Currently in theaters is Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), the eighth film in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), and somewhat sequel to/spinoff from 2016’s underwhelming Suicide Squad. Nerd Nation Magazine was in attendance for the early press screening courtesy of DC Films/Warner Bros., Allied Marketing, and Regal Cinemas.
**WARNING** WHILE EVERY EFFORT WAS MADE TO KEEP THIS REVIEW AS SPOILER-FREE AS POSSIBLE, THIS REVIEW MAY STILL CONTAIN MINOR SPOILERS. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!
Birds of Prey opens shortly after Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie, who also served as producer) is dumped by her notorious now-ex-boyfriend, The Joker. Quinn herself narrates the film, telling her story as only she could, from an abridged version of her backstory, to her breakup, to adopting a vicious hyena (whom she names Bruce), to her time as a roller derby athlete, to the present day, where after a long night of heavy drinking, she decides to blow up the ACE Chemicals plant where she and Joker first began their tumultuous relationship.
By doing this, Harley Quinn announced to all of Gotham City that her relationship with The Joker was over, and as such, she is no longer under his protection, so as you could probably guess, this brings out her many, many enemies. Chief among said enemies is Roman Sionis (played by Ewan McGregor), better known as local crime boss Black Mask, who is already plotting a heist of a rare diamond that contains hidden information which will unlock the secrets of a long-lost fortune. He sends his right hand man, the demented, sadistic serial killer Victor Zsasz (Christopher Messina) and his new driver (after Harley Quinn crippled the previous one) Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), better known as Black Canary to retrieve the diamond, but along the way it’s stolen by a young pickpocket named Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) – a name that Batman fans might just recognize for exactly who she becomes later in life. Black Mask is furious and puts a hit out on Cassandra’s head, setting aside his planned execution of Quinn to send her, and countless others, out to hunt down the young thief.
Meanwhile, many people around Gotham City are being assassinated by a mysterious woman calling herself The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) a GCPD detective is trying to build a case against Sionis and his crew, while also trying to protect the kid who is being hunted by seemingly every bad-guy-for-hire in the city. Harley Quinn manages to fight her way through police, other bounty hunters, and a handful of people who just plain don’t like her to capture the kid, but decides to do what she can to protect her, rather than kill her for Black Mask.
Things eventually build to a climax, bringing all of the aforementioned characters together through various events surrounding young Cassandra and the stolen diamond. Ultimately, decisions of loyalty and unlikely alliances have to be made, and a final showdown has to take place. But, that’s all I’ll say about the plot as I want to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible.
Worth noting is how well-paced this entire film is. Whereas most previous efforts from DC/Warner Bros. have been less-than-stellar in various ways, especially this film’s (at least canonical) predecessor, Birds of Prey really seems to have found a groove and a formula that works. Being an R-rated anti-hero film narrated by its own comedic, unstable, and somewhat unreliable protagonist will undoubtedly draw comparisons to Marvel’s Deadpool, but of course that’s nothing new in the world of comics. Director Cathy Yan, who has only worked in independent films until now, really does a fantastic job of moving the story along, expertly blends the humor and action, and really gets the most out of a lot of very interesting sets and locations to create a film that’s both enjoyable and fun. While the plot is pretty formulaic, predictable, and more than a bit silly at times, it seems to be in on the joke, and manages to keep it interesting despite its flaws.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is a really fun film that’s fast-paced, action-packed, visually appealing, and really redeems its main character from her previous cinematic outing. While most certainly not a perfect film, it’s definitely an enjoyable one, and is certainly a big step in the right direction for a studio and cinematic universe that desperately need to get things back on track after more than a few bad movies before this. It’s pure popcorn-munching movie fun, and well worth going to see in theaters. We can only hope this is a sign of more good things to come from DC. – 8.5/10
Editor/Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine