See, this is what we are talking about. See what we mean when we say follow the source material? See what we mean by treating the characters with respect and without an expanded universe? The recent history of the much-maligned DCEU has been discussed and debated over countless chat rooms, message boards and social media platforms and it seems lessons are finally being learned for good. Gone is the quick sprint to the finish line to rival Marvel and their MCU, it is a more patient approach that’s allowing their plethora of heroes and villains to thrive.
After the recent success of Joker – which, let’s be fair, NO-ONE really saw coming in any shape of form – has backed up Wonder Woman, Shazam, and Aquaman with its new emphasis on visions and stories, rather than “remember when Aquaman appeared in Batman v Superman? I cannot wait for that to pay off!” mentality. It was the similar mistakes that derailed Batman back in 1997 but course correction then led to Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale, and here it’s to the kaleidoscopic, foul-mouthed fun-fair ride that is Birds of Prey.
Bringing Harley Quinn into her own film under the guidance of producer Margot Robbie and director Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs), BOP throws out the mistakes of Suicide Squad (which were many) and plants the Clown Prince’s ex smack-bam in the middle of her own sprawling epic that sees her and the bad-ass females around her thrive.
Now separated from “J”, Harley is being hunted by many nefarious baddies across Gotham City (one can assume Batsy is watching from afar), one of which is Roman Sionis aka Black Mask (Ewan McGregor on top form) who’s penchant for torture and power has him chasing down a precious diamond that has inadvertently been swallowed by young hustler Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco). The diamond, and those who are after it, have also drawn the attention of GCPD Detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Sionis’ driver Dinah Lance aka Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell).
Whilst it’s steeped in DC lure, BOP takes the R-rated route, upping the ante across the board with the flexibility to push the envelope and it’s characters to the nth-degree. This isn’t pushing it for the sake of it, far from it, as this one revels in the women themselves, flaws and all, and molds the film accordingly, bringing us a vibrant, sharp, messy adventure that feels ripped right from the panels of the best comic books, with Yan’s fluid, swooping camera keeping your eyes glued and heart-rate pumping.
Robbie is front and centre, as you’d expect, and freed from the shackles of her previous appearance feels liberated and fresh even if a full Harley Quinn film might have been stretching it a little. Indeed, this feels like that in moments when the thinly scripted narrative threatens to come apart at the seams but Robbie’s avuncular flamboyance keeps the ship on the right course even if Winstead and Perez, both excellent, a left holding the proverbial short straws.
While it isn’t without its faults, Birds of Prey is a timely reminder to Hollywood that not all superhero/comic-book films need be the same, in fact, quite the opposite. Audiences seem to crave the familiar made unfamiliar – or least, fresher – and following the footsteps of Logan and Deadpool (and, to some smaller degree, Batman Forever – yep, you heard us right), this one allows its characters to breathe naturally without the foot-on-the-chest pains of a franchise. Still, we wouldn’t say no to another go-round with this group of brilliant females.
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Action, Crime | USA, 2020 | 15 | 7th February 2020 (UK) | Warner Bros Pictures | Dir.Cathy Yan |
Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ewam McGregor, Chris Messina, Ali Wong