Birds of Prey Review: Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn still needs emancipation

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A little over four years ago, as part of the early expansion of its rival Marvel Cinematic Universe, DC gave us Suicide Mission, a more angular, darker version of Guardians of the galaxy, so to speak. (This analogy has now been further reinforced by the fact that James Gunn, the screenwriter and director of the latter, is responsible for a gentle restart of the former, due in August 2021. It's a small world, what can you say. But we digress.) Suicide Mission It was a monumental catastrophe – if not commercially with nearly $ 750 million in box office worldwide – the only culmination of which was Margot Robbie's adorable, crazy character Harley Quinn. She filled it with so much life that it was literally begging to be stopped by a film's ugly garbage. And now it has happened.

birds of prey – or Birds of Prey (and the fantastic emancipation of a Harley Quinn), as the full unwieldy title suggests – is the result of this exercise. In order to stand out from its predecessor, it differs wildly in terms of both appearance and sound: a bright candy color palette à la Thor: Ragnarok and a fourth pioneering commentary à la Dead Pool, Fittingly, the action scenes take up these traits and mannerisms and sometimes play out a lot of bone-consuming violence against laughers, which consist of glitter and colored smoke. This in-your-face approach was courtesy of the relatively new director Cathy Yan, whose only feature film to date is Dead Pigs, a dark comedy filmed in Shanghai in 2018, and author Christina Hodson (bumblebee).

But the new DC film is difficult to make with its narrative decisions. birds of prey relies on Robbie, who is responsible for the above comment, to drive the film with almost constant narrative. While this is responsible for much of the humor, it also becomes a tool and an excuse for the vast amounts of exposure it takes to get on your head. (It also masks the lack of action and dynamism.) For a film that is characterized by freshness and ingenuity, it is both lazy and poor. birds of prey It would have been better to lean further into what works, all the more given his inherent lack of interest or inability to really delve into the many characters that come either from the superhero team of the same name or from Batman: The Animated Series.

Basic prologue for screening birds of prey on IMAX in India

To justify Harley's separation from the rest of the squad, birds of prey begins with the news that she has returned to Gotham City and separated from the Joker (Jared Leto & # 39; s, not Joaquin Phoenix & # 39; s). Trying to be alone isn't the best idea though, as partnering with the Joker gives you virtual immunity to do whatever you want. And that's important for someone like Harley who loves making enemies the wrong puts. Without this power, she discovers that half the city wants to see her dead, including narcissistic, rich villain Roman Sionis / Black Mask (Ewan McGregor), who shares a quasi-homoerotic dynamic with the sadistic right-hander Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina)). And then it gets worse.

Without the protection of the joker, Harley ends up in the crosshairs of the Gotham police, namely with a dogged detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), who also sets up a case against Sionis. The fun thing about her is that she talks like a cop from a bad 80s movie. Caught between the two, Harley ends up in Sionis' network. Harley offers the villain to get a diamond called MacGuffin that was stolen by pickpocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco). This also attracts the child's neighbor and singer in Black Mask & # 39; s Club, Dinah Lance / Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), and a mysterious assassin named Helena Bertinelli / Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). But not everyone has the same level of involvement in the story.

Winstead is the least busy of all birds of prey, a shame for an actor of her caliber. Especially when you consider how reliable and personable she is in the short amount of time she can afford. Perez and Smollett-Bell have a little more to do, but their characters feel limited to a single note, namely sexism at work and the escape from family heritage. Bascos Cassandra is the only one who has reach in addition to the title woman. And how it was Suicide MissionRobbie is an infinitely captivating presence – only this time the cacophony around her doesn't drown her out. The only competition for Robbie is McGregor's intriguing, stealing twist as he runs out of malice.

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Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Chris Messina as Victor Zsasz, Ewan McGregor as Roman Sionis in birds of prey
Credit: Warner Bros.

But his cruelty is somewhat neutralized by the action armor that was distributed to him birds of prey& # 39; s protagonists who are kept alive by Black Mask because the film needs them more than he does. In other places, characters sometimes behave stupidly for the sake of the conspiracy. The much bigger problem for the new DC film, however, is the struggle to define what it's about. At a superficial level, it's about a ruthless person who's figuring out how to live a life that's not dependent on someone who is ordering you around. On a deeper level that lasts forever birds of prey wants to talk about the power of sisterhood – although the women in the film fight most of the time. What is striking is that men are always the problem and women have to take care of each other.

In the absence of resonance motifs, it's the action that puts the spotlight on it, and Yan clearly tries to be creative in her approach. It benefits from the fact that there are no superpowers birds of prey – apart from an anticipated opportunity – which prevents everyone from hitting each other hard. In her honor, Yan creatively uses slow motion and introduces new elements that match Harley's personality, including roller skates, acrobatics, and baseball bats. They not only look cool, they also meet the goal of showing women power. And it is further enhanced by tiny touches, such as Harley offering someone a hair tie in the middle of a fight. At the same time, certain standards have a logic discount or lack the right ebb and flow.

Eventually, birds of prey This is a disappointment because moments of explosive, violent fun – it has been awarded an “A” in India and an “R” in the USA – are more than nullified by the company's stumbling blocks. And minus an excellent cash run, his future also seems unclear, as it ends with the formation of the eponymous criminal police minus Harley, who is on the way to a new suicide squad under Gunn. This will be Robbie's third role, which alongside Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman will make her an outstanding figure in the DC film universe. But there was never a bigger plan for them. Thanks to DC's failure, three different authors did their own thing. Hopefully someday someone can get Harley out of it.

birds of prey is now playing in cinemas across India. There is an after-credits audio scene that is not worth the wait.