catchphrase in front of mirror.

In terms of acting, however, McGregor is the true standout of the film as Roman Sionis a.k.a Black Mask, taking one of the most vile and sadistic villains in comics and making him the most entertaining villain yet in the DCEU, with a flamboyant, charismatic charm that masks a vicious bloodlust.

Though “Birds of Prey” shines in its direction, it falters in its script. For a film titled “Birds of Prey,” it sure takes its sweet time to assemble the team, who only come together in the film’s final act. As fun as Robbie is to watch as Harley Quinn, the film could have done better to balance its screen time to flesh out the newly introduced Birds, each of whom is compelling enough to potentially warrant their own film. The Huntress suffers this the worst, easily having the most interesting backstory of the main cast but receiving the least amount of screentime.

Also, as uniquely as Yan breathes her style into the film, the premise is frustratingly by the book: a bad guy wants to obtain an object that will grant him great power, known as a MacGuffin in a film or story, one of the main heroes has said object, so the villain has to fight the heroes to retrieve it.

The holder of the MacGuffin is, in this film’s case being what may be perhaps the film’s biggest flaw, Cassandra Cain, played by Elle Jay Basco. Basco herself does well with what she is given, but Cassandra is the film’s least interesting character.

Cassandra is a plot device, first and foremost, something for the characters to toss around and chase like a football. Aside from a brief scene of her parents arguing early in the movie, Cassandra has little in the way of character development, making it hard for the audience to care about her in the way Harley does.

The film also utterly fails to adapt the character from the comics. In the main DC universe, Cassandra is one of the best martial artists on the planet, even serving as the third Batgirl for several years. Through extreme training she underwent as a child, Cassandra also possesses the unique ability to read people through their body language, allowing her to anticipate the moves of her opponent, though this comes at the cost of her ability to speak.

In “Birds of Prey,” however, this extremely interesting origin is excised in favor of making her a practically helpless child in need of saving by the real heroes. The film also gives her the ability to speak, squandering the opportunity for much needed disability representation in the superhero genre.

Ultimately, “Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn” is a fun and fresh addition to the DC Extended Universe, weighed down by its flaws but not ultimately sunk by them.

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