REVIEW: ‘Birds Of Prey’ sees a newly-single Harley Quinn spread her wings

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In “Birds of Prey,” Harley Quinn gets more than she bargained for when she breaks up with her iconic beau, the Joker… and after not-so-discretely blows up the chemical plant she shared with Joker.

Without Joker’s protection, Harley has a lot of enemies that are eager to be the first to enact their revenge – from police to main villain Roman Sionis, who ultimately captures her. Harley manages to negotiate with Ronan for her release, on a condition: she must bring him back a coveted diamond that supposedly reveals where the Bertinelli fortune is.

After finding the gem inside of a young pickpocket, Harley must find a way to save both the kid and the diamond, all with the police and her other enemies still after her. This leads to Harley reluctantly – and hilariously – teaming-up with fellow villainesses Black Canary and the Huntress, as well as policewoman Renee Montoya.

The most successful aspect of this movie was its treatment of its female characters. “Birds” sees the first theatrical release where Quinn’s identity is not attached to that of a man, the Joker. Of course, Harley Quinn is already a beloved character whose character deserved exceptional study independent from Joker. We watch as Harley first struggles to let go of her relationship, but slowly learns to bask in her newfound independence. She wants to be her own person, with her own goals.

For so long, Harley Quinn has been associated solely with Joker to aide him in his evil deeds. It is important that the film doesn’t focus much on the breakup itself; you don’t see Joker on screen, or even hear his voice. The reason for their split is never stated, either. Rather, the focus is much more on Harley Quinn’s new found independence and growth throughout the film. 

Other female characters are also given agency, among which are Jurnee Smollett-Bell’s Black Canary. Her performance at Roman’s nightclub is one of the most memorable scenes from the movie; watching her character evolve from someone who is hesitant to put herself in the danger that killed her mother to someone who is fighting for what’s right is a beautiful progression. Each of the women’s backstories in this movie are explained in just enough detail that you have a good grasp of who they are without it feeling like an overwhelming amount of information. 

“Birds” also did an excellent job of capturing the tone and humor of the film. Harley Quinn’s jokes are well placed and effective, and were arguably one of the most enjoyable aspects. This kept you on your toes during action sequences, but also laughing in your seat. 

I also appreciated the plot of the movie. It was simple, with just enough layers that it was easy to follow but ensured that this conflict wasn’t the main focus of the movie. The main focus, after all, is the characters, secifically, Harley Quinn. The diamond and the Bertinelli fortune are certainly important, but never overshadow over the female characters.

The villains, too, were simple. Their motives were clear, they were evil and had little depth to them. The reason this isn’t a negative is again that the necessary focus on the female characters in the movie. This film was advertised a woman-centric movie and did not disappoint. Allowing the female characters to flourish while the villainous men were simplified to the “bad guy” archetype was almost refreshing. 

Despite almost entirely positive reviews and Harley Quinn’s popularity, “Birds of Prey” hasn’t done well in the box office. Some blame this on the film’s R rating, saying that it made the movie unavailable to families and that the scenes which determined its R rating were unnecessary. However, I personally found several of these scenes to be very important – maybe not to the movie’s overall plot or story, but the acknowledgement of sexual harassment and assault in the movie was appropriate considering its goal and focus on feminism. 

I must commend Margot Robbie on both her performance and her role as a producer of this movie. It is clear how hard she and the rest of the cast and crew worked to make this film as good as it is and it is a shame that more people won’t be able to appreciate it. Regardless of its lack of financial success, I for one am glad “Birds of Prey” decided to spread its wings.

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