Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Birds of Prey

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching.  The Christian Mockbuster of this is Birds of Pray.

Birds of Prey – 5 out of 5

Despite the fact that I enjoyed the overall experience, there was no denying that Suicide Squad was a messy movie.  From the fact they had a writer/director who isn’t very good at melding genres to a shitty choice in Joker to the fact the film basically became a completely different product during its second half, the film is undeniable sloppy.  Ultimately, the two best things to come out of it was Viola Davis as Amanda Waller and getting to see Harley Quinn be realized in a live-action film—and played awesomely by Margot Robbie.  Well, Robbie is back as Quinn for Birds of Prey, or Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) or Harley Quinn:  Birds of Prey or whatever the title has become since the production started and it is crazy fun!

                                                                                                             Warner Bros. Pictures
They're here to chew bubble gum and kick ass.  They have plenty of bubble gum, FYI.
A lack of one doesn't negate the other.

After the battle against the Enchantress, Harley Quinn (Robbie) sees her life change as the Joker breaks up with her.  Without having the criminal to protect her, a lot of people are ready to make her pay for the treatment they’ve received from her, including the gangster Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor).  In an effort to save her skin, Harley agrees to help find a diamond that was taken from Sionis and is currently in possession of the young pickpocket named Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco).  However, Sionis double-crosses Harley and puts a bounty out on Cain’s head and, after Harley finds Cain, ends up being put in the crosshairs all over again.  To make matters worse, Harley starts to bond with Cain and doesn’t want to see her hurt by Sionis so she ends up teaming with some of Sionis’ enemies; a singer/kickass fighter named Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), a rogue detective out to bring down Sionis’ empire named Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) and a mysterious vigilante with a dark past named Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).  Now, together, they are out to stop Sionis, his army, and his sadistic henchman; Victor Zasz (Chris Messina).

                                                                                                            Warner Bros. Pictures
"Mmmmf mmmmph ffffssssmmmf."

I honestly wasn’t too excited for Birds of Prey.  The DCEU has been such a mess that I have found my excitement for their projects to be waning.  I think a lot of that has to do with Batman v Superman and just Zack Snyder’s overall involvement in the shared universe.  I was crazy excited for Batman v Superman but the film was such an incredible letdown and Snyder is not a good enough storyteller to give justice to superheroes.  Yes, I liked Man of Steel and thought his approach to Superman was cool but BvS had so much damn potential that was ultimately wasted on a guy who is really only good at creating trailer-worthy moments.  Since then the DCEU has knocked it out of the park with the likes of Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Shazam! but I just wasn’t pumped for Birds of Prey.  Yes, the trailer looked great and I definitely wanted to see it but, kinda like Shazam! it wasn’t imperative that I go see it in the theater—unlike the MCU, which keeps me addicted and makes me desperate to see all of their products.  I definitely wanted to see this one but was going to accept I would probably just buy it when it hit Blu-Ray (fear of seeing Jared Leto return as that awful Joker certainly wasn’t helping things—even a cameo would have been unbearable).  However, the sudden drive to see the film in the theater hit—plus, 5 dollar Tuesdays rule at the theater!  I'm honestly glad I changed my mind because this is another win for the DCEU.  So, what makes it something akin to Wonder Woman and not down in the mud with the Martha Scene.

                                                                                                             Warner Bros. Pictures
Not to be all Spoiler-y but that sandwich in front of Harley wrapped in aluminum
foil looked amazing in the film and I haven't stopped thinking about it.

The story to Birds of Prey has a lot going for it.  First off, it really captures the eccentricities of the character of Harley Quinn and her universe.  It’s not afraid to be quirky, goofy and fun.  Additionally, it’s not afraid to get mature and graphic with its violence.  It’s able to capture this unique blend in a way that few DC products are capable of ever achieving.  If you are a regular reader of my blog, you would know I hate when DC tries to be “mature” because their definition of it is basically what a 14 year old boy thinks is “mature.”  It always involves over-the-top violence, thinking saying the F-bomb brings gravitas (think the silliness of Titans and the “Fuck Batman” part, if that doesn't scream an adolescence trying to be a "big boy"...) and that the female characters are sex objects first and heroes or villains in a very distant second.  This movie is able to by-pass this as it is an R-rated film that has all the mature stuff but doesn’t feel like it is actively trying to be an R-rated film so they can prove they are adults.

