Birds of Prey is a mediocre superhero ensemble at best

Cathy Yan and Christina Hodson turn a promising idea into a convoluted mess

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

by James Conn, Peak Associate

The new DC Comics film Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) sees Margot Robbie reprise her role from Suicide Squad as the titular character. After splitting from the Joker, Harley Quinn teams up with superheroes Black Canary, Huntress, and Renee Montoya to save a young girl named Cassandra Cain from the evil crime lord, Black Mask. 

Birds of Prey (and, no, I will not write out that ridiculously long title again) is directed by Cathy Yan and written by Christina Hodson. With its R-rating you can expect quite a few F-bombs, heavy violence, and some sexual and drug-related material. All that goes to support the delightfully charming setting of Gotham City: the crime-riddled, corrupt hometown of numerous types of criminals, mobsters, and villains. Hearing all this, I had high expectations for this ambitious film revolving around overlooked comic characters. Unfortunately, I left the theatre disliking a majority of what I had seen. 

I do admit that it was a fun, action-packed movie with over-the-top characters, an awesome soundtrack, and badass action sequences. However, a lot of the comedy felt forced and, quite frankly, made me cringe. It seemed to me that Birds of Prey was trying too hard to be like Deadpool with its self-awareness and zany over the top feel. 

Furthermore, my biggest problem with the film was how superfluous the actual “birds of prey” were to the overall plot of the movie. Black Canary, Huntress, and Renee Montoya aren’t given nearly enough screen time, and are used merely as Mac Guffins to drive the story forward. What results from all this is a disjointed movie about Harley Quinn suddenly forced into a team-up with unrelated characters who contribute little to the plot. Many of the characters’ motivations felt forced or tangentially related to the others, which hinders the believability of the film. 

In addition to that, the non-chronological narrative style of the film, which started off as a promising storytelling technique, quickly devolved into a convoluted gimmick, making much of the first act’s frantic pacing hard to follow. 

Notable film critic Griffin Schiller on Twitter compared Birds of Prey to the previously mentioned Deadpool and the highly-acclaimed filmmaker Quentin Tarantino’s films, which I echo to a certain degree. However, the overall execution of the film was poor, resulting in a mediocre superhero ensemble film. 

If you’re looking for a fun time at the theatre, then this movie will serve you well. Take it for what it is: a fun action-packed movie with over the top characters. Nothing more, nothing less.