Birds of Prey Review: Fierce Femme Fatale Film

DC Comics reignited a legion of heroines in their latest film Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, released February 7, 2020. Dame Margot Robbie returns to her role as the salaciously rebellious Harley Quinn, now independent of the Joker. She is joined by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Huntress), Jurnee Smollet-Black (Black Canary), Rosie Perez (Renee Montoya), and debut actress Ella Jay Basco (Cassandra Cain) to bring a fierce female quintet to the big screen. 

Without the protection of the Joker, every criminal Harley Quinn has ever wronged sets out to eliminate her. Everywhere she turns there is another person aiming for the target on her back with impeccable comedic timing. 

Despite Harley’s vulnerability, the emphasis on girl power is genuine without being overwhelming. Unlike many other films that claim the “girl power” title, Birds of Prey highlights the strength of sisterhood and the many different powerful qualities women hold. 

Reminding the audience that Harley Quinn is more than a wacky girl in tiny shorts, her Ph.D. is mentioned on multiple occasions. Black Canary, despite being dependent on the crime lord antagonist of the movie, follows her heart and works against him using her feminine charm and quick wit as cover. Huntress is stiff in nature; after watching her entire family massacred, she channels her pain into impressive assination skills, effectively breaking the damsel in distress stereotype. The film even highlights the inequality female police officers and detectives face, as Renee constantly loses credit for the work she does to the men of the department. 

Although the movie was extraordinarily entertaining, the lack of substance in Huntress’ backstory is glaring. While the other three members of the Birds of Prey were seamlessly intertwined in the plot, the writers could not do the same for Huntress. She appears in brief flashes throughout the movie until her story is finally revealed in a forced manner. The story itself is clear, but the awkward way in which it was introduced makes her character seem less important and much less meaningful than the rest. 

What the film lacks in substance is made up for in its strong acting and use of setting. Strutting through the streets in a rainbow-fringed jacket, the film immerses the audience in Harley’s psychedelic perspective. Harley’s glitter gun, the short animated portions and her bright costumes all contributed to the wild nature of the character. Robbie is credited with the creation of a dangerously lovable character, one that is perfectly complemented by the emotional acting of the other cast members. DC Comics has a long history of disappointing filmmaking. With tragedies like Batman vs. Superman and The Justice League, DC has fallen behind in the movie-making ranks. In the last few years, however, DC has earned its way back to respect with its female leads. Wonder Woman and now Birds of Prey have shown that DC comics has newfound potential to improve in the realm of the big screen, thanks to the work of powerful women.