                                                                                                             Warner Bros. Pictures
Remember to spay and neuter your hyenas.

Speaking about the violence, this film has some tremendous action sequences.  Harley isn’t a metahuman in the DC world and doesn’t have powers but she can fight so the feature doesn’t have a lot of big action set pieces.  The action is smaller and contained to mostly hand-to-hand combat (until Dinah reveals her Black Canary sonic scream) and the choreography is amazing!  The fight scenes look like a brutal dance as Harley spins, flips and cartwheels her way around and jazzes it up with some broken kneecaps and bashed skulls.  Add in some flashy flair in the form of some slow-mo and it results in incredibly satisfying fight scenes.

                                                                                                                             Warner Bros. Pictures
To make Black Canary's scream cooler, it was the high note part of the song "Loving You."

Another element I really enjoyed was the costumes and sets.  Snyder’s view of the DCEU is all darkness and warehouse districts while Birds of Prey and its director Cathy Yan shows that Gotham City and the DCEU can also be colorful in its griminess.  The overall look of Gotham is this interesting take that is wildly eccentric and beautifully colorful at times but also cartoonishly dingy at others.  While this takes away from a grounded reality that other films in the DCEU have established, I found the overall aesthetic of Harley’s Gotham to look and feel like it was lifted directly from the DC comics.  This amusingly insane and chaotic look is also terrifically captured in the costumes of the characters.  The outfits that both Harley and Sionis rock alone are worth the ticket price of this film because they look amazing.

                                                                                                            Warner Bros. Pictures
Harley getting over the breakup is the type of energy we all need in 2020.

Finally, the cast in the film is tremendous.  Everyone seems to know exactly where to fit into this film in order to create a tapestry of attention-grabbing performances.  Robbie has the unpredictable nature of Quinn down perfect, McGregor has this delightful mixture of being wildly over-the-top and terrorizing, Chris Messina is downright threatening as Victor Zsasz, Smollett-Bell has the sultry, kickass siren down as Black Canary, Winstead is very intimidating as the vigilante Huntress, Perez has the dedicated cop down flawlessly, and Ella Jay Basco has this perfect blend of being a victim of her upbringing but also being a fun brat as a small-time criminal.  Everyone completely nailed their parts and everyone really brought the film’s world to life in vivid and entertaining ways.

                                                                                                            Warner Bros. Pictures
"I mean, it's a pretty cool knife, right?"

The only drawback I have for the film is I felt Huntress wasn’t as feathered out as much as I hoped she would have.  Her inclusion ends up working in the end but I couldn’t help but feel like, for much of the story and even her big reveal, felt a touch like it was tacked on at the last minute.  Additionally, I really wish this film would have seen the complete and utter erasure of Jared Leto’s Joker.  If you’re a fan of him sorry not sorry because I thought he is literally the worst Joker to ever exist and it would have made this film epic if not only Harley got over her breakup with him but literally murdered him.  *Sigh* Oh well, though, it didn’t happen.  Hopefully if the Flash’s film Flashpoint ever gets made and released it will result in someone better becoming the Joker…and fixes the crap Snyder did.

                                                                                                            Warner Bros. Pictures
Or maybe I just wanted to see more Winstead because I think she's great?

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) or Harley Quinn:  Birds of Prey, if you’re nasty or Birds of Prey, if you’re into the whole brevity thing, is a fantastically entertaining film.  It’s able to accomplish what DC fails so often at and that is be an R-rated feature without feeling like the goal was to be R-rated.  It has a fantastic diverse cast and even brings in some representation of the LGBTQ+ community without acting like it deserves a medal for doing so (I love you, MCU, but the whole “openly gay character” on Avengers:  Endgame was weak-sauce) and the film is a colorful visual feast for the eyeballs and an action spectacular for the old brain noodle.  It’s just a terrifically entertaining feature that definitely shows the DCEU is starting to show that it is not only getting its shit together after a very rocky start, that you don’t have to shoehorn Batman into a DC product to make it entertaining, and that it is possible to have a film be both fun and mature without it coming off like it was made by 14 year old boys.

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