Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey (2020) – Solidly Enjoyable Action With a Larger Point

Birds Of Prey | Official Site

     “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey” also known as “Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)” is a really enjoyable film. This is a film with Guy Ritchie style crime thriller action mixed with the crazy you’d see in a “Deadpool” film. The biggest flaws in the film can be found in the script and an interpretation of a certain character but the rest of the film stands as one of the stronger DCEU films.

The film was directed by Cathy Yan and written by Christina Hodson.

The story follows Harley Quinn after her breakup with the Joker as GCPD and Black Mask target her. She soon finds herself pulled into a larger plot as others vie against Black Mask and seek a stolen diamond.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Cinematography – The cinematography in this film is beautiful. We see the film through the eyes of Harley Quinn and her world is full of color. This is literally illustrated when people are targeting her and she gives them names, draws on the screen and lists their grievance against her. This cinematography is if “Suicide Squad” had been done right.

Action – The action is one of the most enjoyable aspects of this film and makes up for some of the weaker writing elements in the script. We have a diversity of areas and weapons that people fight with from a chase through a crowded market, a standoff in a funhouse with different floors connected by slides and shootouts in a few locations. All of it feels organic, raw and insane. There is a reason I compared it to an early Guy Ritchie film as both the stolen diamond and the action feel like something out of “Snatch” or “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.” It is truly amazing action.

Birds of Prey – One of the common criticism’s I’ve heard of this film is no one is really developed outside of Harley Quinn. I disagree. This film works because of the ensemble cast working with Harley Quinn and all of them get developed, I just think one of the characters wasn’t needed or should have been reinterpreted differently. I’ll get into that after why I think the different Birds of Prey work as characters.

Dina Lance / Black Canary – Black Canary is a lounge singer in Black Mask’s club who slowly stops playing it safe when she starts to see more of how Black Mask treats those around her. It is sparked by saving Harley from a kidnapping and increases from there as she contacts Montaya about the jewel that Black Mask is after and is part of the vigilante Birds of Prey by the end. She fears being a meta-human and when she stands with the others her last act in the fight is doing the Canary scream which makes possible the rescue of the girl Cassandra Cain who has the diamond.

Renee Montoya – Rosie Perez plays an older alcoholic Renee Montoya and she does a fantastic job. Her Montoya was cheated out of a promotion by her partner and is still driven to bring justice against characters like Black Mask that GCPD refuses to do. This logically leads to her leaving the force and joining the Birds of Prey after Black Mask is defeated (and her partner takes the credit for the defeat). It is a great arc and fits the liberation theme of the film.

Helena Burtinelli / Huntress – Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s version of Huntress is pretty awkward and I love it. She has trouble socializing with other as she was raised by assassins after her family was killed and her opening up to the others hunting Black Mask is her arc. She goes from being alone to having a community of vigilantes in the Birds of Prey after she completes her kill list. I hope we see more of her, though I hope it isn’t with the awful mask she is wearing in one of the final scenes.

Harley Quinn – Harley Quinn is the driving action of the film and this clearly Margot Robbie’s passion project, and for the most part it works. Harley is the chaos that upends the lives of Black Canary and Montaya and forces them to take action. This is all sparked after she moves on from the Joker after their breakup by blowing up Ace Chemicals. This film is from her perspective so we get time jumps, colors and commentary. This all worked and I’m really curious to see how her character further grows in “Suicide Squad 2.” Margot Robbie truly inhabits this version of the character.

Roman Sionis / Black Mask – Ewan McGregor is a creepy, scary and compelling villain. We have a club owner who has been taking over Gotham and sees all as property of him. He’s very Immortan Joe in that way. He’s unhinged and punishes those who go against him by cutting off their faces. Like in the comics he also collects masks from around the world and has the Black Mask as his own. This version of the character seems to be in a relationship with the serial killer ZsasZ and it works. Zsasz calms him down and is the only one he lets in his space but also feeds his violent nature as they are both killers. Black Mask is constantly gas-lighting those around him and it is fighting against that abuse that is the ultimate arc for many characters in the film.

