What’s up everyone! Welcome to Beyond The Panel. Coming at you today with talk about Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)! A movie that I have to give credit where it is due gives comic book movies like Guardians of The Galaxy and Deadpool a run for their money. Maybe not in the box office, but certain in terms of entertainment value and doing something completely new with the superhero genre. I know some are reading this and thinking I’m crazy, though hear me out first.
Off the bat, this movie was exactly what you were looking for from Harley Quinn if you were a fan of the animated series. As some will say, and I will one-hundred percent agree, this movie played out as if you were watching a live-action version of that series.At the same time it was like watching all the best parts of the current stories written for Harley in the comics brought to the big screen. If you turned away from this movie because it was not your version of Harley Quinn? The answer to that is “Oh well”. This isn’t the Harley Quinn who only existed next to Joker, or the one who always got caught by Batman in place of The Joker. This is a Harley Quinn who is now self-aware of what her worth was, what her worth could be, and worked to reclaim that control.
Working up to that point was comical for the fact that they didn’t make any of the progress too straightforward. In order to fully understand the direction of the story, you needed to grasp this character, and how this character tied into that character, and how that character influenced this character to do said thing, and so on. Like I said above, this was something new to appreciate. From there, it was also fun that they went with a version of Harley who broke the fourth wall. There was just enough of it to engage us in the story without taking us out of it. I actually liked the fact that they did not do that thing where they freeze a scene, or have the character look straight into the camera, or even let the narration dictate the pacing.
This of course brings us to the plot. One where Roman Sionis / Black Mask allows his ego and hunger for power drive him to make some bold moves which conveniently puts a target on everyone who managed to get in his way. Namely one Harley Quinn who gets on the wrong side of his narcissism, one little girl who steals his treasure, and two other leading ladies who simply exist as obstacles for him achieving his desires. How their stories all weaved through this one villain was brilliant. All coming from different worlds but thrown together by circumstance because Gotham isn’t the kind of place where you get far failing to keep your head down. Sionis was the perfect villain for this kind of story. He brought the violence, he stirred some genuine fear, and he represented the true essence of the Gotham Underground which Joker honestly never delivered on in the Suicide Squad. Even if Sionis isn’t the kind of villain who can put up a fight himself, he knew how to create a challenge. Even better than that, he knew how to inspire the trouble these characters faced.
Now I have to say, I did have my reservations about them using Victor Zsasz. You expect new villains to be used, and it’s not as if we didn’t already see years of him in the Gotham series. With that said, the performance by Chris Messina changed this quickly. It was a great performance capturing his sadistic side, and it helped that they did not shy away from the fact that he carves himself up with every life he takes.
When it came to the choreography, I was captivated with almost every single one of them. I don’t think there was one dull moment once the fists started flying and that is something which most should strive for. Harley in particular was amazing because they took into account the fact that she is athletically gifted, and that was seen in every action from her where her agility and flexibility gave her an edge over most who could have easily taken her own if the circumstances were different. They also did not fail to add a bit of unpredictability to what she could pull off in the middle of an exchange. As for others like Montoya and Dinah, they too were hard to miss for the specific styles of combat which they leaned towards. Dinah came off as more of a brawler, Montoya looked like someone who had professional training as a detective. Aside from this, that last action scene was spectacular because the dynamic shared between them all was on point. Every moved flowed into the next and even being able to hand off weapons to each other was a big plus.
A huge plus for me was the sense of creativity and style. There was no overlooking the fact that there was a colorful theme to Birds of Prey, and as memory serves well, some of the more memorable of the superhero movies has been those which successfully caught your eye from start to finish. I would say they nailed it with this movie because there was rarely a scene where they did not have fun with outrageous effects for the action scenes, exaggerated effects to highlight Harley’s many antics and reactions, use of items you wouldn’t ordinary going into a fight with, not to mention settings which are far from anything you would call normal. Speaking of settings, Harley’s home, Sionis’ club, and even the Booby Trap was also unique. Now it goes without saying that the best work they did was with the costuming. Just about everyone had a transition of stunning outfits which is not usually what you come to expect from a comic book movie. Most times the characters are restricted to either normal clothing or very few options. Here they ran wild with what this cast could get away with wearing in the streets.
Above all, what makes Birds of Prey stand out from the rest? There is no love interest, there is no one spending a portion of their moving looking for a significant other. These are all characters coming into their own with only the team-up being the endgame. You don’t know how many times I have watched a superhero movie and rolled my eyes because so much screentime is consumed by the main character or hero neglecting their own development for the affection of someone else. Birds of Prey is a breath of fresh air after so long where the romance is just ending, and here we are getting everything which comes after that. As the prime example, we got a Harley who finds newfound confidence in what makes her more than just the hentchwoman or love interest.
Even if Birds of Prey isn’t the big hit in the box office as some say it is, that means very little when talking about the movie itself. Birds of Prey was a roller coaster of emotions. Not because of just the comedy, but everything you experienced from start to finish. The laughs, the cringe, the awe in every single thing they got away with doing in two hours.Overall, this movie proves that there is no set way to tell these stories. If you want to stand out? Be bold!