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‘Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey’ and the Emancipation of ‘Suicide Squad’

Harley moves far from the Joker’s shadow in her new movie ‘Birds of Prey’

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Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

The DCEU’s newest release Birds of Prey is a wild ride of violence and insanity. Much like her predecessors with Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman and Jason Mamoa’s Aquaman, Margot Robbie’s adaption of Harley takes a breakout character from a mediocre superhero flick and gets a win from going solo. Although very much its own separate movie, Birds of Prey feels like an unintentional remake of Suicide Squad that stands up strong where the latter flopped with critics and fans alike.

Birds of Prey follows a very simple plot; a mad dash from multiple parties trying to secure a diamond that was stolen by Cassandra Cain (Ella Jain Basco). In a Scorsese like fashion of storytelling, the timeframe shifts back and forth often in interludes which sets a good pace and makes the generic plot fun to watch unfold. 

The characters in Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey

Roman Sionis, AKA Black Mask (Ewan McGregor), could have been mistaken for the Joker in the best possible way here. What was lacking in Suicide Squads’ Joker, Ewan brings tenfold; joy from the carnage he unleashes through his scenes and just an overly happy-to-be-crazy attitude. Roman is almost scary in the good vibes that seem to drip off of him while he’s kidnapping innocent families and cutting off faces. If the DCEU didn’t already have Joaquin Phoenix as an Oscar-winning Joker, Ewan would hold the high ground to take up the mantle.

Meanwhile, Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) was introduced with a line that went something like “She grew up watching far too many 80’s cop shows”, and her character is a stark contrast to Suicide Squad’s’ Rick Flag and Amanda Waller. Renee is a total hardass cop cliché like the former two, but her role is played out as a parody instead; a choice that keeps her character likable to watch. Rounding out the rest of the superhero squad is Dinah Lance a.k.a. the Black Canary (Jurnee Smollet-Bell) and Helena Bertinelli a.k.a the Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who prove to be both great additions to the cast.

‘Birds of Prey’ delivers on its fan service

Moments for fans of Harley are also present and accounted for although some may slip by regular moviegoers. The very first scene showing her bisexuality, for example, is very subtle and highlighted with a quick glimpse of a photo. In another moment when Harley is being hit by thugs, Margot Robbie masterfully adds in a brief smile during the flashbacks of the beatings which showcase Harley Quinn’s Stockholm Syndrome. 

Most of all, Birds of Prey succeeds where other female cast movies have failed in recent years. It does what box office tanks such as the Ghostbusters remake should have done, keeping the female cast without drawing attention to the fact. Some moments are exceptions, like Renee losing job promotions to men, but it was done to drive home the cliché cop role more than the woman versus man aspect. Simply put, the women in Birds of Prey are badasses; they act like it without having to prove anything to anyone, all of which makes for a refreshing vibe. 

Overall, Birds of Prey isn’t going to be winning any awards, but superhero movies should be made for fans, and Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey delivers what fans want in the most fun and chaotic way it can. 

Andrew Smith is a lifelong pop culture and comic fanatic from Toronto, Canada. He is a walking encyclopedia for Marvel comics and the MCU, especially the X-Men.

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