Liberation Over Abuse – The theme of liberation is key to the film, especially against abusive men like The Joker and Black Mask. We see this as Black Canary comes to finally stand up against her boss and in Montaya leaving GCPD as every case she wins her partner steals from her and of course Harley breaking up with the Joker and blowing up Ace Chemicals and finding her own identity beyond the Joker. This liberation is powerful and I loved that this was the core theme of the film.

The Cons:

Cassandra Cain – This version of Cassandra Cain is a pick pocket faster kid, and it doesn’t work. First, I didn’t believe Harley’s relationship with her and it just felt awkward in the same way with Deadpool and Russell. I wish one of the Birds of Prey like Black Canary could have been the one with the Jewel as it would have made the stakes more personal. Cassandra Cain is taken from place to place and protected or captured and she could have just been the diamond and nothing would have changed. This is a shame as the comic book Cassandra Cain is pretty awesome and I hope we can see her someday on screen.

Final Scenes After Final Fight – The final scenes has the formation of the Birds of Prey as a vigilante group with Huntress, Montaya and Black Canary. The execution feels false as everything is way too happy and Huntress’s mask is crap. She was fine without the mask and adding it just ruined the awesome scene of the Birds of Prey fighting enemies. If the last scenes were cutout and it ended with saving Cain it could have been great.

This is a film that could have been great with a better script. Changing or taking out Cassandra Cain would have brought focus to the film and changing the ending would have helped everything flow together perfectly. I had a lot of fun with this film and I’m glad that DCEU is doing it’s own thing. It is that different perspective and voice that makes it stand out against the sameness that can sometimes intrude upon so many MCU films. Can’t wait to see what they do with these characters next.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10 Really good and would have been great with a better script.

“DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” Season 2 – A Jumbled But Decent Season That Explores Letting Go and Grief

    “Legends of Tomorrow” is an interesting show to write about. This is a show that tries to do a lot and is dealing with an ensemble cast (both Legends and Villains this time) so because of that some characters don’t get the exploration they deserve or are as powerful as they could be. I still enjoyed this season and watched it all the way through, but it is debatable whether it’s quality beats Season 1 as Season 1 was so much more focused and had an overarching narrative that didn’t get distracted as much as this season did. If you like the CW DC Cinematic Universe you will probably enjoy this season though.

    The story involves the Legends working to stop the Legion of Doom, lead by Thawne (Reverse-Flash) from getting the Spear of Destiny, which can rewrite time and reality itself. They find allies in the Justice Society of America as people from their past are manipulated by the Legion and Reverse-Flash’s plans unfold.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – I really enjoy the universe of “Legends of Tomorrow.” This is a time travel show that has so much fun with the concept, with this time us visiting the Apollo mission, World War 1 and Cold War as some of the stand out episodes. This season really had a lot of fun with the premise.

The Legends – The Legends receive more development this season, to varying degrees of success, that I’ll get into later. I enjoyed them all though, even with the writing for all not always being good.

Stein – Stein changes the past in this! When he changes how he gets together with his wife they end up having a child together, which he didn’t in the other timeline. She becomes one of the allies of the Legends and we also learn that Stein knows that due to how old he is, he won’t be around as long. I suspect he will be the next to die among the Legends.

Jefferson – Jefferson goes through a lot of great development and comes the closest to being second-in-command as he is the one who outsmarts evil rip and is closest to Gideon after Rip’s departure. I’m looking forward to seeing how his leadership role further develops.

Rip Hunter – Rip is sadly missing through most of this season. When he does show up he’s wiped his memory to keep people from finding the Spear of Destiny but the Legends find his memories and the Legion of Doom gets a hold of them and makes him evil for a while until Gideon and the Legends restore him. They really should have done more with him, more Darvill is better.

Vixen – Vixen ends up joining the Legends when she sneaks onto their ship after a time traveler kills one of the Justice Society of America (who she is a part of). I really liked her character, she has a cool ability where she takes on different animal powers and her being the woman out of time gives her a great perspective in episodes.

Steel – Steel is the Time Detective who works with Rory to find the other members of the Legends when they are scattered through time at the outset of the Season. His arc is resolving things with his family and standing up for himself. He annoyed me a lot at first, but grew on me. I like that he is among the Legends.

