The Birds of Prey have taken flight, but this time Harley Quinn (of Suicide Squad fame) is telling the story her way. In the latest film from the DC Universe, Harley Quinn hauls us along on an energetic, familial—yes, familial—tale full of heartbreaks, girl power, and fighting against the status quo.
credit: Instagram/Margot Robbie
Naturally, this wouldn’t be Harley’s story if we didn’t, well, start with Harley. For the first twenty minutes or so, my only critique of the film would be that we focus entirely on a distraught, broken down Harley who simultaneously provides her backstory while showcasing her new world. We know from Suicide Squad where she’s come from, and the introduction in Birds of Prey allows us to draw a few more conclusions about the sort of person Harley truly is.
Ultimately, she lives in a world where being the Joker’s girlfriend gives her a certain level of immunity. Without it, she’s in a whole world of trouble full of villains out for blood from a certain Harley Quinn.
While the film focused on her breakup from Joker, I found myself wondering what sort of plot a film like this could have. Would this be about her decision to cause trouble all on her own? And what was the deal with Roman Sionis, portrayed fabulously by Ewan McGregor? Sidebar: I will never hear the word ‘Kay the same way again.
The direction seemed shaky in the beginning, and though we later received crucial plot hints about everything, starting from Roman’s club, it remained unclear to me how this premise could drive an entire movie.
But after we received a bit of backstory and a little insight into Harley’s emotionally unstable state, the movie succeeded by adding a thread which tied the rest of the film together with clear pacing and stakes.
That thread was Cassandra Cain. The name sounds familiar, right? That would be because in the DC comics, Cassandra Cain takes over the role of Batgirl from Barbara Gordon. Cassandra became a hero so beloved that when DC introduced a plot with her becoming evil and taking over Justice League in the comics, fans complained. DC retconned the story, playing it off as though Cassandra had her mind controlled by a sinister serum.
In Birds of Prey, we meet a Cassandra Cain who is different from her source in some ways—especially in her eventual connection to Harley.
As events played out, even the fabulous chaos began to work, like watching Harley walk into a police station in search of Cassandra before we know why she wants the kid so badly. We then see the link that ties the Huntress, a pissed off cop, and the Black Canary together.
credit: Warner Brothers
Where the movie really shines is in the bond which develops between Harley and Cassandra and the formation of the Birds of Prey. Certainly, a title which plays on females being taken advantage of, becoming somebody’s prey, and needing to fend for themselves.
Despite Harley’s irrational and sometimes crazed behavior, pockets of her sanity came through in Margot Robbie’s performance, and we met a Harley Quinn who seemed more like an antihero than a villain.
We also experienced a cast of diverse female characters all fighting against a common enemy: a status quo where females have been confined to a box. In Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn, the entire ensemble of characters opened this box and let everything come flying out, breaking through so many rules we’ve long held onto. Proving females do not need anyone but themselves to save the day.
Birds of Prey showcases a stellar cast including Robbie, McGregor, Rosie Perez (as Renee Montoya, the disgruntled cop), Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the Huntress, Jurenee Smolett-Bell as Black Canary, and Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra Cain.
The film brings together a fast-paced plot with kick a$$ music and an emotionally satisfying resolution, bringing a group of complicated characters together in an authentic familial bond.
Look for Birds of Prey out in theaters now!