Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020): No Joke, Fun (But Forgettable) Time
*WARNING: This review contains TITLES.*
“Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn,” AKA “Birds of Prey,” AKA “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey,” AKA “Whatever F*cking Title You Desire,” is directed by Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs, According to My Mother). This film stars Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, 10 Cloverfield Lane), Jurnee Smollett-Bell (The Great Debaters, Gridiron Gang), Rosie Perez (The Road to El Dorado, Fearless), Christopher Messina (Argo, The Mindy Project), Ella Jay Basco (Grey’s Anatomy, Veep), Ali Wong (American Housewife, Are You There, Chelsea?), and Ewan McGregor (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Stay). This film revolves around the character of Harley Quinn, who was originally, as far as the Detective Comics Extended Universe goes, introduced in 2016’s “Suicide Squad.” Quinn and The Joker (also introduced in “Suicide Squad”) broke up, and the film follows Harley’s adventures as she finds herself adapting to a new lifestyle while simultaneously developing reasons to become’s Gotham’s most hated citizen. Oh yeah, apparently there’s a team-up too, like it really matters. Because, you know, Harley Quinn is popular.
Let me take you back to 2016. The election was in full swing, female Ghostbusters were a fad, “Star Wars” was back, and Marvel was SO much better than DC at the time! Remember “Captain America: Civil War?” So kick-ass. While I liked “Suicide Squad” in the theater, it is one of those movies that I watched one time, liked, but disliked when I watched it again. People often talk about movies that they like better the second time, maybe because there is a new perspective that opens up in their mind as they watch it. Well guess what? I got a f*cking new perspective when I watched “Suicide Squad” for the second time, and it is the perspective that it was an utter waste of brain cells.
But, if there is one thing about “Suicide Squad” that I would point out to be a highlight during not just the first, but also the massively unfortunate second time of watching it, I’d say it would be Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Harley Quinn. In this current DCEU, it’s up there to me with Zachary Levi’s Shazam and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman as one of my favorite portrayals of the characters this universe brings to the table. But I think part of that is because of how eccentric the character really is. She’s charismatic, goofy, and knows how to have fun. And that is a trait is easily carried over into the realm of “Birds of Prey.” Harley’s got a swagger to her, and seeing Margot Robbie’s live-action portrayal makes me want to avoid seeing anyone else take on this role in this format, at least for awhile.
But that’s also the problem with this movie, because the marketing is horrible. And usually I wouldn’t expect to use the marketing to hammer in something towards my final verdict, but in this case, I kind of have to. You ever hear people suggest that you should not judge a book by its cover? When it comes to “Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulously Long Title,” that’s a big f*cking lie. While the movie’s title does focus on emancipation, while the Birds of Prey happen to be in this movie, it is, at its core, a Harley Quinn movie. The movie features narration from Quinn, it revolves entirely around her, and these little rascals who make up the Birds of Prey are barely in the movie for the most part. Characters like Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) don’t even show up for like an hour or so, maybe longer! Although, side note, when Huntress does show up, she’s introduced in pretty badass way. Even though I do think “Titles of Prey: And its Fantabulous Stretch” (for now) is better than “Suicide Squad,” it is also a bit more forgettable. As an audience member, I barely remember any of the names of those who make up the team. Keep in mind, I did see this movie two weeks ago, but it also goes to show how disposable of a movie it really is. It does not do much to make me carry it alongside me for the rest of my life. Granted, we do get some prime screen time to characters other than Harley, one of which was a highlight.
One of the best parts of “Birds of Whatever Title You Want” is the relationship between Harley Quinn and Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco). These two brought life into this movie and the scenes with them together were fun. I like the portion between them in the supermarket, which has been shown in the marketing. And one of the more pleasant parts of this film is where the two just sit down together watching cartoons on an old TV. I don’t know, it’s just soothing. I’d like to maybe see this duo in a comedy together, I think that could be fun.
Speaking of characters that could qualify for being the best in this movie, Ewan McGregor plays one of the better villain roles in the DCEU. Now, he’s not perfect, but this movie makes him work. Much like Marvel, DC kind of has a villain problem. While “Wonder Woman” had great battles, I do not remember the antagonist as much as I want to. “Suicide Squad” had Enchantress, who probably has the barest of substance. Lex Luthor, introduced in “Batman v. Superman” is quirky, but also a tad too cartoony to the point where I have officially entered a fun house. I don’t know where I’d officially rank Ewan McGregor’s Roman Sionis among the current villain lineup in the DCEU, but he’s portrayed brilliantly. He’s very charismatic to the point where he is kind of likable, but he also has a side to him where you probably want him to die a horrible death. Is he the best villain of all time? Absolutely not, but for this movie, it works!
Speaking of death and destruction, one thing that this movie has going for it that differentiates it from a lot of other films of its kind is that it is rated R. Comic book movies in recent years, specifically titles like “Deadpool,” “Logan,” and “Joker,” have gotten such a rating. While this is not a new concept, it was nice to know before going into “Birds of Prey: And the Name That Never Ends.” I also thought that this highlights what the DCEU is trying to go for at this point. Unlike Marvel, which seems to lock all of their movies within one box and has one or two connections to something else each and every movie, DC could continue letting their stories be their own thing. While this is technically in a cinematic universe, films like “Aquaman” and “Shazam!” have kept themselves within their own parts of the universe and barely connected to their universe except through brief references. “Long Names of Prey” is sort of the same way. In fact, aside from “Man of Steel,” I think “Titles of Forever” may be the most individualistic DCEU film yet. I do not remember much reference to the Suicide Squad team, even though a lot of the film is focused on the aftermath of Quinn and Joker’s breakup.