Snart / Captain Cold – The Legion of Doom takes Snart out of the past and uses him against the Legends. He kills Vixen (she is brought back when Doomworld is rewritten) and helps Thawne win everything. He is evil through and through but Rory lets him know that he will change and that it is Snart’s action that turn Rory into a good man.

Rory – Rory has the loyalty arc again as he joins Snart when the Legion recruits Snart. This leads to Thawne and the Legion winning as they capture the Spear and create “Doomworld” a world where the Legends serve the Legion. Rory helps the Legends remember who they were and stops the Legion. His arc wasn’t needed and I wish he could have taken more of a Leadership role that Jefferson and Sarah take up…he is an underutilized character at this point, at least in regards to writing. His arc that is done well is when he has to let go of Snart and accept that he is dead.

Sarah Lance – Sarah Lance is made Captain by Rip when he leaves and her arc is accepting that role as well as giving up revenge against Dark and letting go of her sister and moving on. This arc is handled well, and her leadership grew on me. The only downside was Dark kept popping up so it was mercy again and again. It took away from her arc when it was done and showed initially the writers might not have known what to do with her role.

Thawne / Reverse-Flash – I really like Thawne / Reverse-Flash. He is a smart and ambitious character who actually wins for a while! Sadly Black Flash wipes him out of time again, but he will come back I hope. Flashpoint in “Flash” brought him back and I hope we will see it again. He is one of the best villains in the CW DC Cinematic Universe and in this he is humanized a lot, while still remaining a villain. I loved his conversations with Captain Atom and other members of the Legends…

The Crossover Event – The Legends, The Flash, Arrow and Supergirl all teamed up fighting the Dominators! This was an amazing event and I wanted more of it. This was the closest we have to a CW DC Justice League and I cared about all the characters, and felt the alien threat was great. Here is to more events like this.

Grief and Letting Go – The major theme this season was letting go and moving through grief. Rory and Sarah’s arcs were only completed after they said good-bye to those they loved and accepted how that person had changed them. This was powerful but felt weaker because Rip did this last Season with his wife and kid…It was still one of the better parts of the season though.

Okay: The Ending – The ending is alright. I enjoyed Rory saying good by to Snart and Sarah saying good by the Laurel but wasn’t a fan of Rip going off an adventure again and though the breaking time is intriguing (maybe Thawne will be back!) and I liked that Vixen and Steel are the new members of the Legends…it still felt unfinished and that it was more concerned with setting up Season 3 than having a final Season 2.

The Cons: Dark – Dark is also from “Arrow” and also a waste. Seriously the “Arrow” villains are just the most boring characters in the CW DC Cinematic Universe. He is smarmy and smug and loses every fight he gets into. It takes the Reverse-Flash rewriting reality to give him his only real win. If the Legion even comes back I hope he and Merlyn aren’t a part of it.

Merlyn – Merlyn is back from “Arrow” and doesn’t really do much. He loses every fight he gets into and his whole wanting his wife and son back is never explored. He really wasn’t needed for the Legion of Doom.

The Justice Society of America – These guys show up in World War 2 and hide parts of the Spear of Destiny throughout time with Rip Hunter. They are extremely underdeveloped though and I never got attached. They really should have been core to the season, as besides Vixen, none of them are needed for the plot at all. They aren’t the answer to the Legion of Doom and they seem to only exist this season because they exist in the DC universe.

   This season was stronger in many ways, but weaker in others. I felt Dark and Merlyn never went anywhere as villains. I also felt the Justice Society could have been explored more. Besides Vixen I didn’t feel like I really got to know any of them. They played a big role in separating the Spear but outside of that they weren’t needed for the story at all. I enjoyed Sarah letting go of her sister and Rory having to let go of Snart, the good-byes were the best part of the finale…and I’m hoping Thawne comes back, given he’s been erased from reality twice now…Thawne is one of the best villains to come out of the CW DC Cinematic Universe and he’s been the best antagonist the Flash has, so I really hope we haven’t seen the last of him. For overall thoughts, this is a good season that kept me interested in seeing where the story goes from here.

Final Score: 7.7 / 10