Cinematic Releases: Birds of Prey (2020) - Reviewed

The extended DCEU takes another gut punch in the thematic blunder from first time major feature director Cathy Yan, Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). Considering early reviews have cast such a positive light on this one, it was shocking to leave the cinema so absolutely dumbfounded by the simplicity and lack of respect for this integral pairing of kick ass female heroes and one unruly Harley Quinn. 

Echoing many of the visual cues and the same color palette of 2016's Suicide Squad, this is only a slight hair better than David Ayer's bombastic take on a crew of comic book baddies. Repeating many of the same errors or tropes, including goofy dialogue, a tonally blind script, and a meandered pace, many audience members are going to see through the usual glaring flaws, which harken back to nearly every film that WB has released in their ever growing catalog of DC movie mishaps. If not for the great humor, excellent work by Margot Robbie and the teaming of this newly founded version of the Birds of Prey, this latest excursion would be an epic fail. 

Being billed as a John Wick type action saga in its massive marketing campaign seems to be getting some good will prior to its release. And yes, the action here is absolutely unhinged. When it does start moving, the fight choreography is rad. And the interplay between the female wrecking crew is a blast to watch. 
Robbie delivers glittering blows while Winstead carves out her very own take on Huntress. Perez kicks asses as Smollett-Bell interweaves though out the seedy underbelly of Gotham City. And Ewan McGregor chews scenery likes it's going out of style. But none of them are given much to do with the barely fleshed out characters they're handed. Falling back on a long history of comic book villains that don't get the time or back story they deserve, Birds of Prey feels like another clone that has no idea how to deliver an evolved bad guy. Thrown into the mix for good measure is a totally insane Victor Zsasz, who also falls by the wayside.  

Setting off after Harley's breakup from Joker, this latest entry in their cinematic universe definitely tries to course correct from their previous mistakes, but it's all for naught. (Maybe) Only a cut above what the DCEU has done in the past, outside of Superman and Batman, Birds of Prey allows us to feast for a while but fails at giving us a tasty sugar coated dessert. Margot is at  peak Harley Quinn, pushing and playing on the brink of insanity, imbibing in the very essence of the character. She rules the school from beginning to end, but the final product is so concentrated on trying to put distance between itself and the other movies, that it ultimately ends up repeating the same mistakes. 

The only real elements that keep this apart are more realistic looking sets, some interesting costume design, way less CGI use and a set of actors that really seem to enjoy soaking up these roles. It also has a cinematic quality that was lacking in previous WB/DC movies. In the first act I was sold. By the time we hit the sixty minute mark, it became deluded to the point of not really seeing where the plot was heading. What could have been? Don't we find ourselves asking this question quite a bit with these films? Trying their hand at a rated R, Deadpool style flick with tons of profanity and upgraded violence could (should?) have worked to their advantage. It didn't. 

Go for the humor. Stay for the action. Lower your expectations. You might walk out happy. 

-Chris George