But keeping in mind that the film is rated R, I do not really think it did much to capitalize or emphasize its official rating, but nevertheless, it’s rated R. There are a couple violent scenes that probably barely go past PG-13, and they were a delight to watch when they were on screen. Because remember kids, kicking-ass is a good time! And yes, there’s the language, but if you’re expecting “Deadpool,” you MAY be disappointed. Did this film need to be rated R? Maybe to an extent, but it does not really seem like it goes for it. If they gave this a PG-13, there would almost be the slightest of differences. Maybe language has more to do with the R rating than violence does.
But I would be lying if I told you I was not at least entertained by the action scenes. I thought some of them were pretty creative, and there is one that sort of had a glossy “Terminator” vibe. Harley Quinn uses a glitter gun in this movie! Not gonna lie, if I were dealing with certain people, that would be my weapon of choice! Because while this movie admittedly does make this glitter shine, it really does suck! Anakin Skywalker thinks SAND gets everywhere? Tell him about glitter! Also, this movie probably has one of the coolest action moments involving a cell phone. You’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it.
Speaking of R rated comic book movies, if I had to compare “Insert Title Here” to anything else, it would probably be “Deadpool 2,” because while there is a team-up in that film, ultimately forming the X-Force, Deadpool is the character that is focused on pretty much from beginning to end. That is a better-marketed movie than “Titles of Long” because unlike this movie, it knows, even before the film came out, that Deadpool would be the core character, everyone else is either background noise, or simply supporting him. When you have a movie like “The Avengers,” you could argue that the movie mostly revolves a character such as Iron Man, but the focal point is everyone’s journey to build a team and save the world. Arguments could be made about this matter, but on the surface, Thor is not more or less important than the Hulk in that movie. Captain America is not more or less important than Iron Man. These characters, to as much of an extent as possible, have THEIR MOMENT. Even though this movie calls itself “Birds of Prey” and puts that title at the forefront, the movie itself seems to put the *rest* of the title at the forefront, specifically “the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn.” This movie really should have just been called “Harley Quinn.” And this is why I find it not so surprising that the film’s name *sort of* changed a couple times. Instead of this long title that goes on for all of eternity, the movie shortened its title to the simple name “Birds of Prey.” When the disappointing box office results came in, movie ticket websites started showing the title as “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey,” which makes sense given my previously established statements. Next thing I know, it’s gonna be called “Edge of Tomorrow” because why not? Maybe once the Blu-ray comes out it’s gonna be called “Live Die Repeat!”
In the end, “Birds of Prey: And the Supercalifragilisticexpialidociously Extended Title” is a step down for DC. I’d honestly rather watch “Aquaman” or “Batman v. Superman” again compared to this. Ever since “Wonder Woman,” I have been buying 4K steelbooks for the DCEU films, but I am not sure what I’ll be doing for this one. Will I go out and buy the steelbook for this one? I don’t know it’s worth it. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. It’ll be sad to end a streak, but the overall quality of this movie may suggest the end. I know some people making this movie kind of a big deal given the female star and female director, and I do admire the direction it tried to go in, and there are things I like about it. I just thought it could have been better. But at the same time, if you want disposable action, and you are looking for something to do on a rainy afternoon, go see this movie. Margot Robbie shines, the supporting cast is mostly forgettable but does have its highlights, and there are some cool action scenes. So… Thumbs up? Maybe? I don’t know. This grade could change, but for now, because I’m generous and given how I am not ruling out the option of watching this movie again, I am going to give “Birds of La La La Title Title Title” a 6/10.
Thanks for reading this review! Up next is the review for one of the most controversial movies that was supposed to come out last year, but because of said controversy, it was moved to the point where it came out this year. And if you think I’m talking about “The Hunt,” that’s not even out yet. Just keep yourself waiting for that one. I’m talking about “Sonic the Hedgehog!” Also, stay tuned for my reviews of “Impractical Jokers: The Movie,” “Emma,” and “My Spy.” That last one might be awhile because I don’t know when the embargo lifts, but it is coming. If you want to see these reviews, and other great content, consider following Scene Before either with an EMAIL or WORDPRESS account! While you’re at it, consider liking the blog’s Facebook page and follow me on Twitter at @JackDrees if you just like hearing me talk s*it about life! I want to know, did you see the movie with the long title? What did you think about it? Or, what comic book movie are you most excited for this year? Did you not see the one we’re talking about yet? That can count! Maybe it’s “Black Widow!” Maybe it’s “Eternals!” Maybe it’s “Wonder Woman 1984!” Do you want to go less mainstream? Perhaps you’re excited for “Bloodshot!” Let me know your response because let’s face it, based on how successful “Avengers: Endgame” was, you have seen a comic book movie. Just admit it. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!