by Brodie Zeigler
Birds of Prey is another disappointing, poorly executed film, riding on the coattails of its previous successors: Deadpool, Logan, and the most recent, Joker. In early 2016 Deadpool was released, receiving a positive critical response and became the highest-grossing R-rated film at the time of its release. . Since its release, we have been introduced to a sequel, as well as an R-rated Wolverine film called Logan which was miles ahead of any other Marvel movie to date, Joker which was nominated for eleven Academy Awards this past January, and now Birds of Prey.
Birds of Prey follows Harley Quinn, played by Margot Robbie, dealing with the recent break-up with her long time partner the Joker, who had granted her immunity from any punishment for her crimes. With her immunity now gone, Harley Quinn finds her life in danger, as people from all over Gotham city come to get their long-awaited revenge for her crimes. Pitted against Roman Sionis or “Black Mask,” [played by Ewan McGregor] Harley Quinn teams up with other female victims of Roman Sionis’s corruption, hoping for liberation.
Despite the talents of Margot Robbie and Ewan McGregor, Birds of Prey falls short of expectations and fails to rise to the same level as past successes Deadpool, Logan, and Joker. As a comedy, Birds of Prey is weak. Most of the jokes are forced or fail to land entirely. As an action film, the fight scenes are somewhat entertaining, but the action sequences are entirely unrealistic and are difficult to follow. Birds of Prey also fails to be a female-empowering movie as the main characters lack any type of chemistry, and the message is forced down the throats of the viewer. Maybe a more subtle, or well-written screenplay, could have succeeded at what seems to be the main moral of Birds of Prey.
The cinematography and Margot Robbie’s performance are highlights of the film and save it from collapsing in on itself entirely. Also supporting the weight is the soundtrack, but as the film progresses, the off-beat versions of pop songs fail to have any effect or purpose in the film as the songs transition sporadically every minute or so.
Skeptical of the film at first, the initial critical response to Birds of Prey intrigued me, given that it earned a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. Although leaving the theater, the film had no lasting impression on me and seemed like another weak response to the success of Deadpool. Unlike Wade Wilson, Harley Quinn isn’t a likable character, making the entire climax much less emotional and impactful than it could have been. Another low point of the film is the performance by Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra Cain, who fails to create any relationship between herself and Harley Quinn. Every line seems forced as if it was from an apathetic kid whose mom forced them to join the middle-school play.
The role of Black Mask is the entirely wrong choice for Ewan McGregor, who in one scene awkwardly yells at the camera unrealistically when his character is supposed to be blinded by rage. This mishap is also aided by the poor directorial choices by Cathy Yan, who fails to keep the tone and feel of the film consistent throughout the hour and forty-nine-minute runtime. Cathy Yan also fails to keep the story believable, as some glaring errors and inconsistencies throw off the entire mood of a scene. This is also a result of the lackluster script which lacks any real emotion or depth, the final product being a surface-level, mediocre comedy with unnecessary violence.
However, if an average movie-goer is looking for a mindlessly entertaining film with some comedic moments and fast-paced action sequences, Birds of Prey is a valid choice. But, the rest of us who want a fully-developed story with believable characters and a script that doesn’t come off as a desperate ploy for money, our chairs are better left empty, as Birds of Prey will only disappoint.