“Whoa, you’re that psycho chick…” (Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn review)

After the… disappointment (utter car crash) that was Suicide Squad, the best part of that movie finally has her own solo film. Margot Robbie brings the same chaotic energy as the movie’s title character, though the film’s title is far more complex than the final product itself.

After the events of Suicide Squad (I think, maybe…it’s never actually explained, though a cameo proves it’s the same timeline) Harley Quinn and Joker have broken up. Now, she’s a target for all the people she’s wronged, including a new enemy she’s just made very mad. She’ll have to learn a little humanity as she takes care of a young thief, and will team up with a couple of other quirky characters in order to do that.

What should be said is that, as with any performance of hers, Margot Robbie is fabulous as Harley Quinn. She throws herself fully into the characters, and with the aid of some outrageous costumes and colourful hair is completely transformed into the badass criminal. Ewan McGregor stars as the darkly funny Roman Sionis (he has an alter ego, but its namesake BARELY makes an appearance so there’s no point in mentioning it). The cast also includes Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Rosie Perez as the Birds of Prey, and Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra Cain, the young thief who finds herself with a bounty on her head.

The cast are all having a lot of fun in this film, BUT it can’t escape the sad fact that this is a film about a fundamentally villainous person who goes on a redemption arc, despite the fact she’s more fun as a villain. The script is desperately jumping through plot points to make everything work, and ultimately it just falls very flat narratively speaking. At one point, a character has actual superpowers, despite barely being set up before. It’s the little contrivances like this that make the plot all too convenient for a film clearly trying to break new ground.

Not only this, the film suffers from a deadly case of ‘Deadpool Did It First’. The narrative is told out of order, like Deadpool. The film uses a cheeky, quirky narrator, like Deadpool. The film has bizarre onscreen drawings and graphics, like Deadpool. It has enough going for it to stand on its own two feet, but when sitting in the shadow of a far more triumphant film, it’s inevitable it’s going to fall slightly flat.

Director Cathy Yan does a confident job of building a specific vision of a world, and with some added graphic violence, it certainly stands out from other recent DCEU films. But when the narrative is that uninspired, and the film isn’t quite as funny or quirky as it thinks it is, the whole affair ends up being quite a big disappointment. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, and unlike most comic book films, it’s under two hours! But as far as depth goes, this is all a pretty plain surface level film.

5 stars 3

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